For over two years I had been trying to explain my needs and feelings to T. He cared and he tried, but he just didn’t get it. I reached the breaking point when he was between sessions at wordcamp, told me he wanted to chat, and left me hanging while he talked to someone else. It seems so small, but he came looking for me and just wandered off. He kept telling me I mattered, my needs mattered, but he kept putting me second to everyone else. It seemed that constantly someone else would come along who needed something and “couldn’t I just” change my plans and give up what I wanted to meet their needs.
And, yeah, I could. Had been for years. I knew it would be a part of this new journey. We were all making sacrifices, but the balance seemed to be off. It seemed that more and more I was making the sacrifices so everyone else could thrive. Not only was I giving all I had, but it seemed I was only getting criticized for it. No one commented on my successes, but everyone jumped on my failures.
Oh and I did fail. Please do not read into this that I was the perfect martyr. I was stressed, fatigued, and fighting hard against panic and hopelessness. It was the perfect mix to guarantee failure and lousy parenting.
Not only was I feeling criticized for every misstep and being the source of all the problems in our family, no one understood why I felt all these things. I tried to explain it again and again. No one got it. No one understood that I felt unloved and irrelevant. They knew that wasn’t true and they didn’t know how to help me understand that.
It all created a perfectly awful situation that reached the breaking point on a Saturday afternoon in October. I wanted to run, like a rat abandoning a sinking ship. I wanted to just be done and make all the pain stop.
Instead, I took the rest of the day to think through what I wanted and what I needed, to sort facts from feelings and discover what the actual problems were that needed to be solved. I looked at the truth of who we were and what we had been working toward. Then I looked at what I wanted and what I was willing to do to obtain it. Lastly, I thought about the children and what was best for them. I couldn’t continue the way we were and, really, neither could they.
Sunday morning we talked. T was still in San Francisco and wouldn’t be home for nearly a week. As factually as I could I laid out how I felt, why I felt it, and that I had found three options for moving forward. I was not giving him an ultimatum. I laid out my needs and gave him options. We didn’t make any decisions that day. Instead, we took some time to think about it.
He came home and we talked openly and honestly. We chose one option to start with, but the other two stayed on the table in case we couldn’t make this work. We found some misunderstandings and sorted them out. We decided on some changes we could make to our communication and committed to using them. Nothing was fixed yet, but we’d picked a new path. Once again we were working together toward a common goal.