I’ve written previously about the role of domestic abuse in my family. I’ve written about my ex husband and his paranoid, violent outbursts, and about my ex partner and his undermining cruelty to my two older kids, his physical intimidation and his refusal to support himself.
Now I have outed, named and considered this, it’s time to review my part in the whole dynamic. And this of course is hard, it involves examining and revealing a degree of unattractive behaviour from me, and an honest appraisal of some of my actions. Without wishing to remove responsibility for their behaviour from either of the men I have lived with, domestic discord often has two sides.
The person I am NOW, would not have allowed either situation to continue as it did. The person I am now, 514 days sober (had to check that because I forget) with boundaries (at least some) and a small but developing sense of her own self worth would never ever have let so much of what happened, happen.
I married my husband because I loved him. I had a small child, he accepted that and appeared to want what I did, more children an a stable, normal suburban life. I think he loved me too. All good. Except that he loved cannabis much more than me, my son or either of the two subsequent children we had together. More than his home, more than his role as a father, more than anything or anyone. As I am now I would never have married him. I would have seen the warning signs and known that you cannot change a person. Oh I saw the warning signs, but in my arrogance and in my naivety and my wish for a ‘happy ending’ I believed I could ‘make it right’. It was no good for either of us. My sheer force of character and determination made him feel emasculated; his inertia and lack of ambition frustrated me. Our marriage had its best moments when I was weak, for example in late pregnancy or with a newborn child. When he could feel that he was the stronger.
But thats not me, weak. And I don’t accept things lying down, I try to achieve things I want, and I am ambitions – not so much for ‘things’ but for opportunity, for experience. I believe that commitment and hard work gets things done. He does not.
Quite soon I disliked him, and when his paranoid drug fuelled aggression spilled over into our home life I was both afraid, furiously angry, bitter, resentful and I think I often treated him with contempt. Not nice really. I was not nice really. I tried to talk – we went to 18 months of pointless couples therapy – during which the therapists realised much earlier than I did, that this was not going to work out. … I told myself I was trying, but I could not reconcile myself to his lack of motivation or ambition – could not accept his drug taking. I was not REALLY trying, because what I was being asked to accept in my husband were aspects of his character that I could not respect….And I drank. A lot. Until I saw a way out. and took it.
With Ex P it was different. It took a long time to lose respect for him, he demands respect, By his presence, his voice, his decisions. Instead, when several years in, the frustrations started to grow and I was completely unable to get him to engage with me as an adult, I turned in to a banshee, A shouting, screaming banshee. Like if he wouldn’t listen to me calm, I would MAKE him listen to me loud. Of course he did not. Like the picture at the top of this page, I felt desperate, furious, almost mad with frustration and anger. But the banshee behaviour spilled out into my interactions with my kids, some days I felt stretched so tight I could have yelled at everyone the minute I walked through the door, And some days I did. Not good. Not consistent, not calm, not supportive, and not constructive. Just an ANGRY drunk middle aged woman so frustrated she didnt even know WHY she was so angry. I struck my middle son across the face – I am so ashamed of that. My temper was so close to the surface, I too was losing control.
Thank God it is no longer so. I am so so much calmer now. I rarely raise my voice at home. I am consistent and measured, I do find it hard sometimes to make clear boundaries and stick with them, but Im working hard on that with my therapist.
I was not a very nice wife, and I was not a very nice girlfriend; but much more importantly I was not always a very nice mother.
Im better now. Much better. And you can see it in the kids. They are much calmer, much less volatile. Less angry, less aggressive.
No more Banshee. Banished because I am no longer angry. I am no longer dealing with the unmanageable inside my own home. Who knew.