19. Putting it out there.
For a really long time I let someone treat me badly. I let their demons, and later their guilt, abuse me. I thought that I was strong enough, I thought they recognised that vulnerability is a generous and a tough thing to do. And it was. Sometimes I think it was also stupid.
I wanted him to do and to find what he needed. I knew he would be selfish. I had faith that he was a good person and hoped he would find the strength to face up to… everything. I respected myself, or rather, I respected my need to be open, to put him first for a while. In return I asked for his honesty.
During that time I worked hard to understand what was going on. Sometimes pictures, metaphorical narratives helped.
Our story was of a man apparently on the shore, a woman adrift being battered by a series of storms. We came together less and less often. One day at last I saw I had found a route to that shore. But it was too late. I had thought he was the solid grounded one, maybe he was, but it seems I had become the stronger swimmer. The storms and my absence had left him lonely, confused and unsure of his own value. He had been treading water. We were both adrift now. My hope was we could help each other to shore, my gut told me it would be me helping him. I had faith that we would both get to that beach.
I was aware that we might decide to go our own ways once we reached safety. That was OK, the thing I wanted above all else was for us to help one another to get there.
At one stage he seemed to be consumed by guilt, ashamed. Broken he blamed me repeatedly. Both intensely proud and private we concealed our struggle from friends and family.
Continuing the metaphor, he thrashed around out of control, pushing me under again and again. A boat came along (it had been before, my gut had been right then too but I hadn’t wanted to believe it of him). I told him to leave, he did. He was angry. He came back. He couldn’t see straight and so I let him stay and I tried to support him. He didn’t understand that I knew about her and he didn’t hear me tell him. I saw that shame is a cruel punishment for any good man. He struggled and he hurt me, a lot. Compassion is an extraordinary thing too. But his abuse continued and so I asked him to leave again, he didn’t, so I asked him for honesty.
The boat returned and he climbed aboard, abandoning every tie he didn’t look back.
Eventually his personal demons were set aside, unresolved. He was able to move forwards. Without courage, he hadn’t been able to conjure up trust or respect in himself or in me. Over time and after several brief, intense and failed relationships he is well, happy too. He has buried his demons.
Me, I am still swimming, scarred but swimming.
I did not receive honesty or apology. That would have taken courage.