August 16th: Logic vs. Feelings

When I was growing up, I was taught not to show my true feelings.

It was not safe to express feelings in my home.

Exposing feelings in my home could cause terrible reactions. It was better not to express your feelings, better to rely on logic.

I began to excel at school.

I learned that logic could hold me. I didn’t have to feel anything to get an “A” on my math test. I could use logic and succeed.

I learned to bury my feelings and rely on my brain to get me through life. I could logic my way out of anything. I believed that if I just studied hard enough… everything would work out fine.

Well, that isn’t the way life works.

Sometimes, we can do everything in a logical manner, hoping to obtain a certain result, and it still won’t happen.

When my marriage began to decline, I was at a loss.

Logically, I believed that if I just worked harder, studied harder, figured out exactly what my spouse needed… I could make it work.

Logically, it made perfect sense. I had always triumphed using my logic. I would triumph again.

But… logic didn’t work.

Nothing about what we were going through was logical. It was all based on feelings, emotions, sensations, resentments that were buried for many, many years.

Every logical conclusion ended with us in a passionate argument followed by a silent stalemate.

We couldn’t get past the feelings… there was no logic.

When my husband decided that he truly wanted a divorce, I once again began to logic my way through it. I read all of the divorce books I could find. I made lists of reasons for this happening. I studied and worked to understand but, my logic failed me. I couldn’t logic my way out of this one.

I was devastated.

I knew that there was no logic to what happened, it just happened.

I would have to walk through my feelings. I would have to feel every emotion that I had hidden away.

It was very scary.

It was very painful.

Logic had failed me.

The one thing I had trusted throughout my life had let me down.

I would have to feel this and I didn’t like it: feelings were uncomfortable.

There was no other way.

I would have to walk through it.

Logic is good but sometimes there is no logic in life. Logic is good… as long as it isn’t used to replace feelings.

There has to be a balance between logic and feelings: one cannot replace the other.

“Dear God, help me to walk through my feelings. I know that it can be uncomfortable to allow myself to feel things, but if I bury them, they will resurface again and again, causing turmoil in my life. Guide me through my feelings, and past the pain.”

August 15th: Triangulation

Before we sought out marriage counseling, my husband and I would manipulate each other through triangulation.

Triangulation meaning that one of us would complain to a third person about our marriage, not to gain insight or deal with our problem, but to keep a connection and manipulate each other.

It worked especially well with our children but any family member would do. Even friends could fall into our trap.

We could put anybody in the middle of our arguments.

It was a very destructive cycle, one that was very difficult to break.

It is very easy to triangulate when emotions run hot:

When you have mutual friends and you each want to give your version of why the marriage is or was failing…

When you don’t want to talk to your spouse so you send a message through a child…

When you want to get a jab in and hurt each other…

When you’re feeling the loss of connection and want to create one, even if it is a negative one…

One comment given to the right person can then be relayed to your spouse and cause them to hurt.

It is a very affective technique when you want to “have power” over them.

It is not something you would want to to do in a mutually dependent and loving relationship.

I had no control over what my husband was going to do while we went through our separation and divorce.

I would have to work on my part to stop the triangulation.

It was very difficult.

Sometimes he would say things to our son and I was sure that he wanted me to react to them.

Sometimes he said things to my relatives that caused me to feel pain.

Sometimes he said things to our friends that I felt were untrue.

If I, while my emotions ran high, chose to go to those same people and send a message back, I knew that I could and that my message would cause him pain.

But, using triangulation hurts everyone; all the people involved.

I had to consciously choose not to do this.

At first, I sometimes failed and continued to “act out.” I sometimes bought into his game; hook, line, and sinker. He would say something to my son and I would call my husband and argue with him about what I had heard. I would do the same when I heard the comments he had made to our family and friends. He knew just how to push my buttons and I let him.

Until one day, I made a decision. I decided to not play the game. If I stopped, the triangulation could not continue.

I made a conscious effort not to play. If I wanted to communicate in a different way, it had to begin with me.

“Dear God, guide me in my communications with my spouse. Help me to be adult, loving and kind in all of my interactions.”

August 14th: Chaos vs. Serenity

I grew up in a house full of chaos: there was always a drama going on.
If my parents weren’t arguing, then my brothers were. If I wasn’t crying, someone was. There was never a set schedule for anything and you never knew what was going to happen next.
My husband had also grown up in a chaotic, unstable environment. We thought this type of living was normal.
So, when we began our relationship and we chose to live in chaos, it seemed familiar.
We weren’t able to create a stable, supportive relationship… we didn’t know how.
We were both working jobs that had constantly changing schedules. Sometimes my husband would be out of town for weeks. Sometimes, I would work days… sometimes nights. When we tried to discuss things, I never knew if we would come to a peaceful conclusion or end up in a fight. I was never quite sure how my husband would react and… he probably felt the same way about me.
Our emotions were up and down.
We had not learned in our childhoods how to communicate openly and honestly.
Sometimes, we were close but most of the time, we were withdrawn for long periods, unable to deal with our true feelings.
When you grow up in chaos, you grow up feeling unsure. You never know who or what to trust. You never know what is safe to talk about and what isn’t. You never know what feeling is safe to show that day, or isn’t. One day, you can do something and no one seems to care at all, and the next day, they do.
How can you be truly open to emotional connection, intimacy, and mutual dependency when you have grown-up in chaos?
It was hard for me to admit that chaos was what I chose over serenity.
It sounded silly… but it felt safe.
Safe, because it was what I had learned growing up.
Today, I know that it is safe to have serenity.
Safe to want stability and open communication in a relationship.
Safe to set boundaries, limits, rules.
No life can be completely free of chaos… things happen… schedules shift… people change their minds… things get crazy but… it is okay to have a relationship and home life that is built on serenity and stability instead of chaos and lack of communication.

“Dear God, it is not easy to look at the past and learn from it. Help me to break out of my need for chaos. Lead me to serenity and open communication.”

August 13th: Breaking Habits

I was at work one day when I called to listen to my voice mail at my home. I was planning on taking my husband’s voice mail box off the phone when I heard he had a new message. Instead of leaving the message alone and letting my husband know that he had a message that he needed to retrieve, I listened to it.

It was a message that he needed promptly so I took it upon myself to call him and let him know.

The message was related to music, and both of us being musicians, this was some times a very “hot” topic for us and a topic in which we knew we could both definitely push each other’s buttons.

I called him and engaged in a conversation knowing full well that I was in a place where if provoked or pushed, I would react.

As it was, I was provoked and pushed and I did react.

We ended up in an argument and I said something that I knew I would later regret.

I had been caught up in my old habits. I had to admit:

I wanted to listen to his message.

I wanted to get all worked up over it.

I wanted to call him and talk to him, or argue with him just so that I could engage with him: that was my pattern.

My bad habit.

I wanted his attention, positive or negative, no matter at what cost to my serenity.

Today though, I am not oblivious to my habit.

I am aware.

Becoming aware of a bad habit helps me to break the pattern and give up the habit.

It isn’t easy… but it can be done.

“Dear God, help me to let go of my bad habits. Bad habits hurt me. Help me to break the pattern. Help me to give up the habit. Guide me out of chaos and into serenity.”

August 12th: Emotional Relapse

Sometimes, I would let what I wanted get in the way of what I really needed.

I had found out that spending time with my husband while going through our divorce was not helping me to move through my recovery. I still wanted emotional closeness, I still wanted our marriage to work. He did not want these things. He was unable to give me what I needed. Yet at times, I would cling to what I could not have.

My husband came to our home on Mother’s Day. I wanted to spend the day with my entire family. My family meaning: my husband, my children, and my own mother.

As the day went on, I found myself wanting more and more of what I could not have. I tried to be everything to everyone and act as if I was calm and centered. I held it together until the end of the day and then, I felt tired and worn out. I felt like I had been holding myself rigid all day long.

I went to bed early that night… hoping that in the morning… I would feel refreshed. Unfortunately, I woke to an emotional relapse.

It felt like I had been tossed into an emotional meat grinder.

Every emotion that I had been working through over the last several months was vivid and fresh in my mind.

I was raw.

I was crying.

I felt butterflies in my stomach and was unable to keep my focus for the day.

I knew what had happened. Not only had I held all of my emotions from the day before, but by allowing myself to slip back into a “comfortable” place with my husband, I had stirred up what was beginning to be put to rest. I put myself in a position to be hurt again. I allowed myself to suffer this emotional relapse.

I looked up relapse in the dictionary and found, “to slip or fall back into a former worse state.”

That is exactly what I had done.

I had set myself up to fall back into a worse state.

To stay away from another emotional relapse, I would have to consciously choose to stay away from what I could not have.

I had to consciously stay away from what I wanted.

I had to become aware that it was not what I needed and that it would only cause me pain and to fall back into a worse state.

“Dear God, help me to let go of what I want and accept what I need. Help me not to slip back into a worse state of mind. Help me to consciously choose to walk towards a better state of mind.”

August 11th: Emotional Highs and Lows

I had the hardest time keeping my emotions in check when I was around my husband.
Either I was in tears when he would come by the house or, I was yelling at him over the phone. If I wasn’t fighting… I was silent or withdrawn, avoiding him so that there wouldn’t be another scene.
Even on days that I could hold it all together, I would feel drained and numb by the time he left to go home after visiting our children.
I couldn’t stand it.
I hated that we could no longer have an intimacy between us.
That something had changed, and it wasn’t coming back.
I still wanted to be with my husband.
I still wanted it to work.
He was in a very different place and I was having a hard time accepting it. What I discovered, was that for the time, no matter how much I longed to be with my estranged spouse, I needed to keep my emotional distance. I needed to stay away. I didn’t want to do it but, I had to or I was the one who would suffer.
Our children were old enough that they could contact their father on their own. They arranged a time when they would speak to him on a nightly basis and I knew that when the phone rang at that time… it was their father. I didn’t need to answer it, I didn’t need to hear his voice. I could let my son answer the phone and have a conversation with his dad.
I felt relief.
I felt like an emotional stumbling block had been removed.
We then discussed weekday and weekend visitations. We set specific pick up and drop off times. Knowing when he would be over to pick my son up or bring my son home allowed me to be somewhere else during that time period.
It didn’t always run like clockwork but most of the time… I could keep my distance.
Then, I realized that I had to give up the idea that our family should spend quality time together at this particular moment in our lives.
It just didn’t work.
It was too emotionally raw for me to sit around with my soon-to-be ex-husband and act as if everything was fine at family functions and holidays.
By setting limits, and keeping my distance, I was better able to keep my emotions under control.
I could stop myself from the ups and downs that were causing emotional havoc in my day-to-day life.

“Dear God, help me to keep my distance when necessary. If my emotional well-being is suffering due to contact with another individual, help me to set limits on the amount of time that I am willing to commit to this individual.”

August 10th: Losing the Dream

I felt the need to see a counselor while going through my divorce. She was very knowledgeable in what I was going through, based on her schooling, but also based on her life experiences. As our session was coming to a close one day she said, “It’s hard to give up your dream. You dreamed that you and your husband would raise your children together, travel together, grow old together, and it didn’t happen. Of course you are feeling devastated. You are grieving the death of your dream.”
I immediately burst into tears.
It was so true.
I had always had these visions of our future and how are life would be:

We would watch our son graduate from high school and we would look at each other lovingly and knowingly; proud of our mutual accomplishment of raising a successful child.

We would watch our daughter go off to college, or some day get married or both… and of course, I imagined my husband would be the one to give her away.

We would travel across the world, being loving and kind to each other in exotic locations.

It was a dream… a beautiful dream… but that dream was not to be.

The loss at the time was too much.
I had to grieve it.
If we had stayed together, would that dream have come true?
Who knows.
No one can predict the future.
Our past track record, our dysfunctional patterns, seemed to negate my dream of ever becoming a reality.
In the seventeen years that we had been married, I couldn’t come up with one time we had gone on a trip without our children. Each trip we had taken had ended with us fighting or my husband giving me the silent treatment. Maybe we would have traveled to exotic places together, getting along beautifully but… probably not.
I remembered back to my daughter’s graduation. Though we were both proud, we weren’t really getting along that day. We weren’t looking lovingly and knowingly at each other. My husband was tired of the crowd. I was hot and trying to keep everyone calm as I acted like a buffer between my own mother and my husband who weren’t really getting along during this period of time.
Yes…we were proud.
Yes…we felt a sense of accomplishment as parents.
Yes…we had great moments that day but it wasn’t like the “movie of the week” dream that I had pictured.
The reality was different from the dream.
It’s good to have dreams but it is also good to be able to look a dream in the eye and see the reality.
While going through my divorce, I had a hard time relinquishing the dream. I looked back and glamorized all that we had. I couldn’t see the truth in each situation. I could only see the dream.
I struggled to see what really happened because all I wanted to do was live in the dream: the dream that I thought I had lost.
The truth was, we had some great times together and we had some horrible times together.
The reality was that my dream was nothing more than a dream. As long as I held on to the dream, I would not be able to move forward in my divorce recovery. Today, I try to look at the whole picture… the loss of my dream and the reality of what our relationship really was.

“Dear God, help me to let go of my dream. It was a beautiful dream but it is now no longer helpful to me. If I can open my heart to a new dream, I open a door to the happiness that you will soon bring to me.”