I couldn't even get through Tina's post because I saw red. It seems a reasonable question, and I certainly was asked this enough times that I know the question is well-intended. But the result is what infuriates me.
Tina was asked, "why did you marry him?" Tina is sharing her journey of a horrible marriage to a narcissist and the ongoing struggles to get her ex to comply with the court's mandated visitation rules and his continued attempts to turn their daughters against Tina.
There are many differences in Tina's journey and my own, but a lot of similarities, too. I know exactly how Tina feels as she stumbles over her words to respond to her daughters when they try to understand why their father doesn't show up for visitations, or says or does things that no mother should have to explain. I know how she feels when she wishes for a manual to guide her through this. The circumstances are different, but the feelings and desires for our daughters are very much the same.
Which is why I seethe for her when someone asks, "why did you marry him?" She was asked to look within herself to find out where she went wrong.
That's like asking a burglary victim to explain why the robber went after them.
I spent years in therapy trying to understand my own actions. You know what I came up with? It wasn't me. It wasn't co-dependency or a fault in my own upbringing. It just happened.
Sometimes, crappy things just happen.
That's not to say I didn't make choices or don't take responsibility. I take responsibility every day. By raising these children on my own, by paying every single bill, by sharing in their struggles and their triumphs. I pay for those choices in the nightmares and the reminders.
But I've also realized how many times I was manipulated. My mistake was believing in him, and believing that love could conquer anything and everything. Yes, love can be wonderful and strengthening and buoying, but only if it works both ways. In my situation, it simply wasn't. He has no clue how to love. Call it a mental deficiency, a chemical imbalance, it doesn't matter. I gave my love to the wrong person. Plain and simple.
I see red when Tina's asked this question because I know how it feels to ponder it, to try to look "inward" when the answer is outward. It's not always within ourselves to find these answers, but sometimes, it's really about someone else.
So to Tina and all the other persons, single parent or otherwise, whomever has had their heart trampled or their soul broken or their wallet stolen, it is not your fault. Stop worrying what you did to deserve this, what you need to change about yourself. Just keep getting up every day. Keep doing your best to get through the next hour. Keep remembering that every emotion has a beginning, a middle and an end, and believe that you will once again love, laugh, and feel true happiness for moments scattered through a life full of landmines, challenges, and loss.
There will be moments of revelation to come. There will be times when you'll remember something that says to you, oh yeah, I saw a red flag there, and I ignored it because...the blanks will fill in themselves when you're stronger, when you're more content, and yes, when you love yourself more. But you don't get there by beating yourself up. You get there with the pillars of strength you've built out of your own hard work that makes you proud. You get there with the help of friends that actually get you to laugh about your ex's shortcomings. You get there through every hug and kiss and "I love you" your child says. You get there when you can laugh at your own stumbles instead of cursing yourself for them.
So if someone asks, "why did you marry him?" you respond, "because I didn't have the benefit of hindsight." If someone asks, "what did you learn about yourself?" you can say that you're learned that a heartbreak doesn't actually kill you. If they ask what mistakes you've learned not to make again, you can respond that you certainly won't marry him again! And you can even say, "it wasn't my fault. It was his."