Photo: Skype screenshot taken during my interview with KIVI in Boise at the request of Ruthanne. I was wearing a jacket she had mailed me.
After uploading my resume video onto Facebook I started getting feedback from my fellow broadcasters. Chris, a producer I worked with in Salt Lake, told me to switch up some of my clips and reports. I did.
Less than a month after posting the video, Chris reached out again: “Are you looking for a job? What’s your employment status?”
“I’m just nannying these days,” I said. “I’m looking.” By that, I meant I was staying open to opportunities. I actually hadn’t applied to any jobs because there was a problem: I was newly married and my husband refused to discuss any plans with me. We were living in an apartment we could not afford. He did not work, nor have any job prospects on the horizon with only two months until his graduation. We lived on student loans and my nanny income. Every time I brought the subject of the future up I was met with silence or anger: “What do you want me to do Lauren? I’m not even finished with school yet and you’re trying to pin me down with plans I don’t have.”
So many mixed messages: Work. Make money. Don’t work. Stay at home and take care of me. Get a job. Don’t get a job. Plan for the future. Don’t plan for the future. Get a career. Let me work and take care of you (even without a job and living on student loans).
Proverbial- damned if I do, damned if I don’t. I really just wanted to make my marriage work. I was trying so hard, but it was never enough.
Chris told me he was now working in Boise and had told the news director about me. She would be reaching out to me about a job. And she did. Boise’s KIVI News Director, Grendel Levy, reached out quickly. She asked when I would be available for a Skype interview.
I couldn’t believe my luck. In broadcast news this never happened. In the past, I would apply to over 30 reporting jobs, and never heard back from any of them because of the thousands of other applicants. Now Boise was interested and they wanted me. They recognized my talents. I felt validated.
But there was a major problem: I was married. I was living in Boston. My husband didn’t have a job yet and graduation was two months away. I thought this could be the answer to my prayers and our marriage. I could work and make money while he started his business, or searched for just the right job. I could have the opportunity to jump back into my career, develop my skills, and even support him while he worked on his. And Boise was in the West, close to where we were from, and possibly wanted to live.
During the interview I was honest. I said I was married, and that the future was uncertain. I asked about contracts. Although most TV stations work under 2, 3 or 5 year contracts, Grendel said I would not have one. She seemed to understand my dilemma. She was bending to accommodate me. This was incredible. A dream job where I wouldn’t have to stay if my husband found a job elsewhere.
Everything seemed too perfect. Boise valued me and were willing to bend for me. They knew that my husband was graduating in May and I could start my new job in mid-April. That meant that my husband and I would only have one month apart. That was nothing we hadn’t done already. Twice after our marriage when the future was uncertain, between our moves, he sent me to live with his grandmother in Salt Lake. That seemed to be the go-to scenario for him while he was busy making other plans. It seemed ideal that this time, when he graduated, I would have a home ready for us in Boise. A place where he could search for a job and we could start our lives together, even if it was only temporary. I wanted to show him I could be a good homemaker too. I wanted to show him that I could do it all- work, take care of the home, and be capable of raising children when the time arrived. It just felt perfect. I believed that I was working for our partnership.
After the interview I told him about the job and my vision of beginning a bright future in Boise- a future that could easily change if he found a job elsewhere. I was flexible.
“I can start work,” I told him, “and then you can come to Boise to find a job. I will quit when you find a job. I’ll leave when we have it figured out. Now you can take your time to find just the right job, and not stress about how we don’t have any money.”
He paused for a moment. He did not appear to be happy, as I had anticipated.
“So you want to leave me?” he said. “So now you’re going to leave me.”
“Not at all,” I replied. “I’m telling you that I’ll go wherever you want me to go, but I know we can’t afford rent here and we’re going into debt that we can’t afford. Graduation is coming up, and you don’t know where you’ll be after graduation, so I’m just trying to buy us time. I’m taking care of us. You’re in charge. I’ll go wherever you want me to go. I’m just trying to help us to start our lives on the right track.”
He paused again and he appeared to be getting angry. “So you’re leaving me. You’re now telling me you’re leaving me for a job in a city where I will never ever want to work. I’m better than Boise, Idaho. I will never work there. My future will never be in Boise.”
“No, I’m not leaving you. You always tell me to start making some money and that’s what I’m trying to do- for us. As far as I know we have no other plans. What do you suggest we do?”
Again, like a broken record: “So you’re leaving me. Lauren, I’m the breadwinner. If you do this, our marriage will not survive. I can’t believe you’re leaving me.”
I was stunned. He knew about my interview and my job prospects. He suggested I take the interview. He constantly told me that I needed to make more money. Now if I take a job our marriage is on the line?
“Why are you always threatening our marriage?” I said. “I’m telling you I won’t go if you don’t want me to. What is our plan, then? I’m just trying to help. I’m so confused. What do you want to do?”
As usual his anger began to bubble up. I felt like I could never get it right, no matter what. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. I’m never right, never helpful, never useful, never loving enough…never never never enough.
“Lauren, you can’t come in here and just ask what my plan is!” he said. “I don’t know what my plan is! You expect me to know what my plan is? You’re jumping the gun. You can’t do that, it’s not fair. I’m about to graduate soon and I will figure it out then.”
“Well, I trust that you will figure it out,” I reassured him. “I do trust you. It’s just that graduation is two months away and I want to be able to contribute, and I thought at least just considering Boise would be helpful, and give us some options. Do you not really see any benefit in this? I don’t want our marriage to be on the line.”
The usual: silence. There was never any real communication between us unless he was in control. No communication that did not somehow benefit him and put him in charge. I felt so useless, no matter how hard I tried.
Although my excitement was dampened, I shared with Ruthanne the news:
Later that night I talked to Ruthanne after he left to go study.
“He said he doesn’t want me to go. He tells me that I’m leaving him even though I don’t know if I’ll have a home in 2 months.”
“Did you tell him it would just be temporary?” she said. “I mean, this would really be a big benefit to both of you, and he should be able to see how it could really open up some great doors for your future. And Lauren, shouldn’t he want you to be able to do what you love, especially if he has no plans? Shouldn’t he support your dreams and aspirations too? Why is it always about him? It’s beyond selfish. I’m so tired of this for you.”
“It’s feels frustrating,” I said. “He just keeps telling me I’m leaving him. I keep telling him I’m not. When I ask what the alternative plan might be, he gets angry, and then silent. As usual he just refuses to have any meaningful dialogue about our plans or future.”
“If he is not giving you any other options you’ve got to take care of yourself. You have no money, and you can’t keep relying on other people. You’ll always be disappointed if you do that. I know, I’ve done that in the past. Your life is up to you.
Tell Boise you’ll accept the job. Don’t be foolish, Lauren. He’s trying to control you. You need a job if you’re going to survive. If you need a job, you need a job. This is common sense. He should support your dreams too. If he can’t do that then I don’t know why you’re even in this marriage. Please take care of yourself right now.”
“But he keeps threatening our marriage, Ruthanne. I just don’t know what to do.”
“Threatening your marriage is no way to discuss a perfectly wonderful job opportunity that will benefit both of you, especially when he has no plans and no job. This situation is making me so angry.
She continued …
I had to learn some hard lessons when I was your age and in a bad marriage just like you. No man will ever save you and no man should have so much power over your life. No one is going to save you.
Your life is yours, so if he doesn’t have a plan, it’s up to you to make one. I suggest- take the job and run.”
Ruthanne was correct, a wise counselor if I ever needed one. I took the job. He stopped talking to me for days, but by now I was used to it.
In the end, however, I had some regrets. What I desired above anything was to feel loved and safe and figure out our plans together. I was still somehow clinging to this absurd hope. How many times did I need to be belittled before I finally believed that maybe this marriage could never work?
He made me feel so guilty and ashamed of following my dreams- dreams I thought could benefit our marriage.
I went to lunch with my girls in Boston, and they seemed just as confused as me.
“He tells me I’m leaving him, but I don’t want to leave him. He keeps saying if I leave our marriage is over.”
“Lauren, you just spent the past year supporting him in school. Why would he not give you the same respect in return? Does he have a job lined up somewhere? Is that why he’s being so difficult?”
“No, no job,” I said. “And no plans, no money, and we’re getting into some big debts. I don’t even know where else I’d go?”
My best girlfriends in Boston stated the obvious: You need to take that job. You have no choice. If he refuses to support you without any alternative plans then that’s his problem.
I now know what was happening. This was a classic abuse tactic, sometimes called a double bind — damned if you do, damned if you don’t. A lose/lose situation.
“Get a job! Make money!
“Don’t take that job”
‘If you go, our marriage won’t survive.”
“If you stay, I have no place for you to go.”
“You are a bad wife if you leave me and you are leaving me.”
“I refuse to discuss any other plans or options.”
I was going insane with the manipulation. I felt guilt and shame and confusion and frustration. I would ask and ask what other options we had. Silence- always silence.
Two weeks before my move to Boise our bishop requested that we meet with him when he discovered I was moving. He was concerned about the fragile state of our marriage.
I shared with the bishop that I wanted the marriage to work. I told him that as soon as my husband had a job I would quit and live with my husband. I explained the importance of the job in Boise and that I could quit at any time if my husband found a job and how this seemed like a good opportunity in the interim.
The bishop looked at my husband, and I’ll never forget this: “Do you have plans after graduation?” the bishop asked my husband.
“Yes, of course,” he said. “I am going to move to Arizona directly after graduation. I am going to work for some businesses who need me to raise money.”
I was stunned. I had never heard a word of these plans, no matter how many times I had asked. He had never told me these plans about Arizona until this moment. Were the plans true and he was withholding them from me? Were they a facade and absolutely false? I didn’t know. I just knew that every bit of this revelation to the bishop was information I’d never heard.
I told the bishop that I had never heard those plans. The bishop told my husband he should share his plans with me. My husband said he understood, and that he agreed.
We walked out the door, and I could tell he was angry. It was the silent treatment the whole way home and into the night. I was getting so used to it. When I woke the next morning I was greeted with silence yet again.
I knew without question what I needed to do at that point: I needed to take the job in Boise. Ruthanne was correct- I could not trust a man who never shared anything with me and who could so blatantly lie when the right circumstance called for it. He never did go to Arizona, but that moment required him to have plans so he had some.
I learned such a valuable lesson in that moment: My gut, my heart, my soul, and my mind all validated my decision to take the job. No regrets at all. The way I felt in that moment will never be forgotten- the tranquility, the contentment, the prayers to my God…Everything told me my decision was right. There was no way in hell I wasn’t taking that job. Again my aunt was so correct. I can still hear her now, always a sweet voice in my sometimes chaotic mind: Lauren, you are so strong. You are so smart. You are your own person. Be yourself always and never let someone try to diminish who you are. Never let someone diminish your soul. Stay true to yourself and your small, still voice. You are always enough, you are wonderful.
So I say to you, to anyone who has ever been diminished or belittled or dismissed: Stay strong. Stay true. Never give up. Never let go of who you are.
Copyright © 2016 Lauren Matthias / LaurenMatthias.com copyright 2016. all rights reserved. You may not take content from this site without written permission.
If you’re experiencing the pain and devastation (whether now or in the past) of being in an abusive relationship with a narcissist and you’re ready to get your life back – Click “contact” at the bottom of this page for a 45 minute “Love Life Recovery” Makeover Session. We’ll set up a plan so you can look forward to having the life and love you deserve.