My struggle, my message to me, and how The Disease Called “Perfection” has had an impact on me.

This is a really tough post prompted by Dan (Single Dad Laughing) with his article “The Disease Called Perfection” and the exercise in follow-up to the response it received. It’s also something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.

I once tried to use my struggles to help others, but at some time realized that it was a misguided attempt to help myself. I had to move on in order to stop focusing on the struggles I experienced and live. The problem is that I never did determine what was the best way to help others through my experiences. I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason and that, if nothing else, my struggles allow me an opportunity to help others going through similar circumstances – to let them know, they are not alone. To sympathize and relate with other strugglers.

In the depths of our despair, we feel utterly alone, as if no one on this planet could possibly understand our pain. While this is never the case, what is true is that our society frowns upon sharing our circumstances. They are private issues. Or we’re just seeking attention. Or we should just suck it up and move on. Whatever the argument is, many people facing traumatic circumstances find themselves with nowhere to go, no one to turn to, no shoulder to lean on or lift us up.

I found myself minimizing my own experiences but also empathizing with those whose circumstances I imagined to be far worse than my own (“if THIS hurts this much, imagine how much worse THAT would be.”) I’m not a victim of rape. I haven’t lost a child or other loved one tragically. My experience is one of betrayal, by the one person whose hands I had chosen to place my life in.

I considered that I might post this anonymously. Then I wondered, where does the need for that come from? Is it shame? Is it that societal silencing of pain? Is it fear? Fear of who it might upset? Fear of appearing to have hung onto it? Fear of it getting back to someone? I don’t know what I’ll do with this when I am done, we’ll see where the writing takes me.  Following are my comments in response to exercise:

While I want to condense this, sparing too many details takes away some of the emotional connection of the story. That which might allow someone in similar circumstances to relate. I’ll do my best.

When I look back, it was not a happy marriage. We had happy times, some periods lasting much longer than others. We married young and were ill-prepared. My husband did not cope well with his doubts. The first transgression occurred shortly before our first wedding anniversary. He was trying to push me away. I was naive and took a huge blow to my self-esteem when it happened. I imagined myself lost without him. I imagined that I couldn’t cope with the failure of my marriage. And so, I chose to stay and try to “fix” our broken relationship. It was not entirely misguided, however in hindsight was foolish. We had no dependents, we had few financial obligations. Our ties would have been much easier to sever then. However, I imagined myself bigger and better, and incapable of admitting defeat.

Skip ahead almost 5 years. We had moved across the country twice. My husband joined the military, we had one toddler at home at the time. He moved us away from all of our support to a community where we knew no one, while in the midst of a months-long affair that he had (at the time) no intention of ending.

Then I learned that I was pregnant. Nothing prepared me for the feeling of dread that washed over me. Nor the guilt I experienced at the thought of not wanting this child! I did what many women do. I stayed. I wanted to know I’d given my marriage ever possible chance to work, for the sake of my children who deserved a chance to grow up with that “perfect” whole family unit.

My daughters are now 7 and 9. There was no happy ending with respect to our marriage. After nearly four additional years of trying, I gave up. I realized that I couldn’t get past the indiscretions, and that we would never truly be happy together. As is so often said, the affairs were simply symptoms of bigger problems. While I learned to accept my role in our issues, I did not accept ownership in anyway for his response to that. I was unhappy too. Yet, I didn’t betray our commitment to one another by inviting someone else into my life, bed and marriage.

I am still in the throngs of attempting to settle our divorce. However, as a family we are happier now. I’m not sure how much my children will ever know about those circumstances, but I can live with the knowledge that I have finally made an example for them of treating myself with the respect I deserve, and not accepting anything less from those I choose to trust in.

Looking back, it’s still hard to know what to say. I understand that no one can make the choice to leave until they are ready (and yes, you WILL know when you are ready). And while I would never erase any of the experiences that make me the person that I am today (or my children who they are), I do say to those whose circumstances are not complicated with additional obligations that NOW is the time to move on. We cannot, nor should we, expect others to change. We can only change ourselves. By staying in unhealthy relationships, we are telling ourselves and our loved ones that is is okay to treat one another with disrespect.

But mostly, I would simply tell myself that I am not alone. That I am worthy of respect and to be cherished, and that when I am ready (to treat myself this way) that I will have all of that.

This article and exercise did something we need so much more of in this world. It brought to light all of the imperfections in our lives. It made it okay to share. It offered people an awareness of other people’s circumstances. If we all could just remember (before passing judgement) as we go about our daily lives that everyone we meet has a story, perhaps we would treat one another with a little compassion, understanding and respect.

About Trish

family legacy curator, social justice advocate, blogger, amateur photographer, reader, cyclist, runner & swimmer, mom of two

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Susan
Susan
10 years ago

Just read this, wish I had read it sooner…thank you always for your honesty.