Hey, Jealousy

I’ve been having a really rough week. My boyfriend is away on a tropical island with his parents scuba diving (I am excited for him to do this). I was invited to go, but because of my fear of flying, I passed on the opportunity (I know my disappointment in myself over this decision is causing a lot of my depression).

So, I have always had a hard time with my boyfriend talking to other girls on Facebook. I do trust him, he really is a good guy, but I have developed this weird insecurity. When I was previously married, I was never insecure or jealous. But I think I had some experiences after my divorce that caused me to have some trust issues. I also am not very self-confident in myself.

While on this tropical island, my boyfriend met a beautiful blonde photographer on their dive boat and then became friends with her on Facebook (he is still there now). I kind of freaked out for two reasons: one being my insecurity and feeling so vulnerable with him gone and two being that I really do think that it is inappropriate to do something like that when you are in a committed relationship. He knows that I was sad about him being away and he knows I get upset when he does things like that on Facebook, so it felt like a betrayal.

I talked to my sister for a long time about it last night. She said I need to be more realistic (because of course in my mind I am picturing this girl in a bikini running in slow motion towards my boyfriend…my imagination is getting the best of me, obviously). But we also talked a lot about my problems with self-confidence. I do think a lot of my problems stem from that. I wrote an earlier post about my difficulty making decisions and I think a big part of that relates to this: I am simply not confident in myself to make a decision and stick to it. Also, when in an argument (for example the one that arose once I told my boyfriend I was upset about the island girl), I tend to back down instead of standing up for what I really believe. I know that part of this is habit from when I was married and my husband was not a fair fighter- he had a remarkable gift of turning everything around on me.

So, I am torn. I am still really upset about this issue (he then “liked” a photo of her in a bikini…awesome) but I also don’t want to drive my boyfriend away with my insecurity. The thing is, I don’t really have self-esteem issues: I know I am pretty, I am successful, I own my own home, I have great friends, etc, etc…I just don’t know how to become more self-confident and not let things bother me so much. I have been a weepy, insecure mess for the past couple of months and I know that is not an attractive quality in a girlfriend. I need to find a way to stand up for what I believe if I think he is wrong, while also not coming across like a psychopath (there must be some kind of fine line between the two).

So, anyone ever struggle with this? I have already read “Why Men Love Bitches” (a gift from one of my former students after my divorce lol). I feel crazy and it is making me really depressed.

Crying Wolf

I am a news junkie and the event that has my attention right now is the Jodi Arias case. I have always had a particular interest in court proceedings and this case kind of blows my mind. I think most of us are guilty (yes, pun intended) of deciding the innocence of a defendant using only the limited information that is released to the public. For example, from the beginning I believed Amanda Knox was innocent.

But the reason this case really bothers me is that Jodi Arias is portrayed by the defense as an abused woman. She testified on the stand that her parents physically abused her and then that several men she dated verbally, emotionally and even physically abused her throughout her lifetime, including the man she killed. Of course there is a chance this is true, but it seems pretty apparent that it is a strategy being used to paint her as a victim.

I have been the victim of physical and emotional abuse by my father and later, verbal abuse by my ex-husband. My mother has been abused in every way by my father. I have known many people who have been in domestic violence situations far, far worse than mine. It really bothers me on a deep level that there is a good possibility that Jodi Arias is claiming to be a victim of abuse if she is not. There are so many women (and children…and men) who are being hurt by people they love and it is a disservice to them when someone fraudulently uses abuse as a defense for their terrible actions. No one who really truly IS a victim wants to be seen or treated as a victim. I have always strived to avoid using my childhood experiences as an excuse for doing something hurtful to myself or to someone else.

Again, I don’t really know if this woman was hurt by anyone. Either way, nothing she described on the witness stand sounded that violent or even that scary. Domestic violence is such a serious problem in our country, one that does not receive the attention it needs.

All by myself

The best thing my therapist ever said to me was in reference to my (now ex-)husband. She told me, “he has every right to be upset with you, disappointed in you, angry with you, frustrated with you, or anything else he is feeling, but he does NOT have the right to be mean to you.” That really stuck with me.

Coming back from our honeymoon, I had my first panic attack ever on the plane. It was one of those moments that could have been a scene from a movie- the girl freaks out and starts yelling, “I have to get. off. the. plane!” while her poor husband just looks around frantically for help. It was not fun. The thing is, I had flown many, many times. I have lived all over the country and have family in several states. I even flew to Ireland to visit my sister when she studied abroad. I still do not completely understand it and many people- including my therapist- have questioned if subconsciously I knew that I was coming home married to a man who I had serious reservations about. I loved my husband very much, but I had seen a lot of red flags before we got married that I chose to ignore. Red flags that I kept secret, like him pulling the car over when we were fighting because I was scared of his erratic driving and then leaving me on the side of a major highway in an inner city neighborhood. At night. In the winter. And never coming back. Yea, I wasn’t dying to tell anyone that romantic story because I protected him instead of protecting myself. When I finally told my friends and family that happened, they were so upset that I didn’t tell them at the time.

I have never been the same since that panic attack- it really changed something inside my brain and my heart. After that horrible flight, I suffered from constant anxiety and was eventually diagnosed with agoraphobia. It had an effect on our marriage and although my “wasband” had a terrible anger problem and did treat me badly during the last couple of years of our relationship, I truly believe that he just simply did not know how to help me. He is a good person- even after everything that happened between us, I still think that. He would help anyone with anything, but he seemed to lack empathy. He was an amazing friend to his friends, but he was not a very good husband. I also think that there are two kinds of people: those who think mental illness is a real thing and those who don’t. He was in the latter category. His big thing was just to tell me “mind over matter” and his approach was tough love. It clearly didn’t work. He also didn’t “believe” in medication and so I suffered for a long time because I didn’t want to disappoint him or upset him by taking antidepressants. I am fortunate to currently be in a relationship with someone who understands mental illness and really supports me…it has made a huge difference.

The best thing I ever did for myself was be by myself. I see women getting divorced and jumping right back into dating or even marriage again. If that is what makes someone happy, then to each their own. I knew that I needed time- time to find myself again and work on myself. I still loved my husband the day we went to court…I did not get a divorce because I fell out of love. I did it because every day I was married to him, a little part of me died. It was like I was a shell of my former self. I lived to try to make him happy, when in reality, there was so much resentment that there was really nothing I could have done to please him. I stopped caring about myself because I stopped thinking I was worth caring about. After getting divorced, I didn’t have anything to do with men for almost a year. I wasn’t a man hater or anything crazy like that- I just knew I needed time to learn who I was again. I took yoga and learned to meditate, adopted a cat, spent a lot of time with my sister and girlfriends and also spent a lot of time alone thinking, lost weight, cried A LOT, taught a college class…just anything I could do FOR ME. I knew that I could not love someone or feel worthy of being loved by someone until I really loved myself again. It was the BEST thing I could have done. By the end of that time, he was already engaged. I spoke to our marriage counselor during the time he was annulling the marriage and she said she was not surprised that he was getting remarried so quickly and said that she truly felt he would victimize his new wife. I felt good hearing that at the time because I was still angry and hurt and even though I take responsibility for my part of the marriage failing, I do believe that his behavior and treatment towards me were the primary reasons we couldn’t work things out. But now I hope that isn’t true- I hope he treats his new wife better than he treated me. It is hard to imagine that only because he could never admit when he was wrong and didn’t “believe in apologizing” (yup- direct quote). He was the kind of person who thought he was always right and it is really hard to be with someone like that. The last thing I ever said to him outside that courthouse was that I was so sad things didn’t work out and that I would always love him. The last thing he said to me was that he was sorry he couldn’t fix me.

It took 11 months for me to pull myself together and in the end I realized that I really wasn’t broken.

1,019 vs. 24

Since I started my “fake” email address for just my father to use, he has sent me a total of 1,019 emails…since December 2010. I have sent him 24.

In addition to the emails, my dad leaves me multiple voicemails every day. For example, he left me three today. Visual voicemail on the iPhone is so wonderful! And the best $.99 I ever spent on iTunes was for a silent ring tone (assigned only to him). The most peaceful time of my life was when a hurricane knocked out my parent’s electricity for a few days.

The strangest thing about my father (and there are just so many to choose from) is that he clearly does not need any encouragement to continue all of this correspondence. It is really a one-sided relationship. Regardless of whether I respond or not, he just doesn’t quit. If he wasn’t so crazy and belligerent, I would almost admire his tenacity. Most people would have given up by now!! I think in a weird way, his emails have become an online journal for him.

My sister said to me recently that we should start literally responding to every single email he sends, just to be spiteful. Besides being very time-consuming, it would be a fruitless endeavor. Here’s the thing: I think my dad subconsciously feeds off the fact that we do not respond to him. It makes him feel like a victim. “Oh! I have these two awful daughters, these “DO NOTHING TAKERS” who never respond.” Yet, on several occasions, my sister has spent hours writing him heartfelt emails expressing her concern about his health and begging him to stop drinking and to this day he has never acknowledged them at all.

So, I can run, but really I can’t hide. I can ignore the emails and erase the never-listened-to voicemails, but he doesn’t go away. Even if a day or two goes by with no communication from him (like when he has the stomach flu or something), I always know in the back of my mind that he is there. That sounds creepy…but what I mean is, I am always thinking about what is going on at my parent’s house. Is my mom ok? Is he going to fall again? Am I going to get a phone call in the middle of the night? Ironically, I developed terrible anxiety right AFTER I moved out of my parent’s house. I was 21, living with my best friend, dating, partying, etc….yet I worried constantly about my mother and sister. I felt such guilt that I abandoned them. My mother insisted my sister and I both live in dorms during our college years even though we both attended schools only an hour from home. She used the “college experience” excuse, but I realize now that she wanted to give us the chance to get away from him.

My dad left me a voicemail the other day where he very sarcastically said, “if you ever responded to one of my emails, I think I would just commit suicide.” I have to admit, it was a little tempting, but I can’t deal with that kind of guilt. So really, I am keeping him alive by not reading and responding to his emails. You would think he would be a little more appreciative instead of calling me names 😉

The grass is always greener…

I have always had this problem where I compare myself to others. I think to some degree many people do this, but I do it excessively and have for many, many years. At first it was my family. For some reason, I had it in my head that everyone else had a perfect, TV family (I was obsessed with being adopted by the Cosby family when I was little, nevermind that they are fictional and I am white- lol). While my family was completely dysfunctional, I imagined my friends having normal dinners and holidays. Even now when my friend tells me about going to a museum with just her father, my first thought is “why??”- that sounds like a nightmare to me! The obvious problem with comparisons like these is that I always came up short. I’m not saying I have an inferiority complex…I am pretty happy with who I am, but I just can’t help myself from doing these comparisons constantly.

After years of comparing my family to others, I moved on to comparing how I looked to others. I have a healthy attraction to men, but I often find myself “checking out” other women when I am in public. Not in a sexual way, but to compare myself to them. This one is skinnier, this one has gorgeous hair, this one can wear heels without looking ridiculous…again I think most people do this on occasion, but I also felt like, “if I just looked like her, I wouldn’t have (insert whatever problem I was having at the time). Again, I am very pretty…I’m no Giselle, but I do just fine with the guys. It just seemed like I always was wishing I was someone else, which I realize now is a bit of the “grass is always greener on the other side” complex.

The worst of it came when I was unhappiest in my marriage. I watched other couples like a hawk. This husband placed his hand on his wife’s back protectively- why didn’t my husband do that? This husband complimented his wife in front of a whole crowd- why didn’t mine do that? It became very unhealthy because not only did I constantly highlight what was wrong with my marriage, but I had a very unrealistic view of my friend’s marriages. I am so happy that my friends have good marriages, but I realize now that no marriage or relationship is perfect.

I think examining other people’s lives and envisioning how “easy” they have it is a form of escapism. It detracts me from having to look deeply at my own problems and simplifies life in an unrealistic way. If I was skinnier, my problems would obviously not just disappear, I do know that. I also think a little part of me feels like I don’t deserve to be happy the way other people *appear* to be (1. I know that is a classic COA belief and 2. I say *appear* because I have learned that not everyone’s life is what it seems to be.) Surprisingly, when I started telling co-workers about MY divorce and MY family, people were shocked. They had always looked at me as being independent, happy, in love…I did a good job of *appearing* to be what I wanted the world to see.

I try to compare myself to other people less now, but honestly it is something that I just automatically do. I want to believe that my friends have perfect marriages because then that means they are possible. I want to believe that a size 6 woman has no problems because if I am ever that thin, I want to be that carefree. I want to believe that there are families that are like the Brady Bunch, rather than The Simpsons, because then I can hope to one day be a part of one. I know I need to be happy with who I am and I do have SO much to be thankful for, so I am going to try to focus on that more. It is the message I teach my students and I guess I need to practice what I preach!!

Till death do us part


Growing up with an alcoholic father and an enabling mother, I clearly did not see a very positive example of a marriage growing up. Arguing, threats and violence was the norm in our house, although I do remember my parents sharing genuine affection before my dad’s addiction took over. When she was 7 years old, my sister told my mom all she wanted for Christmas was for them to get a divorce. That makes me so sad now.

I would be lying (to you and to myself) if I said I did not have reservations about getting married while I was planning my wedding. I was not scared of getting married per se, but I had seen a lot of red flags in my husband’s behavior that I ignored (that’s another story). My exhusband just annulled our marriage (I got the final letter this past weekend). At first, I fought the annulment- we were married for 4 1/2 years and the grounds he used were outright lies. Neither of us are religious, so it seemed very hypocritical that he was pursuing an annulment, although it is clearly because he wants to remarry in the church. I was very upset at first, but I finally decided that no one (not even God) could say that our marriage is invalid. Regardless it was an unpleasant experience.

I do not think I will ever get married again because I felt so trapped in my marriage at the end. But, the ironic thing is that I truly do still believe in the beauty of marriage. My mother’s parents, my Mama and Papa, were married for 68 years (and together for a total of 72). I am not saying their marriage did not face trials and difficult times, but they were the most inspirational example of true love I have ever seen. After more than 65 years of marriage, my grandfather still kissed my grandmother goodbye when he left the house and before he went to bed every single night. They were so loving towards each other. My marriage might have failed, but I will always believe in marriage because of my Mama and Papa. They were my favorite people in the world and I learned so much about life, teaching and love from them. I could tell my Mama anything, sometimes things I wouldn’t even tell my best girlfriends. I was so anxious to tell them I was getting a divorce because I didn’t want to disappoint them. When I finally worked up the courage to call and tell them, my Mama immediately said she was glad because she knew I wasn’t happy and I heard my Papa in the background yell out “he’s a prick” (you would find this much funnier if you knew what a gentleman my grandfather was). They were just the best and at 93 and 92 respectively, Mama and Papa still lived in their home, drove around town and were pretty healthy for their ages.

In October of 2009, my Mama passed away while taking a nap in her bed. She kissed my grandfather, went to lie down and died peacefully. After she died, my grandfather literally could not survive without her. Within 40 days of her death, he passed away. He went from being a relatively healthy to being on hospice care within a month. Once his beloved wife was gone, he lost the will to live and he starved himself to death. It is so heartbreaking and I miss them every single day. But there is something so romantic and beautiful about their story. My grandfather died from a broken heart. I had heard of that before but never really believed that it was a real thing. Their love was so strong and their marriage was an inspiration to everyone who was lucky enough to know them.

I filed for divorce in November of 2009. Even though my exhusband and I were trying to reconcile when my Mama passed away, it is reassuring to know she supported my decision to leave him. Those few months were the worst of my life and losing my grandparents while going through a divorce was incredibly painful. I often wished that I could just call my grandmother one more time. Even three years later, I miss them so damn much. But I also know how lucky I am- not only to have had such amazing grandparents up until I was in my 30s- but also to be a part of their love story.