By Richard E. Bleil, Ph.D.
Currently there are several blogs that I have written with the intention of writing a counter blog with a different perspective (the blog for my dog will be followed by one for my cat, and the blog written for my daughter will be followed by one for my sons). Typically, I like to wait a bit before writing the follow up just to spread them out a bit, but today is an exception.
Yesterday I wrote a blog on trust that seems to have struck a couple of nerves. When I posted the blog to my social media account, a friend of mine asked me if I could write the blog from the perspective of my former wife.
The answer is no, but, there are important caveats.
When one feels wronged, the ability to see things from the other perspective is a powerful tool for forgiveness. Although I didn’t like hearing my friend’s request, she was right to ask me.
The reality is that I cannot tell her side of the story, and do it justice. The fact is that, like all of us, my perspective is biased by my own perspective. This is an important consideration for my readers as well. Anything that I write is from my perspective, which means the reader is getting half of the story. The point to yesterday’s blog was not to elicit pity for me or anger against her, but as an example of the importance of maintaining trust in a loving relationship. I wanted to use a personal and intimate example for impact to strengthen my position, but, on reflection, perhaps it was a bit too intimate.
The reality is that I do know more about her back story than many people. I have many, friends who are extremely angry with my former wife because of the pain she has caused me. Personally, I find it difficult to be as angry with her because I know enough of her back story (that I will not share for privacy issues) to at least hypothesize as to the reason she has the problems that she does. But, perhaps I can share my own weaknesses and backstory.
Reading or hearing my story, one might think, if taken verbatim, that I am a saint. The reality is that i am not. I am all too human, with frailties that are all too real.
Although I am not convinced that this was a problem in my marriage, one of my issues is that I can be too guarded. I tend to find it extremely difficult (or perhaps impossible) to admit the need for or to accept help. i tend to keep a lot to myself, and find it difficult to open up. I’m doing much better now, but I still struggle.
Whether or not this was an issue in my marriage, I very much believe it to be a likely reason that I am still single. It was clearly an issue in my previous relationship, which was the first relationship that I had had since my divorce seven years earlier.
It would be easy to point to me and say “so you’re too closed off, no wonder you’re alone.” But the question becomes why am I like this? I went to therapy for many years to come to grips with this question, and to try to accept myself as I am which is still a struggle for me today.
To put yourself into my shoes, you first need to understand my family. My mother was very traditional, and believed that boys should be raised by their fathers. My father was raised by his father, a man who was raised by German immigrants. The German mindset (grossly simplified, but as I understand it) is to be self-confident, independent, and not to rely on others. After learning these standards, as if to drive the point home, his (my grandfather’s) parents then abandoned him, leaving him in an orphanage, because they could no longer support him. He was a teenager at the time.
This man raised my father, teaching him self-reliance, and not to ask for help. My father taught me how to be a man. What’s more, I was a disappointment to my father. I was small when I was born, and was not athletic by any stretch of the imagination. Whether this was the reason, or because of his proclivity to be a workaholic, the reality is that he took little or not interest in me. In addition, I was emotionally abused as a child as well.
With a Germanic mindset, and raised in an emotionally abusive family, is it any wonder that today I struggle to open up and trust?
My wife was emotionally abusive as well. With my background in forensics, I’ve learned a great deal more about what constitutes emotional abuse there is no doubt in my mind that this was the case. One might wonder why I could fall into such an abusive relationship again in my marriage since I should have recognized it. Hindsight being what it is, I think that I may have well understood what I was getting into, but the problem is that it probably felt comfortable to me. It is not uncommon for people to fall into this trap, where they face situations similar to their past because it does feel familiar and therefore comfortable.
Again, I have no advice. All I can say is that it is difficult to get the entire story without knowing all sides. I have no ill will towards my ex-wife. I don’t appreciate what she had done to me, and I still struggle with the pain of how she treated me, but I don’t hold it against her either because I do understand where those actions came from, and the reality, it is self-anger that leads to her behaviors. I found the strength to forgive her while carrying the pain she inflicted on me. I only wish I could find the strength to forgive myself.