How do I look at such a toxic and traumatic time through a lens of love, and why would I want to??
I was scrolling through TikTok last night, watching the many videos on trauma, toxic relationships, and narcissism that tend to be on my “for me” page, and I recognized myself in literally almost every post. I understand the trauma, I have lived in the toxicity, I have labeled my ex as a narcissist without any formal diagnosis. And, then, the really wonderfully terrible thought drifted through me – God made the narcissists too. Ugh.
What did this realization mean for me? Well, it made me sit in silence for quite a while, thinking about just that. So what? I know everyone is a child of God. Even the bad ones. Why was God speaking to me at that moment, while I was whispering “yes, girl, you deserve so much more” at my phone screen down the TikTok rabbit hole?
He was calling me to Him. He was asking me to be still. Isn’t that the hardest thing our Heavenly Father EVER does???? I have such a difficult time being still and listening.
I write about my experiences in a toxic relationship to help other women know they are not alone and possibly learn from my mistakes and from the hard lessons I lived through. As the wife of an alcoholic, I learned a great deal about alcoholism and navigating that difficult life. Sharing those years of the dark times has worth to others. I have been thinking a lot about this. The topics I have been inspired to write about have centered around this. Naturally, I have considered writing about abuse and narcissism, toxic relationships and the trauma it caused me and what I learned about myself from the experiences. But HOW do I do this? How I do this matters. It matters to me, because how I think about things affects how I approach and live my life and it matters because how YOU, the reader or listener, hears my message will affect how YOU internalize the information. It is so easy to jump on the victim bandwagon. How do I share those traumatic times without sharing through the eyes of a victim but sharing through the eyes of a victor?
When my ex went to rehab again, I don’t remember which time, the community actually knew what was going on – he had outed himself as an alcoholic so to speak. I had a choice at this point that had to be made. How do I talk about him, when acquaintances ask, in a way that my kids will be hurt the least? I was hurting, I was feeling victimized, I was angry. I had to sit in the awful stillness until I was able to see through the hurt. I loved this man, no matter what he had said or done because he was the father of my kids and because way back when I said “I do” to him and made him a promise of for better or for worse. So, I chose in that moment to look at him, look at our trauma as much as an emotionally traumatized woman could, through a lens of love. When people asked me about his drinking, about our separation, I answered with, “He is a good man who has a problem with alcohol.”
Now, don’t go throwing your hands up asking me why I was protecting this man. I did it for my kids. I did it for him – if his reputation in the community was going to be tanked, he would be responsible, not me. I am fully aware that every time I say something negative about my kids’ father, whether anyone else judges me for it or not, I judge myself. I do not live in his skin, I do not know the intimate struggle of alcoholism, and I know full well what he has lost. He has lost me, he has lost YEARS with his kids, and much, much more. I know what I went through in that toxic relationship is not something I would wish on my worst enemy – but I put myself there because I chose to stay in it for better or for worse, until I didn’t. I cannot blame him anymore. But oh my gosh I did. If TikTok had been a thing 5 years ago, I would be one of the women I was “yes, girl” commenting. Instead, my inner circle very gracefully handled my anger and my sorrow with me. But, staying there, in that mindset, keeps me in a victim mentality and I am not ok with that.
When I filed for divorce I knew it would be hard. More importantly I knew it would be hard for my kids, even though they were two teenagers and a twenty-something. I had seen my friends go through divorce and I had watched a couple of my friends in particular handle it with such amazing grace and I wanted to emulate them. I did my best to walk through the divorce with the same public front. But at home I was devastated. I went through waves and waves of emotion. I hated it. I just wanted to get to the other side without feeling any of it. But, what I tried to never forget was that my kids, our kids, love their dad. They recognized the need for the divorce and they honestly did not want us to stay together – they were good with it all. Our lives were much more calm and predictable. My ex-husband was going to have enough work to do in repairing his relationships with his kids, if he chose to do so, without me adding my two cents about how exactly I felt about every little thing he said or did. So, I did my best to shelter them from it. I did not always succeed and they did have to see me broken on more than one occasion but I did my best to be a good mom to them through it all. I firmly believe that no matter how old your kids are, they do not need to be privy to the ugliest parts of your marriage. There will be time for those talks on the other side of divorce, when everyone is healed and wisdom can be imparted, if it ever feels appropriate. As a woman who wants her kids to see her as a Christian, as a lover of Jesus, as someone who lives what she believes, how could I choose over and over again to destroy their dad instead of treat him as my God would wish me to? But, YES, I could very, very easily have been the woman who TOOK HIM DOWN so to speak. But, is that who I wanted to be? Nope.
Believe me, this attitude is often difficult to hold. I still struggle, and I fail, and I will never claim to have been good at it, but half the battle is knowing, right??
So, when God whispers to me that narcissists are His children, it is a call back to this. Back to Him. He wants me to write about my struggle, He wants me to help other women, He does not want me to play the victim, or to explain my toxic marriage and divorce in detail. He DOES want me to share what I learned through it all. He wants me to approach sharing my story as if I am sharing it with my kids – through a lens of love. And, although it would sometimes be easier to explain with examples – as an English teacher it is soooooo hard not to cite my source – God has called me to share the fruits more than the details of the trials and tribulations of toxicity. There have been SO MANY FRUITS. Truly. I have been blessed by the dark times in ways I would never give up. This is what is worth sharing.