Burning Out

We all have bad days, even bad weeks. But at what point does it cross over from a bad day to a full on burnout in life? At what point do you accept that this fatigue and apathy is long term and needs to be addressed?

Burnout is not simply a result of long hours or being over worked. It stems from a lack of control in life. Maybe the place that you work is being mismanaged and you are helpless to change it. Maybe you feel your work has no meaning. Maybe you don’t have a hobby or project that brings you joy outside of your work. Maybe you are so focused on helping others that you have no time or energy left for yourself.

I’ve come to realize that I need to be much more focused on myself. I need to prioritize not just taking care of myself but nourishing myself. I need to not only find my boundaries but stick to them. And I need to be more intentional of listening to my instincts. By getting stuck in my routine and focused on the go go go part of life, I wound up incredibly depressed and burnt out.

By the time I realized how burnt out I was, I didn’t just need a break I needed a full life shake up. I was in a job that was demanding and unfulfilling, working for people that are cold and incompetent. I was far more concerned with others needs than I was with my own. And all my free time was spent focused on others. I wasn’t sleeping, my skin was a mess, and the very concept of leaving my house became so overwhelming my whole body would feel like wet sandbags.

I didn’t need a break or a vacation, I needed a complete re-evaluation.

But the real kicker is that there were warning signs that I ignored. Red flag decisions at work that the ship was sinking. Demanding patterns from friendships that I know how to recognize but ignored. Small breakouts in my skin that I know how to deal with but didn’t make the time for.

I was just so stuck in my routine and my think positive attitude that my whole life had to be up in flames before I realized I needed to do something about it.

2019 is my year to focus on me. By the end of last year I was so low, so depressed, so burnt out, I knew I had to finally address it. It hasn’t happened over night but I have already come a long way.

I found a new job. Unfortunately not all work situations can be improved. Sometimes you just have to move on. I’ve learned a lot in my twenties about what I need from my job. And more importantly, I know what I am not looking for anymore. I found the next chapter and am taking all the lessons learned and putting them to good use.

I’m learning to say No. Perhaps my biggest hurdle. I don’t like saying No. I think a part of me has a fundamental belief that a person shouldn’t say No. But I am working on it.

I am working on boundaries. Both personally and professionally. Work-life balance, investing in friendships that are fulfilling and reciprocal and letting one sided friendships go, and listening to my inner voice. She often knows what’s up.

Change is hard. Growing is painful. Depression sucks. And burn out is awful. But all of these things are necessary. All of these things have a light at the end of the tunnel. And all of these things lead to better things. If you let them.

Darci

5 Things to Stop Caring About

Life can be stressful. Life can be chaotic. Life can be hard. The biggest kicker, though, is that sometimes we make life harder on ourselves. By indulging in negative thoughts or memories, prioritizing toxic people, living in the past, we hurt ourselves in the present and delay our happiness in the future. I’ve been working a lot on reshaping how I spend my mental energy. How I talk to myself. What I am spending my time thinking about. Being intentional about catching myself in a negative spiral and changing the game. It’s not always easy. But it’s important work. I’m trying to retrain my brain to think differently. So this week I thought I would share the five things I am working on changing. Take a look:

1. Those Painfully Awkward Moments.

Remember that joke you made in a meeting that didn’t land? Or that answer you gave in class that was definitely wrong? Or that time you thought someone was waving to you but it was actually to someone behind you? Those painfully awkward little moments that your brain likes to recall as you are falling asleep or enjoying some quiet time and now suddenly your heart is racing. Those social blunders that were embarrassing in the moment but that was seven years ago and no one but you remembers them, let alone dwells on them. Even your bigger blunders are probably still only note worthy to you. It’s time to let those go. When your brain starts to remind you, catch yourself and tell your brain that happened years ago and literally no one cares any more. Take the power away from those awkward moments by reminding yourself that it wasn’t as bad as you remember and it is well in the past now.

2. What People From Your Past Are Doing.

I’ll be the first to admit that Facebook stalking is a semi regular event. Social media makes it all too easy to take a passing “hmm I wonder” and turn it into a two hour rabbit hole investigation of what people from my past have been doing. Ex’s, former friends, old coworkers, past roommates, former classmates, all people who are in my past for a reason. And yet, the curiosity gets the better of me every time. It’s natural, though very unhealthy, to look for validation through comparison. But it’s a temporary, fleeting validation that leaves us emptier than we started. It also distracts the focus on your own life. You don’t need to compare your journey, your goals, your accomplishments to anyone to be happy. And, in fact, doing so is hurting your progress. My suggestion? Block those people you find yourself checking in on. That way the next time you are tempted to see what they are up to, you can’t. Eventually you’ll break the habit of even wondering what those people are up to and you won’t be distracted by it any more.

3. Pleasing Everybody.

It’s a cliched lesson, but I think I will spend the rest of my life relearning it. No matter how hard you try, you will never please everyone. There will always be people who take and take and take but never give. There will always be people who are too wrapped up in themselves not noticed anyone else. There will always be people stuck in the comparison game and they will never be happy for you. It’s time to stop worrying about those people. Your life is yours and you have to live it the way you know is best. So keep focusing on your dreams and your goals, keep treating others the way you want to be treated, and when someone shows resentment or expresses grievance over you simply living your life, you now have permission to involve them in your life less. Making time for people who hurt you regularly or openly root against you is silly. It doesn’t matter if they are coworkers, friends you’ve known for years, family, or even romantic partners. Your time is valuable and your mental well being is important. So stop wasting your time trying to please people who can never be won.

4. The Worst Case Scenario Game.

I’ll be honest, I am a fan of this game. Especially when I have a lot of anxiety about a situation or feel a lot of pressure. Sometimes saying your fear out loud can take some of the power away from it. But too much of anything is a bad thing. And I realized recently that I never play the Best Case Scenario Game. My what ifs are always negative. I’m always preparing for the worst, anticipating the worst, assuming the worst. And not only is that way of thinking depressing and unhealthy, it’s exhausting. I find I am always worried, always anxious, depressed far more often. All because I am far too indulgent in my fears rather than focusing on my hopes. I used to justify this way of thinking by saying “hope for the best, prepare for the worst”. But what if by dwelling so much on the worst I make the worst inevitable? What if by spending more time focusing on the best, preparing for the best, even planning for the best, that made the best happen? So now, when I catch myself playing the Worst Case Scenario Game, I make myself stop and think about what the Best Case Scenario could be instead.

5. Where You Should Be in Life at X Age.

Again, comparison is a dangerous habit that pretty much only leads to depression. Just because you aren’t married yet, don’t have kids, haven’t gotten that degree, don’t have that professional title yet, doesn’t mean you are falling behind or failing. School was very structured, and it gave all of us this false illusion that the rest of life would be too. But there is no order of events, no timeline to follow, no progress report, no big moments you need to hit by a certain time. Plenty of people followed “the plan” of getting married young to someone they weren’t actually compatible with, had kids even though they weren’t ready to be a parent, or worked their way up the ladder for a career they didn’t want. Too many people do what they are “supposed” to do without considering if they want to do it. And too many people feel like they are failing at life because they aren’t doing what they are “supposed” to be doing right now. But the most freeing moment in life is when you realize that you get to call the shots for your life and you get to decide what path is right for you.

Why is it so easy for our brains to think negatively, to be stressed or anxious or overwhelmed, to focus on comparisons or the past, but we doing the opposite takes so much work? I’ve been wondering that a lot lately as I’ve been working on intentionally changing my patterns. When did those patterns form, I wonder. And when will they change? It’s hard work, it’s consistent work, but it’s good work. And hopefully it will stop being work someday and start being a way of life.

Darci

4 Healthy Habits for the New Year: Feminist Edition

You know the saying: New Year New You! Your social media is probably flooded with New Years resolution articles and goal making ideas and new ways to do this and that and more! And I thought I should add my voice to the noise. But of course over here, it’s not just about dieting or financial planning or hitting your gains goals, it’s about empowering women. So here are four new habits to consider for the new year to make your life more positive AND more feminist!

Tidy Up Together
Have you watched Tidy Up on Netflix yet? Or maybe you read Marie Kondo’s book when it came out a few years ago. I’m obsessed with her. As a Type A over thinker with anxiety, she is like candy to me. I’ve watched each episode and teared up each time. What stands out to me most is how the dynamics of the relationships evolve through each episode. I’ve talked about emotional labor before and how it is drastically imbalanced in relationships. And what I love about this show is how it helps each family discover that together. By tidying up together each family member discovers they can be doing more to create a healthy dynamic. For the women of the household, they realize what a disservice they do for their families by trying to do everything for everyone. And for the men and children, they realize how stepping up and taking responsibility in their home completely transforms your environment. I love cleaning and organizing, it’s my happy place. And I love seeing her tips and tricks at work in real homes. But what I am loving most is how Marie Kondo helps each home so graciously come together. Don’t just purge your wardrobe and make a quick run to Goodwill, find ways to tidy up the emotional labor balance at home.

Stop Saying Sorry So Often
Many women apologize profusely. Society has conditioned women to remain small, quiet, and unobtrusive. And so we apologize when we ask for what we want, we apologize when we stand up for ourselves, and we apologize for what other people do. And we need to stop. Just because society wants us to be small, quiet, and unobtrusive doesn’t mean we should be. Start noting when you are apologizing for things that are beyond your control or not your fault or not actually bothersome and find new ways to respond that don’t involve apologizing. Things like, “Thank you for bringing this to my attention” or “unfortunately I will not be able to attend” or “If I may say…” are all polite ways of communicating without implying that you’ve done anything wrong.

Affirm Things Other Than Beauty
My cousin had her son just over a year ago. And he is the most adorable child I have ever met. He has a belly laugh that will make your heart skip a beat, a smile that will make you melt, and a personality that will have you swooning. It’s hard not to gush over him. But it’s very important to my cousin that she affirms things other than his looks. Every time she catches herself or others (like me) calling him cute or handsome or adorable she starts affirming him in other ways immediately. You are smart, you are kind, you are brave, you are thoughtful. And it’s so powerful. We should all be doing this, because wouldn’t it be wonderful to have your other attributes acknowledged and affirmed? I don’t think there is anything wrong with complimenting an outfit, or hair style, or what not. But it’s so easy to compliment a physical appearance. It’s time to go deeper and affirm each other’s character.

Stop Being So Polite
When you really stop to take stock of it all, women really have been socialized to be societies doormats. And quite frankly it’s not doing society any good. I know I struggle with saying No to people all the time, and I know plenty of other women who feel the same. I have several friends who struggle to turn men down for a date, and I’m constantly asking why (I know why)? You didn’t like him, you aren’t attracted to him, and he annoys you. So why do you feel obligated to continue seeing him? Just say No! But here’s the real quicker, my friend finally does say No and the guy loses his shit. Abusive text messages and bullying, until I finally convince my friend to stop responding and block the guy already, so he goes and finds her on Instagram and continues the charade. All because after one silly coffee date he can’t handle being told No. Society has conditioned girls to be nice to boys, but we never conditioned boys to be nice to girls. So we grow up into women who fear hurting strangers feelings, and men who feel entitled to everyone and everything they come in contact with. So it’s time to break the cycle. It will be ugly at first. But after a while maybe men will realize that it doesn’t kill them to be told No and life really does go on.

Resolutions can be very self involved. In fact they are mostly meant to be self involved. And self involvement can be good, until it turns into self absorption. So while you focus on New Year New You, maybe fine one way to be better to the people you interact with each day. Don’t just put effort into yourself, put effort into your community.

-Darci

GUEST WRITER: I Hate Men!

“I HATE MEN!!” <- That’s me, yelling at the television almost every night. Sometimes it’s Toby from “This Is Us” not listening to anything Kate says, as if he didn’t hear a thing she just said and totally speaks over/for her (the current season is much better).  Anytime violence against women is used as entertainment value – one main reason I can’t watch Game of Thrones (sue me). Or how about THE FREAKING NEWS. Women being murdered by ex-boyfriends for no reason. This fucking Boys Club that runs our country and elect’s rapists to the highest seats. HOW IS ANY OF THIS OKAY?!

My husband, sitting on the couch across the room from me either lets me have my angry moment or agrees with a nod.  I always finish the sentence with ‘of course I hate all men except for you’. But sometimes I wonder, do I mean it?

Since I choose to not live in ignorance to the world around me, it becomes more apparent everyday how men use, abuse, and hurt women. I see it in everything. How a white man walks into a room acting as if he owns it. How a man can go running at 11:30pm and make it home without even a thought to his safety. I once read about a woman who started walking in a straight line instead of moving out of the way for men walking the other way. I tried this at my gym. A small space, but I just walked in a straight line to the stretching room and noticed some men seemed totally annoyed that they actually had to move a little out of the way. It was eye opening to see this male privilege in action.

I met my husband 5 years ago and the thing that drew me to him was the way he listened to me. He believed the things I said, never dismissed any emotions. In 27 years, I had never had a man treat me like a person. He is so very aware of his white male privilege and always takes the side of the oppressed. But while he is an amazing man, he is still a MAN.

He is still representative of what feels like ‘his’ people. People born into a male heteronormative lifestyle. White male men who never ask for anything, they just take what they want and see no consequences. It feels like the more women speak out about these micro aggressions, the more it feels like ‘them’ against ‘us’. It feels so divisive.

On one hand, I am grateful to have open eyes and awareness of this, but maybe if I didn’t…
-I could love my husband better.
-I could not get so angry when he doesn’t clean the bathroom.
-I could not be so annoyed when I pick a tv show and ask him if he’s okay with it, but when he picks a show he just presses play.
-I could not look at him and only see the privilege he walks in.
-I could rant and not have to realize that while he tries his best to understand- there is no way he can feel what I feel.

I’m working this out. Every day I am trying to see him for the beautiful human being he is. The person who is my safe place to fall. Who loves every part of me.  I am l trying to navigate how to love him well, while constantly being bombarded with how his gender generally views mine. I basically think it’s my lifelong job to help him understand the difficulties women face and how we are represented (I cannot even imagine it’s 100x harder for women of color).

I don’t really know how to end this article since there isn’t any big revelation or anything I’ve had. Maybe it will resonate with someone else. It feels like until the world fully changes (I don’t have very high hopes it’ll be anytime soon) I will struggle with this. I think I should bring him into this struggle and not deal with it on my own. It feels very raw and vulnerable. While he may not be able to do anything to fix the world around him, he and I can continue to love each other the best we know how.

 

-Allison

Ways That Well Intending Men Creep Women Out

Hello Men. Today I am addressing you. It’s been an eye opening year, and I’m sure a lot of you feel unfairly called out. Perhaps you are feeling defensive in ways you never did before. Maybe you are learning about some behaviors and actions that you were never aware of in the past. Or maybe you fear that we women have gone crazy and it’s only a matter of time before you are being lumped in with the rest of these men.

And it’s not fair, you say! You have no intentions of causing harm or danger to women. You love women! So why are you considered a creep?

First of all, thank you. I know you are well intended, I know you want to learn but you just don’t know how. And I know you don’t mean to be part of the problem. Second of all, I hate to break it to you, but you were always a creep. None of our experiences, none of our criteria, none of our behaviors have changed in the last year. We just finally started talking about them.

But you are not alone! There are many Well Intended Men out there who have no idea how their actions and behavior is really coming across. They don’t realize women cross the street when they are coming near. They don’t realize their female coworkers avoid being alone with them. They don’t realize how they make their female friends feel. Plenty of Well Intended Men are just as lost and confused as you are, and are just as hurt to be seen as a creep.

So let’s go over some examples of common behaviors of Well Intended Men that are actually creeping us women out.

Not Giving Us Space
This is not metaphorical space. This is actual literal personal space. And let me tell you, men violate my personal space on a daily basis. When I am walking down the street, men will walk just a little to close to me. When I am at the store or bar, men will stand just a little too near. When men are walking toward me they never step aside or adjust their path to give me space, I am always expected to move around them. Men who are brushing past me and literally touching me. Men who force me to alter my course. Men who just seem oblivious that I am occupying this space already and they need to give me room.

And it’s not quite threatening behavior, but it’s certainly not behavior that makes me feel safe. There’s something that happens when a stranger enters your personal space that sends off singles to protect yourself, to be on the defense. And when a man I don’t know is invading my personal space, it creeps me out.

So Well Intending Men, step one: back off. Literally. Pay more attention to the personal space you are invading, regardless of your intentions, and just stop. Because regardless as to your intentions or unawareness, you are violating our personal space and it is creepy and unsettling.

Complimenting
“Wow, you are beautiful. Has someone told you that today?”
“Thank you so much, you have been so helpful. If my wife wasn’t here I would kiss you!”
“I wish more beautiful women like you talked to me”
“That dress is really flattering on you. You should dress like that more often”

All of these are things actual men have actually said to me. At work. These were not crazy men shouting at me on the street. These were clients and coworkers. And do you know what I didn’t feel when they made comments like this to me: flattered. Do you know what I did feel: creeped out.

And here is why. All of these compliments have a very uncomfortable and sexual undertone. They all imply a conversation that I have no interest in having. They all imply actions I have no interest in participating in. They have taken a normal and professional interaction and turned it sexual. These comments devalue me down to just a sexual being here for their pleasure.

So, Well Intending Men, how can you avoid this common mistake? Stop making your compliments towards women sexual! Just because you notice a woman is attractive does not mean you have to voice that. Acknowledge, affirm, and appriciate the actual work being done, but don’t make it sexual.

Understanding Work/Personal Life Boundaries
Sorry, but yes, there are more ways to creep out your coworkers than just inappropriate compliments. Every office has one: the guy you dread being left alone with in the break room. That guy who you always have awkward one-minute conversation with that seem to last an hour; that guy who hovers at the edge of the group during happy hour; that guy who doggedly asks his female coworkers out to lunch. It’s that guy who doesn’t understand that there are social boundaries at work that need to be respected. And he only seems to struggle with this understanding when it comes to his female coworkers. He very well may be loved by his male coworkers, they may all be baffled to learn that the women of the office avoid him.

So what is socially acceptable work place talk? For example, asking someone how their weekend was or what they have planned is totally acceptable. But pressing for details that are not volunteered, or inviting yourself along to plans is unacceptable. Discussing sporting events that you share a mutual interest in, or a movie or concert, totally fine. Perhaps even organizing or attending a work social event around those shared interests, totally fine. But trying to facilitate a one-on-one outside of work outs inspired by these shared interests crosses a line. Complimenting and acknowledging someones work performance is great, but commenting on their figure is not.

Look, yes, sometimes work place friendships and romances happen. It’s purely mathematical. But you should not expect this to happen. You should not treat your work environment like your social well. If things happen naturally that is one thing. But if you are forcing things, endlessly facilitating things, friend requesting your female coworkers or clients on social media, you are making these women uncomfortable.

And you need to stop. Start viewing the women you work with as coworkers and leave it at that. The world is full of dating apps for you to find people to make weekend plans with and watch sporting events with, leave the women you work with alone.

Making Everything About Sex
So we’ve talked about ways you may be creeping out strangers, we’ve talked about multiple ways you may be creeping out your coworkers and clients. Let’s talk about how you may be creeping out your female friends.

Well Intended Man, let me ask you. Do you often find yourself discussing sex in casual conversation? Responding to casual comments with sexual innuendos? Referencing your favorite porn around the campfire? Bringing attention to the fact that you know your friends are in a sexual relationship? If you said yes to any of this, let me ask you further: how did the women in these situations respond? Did they laugh and seem engaged? Banter back? Or did they get quiet, and maybe seem unamused and perhaps uncomfortable?

Or, Well Intended Man, how about this. What are your expectations of your single female friends? When you go to social gatherings do you expect these single female friends to flirt with you? Be open and available to sexual acts with you? Do you get upset if the night doesn’t result in sexual activity with this single female friend? Do you view the night as a waste because your single female friend didn’t engaged sexually with you? When you decide to reach out to your female friends, what is the motivator? How quickly does your casual-chit-chat-catch-up turn sexual on your part? If you said yes to any of this, let me ask you further: how did the women in these situations respond? Do they continue to invite you to things? Do they continue to engage in the conversation once it turns sexual? Or do these women fade out of your life?

For me, the hardest part of maintaining my friendships with my guy friends was that they all expected more than just friendship. Suddenly every conversation turned into something sexual, and I was uncomfortable. Every hang out there was a clear expectation of physical intimacy. And when I didn’t reciprocate they would get mad at me. Accuse me of wasting their time. When I invited them to social things I would get responses like, “well but is this all we are going to do, because if nothing else is going to happen this isn’t really worth my while tonight” making me feel like our friendship was only ever seen as a means to a sexual end.

And you know what, I stopped being friends with these people. I stopped reaching out for chit-chat-catch-up, and I stopped engaging when they reached out to me. I stopped inviting them to social gatherings because I didn’t like the pressure they put on me.

So, Well Intended Man, I ask you this: do you actually have female friendships? Or do you just seem women as a source to eventual sex? What are your expectations and motivations of having female friends?

 

Basically, Well Intended Man, how do you view the women in your life? Do you seem them as active members of this community, contributing and passionate? Or do you see the women around you as opportunities?

Again, I know you are well intended. I know you want to have good interactions with women, that you want the women around you to feel safe and comfortable. You just don’t realize that your everyday behavior is creepy. You don’t realize that your view and outlook on the purpose of a woman is not to please you sexually and revolve around you.

And I know you want to be better! So here is what I advice. Start giving more space to the women of the world. If you could easily or accidentally touch a woman who is not an intimate partner, you are standing too close. Give her more space. If you are brushing against strangers as you walk past, you are too close. Pay attention and respect the personal space of women. Stop making your compliments weirdly sexual. When a woman in a professional environment helps you, just say thank you and leave it at that. Stop treating the women you work with different than you treat the men. Stop viewing the women you work with as a social opportunity beyond professional. And stop making your friends uncomfortable with all your sexual talk. Just like sex acts, sex talk requires consent. If you don’t have the consent to talk sexually with someone, then don’t talk sexually. If you think it’s weird to establish that boundary officially, then you definitely shouldn’t be talking about sex.

Basically, stop seeing women as a means purely for sex and ego boosts, and start viewing them as people.

 

-Darci

GUEST WRITER: Trust and Care for Yourself – Final

It’s been a year since #MeToo swept the nation. So this month I decided to open up my platform to allow some other amazing women in my life to share their anger as well. Want to be a guest writer for Angry Feminist as well? Let’s talk! – Darci 

This is the final piece of a 3 piece series. Check out Part 1 and Part 2

FINAL

The decision to get a divorce was not made lightly. I have been unhappy in my marriage for the past 5 years, but not every day. There were always days that felt good, moments we shared that I thought “this is why I married him.” We didn’t talk about anything real anymore, but he still made me laugh when he was in a good mood.  We started traveling, and he let me make some decisions and followed my lead.  I could see ways that he was trying to be better and make it work.

After years of asking and hoping that my feelings would change, that he would be able to give me breathing room and not feel the need to be in control, we went to marriage counseling this year. This was a huge step that gave me hope, since bringing up counseling in the past had always caused a huge fight. Here he was finally saying that he knew we needed help and he was ready to do the work.

Except he wasn’t. At our first session, which we had planned months in advance, we were given an article about communication to read, and he forgot. And by forgot, I mean he put it in a drawer after looking at it on the table for a week. It seems small, but this was one of the ways he told me he wasn’t ready to put in the effort our relationship needed. He had already established a pattern of changing just enough to mollify me and make me feel guilty for wanting to leave; and putting the article in a drawer and not reading it was just another example of how little he thought he needed to work. He was willing to go to counseling, but he didn’t want to talk in the sessions.  He wanted to show me he was trying but couldn’t be bothered to put anything the counselor suggested into action.  Because our relationship had been full of criticism from him towards me, the counselor suggested that he should ask me before giving me critical feedback.  He was not open to this idea.

We talked in counseling about the darkest days of our marriage, and the counselor asked if I had been traumatized. My husband’s response was to say that it had been a really hard time for him. He apologized for me feeling like it was abuse but asked for understanding that it had been a really difficult point in his life and I should try not to hold it against him. He focused again on how he didn’t finish his degree, he didn’t get the job he thought he would, he wasn’t making as much money as he planned.  This response, along with everything else, showed once again that he did not believe he had really done anything that bad. He defended and excused his behavior.  He had a tendency to gaslight me, tell me that my perception of reality was wrong, that I was making things worse in my head than they really were. And he did this in our final counseling session, when I told him I would not be coming home and we would be getting a divorce.

He told me things weren’t actually that bad, and I was making it worse than it had to be. I should just forgive his behavior and move on, because he loved me. But I could not forgive abuse that was still ongoing. And he couldn’t see how he was still abusing me. He couldn’t see that when he “talked me up” to friends, it felt like an act. I know he genuinely cared for me, and was doing his best to show it, but it never seemed to come from somewhere deep. It all seemed to be driven by showing everyone else what a good husband he was or showing me why I should forgive him and do what he wanted.  He couldn’t see that telling me to talk less and not answer questions about my job, but instead talk about how great he was, isn’t a healthy relationship.  There are a million versions of quotes about “don’t let anyone dull your sparkle,” and that is exactly what he wanted me to do.  Take up less room so he could take up more.  After 6 and a half years of marriage, 5 of which were unhealthy and unhappy, I finally told him I would not be trying to fix us anymore.

I am no longer in that relationship. I am living by myself for the first time in my life. The weight of constant fear and worry that I was going to disappoint him, upset him, make him feel less than, not pay enough attention to him, talk about myself too much, see friends too often, not have enough sex, is gone. I can put the eggs in the fridge any way I like.

But more importantly, I can breathe.

My head space is not constantly filled with worry. My thoughts were always preoccupied with the weight of my failing marriage, and I’m no longer aboard a sinking ship. This is an opportunity for me to learn about myself, and to be sure I don’t fall into the same pattern again. And honestly, I could not feel more confident in my decision. I get to be my own person, to take time to reflect on my relationship and how I contributed to it. I get to read books whenever I want, listen to whatever music I want, and no one tries to tell me my choices are wrong.

This entire process, from marriage to divorce, has been a journey that didn’t turn out the way I planned, but I don’t think I would change it. My marriage and its failure has taught me many lessons I needed to learn. I have so much empathy for people who choose divorce and am much less quick to judge. I am no longer the conservative person I was when I got married. I firmly believe in equality in relationships, and in the division of emotional labor. I can now recognize narcissistic personalities easily and avoid them. I learned to speak up for myself, and that only good things will happen when I do. I learned that I am strong, independent, thoughtful, intelligent, beautiful, and worthy of a life that is happy. I learned that I should be able to ask for what I need in a relationship and expect my partner to respond. I learned to recognize emotional manipulation, and what it feels like when someone makes me responsible for their emotions. I learned that I am valuable, and I do not need to be in a relationship to be loved.

I worried that I would wake up full of regret for leaving my marriage. I was sure I would feel guilty for ending a promise that I made for life. But guilt is not a reason to stay married. I realized my feeling of guilt over wanting to end my marriage was the only thing still keeping me in it, and now that I’m out I do not have that feeling. I was not struck by lightning. My family did not disown me. My friends did not judge me, either for staying too long or not long enough. I gave my marriage my best honest try, and ultimately made a decision that is healthier for both of us. I listened to my own voice and made the choice to end it when it was clear that the relationship was unhealthy and beyond repair. My family and friends have been unendingly supportive, and I. Feel. Free.

 

-Adira

 

GUEST WRITER: Trust and Care for Yourself – Part 2

It’s been a year since #MeToo swept the nation. So this month I decided to open up my platform to allow some other amazing women in my life to share their anger as well. Want to be a guest writer for Angry Feminist as well? Let’s talk! – Darci 

This is part 2 of a 3 piece story. Check out Part 1 here

PART 2

I was 24 and 3 years into my marriage, but I was realizing things had gone very differently than I planned.  That being said, I still thought I could fix our relationship. My husband was difficult, but he had reasons to be based on his childhood.  I started going to counseling for myself, and every time I walked out the door he would fight with me.  He would say how uncomfortable he was with me talking about our issues to a stranger.  I heard him, but I kept going because I knew I needed help processing this relationship.  I invited him many times to come to couples’ counseling, and each time was met with absolute and blatant refusal, coupled with disgust that I had asked. Through a year of counseling, I started realizing his issues with me were not about me at all, but about himself.  He had an intense need to put on a good show for everyone around him, a need to be impressive in all things; be it intelligence, living situation, looks, status, whatever.  I would notice him exaggerate things to friends to sound more impressive.  If I corrected him, even kindly, he would snap at me and ask why I was saying he was wrong in front of people.  I stopped doing that.  Things were better for a while as I learned to communicate with him. He started helping around the house, he stopped saying unsupportive things about my work. This all felt like progress. I convinced myself there was still hope. I stopped going to counseling.  I was 25.

But the truth is that he was manipulating me. Any time he had something that he wanted to change about the way things were, he had to get his way. He used logic and counted on my tendency for emotional decisions to convince me I was irrational if I disagreed with him. There were countless rules I had to follow in daily life in order to make sure I wasn’t disrupting him. No reading if he was home, because that felt like him being blocked out (I am an absolute bookworm.  He used to brag about how quickly I read). Put the eggs back in the fridge this direction, not that. That’s the wrong way to microwave a taco. I fought back on each of these rules but was convinced I was probably in the wrong. He wasn’t in the wrong, I just hadn’t forgiven him for the abuse of the past. I wasn’t really being abused now. He wasn’t calling me stupid anymore. Things were better, surely.

Except they weren’t better, they were just different. He no longer tried to control how I dressed, but instead he started making me feel guilty about going out with friends. I always asked how his day was, but he rarely returned the gesture. He didn’t think we talked about his job or interests any more than mine, which was easily visible and untrue. If I wasn’t feeling amorous or physical, he would give me the silent treatment and make sure I knew I had hurt his feelings until I changed my tune. He was constantly trying to be physical in public. His need for physical affection outweighed my discomfort and need for space. I started unconsciously flinching every time he touched me because I was afraid it would turn into something more. I knew these things weren’t right, but I couldn’t justify walking away for such small things. Those aren’t abuse. That’s not a horrible person. We just had more work to do.

When my husband and I would go to social events, people were constantly asking if my husband was ok, people we barely knew, people who had no idea what was or wasn’t going on. His attitude was desperately seeking approval while at the same time trying to convince everyone in the room that he was on their level or better. And I would defend or explain his behavior, because I wanted to be a loving, supportive wife. I knew he struggled with talking with people. He said he often felt like he didn’t know what to say or how to come up with the right words. So when he was awkward or rude to people, I would say he’s just unsure of himself. He’s not actually that way, he just gets in his own way and is nervous.

My friends checked in on me constantly, asking how things were going, if things were getting better. Sometimes I was positive and optimistic, listing all the ways he had changed. He now washed the dishes every night! What progress! But when they dug deeper, they would start questioning his behavior, and my optimistic illusions couldn’t hold up. Yes, he washed the dishes, but he made sure I knew that he didn’t want to and felt it was ridiculous that I made him do it. And there were certain things he wouldn’t wash because it was “just too much trouble,” so if I cooked a meal with those things, I better wash it myself. Yes, he was better behaved in public, but he still couldn’t give someone else a compliment without making it about himself.

And somehow, this still wasn’t enough for me to leave him. I spent a year in this kind of limbo, where I knew we weren’t happy but couldn’t bring myself to end it.

Not until I started thinking about what raising a family with him would be like. Really thinking about it. Because maybe he would be great. But everything I had seen with him around kids, around our friends’ kids, was general annoyance with the noise and mess they make. But more than that, any kids we had would have to abide by his rules. They would not be allowed to make messes and mistakes. And what would happen if they didn’t follow his rules, or when they made messes or mistakes? This was my tipping point.  I was 27, we had been married for 6 years, and I went back to counseling.  This time he didn’t fight me every time I walked out the door but listened when I said that I needed to talk about things with someone other than him.  I saw this as a huge sign of progress and was hopeful that counseling would help me forgive him and move on together.

With a very conservative religious background, I have always looked at divorce as being a quitter. Everyone knows marriage is hard! Taking two people and pushing them together for life is no easy task for a saint, let alone a flesh and blood human being. I never thought I would be that person. I believed everything I heard about marriage being two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other. He even started saying that to me constantly.

And I still believe that definition to be true, but it only works if both people are willing to do the work it takes. As soon as the burden falls on one person or the other, the system is bound to fail. Unfortunately, he wasn’t willing to do the work. He would constantly make excuses for his behavior, but always in a way that tugged on my tendency for empathy. When I brought up concerns about how he treated me, things would somehow get turned around until I was apologizing and making him feel better.  When I brought up ways I would like help, I was met with reasons that I was asking for too much. This was a relationship where his needs had to be met or I would be punished with silence and shame, but many of my needs could be explained away and mostly left alone. Every time I had a concern about our relationship, it was explained and reasoned away. At the same time, he felt competitive with me and told me so.  He told me that people ask too many questions about my job and not enough about his, so I should start turning the conversation to him instead.  He told me I “outshone” him in social situations, and I should start bringing him forward and putting myself in the background.

As I talked with my counselor about the relationship, she pointed out these narcissistic tendencies and helped me see that I really was doing all the right things to try to communicate my needs.  Unfortunately, with narcissism, there’s no room to be told you’re wrong.  I started to recognize that most of his behavior was rooted in needing to be verbally celebrated, needing approval from everyone around him.  My counselor also helped me understand co-dependency.  I always thought that term referred to relying on another person, but it means so much more.  Co-dependency can also mean relying on creating an image and maintaining it, through physical appearance, possessions, cars, clothes, etc.  This describes my ex perfectly.  Many of our arguments stemmed from me not following his mental picture of what his life should look like, either in how I dressed or acted.  I wasn’t fitting the mold of “cool trendy girl.”  I didn’t worship him and encourage others to tell him how great or interesting he was.  I stopped seeing my counselor for a while because she told me that narcissistic personalities rarely change, and she didn’t think he would.  I didn’t want to hear it and wanted to keep trying to fix my relationship. This was all earlier this year.

That might sound crazy, based on everything else he had done, but again, he was a master of emotional manipulation, and I have been raised to be a peace keeper.  I knew he had issues, but I also knew that his life had been difficult.  There are reasons for how he acts, and many of them aren’t his fault.  A difficult childhood is enough to give anyone baggage, and his was rougher than most.  Between his need for understanding and my identity as a peace keeper, I felt like I needed to stay with him and work things out.

 

-Adira