For me, putting myself first was unimaginable. My inner voice, in the shrill sounds of catholic school nuns, encouraged me to sacrifice. “True sacrifice equals love.” And if I loved my family as much as I say, I would sacrifice. I didn’t dare think my wants, needs or desires should come ahead or compete with those of my children or my spouse. My mother-in-law, the reigning queen of self sacrifice and martyrdom set an example that I was expected to follow. My needs became my husband’s needs and my children’s needs. If I happened to derive pleasure from their activities and need, that was a bonus, and many times I did. But to do something just for me, something for which no other person other than me would derive benefit – well that was heresy. Dare I even consider going to a Yoga class when dinner is scheduled? Pass on the invite to the niece’s birthday because I was tired from a grueling work and travel schedule? No way! What kind of selfish bitch would I be? What would people think? My identity was shaped on how good of a mom I was: Did I get everyone’s homework corrected so that we got A’s? Did I get each kid to each activity in time? Did I encourage them enough? Do I dare skip out on watching my kids’ ball practice because that is when the Vinyassa class is scheduled? Also, my spouse was a priority: Are we doing the activity he wants to do this weekend? Are his favorite foods on the menu this week? I push aside that I hate his mom’s meatloaf that I now obliging cook with a a smile on my face. To acknowledge that I don’t like what my spouse likes or not feel up to sitting at a ball practice makes me feel inferior. Not good enough. Like I will not get my “Mom of the Millennium” or “Spouse of the Century” merit badge. And, I am pretty sure these things exist. If you believe in heaven, I think all the moms are lined up in the order of best performer to worst performer and I wanted to be up near the front of the line. I didn’t just want a certificate of completion, I wanted an award.
I thought I was doing it all right. The sacrifice. The constant acquiescing to my husband’s desires. The endless accommodating of my mother in law’s whims. But there was a little voice, a whisper that was starting to whimper. It was me. It was me saying, “I am tired.” If i listened, the voice told me more of what I didn’t want to hear: my marriage was in trouble and no matter how many meat loafs I made or how many times I gave of myself to my husband, children or family, I still wouldn’t have the life I wanted. I wanted to fix it but didn’t know how.
It is ironic that the fix came from the destruction of the marriage, home, business, and family. My husband’s infidelity, years of random anonymous affairs with gay men from the internet is what broke my life and ironically fixed it.
My marriage was not the problem. My ability to manage and prioritize me and my needs in consideration others was my problem. I gave them the power to make me feel inferior and believed that the answer was to give more of me than I had. Sadly the lessons I have learned on how to be a good spouse, good mom, and business partner will never be skills I can use to repair my broken marriage. But now I feel more prepared to start the next chapter where I am responsible.