Photo: Boston December, 2013
During this time in Boston, feeling so alone and empty, my prayers went something like this: “Can I leave this marriage? Is it okay to leave a marriage that was supposedly ordained of God and my church? Or will it get better? Should I try to fix this marriage? How can I feel loved? How should I love him?”
I always received the same answer to these prayers: God wanted me to feel loved and happy. He loved me deeply. He wanted me treated right. This was reassuring to feel and have faith in, but there were no concrete answers to rely on. No booming voice telling me to call it quits. No angel named Beyonce coming down and telling me to stand up for myself and walk out the door.
My therapist had left me with a question: “Do I deserve love?” This was different than wanting to feel loved or desiring love. Deserving love was about how I felt about myself. Whether I deserved love was about how I was allowing this to go on.
Wanting love felt safe. Desiring love was normal. But Deserving love meant I felt entitled to something. Wasn’t it selfish to feel I deserved a relationship better than the one I chose? Wasn’t it selfish to get divorced only because I felt I deserved more love? And what makes me think I’d find it? I was almost 34-years-old now and I’d never found a love quite like my dreams. Did it even exist? A fantasy? Was it even possible for me?
It was a Sunday morning: I got ready for church. He was studying and I was supposed to pick him up at the library.
I knelt down to pray before I left the apartment: “God, do I deserve love? Do I deserve to find a man who can truly love me?”
Only when I walked outside did I remember our car was parked farther away than usual. It would be a race and I felt anxiety knowing he never wanted to be late to church. One item on “The list” was: “He felt he carried all of the spiritual weight in our relationship.” I knew being late to church would disappoint him.
Barely out the door our elderly neighbor, Olive, stopped me:
“Are you going to church?” She asked.
I politely stopped to respond: “Yes, to church.”
“What church are you going to?”
“The Mormon church.”
“Oh, do they believe in Christ?”
Anyone that knows a Mormon knows we love answering questions about our faith. I had spent 18 months as a missionary teaching others about my beliefs. Sharing a conversation with this woman, talking about Christ, and being her friend felt more important to me than rushing to church. I knew this meant I was going to be late, but I made the decision.
I finished my conversation with Olive and ran to the car. I heard my phone ringing and I felt panicked. I called back once I was in the car and driving.
“I’m on my way right now. I’m sorry. There was a woman who was curious about our church and I felt it was best to talk to her. I’m coming.”
When I arrived, he jumped into the car taking over the drivers seat. It didn’t take long before his anger also took over.
“Lauren, you HAVE to stop being late.” He was angry.
“I understand. I will try to be on time more.” I said. “I really felt I made the best choice back there. I felt speaking to her was important. I’m sorry, but please understand.”
There was no understanding—I should have known. He needed to be right, and I needed to know I was wrong. He ignored what I said and only pushed his original point.
“Lauren, you HAVE to be on time. This is no longer okay!”
“I heard you! Okay. But I can’t change what I felt was best to do back there.” … I was definitely pushing back now. I wanted to be heard. I wanted my experience to be acknowledged.
“Lauren,” his voice raised: “YOU CAN’T BE LATE! YOU CAN’T BE LATE ANYMORE!” he yelled.
I started crying. The anxiety and panic and frustration in trying to communicate anything was always so tiring and emotional.
“Stop it! Stop it, Lauren!” He started yelling.
He never realized yelling would only make me cry harder. I’ll never forget what happened next. He grabbed the passenger mirror above my seat and flipped it down: “Look at yourself!” he shouted and pointed at the mirror. “Look at yourself! You are Crazy, Lauren! You are CRAZY!” He was shouting.
I did look. What he wanted me to see was a crazy person. He wanted validation. He wanted me to see what he saw: Someone crazy. Instead, I saw pain. I saw me with tears streaming down my cheeks.
Staring back at my tearful reflection, I said: “It’s okay Lauren, I love you.”
“What are you doing?!” he yelled again. “You’re CRAZY!”
I was sobbing, and now my voice was raised: “Someone has to love me and care about my feelings! If it isn’t going to be you it’s going to be me.” I said through the tears.
I looked back at my reflection again, this time with more strength in my voice: “I love you, Lauren!”
“You’re truly crazy!” he said one last time.
The rest of the drive was in silence. I couldn’t bring myself to go inside the church building when we arrived, but dropped him off. And he left me there in the car. Church was more important to him than making sure I was OK. … I questioned my actions as I drove home. Perhaps I could have called him earlier. Perhaps I could have told Olive I was late and had to go, or at least cut the conversation shorter. I could have. Perhaps I didn’t need to push the envelope and instead have just said: ‘OK’ when he told me I needed to be on time.
The thing is: Life is full of perhaps, should-have’s, could-have’s, and maybe’s. We can feel irritated when our would-have’s are different than someone else’s would-have’s. That’s normal. We can feel irritated and STILL understand. My husband could have felt irritated that I was late, but understood why. But this wasn’t about being irritated. This was about trust. He didn’t trust me. He didn’t trust my intentions. He didn’t trust my emotions. He didn’t trust my decisions. Instead, he saw me as crazy, and he needed desperately for me to believe that.
Just like Narcissus of Greek mythology who was smitten with his image: My husband mistook my reflection for a human. In me: he saw a mirage of a person. A projection of how he wanted me to appear. Something he could improve and fix. But when I looked in the mirror, staring at my reflection, I saw beneath the image. I saw a person with depth and a core.
He needed me to alter my view of who I was to prove his perceptions and feel in control. But in seeking his own validation I saw my pain. SO clearly. I saw my hurt. SO clearly. In that moment I knew I deserved love.
I questioned if he would ever feel I deserved love, too.
To those in similar situations, please know this: You’re not crazy. If someone in your life can manipulate you into seeing yourself and your reactions as crazy, you become dependent on them. If you believe you’re crazy, then you lose yourself, and must now rely on them to make sense of the world and of your reactions. Please don’t lose yourself. You’re not crazy.
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