Surviving Suicide – Part 7
I’m a Virgo and Virgo’s characteristics are being detail oriented, organized, strong. I was and still am all of those, but the organized part has gotten a wee bit out of control the past years so I say I’m a Virgo Gone Wild! I was always the strong one, the one “organizing” our lives, our business, the next step. I learned after doing some life coaching and getting into self development after Rob passed away that I am “reactive” as opposed to “proactive”. I’d spent most of my life reacting to circumstances created by others, in most cases by Rob and had become very good at putting out fires. I’d always rise to the occasion, always knew what to do to fix the problem, would be very clear and just do it and clean up the mess. This last mess that Rob created was one too big for even me to clean up. Can’t remember exactly when, but it was early on in our separation and I recall telling Rob “You watch! I’m the glue and you’re going to come undone.” I had no idea at the time just how true those words would come to be.
In May 2000 I realized that I needed to do something proactive for me to move on. Not having the break from each other as most couples separating would have because we worked together was not allowing me to accept our marriage was over. I realized this and forced myself to sign up for a Divorce/Separation class and although it was the last thing I felt like doing, I did it. I was fairly private sharing my feelings so to go to a group class with others going through similar life changes was not very appealing. I did know however that I would learn things and that it was a proactive step for me. I got to the class, was very reserved, just sat back and took it all in. Most of those in the class didn’t appeal to me at all, but as I always do, I found just one that I could befriend and hang out with for the duration of the classes. I somehow felt embarrassed or ashamed to be coming to something like this, that I had failed. Each person introduced themselves and gave a brief intro on themselves. Some had been separated for quite some time, some were still living together under the same roof but not in the relationship anymore, some were living on their own. The teacher was great, we worked from a good workbook and they often brought in guest speakers.
One guest speaker was a real dynamo, a female relationship therapist. She had such a clear, concise way of getting her message across. There was no sugar coating, she just said it like it needed to be said. She spoke about what a healthy relationship looked like and said let me tell you what “healthy” looks like because many of you have never seen one. That was quite eye opening for me, some were offended saying no she wasn’t right, they did have a healthy relationship at one time, or their parents had one, etc. As the therapist began to describe what a healthy relationship looked like, I realized I’d never had one and that made me sad but was good to know all the same. One lady in the class asked the therapist about her new love interest, said she really cared for him but he was so hard to communicate with, that it was like pulling teeth just getting him to talk and open up about anything. The therapist said “if this is what he’s like in the beginning, in the infatuation stage of your relationship when he should be excitedly sharing everything, it is time to cut your losses and move on because what’s there in the beginning will only compound and be what takes the relationship out in the end.” The lady did not want to hear that, she defended her new man saying he was just shy, that they’d not been together long enough to form good communication skills, etc. The therapist bluntly told her once again that if good communication was what she wanted and wasn’t getting, and is essential to a healthy relationship, she needs to be aware enough to know that it wasn’t ever going to happen with this new man and instead of wasting lots of time and emotion, just get out of it now. You could see the look on the woman’s face who had asked the question and just knew she wasn’t getting it, probably never would, and would repeat the same relationship she had had with her ex with the new man. I made a mental note that what’s there in the beginning will be there in the end even moreso and filed it away in the shadows of my mind. One of my favourite quotes is from Maya Angelou ~ “The first time someone shows you who the are, believe them.”
I know clearly now that I didn’t have a healthy relationship with Rob. My parents were not a healthy relationship either, nor was Rob’s parent’s relationship. The therapist said as young children we absorb what’s going on around us from our parents’, relatives’ or parents friends’ relationships. If those relationships were not healthy and were dysfunctional, that’s what we learn for our relationship skills and almost subconsciously go forward when the time comes for us to have relationships and select what we’ve been exposed to. That was bloody scary! It was right about this same time that I realized too that I had basically married my Father and my married life paralleled my Mom’s. My Dad was very emotionally immature, so was Rob. My Mom had been a “mother” to my Dad, I was Rob’s “mother” in our relationship too. I didn’t want to be Rob’s mother, I wanted my partner to be my lover, my friend, my confidante but instead had somehow assumed the role of mother. Yikes!
My Dad was also outwardly very cocky and assured and could even be a bit arrogant. Had a huge sense of pride when it came to looking the part, keeping up with or even surpassing the Joneses. Rob was like this too. They both liked the nice car, house, toys and it was all important to them how they were perceived by others. They both needed to be the center of attention and wanted to be number 1 even when children were involved, and as any Mom can tell you, once you have children, your priorities change and have to. There was jealousy with my Dad if my Mom wasn’t able to give him enough attention or one of us was sick. Rob similarly couldn’t understand why I couldn’t come up to the bar at the yacht club when my son was very young and going to bed. When my Dad lost his job as top salesman for a brewery back in the 60’s, he was devastated! Back in the 50’s everyone drank a lot, it was the “in” thing to do and no one thought anything of it. He had always been a fairly heavy drinker and when he lost his job, he lost his identity. He became an alcoholic and would never hold another steady job again. Some people do view themselves, their identity as their occupation, my Dad clearly did and it was the beginning of the end for him. He basically became unglued, we lost our house, my Mom had to go back to work when I was quite young still, we lived in rental townhouses or apartments and I recall one Christmas when things were so bad, that we had to accept charity for Christmas dinner. My Mom vowed then and there that she’d never be in that position again and began to save enough to move out. We did eventually leave my Dad, he never recovered and never stopped missing my Mom, but we had to do it to survive. Rob did meet my Dad once just before my Dad died when I was about 15. My Dad was 43 when he died, Rob met him and myself at Union Station in Toronto coming back from a Christmas at my Grandmother’s, Rob thought my Dad was 65 :(. The alcohol had aged him dramatically. Again the parallels weren’t lost on me between my Dad and Rob. When Rob and I separated and things didn’t work out with the new girlfriend, Rob really started to come undone. He began drinking too and he died at 47, only a few years older than my Dad.
The divorce/separation class served its purpose. I was able to discuss till the cows came home with my gal pal from the course and she with I. There was no fear of burning the other one out as we were both going through the same thing. Both she and I knew that we’d talked most of our friends’ ears off and they were reaching the saturation point, so to have made friends at this course was perfect. I had and still have one very good girlfriend who fell asleep a few times as I droned on pouring my soul out lol! We laugh about it to this day. Even if you’re not one to participate in group counselling or classes, I highly recommend it from this standpoint alone of not burning out your friends and losing friendships over it. The class made me realize I had no choice but to go on, to move forward and create a new life for me and for my young son. I knew I had to not let my son be exposed to a unhealthy relationship for one second more and so it was. Rob would mind my son when I attended the classes, my son would sleep over on the boat with Rob so it was also a break for me to come home and just be with my thoughts after the class finished. It wasn’t long before Rob became quite depressed though, and when my son told me Daddy sleeps most of the time and cries, I told Rob I didn’t want our son seeing him like that and that it would be better that he not stay over or see him like that. It was also right around May 2000 that Rob first mentioned suicide, and although I thought he was too arrogant and self centered to ever follow through, I did not want to take a chance with my son and I put a stop to visits at that point. Rob didn’t seem to mind, I explained to my son that his Dad was sick and just couldn’t spend time with him right now.
Tomorrow I will share with you 2 great tools/exercises we did in this class that really helped me.