Tuesday, 6 September 2011
Lovefraud: Lessons From The Men I've Loved
It was the morning after the evening I discovered the email trail that led me to understanding my husband’s deceit and betrayals, and it broke my heart to see my son break down with the shock of the news. Never again do I want to witness so much pain and anguish on the face of someone I love with all my heart and all my soul.
That morning I knew I was going to break his heart – but I had to tell him the truth. He was thirteen years old at the time, and we sat down together at the table outside my kitchen. I had made him some toast for breakfast, and waited until he’d finished before bracing myself for the inevitable. It took every ounce of strength to hold myself together and tell him that my ex was not the person we had both believed him to be, and that he would not be coming home ever again. I explained that my son had played no part in my ex’s bad behaviour, that we had all been duped, and that there was nothing to feel guilty about. I reassured him that we would come through this together, that we had plenty of people who love us, and that although it would be tough, I would be there for him every step of the way.
His little face crumpled in front of my eyes, and I remembered my own pain when my mother had to tell me that my daddy had died. It was heartbreaking, and I would have done everything within my power to take the hurt away – but of course I couldn’t. So I let him cry, and I held him tight. I gave him the headlines about the information I had discovered and why, therefore, I would never let that man back in to our lives. I told that when people do bad things, it’s not our fault, but it is our choice and responsibility to bolt the door and never let them hurt us again. I also invited him to ask me any questions about what I was telling him – at the same time letting him know he didn’t have to ask anything if he didn’t want to. It came as no surprise that he wanted to know everything, so I listened to his probing questions. How had I found out? How long had it been going on? What would it mean to us? How were we going to live? I didn’t have answers to everything, telling him quite honestly whenever that was the case.
Anger Can Be Healthy
After what seemed like hours (it was probably only a few minutes) his sobbing stopped and he sat up straight.“I’m angry now” he announced “I want to smash something – something of his”
I offered clothes to cut up or burn, but he was insistent that smashing was what he wanted to achieve. So we went up to my bedroom with an empty bucket and collected all his bottles of aftershave. There were tons, and we filled the bucket. We then marched down to the bottom of the garden and in to the field, where there was a huge stone wall. Putting the bucket by our feet, I encouraged my son to use all the force of his anger and throw the bottles against the wall – I also advised him to shout and scream, and gave him permission to use whatever swear words he wanted as well. He took the first bottle, and hurled it at the wall. It smashed in to tiny pieces and the air filled with the smell of perfume. He shouted and jumped, kicking his feet and punching his fists in the air, his face purple with anger. And I decided to join him. Asking if I could help, we then spent the next few minutes shouting, screaming, swearing and smashing glass bottles against the wall. Boy it felt good!
After the last bottle had been thrown, we stood there in silence, holding on to each other in an emotional embrace.
“I’m so proud of you” I said “And I promise I will never let anyone hurt you like this again. I am so sorry”
“You have nothing to be sorry about, Mum” he replied, squeezing me tighter “It’s not your fault. You didn’t know”
The tears slid down my cheeks and the sobs returned. I had no idea what the future held, what we were going to do or how on earth we were going to get through this. But I knew I would do everything within my power to keep my son safe, to stick by him and to love him even more than I ever had before.
“Anyway” I said, smiling through my tears “At least the village is going to smell pretty good for the next few hours!” He smiled back and we walked arm in arm back towards the house together, united in our misery and determination to pull through.
As I said, that was two and a half years ago. I cannot say that I have been able to protect my son from every hurt since then. Neither can I say that I have been a perfect mother to him. There are times when I expect too much of him and other times when I don’t give him enough leeway to find things out for himself. But I can say that we have both nurtured the bond that was created that morning. Our friendship has grown and, while I have been the adult through all this, I know that if it hadn’t have been for my son, I may well not have made it. So, thank you Dylan for being my son and for growing in to the most amazing human being I know. I love you with all my heart and soul, and am proud to be your mum. Happy Birthday.
I have learned so much from my son since the day he was born – and I continue to learn from him as he gets older. A few months ago I was considering this subject on one of my blog posts, so I thought I’d adapt it and continue this article by explaining some of the lessons I’ve learned from the men I’ve loved.
Blog Post From November 2010
Well here it is – and here I am. More learns, more growth, more emotions and more questions – some helpful, others less so. Some warming, others painful. All, nonetheless, useful lessons resulting in unquestionable personal growth. So, in the shower a couple of days ago, I decided to think about all the lessons I’ve learned from the men I’ve loved – whether as friends, family or lovers – because I’m realising that some of my deepest learns have resulted from some sort of relationship with the opposite sex.
Let’s start with the earliest male influence in my life – that of my father. Whenever I was around my Daddy I felt totally loved and adored. And I, in turn loved him back completely and utterly. He always told me that anything is possible, and through him I believed in magic. After all, wasn’t he the person who could build a plane out of bits of wood, paper, glue and paint, and make it fly… with a real engine? He taught me how to play and how to fight as well “you must always know how to stand up for yourself” he’d say to me. He was also the only person who could cure the excruciating night cramps in my legs. We would walk together, laugh together and sometimes cry together – and I knew he’d always be my world. So when he died so suddenly when I was just four years old I learned some profound lessons. Some of which have been helpful, others not so – all of which have certainly had an influence on the way my life has unfolded since then.
The helpful lessons include these specific ones I still hold dear, which are that anything is possible, there is such a thing as magic, and that dreams really do come true. These remain some of my guiding values and, rightly or wrongly, have keep me going through many of the darkest periods of my life.
I’m Not Good Enough
One of the not so helpful and equally influential lessons – a subconscious one I’m still unraveling – was the belief that I wasn’t good enough for him. That quite clearly he didn’t love me enough, because if he did, well then surely he would never have left me? I learned what it means to feel abandoned, afraid and alone; and as a consequence I learned to keep my distance from anyone who might start to mean too much to me. I also learned to keep myself locked away so that I could never be hurt like that again.
My less than positive lessons were compounded twelve years later by the treatment received from my guardian. It was while I was under his roof that I learned it was safer to please than to speak out – better to fit in, to be a good girl, to do everything I possibly could to make my guardians’ lives easier and make myself invisible. I believed that if I could do that successfully, then perhaps I would be able to maintain the unstable home he and his wife were providing for both me and my little sister after the death of our mother. I’d seen the way he treated his wife. I’d witnessed his cold attitude towards his small children, together with the endless jibes and gossip about his friends and family behind their backs. I understood the threatening uncertainty of our predicament and knew I had to keep both of us safe and away from his radar.
But in the end my best wasn’t good enough and I couldn’t save the situation. I couldn’t win his heart and we were both thrown out despite my best efforts to placate. And so another lesson was driven home – that once again I hadn’t been ‘good enough’. This time, though, I’d not only let myself down, I’d let my little sister down as well because I’d failed to keep her safe. And on top of that I must surely be a very bad person to deserve this treatment. Again, a deeply engrained lesson that I now believe has been behind some of my less than healthy life choices since then.
Fending for myself at a relatively early age made me toughen up in a way that many of my female friends had yet to discover. So rather than having close girlfriends, I tended to have a collection of close male friends. I found them straightforward, straight talking, and fun to be with. I found I could be myself with them, and felt chuffed when they called me ‘an honorary bloke’. I learned a great deal about their approach to life, and being in their company strengthened the male side in me – something, I’m sure, that has encouraged me to be so driven in business. So determined to carve my own path and make a name for myself. These, I believe, were all good lessons. Perhaps, though, there was a fall-out as well. Perhaps I neglected my feminine side as a result. The instinctive, nurturing side of my nature that could have kept my emotions more open.
Oh, sure I could be nurturing to others – but not to myself. You see, I’d learned from the men in my life to stay strong – an approach that served me well at the time. If I hadn’t been strong during my teens and twenties, then surely I would have broken down in to tiny pieces. So I learned how to become driven and focused. To believe that I was invincible so that I could deal with any situation. I would be the first to stand up against any injustice that had been suffered by another. I would put my neck on the line time and time again for those I believed had been wronged or misjudged. Because I knew I was strong enough to handle anything – look at what I’d already survived? On top of that, for much of my life I believed that I had a point to prove – that if I kept myself together and could prove that I was a good and worthwhile girl, well then perhaps, just perhaps, maybe one day I would no longer be a bad person and might be loved for just being me.
The change happened with the birth of my son when I was 30 years old. All of a sudden I started to consider that perhaps I was already good enough – in fact, perhaps I always had been. Through him I learned the meaning of unconditional love. I was enchanted and intoxicated by the exquisite and often overwhelming feelings of gratitude and love I felt for this small defenseless person who utterly depended on me – and who absolutely trusted me to provide whatever he needed. And through my love for him, I finally realized for sure that my father would never have left me on purpose. I also began to understand that I had been holding on to a series of unhelpful subconscious beliefs that had shaped my life in to some less than positive twists and turns. So I embarked on my quest to consciously re-shape my life – a journey that is still continuing. I became a dedicated student of self-development and self-discovery in a bid to help me unravel the harmful lessons I’d absorbed through my earlier life.
Paradoxically, I was the strongest I’d ever been – emotionally, spiritually and physically – when I met the sociopath nearly three years later. At the top of my personal game, it never occurred to me that he was anything other than who he professed to be. Through my relationship with him I learned about commitment, contentment and the fulfillment of my life’s dream – to be accepted and adored for who I was.
Despite the fact that since then I’ve discovered the grisly truth about him, those experiences are still mine to keep. Despite the fact that my feelings were never reciprocated, it doesn’t matter a jot. I’m proud and grateful for those feelings. Because I felt them myself… honestly, willingly and with all of me. And I loved those feelings. And through what’s happened since I discovered the truth, I have learned for certain that I am a good person. That I am enough. Because even though I could have crumbled as a result of his betrayals, instead I’ve been able to draw on my strength and positive determination and I’ve pulled myself and Dylan through a time that can only be described as a living hell. On top of that I’ve grown further in the process – and am continuing to grow on a daily basis! So, as I’ve said before, I’m thankful for the deeply cleansing qualities of the whole ten-plus years the sociopath was an influence on my experiences. How on earth could I choose to feel anything else but gratitude?
Now For Something Else
And now… now… I have a sneaking feeling I may have found a new teacher to take over from all the male influences in my life. Someone who has been there all the time, but who has been waiting in the wings. Or, put another way, perhaps someone who I’d refused to acknowledge. This person, though, is someone who will never leave me – someone who has never left me. Someone who cannot let me down, and who understands me completely. Someone who is absolutely with me, on my side, and will do everything within their power to make sure I live my life to the full, and fulfill or exceed all of my dreams.
So who is this person? Well, it may come as no surprise to learn that this person is me. Yes, little old me – Mel Carnegie. Here it is, and here I am. And I’m now very happy to announce to anyone who cares to listen, that I’m in once again in a committed and deeply loving relationship. But this time, it’s with myself. And right now, that’s the most important relationship in the world.
Thank you for reading and I hope this has been helpful.
With love and blessings to all.