In 1981 I married my one and only husband to date. We were both drinking, both alcoholic but our dynamics were similar to those of my parents; he was Mr. Well and I was Ms. Sick. He came off as the responsible one and the relationship in fact was defined and perpetuated by one person being sick, weak, helpless and dependent and the other getting to pass for the manly man, the responsible one, the forebearing one ostensibly, whom everyone else canonized. Ick! Yuck! Thank God I had the good sense to end this travesty and others like it.
What interests me at the moment more than the sad, endless scripts over the years are the underlying dynamics and what they have done to me and other women who find themselves one down wondering how they got there. I conjecture that I am not alone even with all we know now as armchair psychologists. As an unwell woman, a damaged woman I didn’t pick healthy and sane men. I picked rescuers, loners, lonely and embittered men generally with a painful history themselves. We rushed into intimacy as if it came out of a cereal box. We cleaved together and whitewashed everything to look pure and possible, when we were doomed the minute we laid eyes on each other.
I still remember every single one of these excursions into hell and the names of my then loves. Out of the cradle and into the fire pit. I remember bad blow-outs with lovers that sent me to my room with the same feelings I had when things went south with Mom.
But I especially remember and relive, the pain of feeling that it was and is all my fault every time it happens. The men I’ve picked want it to be my fault. Their egos demand it. Bit by bit a woman trapped in such dynamics surrenders her power, her self-respect, her dignity, her optimism and her career if she has one or ever wanted one. I watched my mother go from being bright-eyed and engaged with her community to a blob of protoplasm in a chair waited on by my father. Despite the fact that he was shriveling up with emphysema, he ran the show. He got to come off as the strong one and the saint.
These dynamics, in my experience, are harder to overcoming than drinking ever was. I sometimes believe the purpose to all of this suffering is to help me turn to a spiritual solution– to Someone/Something that it is safe to be close to and to be loved by. I believe that there is a loving power in the universe that wants the job of nurturing us and I’ve experienced that to be the case–when I’ve let myself be open to it. When I was in the nursing home with people dying on either side of me and absolutely nothing going the way I thought it should, I turned to the Unseen. I found a way to transcend my own brokenness. And yes: years of therapy of all kinds.