I was married seven years ago.
Not to Derek, my first marriage.
We had a small wedding in the South of France, in the village I grew up in. I don’t know what I was feeling that morning. I remember hoping he wouldn’t show up drunk.
The wedding was perfect. I planned it to be so with the help of my mom. I wore a fitted wedding dress I bought off the rack and my best friend did my hair and makeup.
For the year leading up the wedding, my husband to be had called the wedding on and off several times. Including right before I bought my dress. Including the week he arrived with all of our friends and family. Every time I had patiently said “We can call it off”, until he changed his mind (it was him, not me he said, he just wished he was in a better place). Until that week, when I looked at him horrified. I wore big glasses leading up the wedding hiding my swollen eyes from crying.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Our relationship involved a lot of push and pull. I was put on the highest pedestal I had ever known, only to feel lower than the dirt he walked on. He was subtle in bringing me down - but I remember everything feeling like everything was always my fault. I remember questioning my own identity. I will never forget banging my head on the bathroom wall or dipping it below the bath water and not wanting to come up. I considered leaving but was scared I would never be loved, and hanging onto the good. ‘I love him’ I thought. And I did. Boy did I. I loathed him in moments and simultaneously worshipped him and our highs.
Years later I would study narcissism and make a lot of sense of our relationships. I would see my own unhealed wounds - my need to please, to feel loved, to dip into all or nothing - and understand why I held on for so long. I would realize any form of communication would leave us tethered forever and blocked him, no longer responding to emails. I would later learn that this is the only way to move on from a narcissist (although there are also tools for those who are bonded by children.)
I still get nightmares. There was a lot of darkness, manipulation and hurt in between the highs and seemingly idealistic relationship.
It also took me a really long time to realize that love is not a rollercoaster and ups and downs. It’s work, yes, but it’s a steady supply of love and support. It makes you feel good more than it makes you feel bad. It does not need to be INTENSE. It can be kind.
I wish I could say that I’m fully healed from it. But like my eating disorder as a teen, it is a journey in healing the deeper layers that allowed it in the first place. Lately I am studying the mind gut connection and seeing so many links between my physical health and the stress fueled years that led to some of my current challenges. I’m seeing how often I chose stress as my comfort zone.
It so many ways I am grateful for the experience. It showed me what I needed to work on. It also allowed me to spot similar red flags the relationships of some close friends, and I have always said “I don’t know your situation, but this reminds me of mine, and I’m here to help.” The similarities were baffling. Their healing was equally hard if not more.
How do we let go of the situations in our past that haunt us and hurt us? Gradually. We accept the process with grace. We return to the present. We keep tending to our own healing in whatever way seems right. We acknowledge, over time, that feeling good and being loved is our birthright.