(Disclosure: Some of this reading may be triggering and sound childish. This piece was a process for me. Please read ALL the way through to the end before commenting. Thanks.)
As I’m going through the process of grieving my divorce I need to acknowledge the feeling I’m having today. This one feeling is one that I shy away from. I don’t like it. It’s the emotion that I grew up with. It reminds me of my step-father’s spontaneous rages. This emotion is the one I fear from both others and myself.
As much as I don’t like the feeling of anger, I have a way of letting it grow and fester in me. Instead of dealing with it, I let it eat me up from the inside. And, as it devours me, I get more annoyed that I can’t control it.
I want it to stop. I want to shove it deep down so I don’t have to experience it. I want to kick it to the curb. I want it out of me.
If you try to stop a moving freight train with just your two hands you’re going to get crushed. Holding in anger is like trying to hold back a 5,000 ton locomotive.
It’s like hearing the backfire of a car that’s not burning fuel evenly. My anger reminds me of the car in the movie Uncle Buck, right before he picks up his niece from the party with Gnat (bonus points if anyone remembers that boy’s real name). It’s detonation; where too much fuel is introduced into the carburetor and instead of a smooth-running engine, the engine pops and crackles due to mini explosions.
That’s what’s happening today; tiny outbursts that erupt over the simplest things.
Anger Grows Exponentially
When I try not to deal with my anger, I find that everything else in life pisses me off. The way management is running the company I work for. The finger pointing that employees are doing to protect their self-image by blaming others. The rush mentality that permeates the culture of my job, while at the same time listening to the constant corporate sales pitch promoting safety.
Shit, opening a packet of hot cocoa and having it spill on the floor is enough to get me cussing out loud.
“Phoenix, if you don’t change your attitude,” one of my coworkers snaps back, “I don’t want to go to Taco Tuesday with you.”
I hate it that I sometimes quickly regress to my angry teen combined with my whiny 6-year-old. See, hate. More anger.
I act like the father I told myself I would NEVER become.
I have put myself into an uncontrollable spin today.
I get angry because I’m angry. I get angry because I can’t stop my anger. And the more I get angry, the angrier I get. I hold on tight to the controls, white knuckling the yoke, pulling back, thinking that it will stop the spin.
I need to level the wings. I need to apply opposite rudder. But I also need to do what is not rational. As I plummet to the earth, I need to push the nose down. That doesn’t make sense. But I know, through textbooks and personal experience, the only way to break a spin is to get out of the stalled situation you got yourself into in the first place.
You need to point that nose down, lower that angle of attack, get airflow moving over the wings, and momentarily increase your rate of descent to get the airplane under control. If you go against what your body is telling you to do, you will continue to lose control of the aircraft and eventually crash and burn.
What I Need to Do
I need to acknowledge my anger. I need to get pissed. I need to get angry. I need to let the emotions go through me.
If I don’t acknowledge that anger. If I don’t do what is necessary for me to work through it, I too, will eventually crash and burn.
Last summer I was called a hypocrite. I have been told that actions speak louder than words. I have been blamed for our divorce. I have been told that my behaviors haven’t changed and it was my behaviors that caused the divorce.
Every time I do something, it has been “it’s your fault, you did this, had you not acted this way in the past…” The finger pointing at been at me the whole time.
And because of my addiction, I have accepted the blame that I ruined our marriage.
I have let my guilt and shame about my past actions define me. I have argued that I am not who I was, only to get pointed out that I still do the same things.
As I have gotten healthier, it’s not who I am now, but who I was that my ex keeps pointing at.
I have never heard, “Phoenix, this is what I’ve done wrong in our marriage. I am sorry.” I’ve never heard apologies about her emotional wall. I’ve never heard apologies about her inability to stay present in our marriage. I’ve never heard her admit that she had any fault to the downward spiral of our marriage.
If my younger daughter explodes because my older daughter has needled her for that reaction, both girls get disciplined. We always get both to admit to their part in the dispute.
My Divorce Wasn’t All My Fault
My ex once said, “I will never give you the satisfaction of doing to you what you did to me as long as we are still married.”
Well, we are still married. The divorce isn’t finalized. And looking back on the last two plus years, I must disagree that she is “blame free”.
My ex had an emotional affair while we were still married. This was rationalized because she “didn’t have sex” and because we were “separated.” But it was still an emotional affair without a finalized divorce.
There was never an apology when she finally admitted that she had feelings for this man. Ten months prior, she never respected the boundaries I asked while we were trying to work through our marriage. And when she realized where her heart was, that was when she asked for the divorce.
She still hangs out with this man and justifies that it’s OK by saying that he’s not healthy for her so she won’t ever be in a “serious” relationship. She justifies it because she feels “safe with him”. And yet, she claims there is no relationship there.
If I ever bring up her emotional affair from the past, like how she shoves my past in my face, her response is, “What does it matter now Phoenix? We’re getting a divorce.”
Maybe that should be my future tag line when she brings up how my past hurt her. “What does it matter now? We’re getting a divorce.”
I have heard her say that she was too young when she got married. That she wasn’t sure what she was looking for. I disagree that we were too young. When you look at our values, our goals, our dreams, how we parent, and everything in between, they match. They always have. They still do.
I believe it’s not letting go of the past hurts and not being able to forgive that prevents her from wanting to work on us.
My 95-year-old Godfather met his first wife when he was 18 years old. They married when he was 22 and they were married for 46 years before she passed away. I’m not going to buy the “too young argument.” In my opinion, that’s a copout for working through tough times.
She knows I struggle with letting go. She knows I want our marriage to work. She knows I want to start over. But if she does not want to be married to me, then why does she continue to drop her own boundaries around me? Why does she share the things she shares? Why doesn’t she cut the cord that binds us?
It Takes Two to Tango.
I need to stop dancing with her.
We know how we have triggered ourselves in the past, but instead of learning how to work together to manage those triggers, we separate and file for divorce. Then we point blame at one another for being triggered. We have never come together as a couple to stop the finger pointing and work on healing.
When I’m triggered it’s, “Those are your issues Phoenix. That’s not my deal.”
When she’s triggered it’s 180 degrees. “Your past actions caused this.”
Jesus says before we look at the splinter in somebody’s eye, look at the plank in your own.
I have been working on my fucking plank for over six years!!! When will she look at her plank that also caused the death of our marriage?
I have heard for the past year, “I’m not looking for you. I’m not looking for anyone else. I’m searching for me.” I have heard in the past month, “I feel alone and miss sharing deep intimate conversations with someone.”
I disagree. I don’t believe she has been emotionally alone. I don’t believe that she has given time to work on herself.
I’m tired of taking all the blame in our marriage.
She just said the other night that if someone was to come along, another possible relationship, she wouldn’t pass it up. But she already has! It’s staring her right in the eyes.
I don’t want to move back in. I don’t want to jump back into my marriage. I still have work to do on myself. I would love to date her. I would love to take the baby steps to rebuild what was lost. But she does not choose me. She’s passing up an opportunity with a man who already loves her for who she is and all her imperfections and this man is the father of her children.
I have also heard her say, “I don’t know what the future will bring. It may have you in it. It may not. I’m not looking at that right now. I’m just searching for me.” Didn’t take her long to change that train of thought, did it?
Until Death Do Us Part
Even our girls know. They know that Dad is a sex addict. They know that Dad cheated on Mom. They know that Dad broke his vows to Mom. They are only in middle school and they know too much about our adult issues. They know that it was Dad’s fault that Mom wants a divorce, that it was Dad’s fault he had to move out of the house.
Will they ever hear that Mom is breaking the most important vow in marriage?
“Until death do us part.” My ex has found every reason or excuse to make it OK to break that one promise.
Jesus said the only reason for divorce is infidelity. My ex holds onto that part in the bible to support her decision for divorce.
But the bible also states. “…everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Mathew 5:27-28.
My ex admitted six years ago that she was looking at different men and wondering if they could be her knight in shining armor that would sweep her away. My wife had an emotional affair. My wife decided for divorce soon after she realized she fell in love with another man.
If we are going to argue using the bible, then I wasn’t the only one who has committed adultery in our marriage. If she wants to keep score on our vows, she leads two to one! Will she ever share that with our girls?
In terms of actions not following words, I’m not the only hypocrite in this marriage!
My ex and I have a mutual friend who many months ago told me, “Phoenix, you have to see the body.”
“What? What body are you talking about?”
“When someone dies, many people need to see their loved one in the casket so they can move on. If they don’t see the body, it’s hard for them to accept that the person’s dead. Your marriage is dead, Phoenix. You need to see the body.”
My ex wanting to date others is the body. I have finally seen the body. The future does not have me in it.
I have held on to hope that things would change. I have held on to hope because she too has kept me close and wouldn’t let me go completely.
I’m realizing that I wasn’t crazy in my marriage. I may not have acted well when it came to my own personal fears and intuitions. My own internal battles may have caused me to regress and react as a child.
But I had believed and internalized that there was a part of my ex that wasn’t fully vested in our marriage. We both compartmentalized our lives when I left for work and I was gone days at a time. I’m not sure if I caused what I believed or if it was the emotional wall and the ebb and flow of her connection with me. But, I always felt that someday she would leave me.
I see how my fears have become truth. Maybe I intuitively knew that I was right all along.
My ex did say the other day that sometimes it takes being healthy to realize that it’s time to move on. And that she wasn’t healthy because she stayed in the marriage.
All these years I felt that she would leave me. She only stayed because she wasn’t healthy, not because she thought we ever had a chance.
Now it’s my turn to be healthy. Now I need to let go. I need to move on. I need to not be enticed back in, not get on the Karpman Triangle. I need boundaries so I can do what is right. I need to stop standing at the fork in the road waiting for a sign showing me which path to take.
The sign has now come. I need to start walking down the path away from her, away from my old dreams and wishes. I need to start looking at a future without her. One where I can provide everything I have always wanted for my daughters.
I Don’t Want to Talk with Rafiki!
Oh, shit! I need to call Rafiki. I am so wound up and I haven’t taken care of me. I feel fear with the thought of calling him. He’s going to see right through me. I can hear him say what my ex would say about the last venting I just was on, “Phoenix, you made it about you again. When are you going to stop flipping it and making it about you?”
I’m not in the mood to be challenged. But, I know I need to. My thinking is “stinky”. That stench permeates my hotel.
I also know I need to get out of my head. Anger is good. Up to a point. It could become deadly if you don’t manage it.
Right now, my anger is lethal as I keep poisoning my soul with negative self-talk.
Hesitantly, I dial his number.
“Hey, Rafiki. I need to talk. You got time?” I start.
“Yeah, go ahead my friend.” Then I delve right into my frustrations.
After listening to me rant for many minutes, Rafiki lectures, “You know you’re case building, right?”
“Yeah, yeah, I know.” I whine, “But. In this situation, I feel justified.”
Rafiki WACKS me with a stick! OUCH! Damn it! Knew he was going to do that.
“Phoenix, case building is never justified! I know you’re angry. And you have every right to that anger. But the minute you start doing what you’ve just done, the minute you pointed your finger at her, you have taken your ownership towards the death of your marriage and placed it on her.”
Case building is never justified. Click To Tweet
“No I haven’t.” I argue back, “I still know my part. I just want to her to acknowledge that she had a part too.”
Rafiki calmly responds, “You BOTH were to blame with what happened. That’s what coupleship is all about. Both of you need to look at your own piece about what happened. But you must look at it individually. The minute you start doing the other person’s inventory, the minute you blame the other person, you take yourself out of the equation. You minimize your part.”
When you blame another person for a problem, you minimize your part in the situation. Click To Tweet
“But she’s done that to me the entire time!” I protest.
“Doesn’t matter what she does. Two wrongs don’t make a right. What matters is what you do.” Rafiki is trying to make a point.
He continues, “In RCA (Recovering Couples Anonymous) a coupleship is like an infant. It needs constant nurturing and care from BOTH partners. It is important that each partner accept mutual responsibility for the problems in their coupleship. They also need to both recognize that their own individual development and recovery is essential for the couple to recover.
“Your ex does not want to be in the coupleship, thus she doesn’t have to be invested in taking responsibility for what happened. If both of you wanted your coupleship to work, then she would have to take ownership so that you both can see how your patterns continue to create chaos in your friendship. This is necessary for your coupleship to survive. That is her choice.
“Listen closely, Phoenix. She doesn’t want the coupleship. It is her right to accept her part or deny it. Hopefully, she will someday look at that so she doesn’t make the same mistakes when she’s in another committed relationship. But if you blame her Phoenix, you take your ownership away and you won’t see your piece. You’ll repeatedly make the same mistakes. Don’t lose sight of working on you just because you’re angry.”
I tried to say something but was cut off. “You see, in RCA, we think of our lives as being represented by a three-legged stool: commitment, communication, and caring. All three legs are important to the serenity, stability, and intimacy that we each seek. You can also think of these legs as your individual recovery, your partner’s recovery, and your coupleship recovery.”
In RCA we think of our coupleship as a three-legged stool: commitment, communication, and caring. Click To Tweet
“So why can’t I get mad if she doesn’t want to be part of the coupleship anymore?”
Rafiki ignores me again. “We are each responsible for the absence of intimacy between us. As soon as we accept responsibility, we are ready for RCA recovery. Each person must act as if that individual carries 100% of the responsibility for the intimacy in the coupleship. This is because the only thing we can change is ourselves, certainly not our partner.”
The only thing we can change in a coupleship is ourselves. We certainly can’t change our partner. Click To Tweet
Now I was getting mad. “Why can’t I get angry at her?” Can’t he just let me show my anger?!? FUCK!
“Phoenix, I never said don’t get mad. I said don’t blame your ex’s actions on why you’re mad. There’s a difference. You can’t change her. You can’t change the situation. You can only change yourself. Here, let’s do this instead. Recite the serenity prayer.”
I sigh, LOUDLY for effect.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
Rafiki’s voice softens, “As much as it hurts, Phoenix, you can’t change her. You need to accept that. You can only change yourself. You’ve been trying to change her decision for two years now. She’s the only one that can do that. If her heart has hardened in the marriage, it doesn’t matter if she tells you sorry about all that you’re complaining about. It doesn’t change that you are no longer in her heart. It won’t change your anger that you have over the divorce.”
Ouch! That Hurt.
That FUCKING hurts!
All the anger I have. Everything that’s pent-up rushes out in a tidal wave of agony and sorrow.
I see myself six years ago doing an assignment in treatment about learning how to handle grief. The assignment told us that we had one hour to live. We needed to write down our last thoughts and feelings. What would we say if we knew we were going to die in 60 minutes?
Wait…now, 59 minutes.
That assignment knocked me on my ass. I realized in that hour that all I wanted was my wife and my two daughters. I wanted my family. I wanted the four of us. I wanted to make our dreams come true.
It was at that moment that I was going to put 200%+ into my recovery. I was going to do whatever it took, whatever I could do to get better so I could save our marriage and our family. It became my mission in life. If I could pull on the strengths of my addict, I could grow, change, and rebuild what I had broken.
At this moment, a childish thought comes to mind, “it didn’t even matter.” Just like nothing I could do was never enough for my step-father, nothing I did in recovery was enough for my ex.
I feel emptied. Like a balloon that was blown to full size, let go, then sent zooming and zig zagging uncontrollably around the room until it flops to the ground, deflated.
My voice is weak, tired, “Rafiki, why is it that you make me feel like I’m doing something wrong?”
“You aren’t doing anything wrong. I’m just pointing out that it’s not good to blame. It is good to be angry. Be pissed. Be furious. Let that emotion flow through you…
“I don’t get it.”
“There are gifts from anger.”
“You’re talking nonsense again,” I moaned, feeling worn out.
“Anger allows you to become more in touch with yourself. It lets you know what’s important to you. The big piece in all you’ve ranted about tonight is integrity. I hear that integrity is important to you. So, let the anger help you move toward living a life with more integrity. Rise out of the ashes and become that man.
Anger allows you to become more in touch with yourself. It lets you know what’s important to you. Click To Tweet
“Anger shows you where you are habitually triggered. It shines a light on your inner world. I hear you are most triggered when someone doesn’t recognize the work you do or someone accuses you of not doing something right, when you make a mistake, or if your character defects are attacked. You are human. You will make mistakes. You have made big mistakes. But that’s part of humanity. Love yourself and your humanity. Accept your imperfections. I have seen you grow and change and become a better person because of your mistakes. It takes courage to do what you have done.
Anger shows you where you're habitually triggered and what you need to work on. Click To Tweet
“Anger focuses you on your power and on a creativity, that you may not have even known that you had., It demands a solution. And sometimes that demand leads to a surprisingly creative result. Look at your blog for instance. Look at this piece here. Anger has allowed you to tap into an area of healing that you never knew existed. And by channeling it for the world to see, you will help others.
Anger focuses you on your power and creativity by demanding a solution. Click To Tweet
“And finally, anger shakes up the status quo. This is your ultimate gift. As you look inward, anger is allowing you to let go of your marriage. It’s allowing you to stop holding on to the patterns and the pain that you have created for yourself. Remember, your ex has wanted out for some time. It’s you who won’t let go. And by not letting go, you continue to hurt you. You continue to hurt her.
Anger shakes up the status quo. Click To Tweet
“So, yes Phoenix, be angry! Be FUCKING PISSED off. But don’t try to change someone who doesn’t want to change. And don’t blame her for the choices she chooses. She needs to find her own way.”
“Why do you make things sound so simple?”
“Oh, this isn’t simple. I fail daily. My baboon DNA is just like you humans. It’s noticing those failures, working on changing them, and moving on. I’d rather be there than get stuck. It sucks being stuck.”
Notice your failures, change them, and move on. It's much better than being stuck. Click To Tweet
Don’t blame. Blame feeds resentment. Resentment feeds retaliation. Retaliation hurts others. Click To Tweet
“How do I avoid being stuck?”
“Be empathetic.Be companionate. You were once in the same situation; in your addiction. You couldn’t see how your actions affected others. As an addict, you were the master of manipulation and control. You used blame, deceit, justifying, and rationalizing to excuse your behaviors. You flipped things and turned them around making them about you. That’s what addicts do. That’s why her behaviors hit you so hard. They are a mirror to who you once were. You know what it’s like to be in your own crazy world trying to make sense out of things. You remember how out of control that felt. Have empathy that she may be in the same place you once were as she finds her own way.
“Be angry, just don’t blame. Blame feeds resentment. Resentments feeds retaliation. Retaliation hurts others. If you love your ex as much as you say you do Phoenix, then give her your blessing and let her go. You can be angry, just don’t hurt her again in the process.”
Oh, God my head hurts. Sometimes it takes numerous whacks before I settle down and come to an understanding.
I am angry. I’m hurt. I am FUCKING FURIOUS!!!!
To express that out loud is helping me heal.