When I was packing my things up to move to Vancouver Island, I found a giant pile of old journals. I didn’t know what to do with them, so I opened each one up and read the pages of the last 30 years of my life. Some of the pages made me smile, some made me cringe, and a lot made me cry.
The things I said to myself broke my heart. I wrote that I was fat, ugly, unwanted, unloved, stupid, gross, sad, closed off, and I spent way too much time chasing after guys who simply weren’t interested or it was bad timing.
So when a guy came into my life who told me everything that I’d ever wanted to hear, it felt too good to be true but I couldn’t stop myself from falling quickly and deeply. He said I was perfect, sexy, beautiful, smart, lovable, exciting, and compassionate. He told me he would always be there for me and never walk away when things got tough. He told me he would hold me when I cried myself to sleep or woke up from nightmares. He said he would help with my bills and rent as my two part time jobs while in school full-time wasn’t leaving me with a lot. He said he would celebrate with me and show me what real love looks like.
As I read the progression of our relationship in my journals, I realized how quickly things started changing and my reactions. Within 4 months, he stopped helping me pay for bills and rent even though he was at my house 24/7 and had moved most of this stuff in. He even gave me a promise ring that we’d be together forever. Within 6 months I was writing about how he was talking to me in a way that felt unkind but it was mostly because he was stressed out and tired. Within 8 months, I wrote that I felt like I couldn’t do anything right and was constantly being blamed and corrected for things. Within 12 months, I was keeping the majority of my day-to-day life from him like things I was learning in school or who I was hanging out with, my inner thoughts and dialogue, and even how I was feeling at any given moment, I was sharing everything with my journal because I knew he wouldn’t understand and didn’t care.
Through everything, I always went back to loving the guy that I first met. The man of my dreams. That’s the guy that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. He was the one who would help me heal my past and create a beautiful future.
By the time we were engaged, I spent a lot of time writing about ways to get out of marrying him but just as much time thinking about how wonderful our life would be together. I thought a lot about buying a home and having kids, so it made sense for us to keep moving forward. It would take me too long to find someone else to get to this point anyway.
I wrote about putting an entire wedding together by myself and the stress that came with it, especially because he didn’t want a long engagement. The wedding date was set less than 7 months away from the day he proposed. I picked the place – my mom’s huge back yard in Fawcett, Alberta. I picked the reception area – Fawcett Community Centre. I picked the colours – leopard print. I picked out our rings – yellow and pink gold. I picked out our caterer – my grandma. I asked for sponsorship for the open bar, got it, and even found a way to get kegs from Edmonton to Fawcett- Big Rock and my friend Maja. I picked the wedding song – Sail Away by David Gray. I had my dress made by a lovely friend – thanks, Jo! I hand wrote every single one of our invitations, put the decorations together with friends, and seriously organized every piece of the puzzle. He didn’t help with anything because “you can do it better, Jen” and “It doesn’t matter to me.” Lastly, I took on two more part time jobs to bring in the extra money we needed to pull it all together while he wasn’t bringing in money because his bar tabs were more than his pay checks.
I wanted everything to be perfect so I stopped communicating and asking him to help. Lots of time I wrote that this is what I asked for and I should be happy about it. Up to the morning of our wedding day, I knew it was a bad idea but I did it anyway. I was more scared of walking away and being alone than I was of the growing distance between us and a life of walking on eggshells.
Our actual wedding was short and sweet and the reception was so crazy and fun, people talk about it to this day. I looked past everything that had gotten me to this point of finally being married and having someone to spend the rest of my life with. Someone to grow old with and raise kids with. I finally had a family where I felt like I belonged. I wanted to only see the good in things, so I did.
For a while, my daily journal entries were happy and full of excitement for the next steps in my life. I spent a lot of time justifying his behaviour as well as my own. It’s funny, looking at the pages, I didn’t write a lot about “our” life together, it was mostly “my life”. I was already detaching, disassociating, and turning inward.
Over the next 10 years, I wrote in journals at least once a week. I went through phases of thinking things were going to be good, being scared, feeling worthless, alone, and helpless, while barely looking after myself or my own needs. There were times where I was super angry with myself for letting things get to this point and others where I made up my mind to stop trying to get his approval and to be invisible instead.
Having my two daughters was an absolute blessing and they are the best thing to come out of my marriage. I have never once regretted having them or feel like they were a burden in any way. I did wonder how things would have been with a supportive, caring, hands on partner but that’s a whole other blog post, I’m sure.
At the end of my marriage, I was using my journals as a way to track how he was talking to me and his actions towards me. Every day I woke up and read them, wondering it today I would have the strength to leave. .
14 years ago today, I put in on a gorgeous wedding dress and married the man who I thought would be with me until death do us part. 14 years ago today, I said “I do” to future I wanted more than anything.
Today, over 4 years since I ended my marriage, I’m writing this from my MacBook at my desk in Matilda as a new resident to Courtenay, BC. I’m feeling more powerful, free, and happy than I have in years but I had to break some huge patterns before I got to this place. Peeling back the layers, I realized I had core beliefs that I was unlovable, easy to abandon, easy to forget, and that I deserved being hurt and unhappy. Today, I know I’m sexy, beautiful, smart, lovable, exciting, and compassionate and don’t need the same external feedback or acceptance. Don’t get me wrong, I like being told all of these things, but I don’t demand or chase it like I once did.
I’ve done the work and know how to tap into my intuition and inner voice to realize when red flags are being presented and when I’m suppressing or bypassing them. I know to trust my instincts and I’ve melted away the giant barriers that surrounded my heart. I’m open and ready to have positive experiences with dating and fall deeply in love with the right guy at the right time. It’s refreshing to be in a place where my life is wonderful and I’m looking at love from a healthy place of wanting someone to share my happiness with instead of needing it.
Bravely Loving Forward
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