What is Acceptable?

Tonight I was coming home from seeing a movie with a friend. I had a question that had been gnawing at me all day: is this acceptable behavior, or not?

In the past, I would’ve brushed it under the rug, let it go, or, my favorite trick, thrown it back in his face at a later time. Resentment, bitterness, and denial are very good friends.

But now, I know better. I can set limits and boundaries. I can think about what I need and ask for that. I get to decide who occupies the front row of my life.

Last night estranged husband and I got into a texting conversation. We don’t do this very often because it doesn’t often turn out well, and I have, for my own sanity, cut off most communication with him. Nine months out and the only one who seems to be getting better is me. Not that his program is any of my business. But I’ve been told, “you’ll know when he’s recovered. Things will be different.” And I can say with certainty, things are not different. But oh, how I wish they were!

So last night we are texting. I say I wish things are different. He responds. And so forth. He brags about his sobriety, even though I smelled alcohol on him last week. My sponsor has advised me to just say nothing, so that is what I did. (and friends, you know this is not easy)

But then he texted me that I’ve been so cold, and that I am breaking his heart.

What? Me?

So I responded that things have been difficult, and that as much as I want to, I don’t believe that he’s sober, and until he is, I can’t be close to him.

I didn’t accuse.

I didn’t judge.

But I was honest.

His response? “Well fuck off then.”

Ummm, ok. Thanks. I’ll get up with your children at the crack of dawn, shepard them to and from school, give you a zillion chances, and when I am honest about what I believe, you tell me to fuck off?

I was at first hurt. Then I thought, well, he’s angry, everyone talks like that sometimes, don’t they? My parents certainly do. And now here I am, accepting the same behavior.

And then I thought, he’s getting defensive, and I will not allow his anger to distract me. This is why you’re supposed to keep your mouth shut, and not nag. It’s an ugly hamster wheel that I’ve been trying to jump off of.

Next it occurred to me that I don’t want to be talked to like that, and it’s my job to let others now what is/is not acceptable.

After all of his lies, deceptions, betrayals, and near-abandonment, I have never said anything like that to him. I’ve wanted to, and I’ve thought it, but I’ve been kind, or at times indifferent, and I’ve been honest.

I don’t want someone like this–him–in my front row.

And it took a friend telling me that for her, that wouldn’t be ok, for me to realize this.

I don’t trust myself anymore, and part of recovering, for me, is to check in with sane, normal, healthy friends on what sane, normal, healthy communication is. And is not.

Because honestly? I don’t know anymore.

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9 thoughts on “What is Acceptable?

  1. “Ummm, ok. Thanks. I’ll get up with your children at the crack of dawn, shepard them to and from school, give you a zillion chances, and when I am honest about what I believe, you tell me to fuck off?” — this line is SO telling. Good for you, and you are right that talking to you this way is not acceptable. Hang in there. I sense such a quiet strength from you. I know things are hard, but you’re going to get through it. I’m cheering you on big time!

  2. You already know the answer to whether or not this behavior is acceptable. You are just like me… You’ve spent a lifetime being a victim of that behavior. I know exactly what it feels like when he talks that way. It can be directed at you or anyone else and our response is the same…our whole body tenses up and we cringe inside. We KNOW that we want nothing to do with that language or that old life that we once lived. So why is that we still somewhere deep inside hope that maybe…. Just maybe… He will wake up to OUR reality… That WE are valuable…that WE deserve kindness, respect and love….Cuz’ we KNOW we deserve a better life….my divorce will be final in three weeks….. And somewhere inside, I’m still hoping he will figure it all out too. But alcohol still fogs his vision…..it always will.

      • Okay, I take back everything I said about your confrontation with the ex… My divorce from the alcoholic, narcissistic emotional abuser was final on June 7th. I left last July 16th after over 33 years of marriage, the last 8 or so thar we’re completely unbearable… On July. 4th, he texted me and asked if I wanted him to come over and help in my yard with some projects that I’m working on…. I flat out told him no, told him my projects were finished and I was already on the road to spend the day with family….. When I arrived home, he had taken apart my gate which was padlocked! Let himself in… Worked on my rock wall, made it his way, not mine, put back my gate and left. I’m SO ANGRY…. How dare he go thru a locked gate and enter my safe zone! Now I ask you… Isn’t that crossing my boundaries? I wanted to be as civil as possible for the sake of our children and grandchildren, but he still doesn’t understand that he doesn’t control my world anymore!

      • Yikes. I’m sorry he was a boundary crasher.
        Sometimes I have to give my preschooler multiple time outs before he gets it and stops the trouble behavior. Addicts might need the same. Good luck.

    • Thanks. I’m involved in ala-non but I don’t find anyone who is going through this now, or even recently. I’ll keep trying, I guess.

  3. Pingback: Dirty Sheets | Broken American Dream Diaries

  4. I like rereading this post, it reminds me to recognize behavior that I am no longer willing to accept. It’s easy to fall back into old, unhealthy habits. Thank you writerlyone.

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