My ex wrote a list at the end of our marriage, a list of conditions for staying married to him. In order to stay married to him, I had to comply with “100 percent” of the list. When I told him I would, he contemptuously told me that wasn’t good enough. As I’m in a creative writing class, I thought I’d use the list as an entry into a collage or poem and do a little-or a lot-of healing work at the same time. Here is my preliminary attempt to get some ideas flowing and just begin-his list is in italics:
-cease negative talk and self-talk in front of the children
I was sitting with wide, six-year-old eyes, watching the Wizard of Oz. My dad blew in like a gust of cold air and changed the channel to a ballgame. My brother and I cried.
-cease punitive and vindictive behaviors
I don’t remember misbehaving, but I remember switches. I had to cut one and my dad would hit me with it. My stepdad punished me by making me pull down my pants and take a belt. My ex husband punished me with silence, and criticism, and put downs. No matter how hard I tried, I could not stop these punitive and vindictive behaviors. I tried crying, pleading, and every time, something in me broke. No, I could not have stopped these behaviors if I tried.
–find a way to cope with my intense emotions
Coping is an interesting thing. One copes to barely bear a burden, to get by, to appear strong. Coping is a psychic band-aid, a way to mitigate deeper pain, to avoid being passionate enough to touch and express one’s self. Coping with deep dysfunction sometimes draws out the blood cries, the angry wounds, the need for the protection of righteous anger.
–have the children vaccinated
Inoculation confers benefits of immunity without getting the disease. The diseased limbs marked projection, grandiosity, narcissistic injury…there is no inoculation for those except grace. Oh, I will have my children inoculated, yes I will.
–that I agree with his parenting 100% of the time
In family court, I was forced to agree with his parenting even though it was punitive towards me and obstructive. I paid thousands and lost child support to “agree with his parenting.” I have to pay to watch a grown man be put on court welfare, to avoid responsibility.
-he is in charge of the entire household: where furniture and pictures go, where my stuff goes and how it is handled, and he will consider my wishes and requests but ultimately he is in charge.
Patriarchy is defined as a system designed to honor only the wishes of the male, and males will use all kinds of violent means and emotional terrorism to enact their wishes. Ultimately, the man is in charge.
–that I make “I” statements 100% of the time, even when speaking of observable behaviors
“I” is null with a narcissist. Your “I”, that is. Your “I” does not exist. Anything you speak after the “I” will be held against you, ignored, or belittled. But I doesn’t matter and he knows it.
–that I tell him when my menstrual cycle is happening
As a woman, my menstrual cycle is happening all the time. It starts with day 1, the onset of my blood. It ends for me, at day 30, after having gone through a fertile peak and a more introspective, crabbier time where my needs for hugs are increased. I tell you now, I am always within my menstrual cycle.
–that I am never on the computer just before dinner time
Americans check their phones over an average of 100 times a day. Our phones demand of us our time, our attention, and provide us a way to tune out or anxiously scan. It is a form of self-medicating, demanding, addictive.
–that I trust everything he says, no matter if he has lied to me, I am simply to blindly trust what he says
What is the worth of what a woman says? What a woman thinks? Who a woman is? Is it to be a blind, senseless automaton with no regard for her own heart or feelings? Is she never allowed to voice dissent over a lie? No, I will trust everything she says, always.
–that I cease psychologizing
Psychology is a science, and science involves thinking. I have not ceased to think.
–change my Facebook status to “married”
For centuries, women have taken a man’s last name and had status imbued within them through their husband. It is the man who determines the woman’s status, her rights, her place. And throughout history, she has had to fight for her ability to define her own status.
–that my emails and Facebook are always open to him and that I give him my passwords
I was lying on the floor, crying like a child. I made myself completely defenseless and vulnerable. The password was there, you just didn’t use it.
–that I cease triangulating
A triangle is the most stable of all shapes. It is the most interesting because of all the angles one can take to arrive at a triangle…a million different triangles can happen in any given moment. Triangulating is a going around the triangle and is actually a circular motion, an establishment of something that wasn’t there before, a lie sent one way to set up the triangle. I could not stop this from happening to me when he brought his mother in to form the triangle.
–that I spend $500 a month on food for our family of 4
Control is starvation, is need, is constraint, is a slow way to choke out the life of something, to suffocate it, to starve it. Restrict nourishment, determine the constraints, and punish when the bar is not met, play keep away.