I struck up a conversation with a woman at church last Sunday, and talk turned to the circumstances of my marriage and separation. I got about four sentences into it when she said that I absolutely needed to read a book called Love Is A Choice, that would throw the situation into a whole new clarity for me.
Naturally, no one likes to hear that they don’t already have a clear grasp of their own situation. I nodded and didn’t give her suggestion much thought. Except she KEPT bringing it up, there in church AND later on the phone when we were discussing a possible trip to the beach with our kids. So I told her I’d look for it at the library next time I was in Temec. And I did, and they had a copy, so I checked it out. And read it.
And holy crap.
This book is an honest-to-goodness MUST READ for anyone who endured a dysfunctional childhood and now finds himself or herself repeatedly dealing with unhealthy relationships in adulthood. A lot of it I had already figured out for myself, of course, but so much of this book was one blinding revelation after another.
I realized that I’ve spent my adult life in relationships that in some way mirrored my original childhood family dynamic, subconsciously convinced that if I just can manage to do everything “right” I can FIX IT this time and finally have it all turn out okay.
I realized that for my whole entire life, almost all the people who claimed to love me have essentially said to me, “You need to learn to be more forgiving and tolerant so that I can continue to treat you like shit without having to acknowledge your pain, because that’s the way things are supposed to be and the sooner you accept it the happier we’ll all be.” And on some level I believed every one of them, at least for a while.
I realized exactly why Steve has done the things he’s done, and why he’s unable to let go of his parents. And while it doesn’t change the fact that he’s a total douchebag, it evaporated all my feelings of anger and resentment toward him. Because seriously, the boy’s got a hard road ahead of him.
I realized that by some miracle, and by the grace of God, the fictional character that Steve invented and impersonated for me to fall in love with, combined with the cold reality of who he really is, was somehow exactly what I needed to draw me (slowly and painfully, but in a more-or-less straight line) out of my old codependent patterns and into a healthier way of seeing things. And when I had reached a sufficient level of sanity, I knew that the marriage wasn’t working and I left it behind. Not all at once, but as each new truth replaced an old lie it became easier and easier to let the whole mess go and move on. So again, as excruciatingly painful as it all was, and although it certainly wasn’t his intention, Steve really did me more good than harm in the long run. And I’m genuinely grateful for that.
These may all seem like little things, but for me just understanding them throws the world into a different light. It’s a strange feeling to see your experiences detailed in print as textbook examples of how a dysfunctional upbringing affects all of a person’s perceptions and choices.
The book is called “Love Is A Choice,” by Hemfelt, Minirth and Meir. If it sounds like something that might shed some light on your own experiences, do check it out. I promise you’ll be glad you did.