“If someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Maya Angelou
I had felt peace and conviction in my decision to leave for Boise, but despite that peace I allowed regret and questioning to seep into my mind. I simply wanted to be loved and feel safe more than anything. Even as Boise was waiting for me, the afternoon before my flight I sat with my husband and told him I wanted to stay with him. After hearing over and over since I took the job that I was leaving him, I told him once again that our marriage meant more than work or career, and I didn’t want to leave if we could figure out another option. He looked at me and said without hesitation: “Lauren, you need to go. It’ll just be temporary until I get a job, but you need to go.”
Despite his past repeated blame that I was leaving him, I left for Boise the next morning with his blessing. I was confused and pained by the constant manipulations- go, stay, go, stay, go. Did I even know this man? Did he even know himself?
How many times did I need to be shown? How many times did I have to believe in the facade of the man I fell in love with before I understood that man never existed, and never would? How many times did I need to believe in the fantasy of my marriage getting better when it was really only getting worse? How many times did I need to feel empathy for a man who never showed any empathy towards me? How many times did I need to believe and trust his words before I realized his words were empty? They were nothing.
Why could I not see? Why?
Growing up, it had been drilled into my head over and over that you fight to keep a marriage alive. That you choose your love, and then you love that choice – no matter what. Marriage is serious and you stand by your commitments. I had heard so many times that if your spouse loves the Lord and you love the Lord, then any marriage can work. I’d heard people tell me marriage is hard. I’d never been married, so was this normal? Is this what they meant? Is it really this hard? I had been told that my grandma was a brave, strong woman because she stayed married to my grandpa who had a short temper and could be cruel. I had heard people praise the martyrs – woman who stayed with difficult men. They were tough. They were saintly. Was that my task in life- to stay with a cruel man, to sacrifice myself for someone? Was I supposed to be that brave, strong martyr? I went online and I saw that a friend had posted a meme with a quote about marriage along the lines of: “If something is broken, you fix it, you don’t throw it away.” That is what I used to naively think. How I hate those quotes now. They caused me such conflict and confusion during this time. How would I know when something was so broken it could never be fixed? When would the time come when I would finally realize that two people loving the Lord wasn’t enough for a healthy, happy marriage? How would I know that marriage was not supposed to be this hard? All of these questions led me to desperately seek an answer.
Although my marriage was too confusing and dark of a place for me to blog regularly, I started keeping private notes on my phone. I did so for my own sanity and to remember my thoughts and feelings as I went through this process of questioning my marriage. One moment I knew I had to leave, but the next moment I’d receive some calculated kindness from him- a small tidbit of kindness- just enough to make me question if things were getting better. One moment he’d be blaming me for everything that was wrong in our relationship, and the next moment he’d be saying he needed me, loved me, and couldn’t live without me. I would feel sorry for him. In those moments, he really got me to believe he was making improvements.
Still, I would record these thoughts, feelings and events on my phone notes to read, sort out, and look back on when I questioned myself and my feelings from day-to-day. I needed this anchor to ground my thoughts and maintain some sanity. … I needed to listen to my wounds.
Here are some of those journal entries from my phone just as I wrote them years ago:
December 13, 2013
“I know I am worth more than this. I know I can make someone happy, that I have special gifts and talents someone will love. I know someone could compliment me and lift me up, instead of putting me down all the time. I know someone could pay more attention to what I did right, than what I do wrong. I know someone could love my imperfections, or not find as many. I know someone could listen to me, and I would listen to him. We would converse and understand each other. I know someone wouldn’t always blame me. I know I could show someone I loved them—and feel their attention and gratitude. I know someone could be aware and attentive. Someone could realize just how attentive I am. How hard I try. I know someone could cherish me. I know someone could praise me, and I him. I know someone could think I am beautiful inside and out. I know someone could be my best friend and we could lift each other up. I know God would want me to raise children with a good man—someone who wanted to have children with me. I know someone could appreciate what I appreciate in myself: My attentive ways, how I try to make others feel good, my love of people, my artistic side, my warmth, my brain, my work ethic, my feelings and emotions, my positive way with children, my positivity and gratitude, my love of Christ. I know someone could listen to me, and I, him. We would converse and understand each other. I know someone wouldn’t blame me always.”
Why did I not believe myself?
December 18, 2013
“You know today Lauren, NOW, 12/18/13, how bad you feel. He doesn’t know how to love you, and it will not change. You have tried. You have given him many chances. He cannot love you for who you are and doesn’t. He never will. He seeks out your faults and gives love out in small measurements. He does not compliment you. He threatens divorce, because he is unsure of you. He does not put his arm around you. He does not comfort you. He does not think you’re worth it. He doesn’t want your children. He can’t imagine raising children with you. You don’t make him happy. He doesn’t cherish you. Leave, it’s okay to leave. God will place a better man into your life. You can live much more of your potential with a more stable, supportive and loving husband.”
Why did I not believe myself? How many times did I have to remind myself that I was worth so much more than I was receiving from my husband?
I wrote the poem below on 9/2013, just before I had left Boston the first time. I had followed this poem through with the strong and powerful choice to leave, only to be convinced to come back. Why? I knew how wrong it felt. I knew the depth of my wounds.
I wish then I had fully understood this incredibly powerful quote by Maya Angelou:
If someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
The first insult, the first push, the first belittling comment, the first refusal to go, the first denial, the first dismissal of my perspective, the first boundary crossing, the first negation. I should have believed it. I hope you will believe it. Nothing will ever change. Leave the first time. Don’t ever believe the lies, the facade, and the manipulation. I wish I had believed him the first time he showed me he was incapable of love.
This entry was written in July, 2013 only four months after our marriage;
I feel defeated. I feel sad all the time.
I don’t feel in control of my life.
I don’t feel passionate when I wake.
I want to feel cherished, adored, and loved. I am not.
This entry in June 2013 only three months after our marriage:
So many concerns already:
He yells at me
I don’t feel beautiful. He’s stopped complimenting me since marriage, even if I tell him that compliments feel good
I feel he has unrealistic expectations of me that can never be met
I feel constantly criticized and faulted
I feel I can’t finish a sentence without him criticizing me
I feel alone
I feel it’s always a battle of who’s right and wrong, not just understanding each other
I feel he always has to have the floor and win every argument (and there are many)
I don’t feel appreciated for my strengths or gifts
I feel he withholds affection
I feel he puts me down instead of lifting me up
What do I do?
How many times did I need to remind myself? Why did I not believe it? It was so clear- believe it the first time.
The journal entry below was written three weeks before our wedding. Yes, before. I can’t say there weren’t red flags. I can’t say it was perfect and beautiful until the moment we wed. Although it got much worse after the wedding, there were warning signs before. There were break-ups. There were apologies. There was fighting and admonishments and problems. None of this was acceptable, but he would always beg me to take him back after we would fight and break up. He’d be sitting outside my house while I was on a date, waiting for me to come home, begging for me to forgive him, and I’d feel sorry for him. I mistook his constant begging and attention for love.
Back then, when there were issues, I’d find myself having empathy for him. Empathy for his commitment issues. Empathy for his abandonment issues. Empathy for his being single-for-too-long issues. Empathy for having too-much-freedom-as-a-kid issues. How many issues did I have to forgive and overlook? Why did I refuse to let go of the man I thought I fell in love with, despite him showing me who he really was … showing me over and over. Why didn’t I believe him the first time?
This entry on March 3, 2013 a few weeks before our wedding:
What I want in a man:
Loves me just the way I am
Appreciates me for me
Likes to be in my presence and talk with me
Listens to me
Doesn’t yell at me
Holds my hand when we drive
Big bear hugs
Holds me tight when I cry
Manly, but humble
Loves how spiritual I am
Wants to help make the world a better place
Realizes his potential
Allows me to just be me, loves my quirks
Appreciates my love for others
Appreciates my kindness
Doesn’t take advantage of my kindness
Simply loves being in my presence
Puts me first and loves me more than his friends, his job, and our children
This is what I deeply wanted. And reading this back, I realize the truth: I wrote this list because I was fearful this was not the man I was about to marry. I wanted him to be this man, but my gut was telling me otherwise. Why didn’t I believe it? At 33-years-old, with more dates under my belt than I’d ever imagined, this was the list I didn’t think was ever going to be possible for me. I simply did not believe this specific man existed, or if he did exist, I must not deserve him. Other women did, but not me. So I settled because I loved him, and I hoped for the best. Never settle in love or life- for anything. You are better than settling. You deserve love. Be patient and love will find you if you persist.
And to anyone fighting the battle of questions and confusion: No matter what others say, no matter what advice you’re given, no matter what lessons on marriage you were given as a child, this is what matters the most:
your FEELINGS, your INTUITION, your INNER VOICE – those matter most. How does he make you feel? How do you feel about yourself when you’re around him? Your feelings and intuition will never lead you astray. They are the very essence of who you are and your core. Don’t ever doubt the way you feel. Don’t ever doubt how he makes you feel. And listen with your whole heart to those feelings and intuitions. Believe them with your full heart too. Make no excuses. When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
And if you know what you’re looking for, if you have your own lists, don’t ever give up on your dreams. You deserve love. If you’re with someone whom you worry is not the right person- believe it. Trust yourself, your feelings and your intuition about your love. I wish I had listened to that inner voice from my journal entries that kept telling me to tightly shut the door, and then lock it. That voice was correct- it always is. I just happened to question my own voice and intuition, and I paid the price.
After leaving Boston for the second time, my plane landed in Salt Lake City. It was the weekend after Easter of 2014. I then made the drive to Boise, Idaho. I was nervous. I was alone and scared. I thought Boise would be my home for the next two months. I didn’t realize it would be home for the next two years.
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