By Lucy Garcia, M.S.W. - A Personal Testimony
Some time ago, in the preconscious dog days of my failing marriage, a well-meaning but beleaguered confidante commented, "Isn't it time you got your life back?" Bewildered, I pondered this question, at first in the abstract. Time passed and my youngest daughter, then 13 going on 40, announced to me that "It's time to get a life, Mom. You're entitled, and we'll all survive." Evidently, I had missed something along the way. Later, I would realize that she was awake and processing much of what I was trying to ignore.....THE D-WORD. I will always be thankful to her for releasing me from the grip of parental guilt, and giving me permission to do what had thus far been "unthinkable." What she wasn't saying, however, and had every right to say, was that I was spending useless energy cleaning out closets, scrubbing walls, and wearing down the people I loved most (including yours truly). I read into it. Her encouragement was just what I needed to get conscious and action-oriented. The final bonk on the head actually came from HIS shrink who, one day, broke from tradition, cut to the chase, and asked me why I had chosen to stay so long in such an emotionally abusive relationship. This really got my attention. I yanked myself out of my state of indecision and called the attorney.......that day.
So what took me SO long? First of all, I gave a considerable part of my married life trying to resolve our problems with professional help, and with no regrets. Operating on the principle that "the plumber's faucet always leaks," this therapist worked for a long time on herself. I opted for a psychoanalytic type who accepted me unconditionally and helped me wrestle my life back from the jaws of my past emotional compromises (You deserve a purple heart.....You know who you are). When I was finally ready to tackle THE RELATIONSHIP, I called the marriage counselor and WE went to work. More time passed before I realized that while I was "working on the marriage," my significant other was still "acting out". While I'm a great believer in this therapeutic process (and make my living at it), even John Bradshaw can't "fix the marital plumbing" without two committed volunteers.
So, what took so VERY VERY long ? This was the tricky part. Good friends will typically keep their mouths shut and listen nonjudgmentally. Those badly needed "jump starts" from friends, family members, and therapists typically come in the death throes of the marriage when people are just plain fed up with your whining. By that time, you've probably had it with yourself too, and are ready to do something about your dilemma. This is a good thing. Nobody wears your mocassins. Your decision should be honestly and wholly your own. The bad thing is that when you are serving as your own consultant, its easy to make up stuff in the service of what experts call "denial." And in passionate issues, self-deception runs high. In my years as a therapist, and more recently as a consumer of therapy, I am continuously amazed at the war waged in people's heads between wanting to know and not wanting to know. Seeing is not necessarily believing when it comes to matters of the heart. The human mind is inclined to pretend. It's one of the first things we learn as social beings. Developmental psychologists consider childhood fantasy a necessary forerunner to the creative work of adulthood. This may have worked for Stephen Spielberg, but, for some, the imagination can also turn on you and become a "mindfield" of deception at a time when you need hard data.
As if my own hang-ups weren't enough, I had to contend with society's oldies but goodies tapes that occupied my mental soundsurround system: "We should stay together for the children;" "Divorce means I failed;" "I'm taking the easy way out;" "I'm being selfish;" "I didn't try hard enough;" " How will I manage on my own?;" " What will people think?;" "I will feel so alone." "I'm too old to begin over." "Is it really any better out there?;" "Can I ever love again?;" "Will I ever be loved again?;" "Will I ever get over this?" "Do I still look good in a bathing suit?;" "Can I stand the label DIVORCEE????!!." And one of my personal favorites......"I came from a divorced family, and I vowed NEVER TO DO THIS TO MY KIDS!!!" Needless to say, the voice of my "inner child" was up against some stiff competition.
So, my mental renovation has taken awhile, and the road ahead is looking pretty exciting. The dust on the "road already travelled" has cleared, and I can see new construction along with the wreckage, pot holes, and road kill. The trip was worth it, even though it cost me a recalcitrant nervous tic and a second mortgage. I'm fired up, "reclaimed," and moving at a steady clip. My friends are even noticing a kick in my walk. In the final analysis, I can honestly say that my divorce was both the worst and best thing that ever happened to me. I wish I had made a run for it sooner, but I guess most people feel this way when they finally have the empowerment experience. Anyway, I've cleaned out most of the old tapes from my mental attic, and have restocked the shelves with positive tunes. The "better late than never" one is a keeper, though, along with "If I only knew then what I know now."
Share this Article: