Social ineptitude resulted in lots of alone time where I nurtured my single-itis and love of red wine. And within those hazy periods of mild inebriation I experienced enough clarity to recognize my gift for attracting dudes who seemed damn near infallible at first but, ultimately, couldn't sustain their lies or conceal their secret lives. I was also able to recognize my heart's magnetic attraction to pain, betrayal, disappointment and rejection. So I decided that until I could put the kibosh on my knack for fatal attraction, I wasn't ready for a post-marriage fling, let alone a serious relationship. Besides, I didn't trust men anymore. Nor did I trust love. Worse than that, I didn't trust myself. So I called "Mercy!" and took a breather.
During this self-induced time-out from men and relationships, a distinct pattern revealed itself to me. That is, if a dude possessed the following traits or characteristics, we were obviously destined to be together. I'm talking true love, always and forever, dotting my i's with hearts kinda destiny.
- Only Child
- Absent Father
- Mommy Issues
- Limited Education
How did I not notice this before? It's not to say that my EXes were bad men, per se. At their core, they were awesome people with amazing qualities and great potential. Otherwise I never would've fallen in love in the first place. But the operative word here is "potential". My MO was to fall madly and passionately in love with their potential, only to get bludgeoned later by their truth. I'd just throw on the rose-colored glasses to conveniently obscure the character damage caused by unresolved family issues, un-managed addiction, lack of self-worth and a limited sense of integrity. What I saw instead was pure husband potential enhanced with an irresistibly charming personality. I was attracted to his infectious social skills, his loyalty to his homies, and his willingness to give you the shirt off his back. I was wooed by his chivalrous nature, his tenderness, his unwavering support and his ability to make me laugh in any situation. I respected his sense of emotional responsibility to his mom; stepping up as man of the house, best friend and confidant when dad left at an early age for whatever reason. I was sympathetic to his pressure for "success" under his self-imposed obligation to take care of her. Plus, he recognized that she lived vicariously through him. So I rooted for him compassionately as I watched him desperately chase after artistic dreams knowing that his natural creativity and talents weren't supported or nurtured as a child like mine were. I admired him for being the black sheep of his family; daring to venture beyond the limiting borders of his hometown to pursue what others might've considered the impossible dream. I was proud to see his boldness and career victories elevate him to local celebrity status amongst friends and family back home. To me, this guy had guts and charisma. I believed in him more than he believed in himself because I was smitten... and in love with his potential.
But I was also naive. My pink-tinted vision blinded me to the potential consequences of his underlying issues and how they might effect our long-term relationship. Love made them seem inconsequential. Besides, I was raised to believe that love could conquer all things. And I didn't believe those things defined him. I still don't. Who doesn't have issues? What I do believe, though, is that it's emotionally reckless to sweep them under the rug and pretend they don't exist. I mean, if only I wasn't affected by my divorce! But I was. I can't pretend it didn't make me wanna give up on love. I can't pretend it didn't make me stop trusting myself and others. And I can't pretend it didn't erode my sense of stability, confidence and self-worth. It did.
While I consider myself extremely resilient, I've had to work extremely hard at creating a healthier emotional reality for myself. The trauma, shock, hurt, anger, sadness, pain and feelings of betrayal from my divorce seemed to resonate with me for an unbearably long time. And while I'm a firm believer in arming myself with the power of positive thinking and moving forward with my life, I don't believe that positivity necessitates denial. I think denial creates emotional blocks that prevent genuine happiness, abundance and healthy relationships. I finally get how imperative it is to surrender to the funk of fucked up life situations; at least long enough to recognize and process my emotions, embrace the life lessons, and let my spirit shed any negativity that tries to cling to my character. Otherwise I end up treading through life completely numb, overly-sensitive, highly reactive or apathetic. And my choices become guided by fear, mistrust and resentment.
I remember people telling me I was like the poster child for how to bounce back from divorce. But I was really just ignoring all the uncomfortable emotional stuff I didn't wanna deal with by escaping into the land of make believe; an imaginary reality of my own creation, my safe zone, my coping mechanism. Besides, I wanted to appear strong, well-adjusted and "normal". The last thing I wanted was to dwell in sadness, fall apart, get angry or, even worse, feel pitied by others! Yet despite my little mind-games and the healing powers of pinot noir, certain triggers would inevitably catapult me into a downward spiral of single-itis and self-loathing. It would be something as simple as the doorman in my building making the astute observation, "I only ever see you with your dog." And following it with "You must like to be alone". (Nope, that didn't hurt.) Or, being the extra wheel in social settings with couples whose only form of communication was PDA. (Totally painless.) Or when I had to fill out a new W-4 form and check the "married" box because, legally I was; despite knowing my divorce papers were currently being processed by the Los Angeles Superior Court. (Don't worry, didn't feel a thing!). Avoiding the list of triggers in the land of make believe was exhausting. So I decided that running away from the painful emotional residue of divorce futile. All I know is that you've gotta handle yo shit or it comes back to haunt you in the form of negative relationship patterns! Blame the Universe, karma, Murphy's Law, bad luck... whatever.
As for my EXes: the "potential" I had fallen in love with was eventually eroded by the undercurrent of pain, anger, fear and resentment they had perhaps been harboring since childhood. And towards the end of my marriage, the triggers were coming too fast and furiously for my EX to thwart. He put up a good fight for awhile as an amazing husband, lover and friend. But one's character, personality nor persona can endure the insidious undertow of ignored emotions before eventually getting pulled into their murky reality.
I wonder if my EX ever realized that he had fallen in love with my potential too. What else could it have been? I obviously had my own un-managed issues. Co-dependency is a bitch!