Healthy boundaries with my ex-spouse
Well, Peaceful Readers, today I got down in the mud and called my first husband Greg a jerk and a pig. What can I say. I think you’ll agree with my assessment.
In part 2 of this post, you read a little about him in the section called Slow Death.
In my case, my first husband—I’ll call him Greg—kept engaging in worse and worse behavior. Ours was a case of a long, slow death. He spiraled downward. But he wouldn’t make the decision to move out or file for divorce. Mr. Irresponsible wanted to be able to blame that on me. There was the emotional abuse, the alcoholism, the affair, the pornography, the refusal to do anything our counselor asked him to do (other than showing up), and the new girlfriend—to name the main bullet points on Mr. Irresponsible’s Marriage Résumé.
Laying down the law
Let’s walk down Post-Marriage Memory Lane. Now that it’s 20 years behind me, I’ve got to tell you. Writing about these boundaries was down-right fun. Kicking it to Mr. Irresponsible felt really good. It felt much better writing about it now than it felt Laying Down the Law at the time. I knew I was doing the right thing all those years ago. But at the time, I felt totally exasperated at having to deal with him at all. What an unbelievable jerk.
Party time central
Greg took his wedding ring off the day he moved out and he boogied right down to Party Time Central—living with various people during the months ahead, buying a fancy sports car, etc. It was crystal clear that there was absolutely no hope for our marriage or for healing because Greg didn’t want any healing. He just wanted to drink himself into oblivion and live A Life With No Responsibility. Since things between us couldn’t be made right toward the end of The Nine Years of Misery, I just wanted him out of my life. O-U-T, out.
Establishing new boundaries
The porch visit
One day, Greg came to the back door of what was once Our House, and I wouldn’t let him in the door. He was peeved. He said, “So—what—I’m not allowed in the house anymore?” My reply? “That’s right.”
He said he wanted to be friends. I said no. I told him that he didn’t possess any of the qualities I require in a friend: Being a good person, being dependable and being trustworthy. He didn’t like that either, to say the least. But—Shazam—it felt good to say it.
The middle-of-the-night phone call
He called me in the middle of the night to tell me about a dream that he had. I told him to never do that again. Here’s a news flash, Mr. Irresponsible. You forfeited the right to tell me about your dreams. I’m not your wife anymore.
Why did Greg want to be friends with me? So he could convince himself that the things he did to me weren’t that bad. If I was willing to “be friends” with him—like his first wife was—that meant that we simply needed to “redefine” our relationship. Absolutely not. You punched me in the chest, yanked my heart out and stomped on it for entertainment. You are not Friend Material, buddy roe. Not ever. (Did I mention that he asked one of my friends out on a date right in front of me? Yep. That was him. A total pig.)
Greg left me a string of emails and phone messages one day asking for information about our mortgage company. Mr. Irresponsible was trying to get a loan—probably for his new, red, “I’m a free man now” sports car. I ignored him. He threw a fit about it. He wrote me a long email that included this hum-dinger: “What about when you need help from me?” I told him: “Look buddy, the fact that you don’t even know the name of our mortgage company is not my problem. Your problem is not my problem. Do not call me for any reason about anything. I don’t need anything from you. And I never will.” End of story.
…or so I thought
After my dad died a year later, Greg called and left a condolence message on my answering machine. How sweet; I mean inappropriate. I deleted and ignored it. Why was this message inappropriate? Because Greg and I were not friends and I specifically asked him to never contact me again. I said it and I meant it. He was pretending he was a friend to me, all evidence to the contrary; and he was disregarding (i.e., trampling on) my clearly-stated wishes—my healthy boundaries. Not nice. Not sweet. Manipulative. And, no, Mr. Irresponsible, your little message doesn’t change anything. Bug off.
While we’re at it, let’s process that a little further. When someone is experiencing a major loss, does that someone (i.e., yours truly) want to hear from a person who treated her like garbage and broke her heart? Uhhh, no. Is hearing that person’s voice going to make the grieving person feel better? (Eye-rolling Extraordinaire.) Frankly, it was extremely annoying. Hearing Greg’s voice—trying to sound caring—was a disturbing and unwanted nuisance. As usual, he didn’t bother to think about what would be good for me. He wanted to put on his I’m Such A Nice Guy Show. Did he think for a second that I would actually buy that? No way, pal. Not in this lifetime. Don’t forget how much I know about you.
Like I wrote in the letter to Kevin from Trauma Interrupted, You can’t crush your wife’s heart…, and expect the gift of friendship in return.
A friend: to be or not to be
Here’s the thing, Peaceful Readers. I don’t use the word friend lightly. Just because I know your name doesn’t mean you and I are friends. To me, the word friend isn’t some checkbox on a website. Call me old-fashioned. My friends actually mean something to me. Hence, Mr. Irresponsible didn’t make the cut.
As a matter of fact, a young lady from our old church asked me on the phone one time, “Aren’t we friends?” My reply? “No. We’re acquaintances.” *Gasp* from the other end of the phone. Shock of the world—Frankie Ann tells it like it is. Look, I spent the first 33 years of my life surrounded by liars. I don’t want to be one of those. Besides, none of my friends would ever ask me “Aren’t we friends?” That’s totally ridiculous.
Check this out. Our 15-year-old son had an identical conversation with a girl at his small private school recently. He ended it with this clarifying remark: “Just because we’ve gone to the same school together since Kindergarten does not make us friends.” Touché, son of mine. I am so proud.
What it means
I’ve come to the conclusion that if someone asks you—“Aren’t we friends?”—that someone wants something from you that said someone isn’t entitled to. It’s manipulative. If you answer yes, the inquisitor gets to demand something from you. If you speak the truth—no—you’re labeled mean. Here’s a news flash. People can call me Little Miss Meanie all day long and it won’t hurt my feelings. Why? Because I know where it comes from.
I wrote about this subject in the last series.
Often, when your child calls you mean, you know you’re getting it right. When our son asked me if he could have chips for breakfast, I said no. Did it hurt my feelings when he called me mean? No. Not in the least. What he really meant was “Rats; I didn’t get my way.”
Coming next: Greg was accustomed to getting his way. Sadly—for him and everyone else—his way was abusive. Next time on Choosing Peace, we’ll unpack his history in the post-breakup “Let’s be friends” department to discover a very deep cause-and-effect scenario.
Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.
Truth from The Word: The Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount ~ Matthew 5:1-12
Song for Healing: I found this song this week on YouTube. What a lovely, poignant Christmas offering for you all: “Somewhere In Your Silent Night” by Casting Crowns.