Q My divorce was recently finalized, and I find myself seeing other relationships that need to be severed as well.
My ex-husband and I were together almost 10 years and married for six. We had no children, although it was something I always wanted. Our marriage ended because he was unfaithful.
I made the mistake of forgiving him the first time. After the second affair, with a different woman, I got an attorney and filed for divorce, as I now know I should have the first time.
Although ending my marriage was painful and something my ex-husband hated me for, I know it was the right thing to do. He still believes we will get back together because I told him I forgave him. However, he missed the last part of the sentence, which was “but you will never be in my life again.”
Since leaving him, I feel released from many of the painful impacts of his infidelity.
I realized, though, that I carry anxiety and stress from other relationships. My mother and sister have always been challenging for me. My sister tells me my life has turned out the way it has because I don’t have a strong relationship with God like she does.
She graduated from high school, married her high school sweetheart, had children, and has never worked. She enjoys being a mother, a wife, involved in her church, and homeschooling her children.
When I graduated high school, I went to college, obtained a successful career, and earned my master’s degree. Although I always believed in God and pray often, it is not good enough for my sister unless I live her exact life. Even then I don’t think that would satisfy her.
She prays for God to “break me,” so I will be at his mercy like she is. She believes her marriage survived her husband’s emotional affair because she did the work with her faith to save it.
My mother defends my sister’s behavior towards me because she wants access to her grandchildren. She knows it will be denied if she holds my sister accountable for being so hurtful to me.
I never fight with either of them. I usually let my sister talk how she wants towards me and bear the pain because I’m honestly afraid of her.
When I talk to my mother, she says how wonderful my sister is as a mother and what a Godly woman she is. She says since her choices after high school were different than mine, that’s why things are as they are.
Once I tried to say that just because I wanted an education and career doesn’t mean I didn’t want to be a wife and mother. My mother got upset and said, “No, you chose to focus on having a career, and that is why you are still not a mother or wife.”
Since my divorce I’ve realized my mother and sister are not healthy for me, and I should distance myself. My father passed away two years ago, and if I start setting boundaries with my mother and sister, I will have no family.
That makes me sad, but perhaps not having any family and a few close friends is a better option for a healthy life.
It’s interesting that my divorce showed me I didn’t just lose my husband, I lost my mother and sister due to their harsh criticisms all my life. I no longer have the strength to entertain anyone who treats me poorly.
Can people really live life without their family and still be happy, or are we seen as flawed?
A Cathy, your husband wronged you, then he wronged you again. He used the second chance you gave him to do it again, and he thinks you are in the wrong because you won’t give him a third chance to cheat on you.
He never saw this as an opportunity to change his ways; he wanted to change you into accepting his ways.
Analyzing what your ex did, put a revealing light on your mother and sister. It revealed that they have victimized you all of your life.
Your sister engages in the worst kind of one-upmanship. There is nothing spiritual in the way she treats you. She simply always wants to have the upper hand. She believes her life is superior to your life, even though you have gone farther and higher than she has. She minimizes your achievements, as if that is a virtue in her.
You fear her. Your mother backs her. That means you have no option but to cut them off.
What will help is reframing this experience. You are not so much cutting them off as standing up for yourself. Standing up to them means removing yourself from their abuse. After cutting them off, you will be no more alone than you are now.
This is a time to focus on yourself: the things you wish to do and the things you want to do. Strengthen connections to those who treat you well. Live the best life you can, filling your well.
Often when we try to pull away from abusers, they become most determined to harm us. Once you get away from them, they will have one less person to abuse and one less person to be “superior” to. They won’t like that. They won’t come to you out of love, but they may come to you from their own base emotions.
It’s like the man who beats and starves his dog, but won’t let the Humane Society take the dog from him. Why? Because that dog fills a need in that person.
Your sister and mother treat you like a dog. It’s as if they have a choke collar on you, and they enjoy yanking on the leash. You might be going along, having a good day, being a good citizen, when a phone call comes and your sister or mother is there to give a sharp yank on your collar.
This one life is yours. You are the captain of that life. Now do what fulfills you. Pursue the life you envision for yourself. Do, be, see, experience, and you will come into contact with others who share your outlook.
The hardest times will be in the beginning, but as each day you get farther from them, the burden will lift. When you drive by the place where you had a terrible car accident, you will think about the terrible car accident. But what if you don’t go there again?
What would it be like to wake up in the morning and not have their mental and verbal abuse running through your head?
Well, Cathy, you can find out.
Wayne & Tamara
Invade – to enter as if to take possession, to intrude upon.