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On This Second Sunday in Advent

I'm giving up my negativity bias in my marriage



Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash
“The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?” says Julia Roberts’ character, Vivian, in Pretty Woman (1990)

I can relate to this, painfully so.


And I also recognize growing up in an abusive household and marrying abusive men turned my negativity bias into a sort of shield if you will. Looking out for the negatives in those relationships helped me stay as safe as possible. When I was strong enough, it helped me to 'see the writing on the walls' and walk away, to begin again.


But today I realized I've been unconsciously letting my negativity bias affect my marriage, I've let it color the lens through which I view my husband and our relationship --- this is not an abusive relationship, he is not a 'bad guy'....


Mine is a brain that has been programmed for survival through some very hard-to-survive environments not being able to recognize that it is now safe, it is now loved, and it is now ok for both humans in the relationship to fuck up because, well, we are humans.


This afternoon when I was leaning over to put on my boots so I could take the dog out to potty (again?!?) and looked over at my husband's 'gluten' counter and saw crumbs, bits of dried out shredded cheese and just a general overall mess.


I got mad at him for not being as tidy in the kitchen as I prefer, muttering to myself about crumbs and such.


Then, I realized that what I'd actually gotten mad at him for is not being me. Yeah, I realized that being mad at a good human for having different standards/modes of living is pure ego and self preservation.


Only problem is, this is not an unsafe abusive relationship by any means.


This is a loving, safe, nurturing relationship between two very flawed humans who have both known neglect, violence, fear, and abandonment.


In others words, I'm in a relationship with someone just-like-me, but their own person.


I found myself out in the back yard waiting for the dog to finally choose a spot to pee thinking about all of this and it hit me - I am acting the part of the abusive spouse / parent in this relationship.


I am being my mother, my ex-husbands, my nightmares...


Because I am focusing on how he is different, or 'less-than' and judging him for those ways when he offers me nothing but unconditional love. He is, truly, "the bearer of unconditional things."


Yet here I've been stuck in 'survival mode' all these years noticing all the ways he is different, that he is 'less-than' in some unconscious and terribly misguided attempt to protect myself.


Gah.


Trauma brain ...


Now that I can see it for what it is - I am not ok with this status-quo.


My husband is smart, funny, kind, intuitive, creative-as-f*ck, committed, open-minded, brave (and getting braver by the day), handsome, sexy, my best friend, biggest cheerleader and #1 fan.


Yes, he's made awful mistakes in our time together, he has broken my heart and shattered me... And, yes, he has shown up, gone to therapy, gone to recovery meetings, is learning how to handle disagreement and conflict in open & healthy ways and has never, not once, wavered from his commitment to us and our recovering together.


He is human.


So am I.


But, he is not an abusive human and his betrayal and honest, heartbreaking work to rebuild our marriage has proven that to me. I never had that before. In my past, if there was betrayal or lies or outright abuse you'd best believe that it was always rammed into down my throat how it was my fault I was lied to, cheated on, thrown across the bedroom.


Since day one of this time in our marriage he has always maintained he is at fault because of his choices - that I am in no way responsible for the harm he did our vows or the dirt he smeared on the soul of our marriage.


He got right into therapy and he has stayed there, even when it's so triggering and scary and hard.


He's come to therapy with me, even when it means sitting there watching me cry while I yell at the unfairness of it all.


He goes to recovery meetings, even though he never, ever once thought that was a place he'd find community or help - but he does now and I'm so grateful for it.


And this afternoon, while I leaned over to put on my rain boots and take the dog out yet one-more-time, when I noticed his crumbs and cheese bits and mess and got all hot and upset about it - finally, after too long, it occurred to me that I am being the problem here - not him.


I realized that I am acting like an abusive spouse when I hold him to my standards and come down on him for not matching them all the while not acknowledging the amazing man that he is and all the ways he blesses me with every day.


Today he is working his seventh day in a row for the overtime.


Today I took the dog on a short walk and collapsed in bed when I got home.


Will he judge me for that? Will he fault me for my chronic illness? Will he disdain over my lack of stamina when he is out there working so much for our good?


No.


  • He never judges me for the ways in which I cannot live up to his standards.

  • He never judges me for having ptsd and needing my service dog with me as I do.

  • He never judges me for having celiac disease and making things way more complicated at home by having to be so careful to avoid cross contamination. (He has to brush his teeth before his kisses me to avoid potential gluten getting into my system. Does he complain? HELL NO.)

  • He never judges me for being unable to watch violent shows that he wants to share with me.

  • He never judges me for needing to sleep.sleep.sleep.

  • He never judges me being sexually assaulted.

  • He never judges me for marrying abusive men.


All of the above examples are things that happened with either one of my ex'es or my mother or previous friends...


Photo by Leighann Renee on Unsplash

But this man, who I love so much, has been the subject of my misguided attempt at self-protection through the projection of my ego, my standard, my 'rules' for too many years now.


In some ways, he married his first abuser when he married me --- he has never been good enough, clean enough, etc enough for his mother and that's a crime... A crime I realize I was recommitting out of an ugly continuation of unconscious survival techniques.


So today, for this second Sunday in Advent, two candles represent two tender hearts both deserving of what the other is only barely learning how to give freely - love.


Today, for Advent, I see, acknowledge and vow to do all I can to give up my negativity bias in my marriage because this marriage to this man is exactly what 1st Corinthians 13:4-8 is talking about when it says:


Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.

Thank you, my friend, for thank you for showing me a deeper form of unconditional love and for your patience while I found my way there myself...


I love you, D.


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