I can’t even explain how different I am from how I was a year ago. Just so you have an idea, my family members have told me they like me better now, so there’s that.
I honestly was stressed out all the time and easily irritated. I always felt so petty because any little thing would annoy me and my (now ex) wife would make me feel like I was just a dramatic nag. I started to believe I had an anger problem, something else to add to my list of dysfunctions. I didn’t know what was wrong with me.
But I know now. I was full of resentment. I had been putting her needs in front of my own and picking up the slack in our relationship for years. I was the backbone, the one who took care of the shit and made sure we survived.
I was taught to always put other’s needs before your own. That it is honorable to self-sacrifice for someone else’s happiness. But that’s bullshit. That just builds resentment and creates depression. Because you aren’t being true to yourself. I know because I’ve lived it.
But we don’t stay in that role just for the benefit of others. We benefit from it too. Somehow it works for us, even if it’s dysfunctional and makes us miserable.
For me, I felt needed and important (my role within my family when I was younger). My role then was “vital” in keeping the status quo intact. And it was true because the minute I stepped out of that role, things went to hell for a long time. But it was making me severely depressed because I was putting my family’s needs in front of my own. And it was never my place to be in charge of making things “okay” for everyone else. That just enabled them to stay stuck and not have to do any of their own emotional work.
In my marriage, I benefitted as well. I was loved, spoiled, and comfortable. That sounds like a good deal. And I thought it was, until it wasn’t. Because my needs took second place to hers. And that was my doing. I allowed it to happen. But when I finally did start speaking up for myself, my needs would get heard and then forgotten. Occasionally addressed, but mostly casually dismissed.
When I talk about my “needs”, I’m talking about things like help around the house, being included in decisions that affected me, being taken into consideration first before her family, being stood up for when her family attacked me (or her) without needing me to coach her, her taking charge of her own needs and not depending on me to take over or remind her of them. That’s what I mean.
Being in this role, sacrificing my needs to meet all of hers, created resentment and anger on my part. Our relationship resembled that of a parent/child dynamic than an actual partnership. This resentment ate away at me and my love for her. And the fact that I did speak up but wasn’t taken seriously, spurned even more resentment and frustration.
This resentment led to discontent. Discontent often leads to looking for your needs to be met elsewhere. For me, it looked like wandering eyes and wishful thinking. But I also had to stuff that away because she began to feel insecure and would assume that I’d be wandering even if I was not.
So I stuffed my needs and desires away until I crashed and burned, I had been forced to a place where I was emotionally incapable of giving anymore to her. And in that exhaustion, the ability to stuff my needs and wants away was also demolished. All of it came rushing to the forefront and refused to be ignored.
But even then, I tried to put her needs in front of my own. I knew she “needed” me. I felt like a horrible person for wanting to “abandon” her during such a difficult time in her life (her uncle who was like a father to her was killed 6 months prior). I worried about how she would survive and who would emotionally support her if I were to leave. Because I was really all she had.
I also worried about me. I was used to the comfort of having someone there all the time. I didn’t know that I could survive without the unconditional and consistent love that I had been used to for 13 years. Because she was really all I had. I felt that without her I would fall into a downward spiral of never-ending depression. And then there was also the question of how I would survive financially. I had a lot to lose.
So I stayed longer than I should have, all in the name of “trying” to make it work. But I knew what I needed and wanted. I was just too afraid and concerned with what she needed and wanted to make that decision at the time.
“Trying” meant going to individual and couples therapy. It was in couples therapy where my suspicions that she was no longer seeing me or my needs were confirmed. Because she took no responsibility over her own part in it. It was all my “doing”, my “problem” with discontent, all something I had to “fix” within myself. In her head, my feelings were because I was grieving her uncle’s death and was attracted to men. Yes, those things were part of my process, but they were symptoms of the bigger issues in our relationship. She refused to see how her own actions or inactions contributed to me wanting out. That’s when I knew that things would not change and my instinct was right. I needed to move on.
This was the second time in my life that I put my needs before others. The first time was when I moved away to college and stayed away.
Now that I’ve been on my own, I feel lighter. I am more like myself than I’ve ever been. That festering rage and that constant pick of resentment lingering in the background no longer exists inside of me. It has disappeared.
I refuse to repeat the same pattern with my next relationship. I know better now. I will do better. If this resonates with you, know that choosing for yourself is worth it. You are worth living the life you want and doing it for you. It is not selfish. It’s human. YOLO (you only live once) is a thing for a reason.