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Posts Tagged ‘emotional scars’

As I have been considering the boundaries (values, characteristics, behaviors) I want to have in my life, I am compelled to look in the mirror with honesty, and face the person I have become over the course of my marriage.

Angry – Pain and anger abound. Even when my husband has done nothing (recently) wrong, my anger is still there. Just below the surface. Anger over every unresolved conflict, every hurt feeling, every bad behavior, and every time I’ve felt disrespected and disappointed.

Disconnected – “Anger and disconnection permeate many interactions with the ADD spouse. Sometimes the anger is expressed as disconnection . . . Some claim that disconnection is the only way to bear the pain, the downside is, the pain is still there . . .” (author unknown)

Discontented – Not being satisfied with what God has already provided. Looking for people or circumstances to bring me happiness. Forgetting that He is more interested in my holiness than my immediate, temporal happiness.

Conscious Blindness – During those times when things are going “well” in my marriage, it is usually because I have chosen not to “see the elephants in the room”. I ignore all the issues that need to be addressed for the sake of momentary peace. A fragile harmony that gives the false perception that we are OK, when in reality, I deem him unsafe, unworthy of reckless abandon of my heart, my trust . .

Manipulative – Instead of being assertive and emotionally mature, I have resorted to manipulation. “As frustration and anger build, the non-ADD spouse may start making less empathetic decisions, sometimes abdicating responsibility. This serves the dual purpose of punishing the ADD spouse and proving the non-ADD spouse correct. The non-ADD spouse is subtly and unknowingly sabotaging the relationship by doing this. And at the same time, complaining that the ADD spouse cannot change.” (G. Pera)

Frustrated – That we’ve gotten to this point and incredulous that we haven’t been able to make things better. The same issues come up over and over again and I am convinced that every bad behavior my spouse has done only proves his incompetence, inconsistency or inconsiderateness.

Hopeless – While anger, disconnection, and manipulation have been a result of my frustration, at times, I am just hopeless. My dreams have been put aside and profound grief pervades the daily difficulties of my life.

There it is. The person I have become after all these years of marriage. It’s an ugly list. I say this not with judgement or self-condemnation, but with resolve. Resolve that the boundaries I will now establish will not depend on the behavior or needs of others. They will be values, characteristics, and behaviors that I must absolutely have in my life as the person I wish to be. And I can think of no better list than the one already written in Galations . . .

Love          Joy          Peace          Patience          Kindness          Goodness              Faithfulness              Gentleness              Self-Control

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Boundaries have always been an elusive concept for me to grasp. In raising my children, it came as a natural part of parenting. But in my marriage, I have never understood the purpose or proper maintenance of them. As a result, they have proved useless to me.

My husband and I recently had a few “good” weeks. But because of our history, I’ve been forced to finally acknowledge that “today’s” behavior will not predict future behavior – despite any “boundaries” I’ve put in place. While I’ve been thankful and appreciative for his thoughtful attention, I no longer have any reason to hope for long-lasting change.

And even with the psychological self-protection this acknowledgment brings to my mind, it provides no protection for my heart. I have come to doubt whether there really is any way to truly guard one’s heart from a spouse, and I rebel at the reality that I need protection from him.

Then, as I was reading about ADD, I came across this chapter written by Melissa Orlov:

Autonomy – a way of setting and respecting personal boundaries.”

“A personal boundary is a VALUE, CHARACTERISTIC, or BEHAVIOR that we absolutely must have in order to live our life as the person we wish to be, in any situation.”

“Boundaries protect who you are.”

Finally, the lightbulb came on. Boundaries were so foreign to me because after many years of being married to a man who showed no respect for my boundaries, they eventually became pointless. But without boundaries, there was nothing protecting who I was. Consequently, I lost my identity and felt invisible, believing it was only his approval that validated my existence. I was no longer the PERSON I once was before this relationship.

With this concept now being illuminated, I went on to read,

Boundaries should be enduring and effective rules that will lead you back to the person you want to be and how you want to live your life in the future.”

“The best boundaries protect and respect. Less effective boundaries are created in response to an argument, or are intended to hurt or punish.”

“In identifying your most important boundaries: “

1) “Think about where your personal boundaries or rules used to be when you were happiest. What was important to you? How did you behave?”

2) “Think about where your boundaries or personal rules are today. What has changed? What boundaries do you wish you had in place, but are currently missing or being ignored by others?”

3) “Where do you want to be in the future?”

“Once you have defined your personal boundaries, create a plan for change and act on it. Begin behaving in ways that are consistent with the person you wish to be.”

“. . . the person I wish to be . . .” Ahhh, another reason why boundaries may have been so baffling to me. So much of my behavior has become based on what I thought was expected of me . . . But now I understand that boundaries have nothing to do with my spouse, my family or my friends. They are completely about ME and MY behavior. This realization demanded I answer the question, “What kind of person do I wish to be? . . .”

Change only happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.

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I am guilty. Of many things, be assured. And in thinking about the ways I have contributed to the issues in my marriage, I acknowledge that I have been desperate in seeking the affirmation of my husband. I have been driven to gain his approval, thinking, if I could only improve myself in some way, I would stop being invisible to him. But because of the state of dysfunction I have been in, it has taken much time to realize that no amount of affirmation would ever be enough. I was letting his lack of attention determine my worth, and fell for the lie that without his approval, I was worth nothing.

“One of the most common actions of an ADD spouse is that he stops paying attention. A wife will then feel abandoned and ashamed that she is no longer attractive to her husband. But what is really occurring is the defining symptom of ADD – distraction.”

Regardless of whether a husband is intentionally ignoring his wife or being ‘distracted’, the results are the same. His actions are speaking louder than his words. The hurt caused by his behavior elicits a series of bad feelings and behaviors on her part which compound the problem.”

“Loneliness is a key component for the non-ADD spouse. It comes from many things:
1) the distraction of the ADD spouse which makes the non-ADD spouse feel ignored and unloved
2) a sense of never being heard since so many patterns of bad behavior are repeated
3) the fact that few people outside the marriage ‘see’ what is going on

After so many years of living with this cycle of behavior in my marriage, my self-worth has inevitably become a casualty. Only through this blog have I been able to realize that. And through the information that I’ve learned about ADD have I gained an understanding I did not have before. But having realization and knowledge is not where I want to stop. While I don’t think I could have reached this point without realization and understanding, I now want to heal. And as I heal, I want to become stronger, I want to move forward, not in circles, I want the realization and knowledge that my worth is given to me from God and not from man to become my reality.

I John 4:9-10 God showed how much He loved us (me) by sending His only Son into the world so that we (I) might have eternal life through Him. This is real love. It is not that we (I) loved God, but that He loved us (me) and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our (my) sins.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not calamity, to give you hope and a future. In those days when you pray, I will listen.”

Psalms 139:17-18a How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!

(Excerpts taken from ADHD Effect on Marriage by Melissa Orlov and Is It You, Me Or ADD by Gina Pera)

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“Whenever I speak on the subject of forgiveness, invariably, someone will say, ‘I’ve never been able to forgive myself for what I’ve done.’ Interestingly, the Bible never speaks of the need to forgive yourself. What these women are really saying is that they have never been able to feel forgiven for what they’ve done. They are still carrying a sense of guilt and shame over their failure. Though they know God can forgive them, they find it difficult to accept God’s mercy.”
(DeMoss – Lies Women Believe)

Lie: God won’t forgive what I’ve done.

In my case, I feel like I am confronted with the consequences of my sins / mistakes / choices on a daily basis. And it is that, which leads to thoughts of self-condemnation . . . “If I didn’t ________, then my life would be different and maybe I’d be in a better place . . . “

For others, they choose to believe the lie that they have no need for forgiveness. They’ve done nothing wrong . . . Or at least, nothing as bad as their “neighbor”. I’ve been there, too. Having a Pharisee mentality when I hear of someone’s struggles and think, “I may have problems, but I’m sure glad I don’t have their problems.”

And then there’s the ones who can’t / won’t forgive. Those people who can never remember their own mistakes but keep the mistakes of others fresh in their memory. Victims who seem to always be licking the wounds inflicted on them by others. I’ve known one or two of them in my life and could quite possibly even be accused of being one myself.

Forgiveness is:

A process
Admitting that we hurt/hate
Not saying it didn’t happen or didn’t hurt
Realizing that we have a choice to release
Not something we can do with our own power
(taken from my pastor’s Sunday morning sermon)

What was it about Jesus that enabled Him to be big enough to take the blame for our sins? – to own sins that were not even His to own? The sins of the past, the present and the future. The sins of the victim and the perpetrator? . . . simply put, it was love.

Because of so many of our human flaws, we fail to see ourselves as the Father does. We doubt our worth to Him. We hang on to self-imposed guilt and shame, while the fear of that guilt and shame causes others to be resistant to owning their wrongs. But the Truth is as sweet as water to the thirsty. The Truth sets those captive of self-condemnation free. This is the Truth:

“If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves, and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. I John 1:8-9

God is good. He loves me, has forgiven me, and will never leave or forsake me. My “feelings” are always changing but the Truth never changes.

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I have been living, unknowingly, in a world I never knew existed. A world where nothing has made sense and I never knew why. Where well-meaning advice to “let my husband re-assume the family’s leadership” left me stunned and dejected, further convincing me to believe our problems to be my fault. Where I have been angry. So angry. And while I didn’t want to live with this constant feeling, I also didn’t want to continue pretending it wasn’t there.

I now have a new awareness. An awareness that has caused ADD to no longer be associated in my mind with hyperactive, unruly children. An awareness that tells me perhaps it has been a factor in the unexplainable behavior of my husband. Does it help to know that ADD might account for his behavior? No, the damage is too deep. Lacking this knowledge though, I felt like I was losing my mind.

As I learn about the symptoms of ADD, I breathe deeply, realizing how many of them I see in my husband:

  • Impulsivity – trouble delaying gratification, doesn’t think before acting or speaking, failure to consider consequences
  • Hyperactivity running unnecessary errands, feels overwhelmed easily, restless, has difficulty engaging in leisure activities quietly, is often “on the go”, rushes through or has difficulty completing tasks
  • Insatiability – tough to please, seldom satisfied
  • Rigidity – uncooperative, either/or patterns, low capacity for or expression of empathy
  • Poor coping techniques (defense mechanisms) – avoidance, rationalizing, blaming, controlling, aggression

Issues with confrontation include:

  • Arguing about little things
  • Skipping through topics
  • Defensive and blaming
  • Poor short-term memory

Issues with conversation include:

  • Conversations that go everywhere
  • Monologues
  • A love of arguing or inability to argue
  • Poor memory of argument or incident
  • Difficulty understanding non verbal expressions
  • Difficulty understanding sarcasm
  • Difficulty understanding abstract thinking

Behavioral Issues:

  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty coping with stress
  • Often loses things
  • Depressed or anxious
  • Low self-esteem
  • Trouble focusing/concentrating
  • Disorganized
  • Lack of follow through
  • Makes piles of “stuff” around the house
  • Usually late
  • Overestimates time
  • Easily distracted
  • Poor money management
  • Hyper focus on certain things
  • Forgetful
  • Addictive tendencies
  • Hypersensitive to criticism
  • Unstable relationships

“I’m not asking for a perfect husband, but I feel like I’ve given so much and tried so hard and it hasn’t made any difference at all. This relationship has taken so much out of me and the return just doesn’t seem worth it some days.” – Joann

“If things don’t change, marriage for the non-ADD spouse will continue to be painful and eventually become untenable. She feels she has no choice but to become either more aggressive in expressing her needs or to disconnect completely.”

Psalms 31:7b You have seen my troubles and You care about the anguish of my soul.

(Excerpts taken from “Is It You Me or ADD” by Gina Pera and “The ADD Effect On Marriage” by Melissa Orlov)

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The house was quiet, clean and I still had another hour before it was time to pick up the kids from school. I sat myself in front of the computer to browse Amazon for an author whose words would help me heal and gain insight. With each click of the mouse, the website would suggest more authors and titles for me to peruse. Beth Moore, click, Rob Bell, click, T.D. Jakes, click. After a few more clicks, my attention was captured and I found myself unable to turn my eyes away – like one who is passing a tragic accident on the road . . .

” . . . We’ve had many blowouts about his behavior. I thought I had unreasonable expectations, perhaps I was too needy . . . I have years of pent up frustration over his behavior. He can be amazingly inconsiderate . . . But yet, if I express that frustration, I am accused of disrespecting him. If he has let me down by another broken promise or more bad behavior, he says I am over reacting and looking for a reason to start a fight . . . ”       Lynn

” . . . I dream of a home with stability, a spouse who exercises mature decision making skills and takes responsibility for his own actions . . . Where calmness resides and there is some sort of structure . . . Where I am not blamed for things because now there is a man in the household who will be responsible for his own behavior instead of turning it around on me or the kids . . .” – Sheila

” . . . It wasn’t that I didn’t want there to be genuine warmth and affection in our relationship, but because I was angry there was no room even for respect . . . “ – Amber

” . . . The chronic communication issues have left me feeling hopeless. My husband has decided that I had problems long before he ever met me . . . “ Kimberly

” . . . Because of my husband’s irresponsibility, I am often stuck with so much responsibility . . . It’s always something and I am so sick and tired of the excuses whether they’re valid or not . . . I’ve pretty much become numb to his endless tales of woe . . . I have lost nearly all respect for him . . . I resent what he has put me through . . . “ – Lauren

. . . Over the years, we have gone to marriage counseling with no change. I am extremely hurt by it all and I still feel very alone. He will not change. He can not change. In his never ending – last minute emergency – drop everything – never available for me life, I can hardly catch his attention unless, I too, am in crisis mode. I am tired of repeatedly having my hopes dashed. To sum it up, if it all depends on me, then I guess I am not a big enough person to do it. I can do a lot, but I can’t do everything, and at this point, I feel like doing nothing . . . ” – Ann

What did these stories have in common? Stories that could have been my own. These women were all married to men with ADD.

(Excerpts taken from “Is It You Me or ADD” by Gina Pera and “The ADD Effect On Marriage” by Melissa Orlov)

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June 2009

Welcome to the Mommy Club!” the card read. It would accompany the bouquet of flowers I had just ordered. The florist would have to deliver our “Congratulations” since the new mom had let us know she was too “overwhelmed” for visitors. Having had her first baby at age 40, it was understandable.

What was not understandable was that after a few months, having still not received an invitation to meet the new baby of my husband’s cousin, my husband told me that he had met the baby, had been over several times (without my knowledge) and had even been asked to babysit.

Confused? So was I.  Apparently, this cousin had invited (only) my husband over because she wanted him to be “a part of her daughter’s life”. His explanation of this behavior on both their parts made absolutely no sense. Just like all the rest of his behavior.

Does anything about this seem wrong to you?” I demanded. “Have I done something to offend her or her husband?” was my next question. He answered “No” to both. He claimed to have no idea why she didn’t want me or our children to meet her new baby and felt he should not have the responsibility to “facilitate” a relationship between her and us. He also saw nothing disrespectful in going to visit her when she was clear in saying to him that his wife and children were not welcome.

What is wrong with this man? The dysfunction is obviously familial or else what other explanation could there be for his cousin’s behavior?

December 2009

He has been distant, difficult and defensive. I am now familiar with his cycle of behavior when it is directed towards me, but when he pushes the kids away as well, I find it intolerable. This month, with Christmas coming, his behavior is all the more apparent since he has not participated in any holiday activities with us as a family.

The annual “Live Nativity” was the only event he had agreed to meet us at after work and the kids were looking forward to the community affair. It always drew huge crowds and we arrived early to get in a line that serpentined around several blocks before the doors even opened. The sun had long set and the spotlights were on the angels atop the church building as they moved in time to the Christmas music. Camels, donkeys and lambs were led though the streets. Men dressed as Roman soldiers walked by, demanding us to “pay our taxes” and “register for the census”.

It was in this line that the call came. His aunt had come to town to visit her daughter and now 6 month old granddaughter. He would be spending the evening with them instead . . .

December 2010

He asked almost tentatively. And rightly so. Our relationship had been through one of the worst years of our marriage and could not take much more strain before it was broken beyond repair.

His aunt would again be coming to spend the holidays with her daughter and now 1 1/2 year old granddaughter, but she would also like to spend time with our family as well. Would it be possible to host them all for a Christmas Eve dinner?

With all the graciousness I could muster, I smiled and said, “Of course.” As much as I enjoyed entertaining, I knew this dinner party would require a grace that could only come from God.

Christmas Eve came and the kids and I worked non-stop to make sure the house was picture perfect. I set the table with our best linen, crystal and silver. The menu was simple but delicious. Martha Stewart I am not, but that night, she would have been impressed. When I cleared the table after dinner to set out tea and dessert, I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that the end of this stressful evening was in sight. Up to that point, I tried not to be resentful that my husband had not lifted a finger to help with ANYTHING, nor uttered a single word of thanks for the effort we had put into it all. Instead, I tried to take satisfaction in the fact that I had been gracious and hospitable with our guests, despite their bad manners.

Not knowing if they were aware we could hear them as we sat in the living room, my husband and his cousin could be heard laughing in the kitchen. My cheeks flushed with humiliation as she questioned the formality of the evening, the choice of menu, the size of the tea cups (who drinks from those?!) and my husband in complete agreement with her as they both laughed . . . at me.

Today

I feel I haven’t received all the answers I need to explain and let go of ANY of my husband’s past behavior. Until that happens, I don’t think I will ever be able to trust in all the ways needed to make a marriage work. I may never get those answers . . . And then what? Or what if I do get answers and I am still unable to trust or let go of all the ways he has hurt me? Either because of the answers themselves, because of so much prior abuse, or because of my own flaws?

“Lord, I am broken. My life is in pieces, but Your strength is perfect in all of my weakness.”

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