By Richard Bleil
A friend of mine signed me up to a private support group on my social page specifically for people married to narcissistic abusive spouses. As I read posts on this page, it becomes clear how damaging this can be to us.
Recently I have been binge-watching a sitcom series from the mid ’90’s that deals quite a bit with divorce and dysfunctional relationships. Between the private group and the series, It has me thinking of my own marriage quite a bit. I think that, in today’s post, I would like to write some of the things that has happened through my marriage. I’m not quite sure the point of this. It might just be a way to get it out there and unburden myself. Maybe it will help somebody to realize that they are not alone in what they are going through.
As an educator, there are some students that you manage to touch on a deeper level than others. One of my students had written a song before she met me. As she was taking my class, she was going through a rather difficult divorce, and although it’s not a particularly bright thing, as a professor, I was always willing to listen to my struggling students. My goal was to help them learn, and by listening when they needed to talk, I feel like I am helping them to be in a better frame of mind to learn. This student had written a song before she met me the topic of which was kindness, and on reading it, she felt like it applied to me. She added a stanza and gifted it to me. Of course, this was one of many things that my wife made me throw away.
She made the throw away many things, like the few childhood photos and yearbooks I had, many possessions that she didn’t want to keep herself (even after the divorce), and a large collection of movies. There was one very special Christmas card that meant a lot to me that really tore me up. I met a young woman in California online many years ago. Although we never met in person, we hit it off very well. She went to graduate school to get a masters in social work when she suddenly disappeared. I was happy for her, assuming she had met a young man and was simply too busy for this oddball she never physically met. A year later, when I saw her online, I couldn’t help but say hello in the hopes of catching up. As it turns out, she had had a massive stroke that damaged her brain to the point that she had even lost the ability to speak. A couple of years later, I received the Christmas card from her, and all she could scribble was “Rich” and her name after the sentiment. I never really thought about this; speech is quite a complicated thing for our brains, to choose what we wish to say, choose the words to convey the item, and coordinate the manipulation of our lips and mouth to turn these into audible sounds. Add to this the complication of breaking those words down into individual letters, and writing each letter of each word on paper through coordination of muscles in our arm and fingers, and my friend chose to spend this effort on a card for me. As I write this I have a lump in my throat. Although I never even met her, my wife threw it away.
My friends are very angry with my wife, and they tell me that I’m the victim here. I don’t know. I’m a big believer in taking responsibility for my own actions, so I find it difficult to pass blame. In my heart, I can’t help but feel like I am to blame. After all, I was the one who allowed her to convince me to discard these treasures.
Now comes the part of our program where I am supposed to tell you what I did to heal from the damage. But I have no advice to give because, if I’m going to be very honest with myself, I haven’t healed. I’m still alone, I’m still drifting, and every day I’m still in pain. Currently I’m living in Sioux Falls, where we would spend weekends. I think of her every time I pass a restaurant we would visit, a store she used to visit to spend all too much of our money buying wine for herself. I’ve wanted to revisit these places to make new memories, but the reality is that I am going to them alone and all I do is sit through meals thinking about the times I was there with her.
Sadly, the pain and damage is probably also why I’m still alone today. I suppose this speaks to the “unseen harm” of which the support group speaks, but, I’m not convinced. I rarely dated before I was married, so this is, no doubt, my fault. It’s somehow all too easy to find somebody else to blame. This is all mine.