Another Kind of Relational Loss

by Reflector

“Most people tend to notice other people’s energy and actions before they notice their own. They become preoccupied with what others are doing or not doing, projecting their ideas about why they are that way. They carry on with criticism or comparisons, while their deeper feelings go unattended.” – Doc Childr and Deborah Rozman

Sometimes I think I’m attending deeper feelings when I’m really focused upon my reactions to others. It’s easy for me to confuse the two things. Yesterday while I was filing for divorce, I was focused upon what my daughter’s mother might do once she receives the document.

Filing a divorce is one of the most anticlimactic events I’ve ever experienced, like amputating an arm or a leg. In the beginning phase of my separation I rode on a wave of anger and indignation that provided fuel. I looked forward to the day when I could break with the past and just move on. However, ending a relationship looks easier from a distance even when the marriage is harmful.

However, the final showdown doesn’t ring victory, since only you experience the scourge of a bad marriage and there’s no one to applaud your determination one way or the other. You plod along as an “unsung hero”. Your head fills with contradictory feelings that you can’t imagine. Even though your ex “partner” is messed up, you still feel compassion for her. It’s not the kind of compassion that says, “let’s get back together”, but it still fits in the category of compassion.

When you file divorce papers you feel empty and you wish you had some company, but you also know that dependency doesn’t make you any less lonely. Sometimes you need to take measures against a destructive relationship and take it to its logical conclusion even when you don’t feel the drive to do it. Yes, it may be easier when you have an external prop like a new love to distract you – at least as a temporary fix.

The obstacles ahead frighten me. My soon-to-be ex still has a way of psychologically making me feel responsible for what goes wrong (I know the problem is mine assigning more importance than she deserves). I fear she will find loop holes, postponing her job hunt or whatever. It’s her way of saying, “Well, if I can’t have my way (married to you), I’ll make life as difficult for you as I can.” It’s similar to the story of the two women who disputed before King Solomon. The mother who rolled onto her newborn (thus crushing him or her) wanted compensation at any cost – even if it meant stealing or cutting another baby in half. Some people feel a sense of entitlement that someone else has to pay the cost…

I think divorce has taken on a symbolic meaning to me beyond the need for closure.
It also has taken the added significance of laying down some long overdue boundaries – with the subtext that reads, “I’m assuming my responsibility. How about you? ” It may also mean I’m ready to take on more responsibility – other than financial – willing to take care of my dear daughter in the event that my daughter’s mother has to work longer hours.

Doc Childr and Deborah Rozman in their book, “Overcoming Emotional Chaos” explain how we spend much of our emotional energy carelessly and have never been taught emotional self-care. We don’t even know where to begin or how to start. How true this has been in my life. My way of dealing with prolonged emotionally draining situations has been to sit the valley of indecision, hoping the problem will work itself out (while making the problem only worse and more ingrained). I want to stay in limbo, not wanting to finish what I started. Perhaps this is because I have yet to learn how to mourn the loss of a relationship I never really had, involving a different kind of process than someone who faces a loss where love once thrived.

My therapist once said I needed to mourn my relationship with my soon-to-be ex even though it was painful and destructive. I didn’t understand what relevance there could be mourning for a bad marriage — why would I mourn for someone who never valued me for who I truly was? The therapist explained that there is another kind of loss that has to do with mourning for what could have been, but never unfolded. I learned that day that there is another kind of relational loss.

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6 Responses to Another Kind of Relational Loss

  1. PhoenixRising says:

    I can really relate to this:

    There is another kind of loss that has to do with mourning for what could have been, but never unfolded.

    This is what I had to mourn the most. It took me a lot longer to get over that than the actual the loss of relationship. And it made me sick to realize what real things I had given up for that illusion.

    Thanks again, for sharing your insights and thoughts, Reflector. It means a lot.

    Hope you are doing well and not only maintaining your boundaries and your center, but growing in strength in them every day.

    Blessings.

  2. Reflector says:

    Hi PhoenicRising,

    Thank you for taking time to explore your reality and then share it with me. I’m definitely growing in strength, but it’s not the glamorous strength that calls the attention of the crowds, like an Anthony Robbins. It’s a quiet strength that is tested and scrutinized each day. I don’t know what it would be like to have the feeling of having reached my full potential or whether such a state is only being deluded. I was watching a video the other day about how disassociation mimicks enlightenment. That is, how those who never question life seem to give the appearance that they have arrived. In this case, they have learned to numb their vulnerability to such a degree that they seem strong and successful, whereas we who working through crisis, depression and grief seem unstable in comparison, though grief is the essential channel toward true healing.

    I appreciate your thoughts because you take the necessary time to reflect upon what you comment on, rather than state what first comes to your head or heart. It does produce heartsickness when you wake up one day and realize what could have been if you had chosen a healthy partner. If only life could be likened to a rehearsal where we get to play the part over and over again, but in real life we only pass through it once and there are no playbacks. We cannot win back the years we lost or the looks we had, or the youthful vitality… however, even in all of these losses, I’m aware there is something redeeming going on and it’s our job as reflectors to uncover those gems…

  3. Reflector says:

    P.S. I have another journal entry to share and will get it to you asap…

  4. PhoenixRising says:

    Reflector, could you list the name of that video? I’d love to see it. I, too, have made that observation with some of the so-called teachers, but I never really thought of it that way. It’s true though…really makes sense.

    Yes, I find myself going to that place of wondering what life would have been like if I had chosen a healthy partner. I actually chose two unhealthy partners, but my second was the worst!

    Don’t mean to scare you! I didn’t have the access to the information that’s out there now – no where near! Hearing the stories of others, reading the books…but mostly hearing the stories of others has been a real life saver/changer.

    That’s part of the reason – a HUGE part of the reason, I write this blog and have invited others to post their stories on this blog.

    No, we can’t win back those years, the looks we had or the youthful vitality. But you know what Reflector? I can love much deeper and richer than ever before, and the relationships I do have are deeper and richer than I was ever capable of while having the life sucked out of me.

    Whatever I have left of me is more real than what I started out with in my younger years. And that is a gem…

  5. Reflector says:

    “No, we can’t win back those years, the looks we had or the youthful vitality. But you know what Reflector? I can love much deeper and richer than ever before, and the relationships I do have are deeper and richer than I was ever capable of while having the life sucked out of me.
    Whatever I have left of me is more real than what I started out with in my younger years. And that is a gem…”

    Hi Phoenix,

    Your last reply is indeed a gem in contemplation and assertiveness. It’s a gem few people ever consider.

    A friend recently recommended an article that relates to the subject at hand. Patricia Huntington in her writing, “Loneliness and innocence” makes the distinction between youthfulness of youth and youthfulness of spirit. While one is temporal, the other is an enduring quality of one’s attitude and comportment no matter what age…

    The idea in a nutshell:

    Huntington’s findings are derived from her investigation of Søren Kierkegaard’s philosophical writings. Since despair begins in the heart, then that is where the battle needs to be waged. When we are freed from the tyranny of looking externally in order to feel loved or fulfilled, then we can enjoy life with a grace and inner confidence that previously eluded us. Yet, it needs to be understood that these qualities are not given nor fixed, but fought after. She writes:

    “If I wish to win this battle, then I must face this vital spiritual truth: that we never ‘‘have’’ essential qualities beforehand, as if they are endowments of nature or developmental acquisitions that we can take for granted. All things essential – graciousness, youthfulness, radiance, truthful living – are dynamic possibilities that I must win in action in each new situation. They must be renewed and can never be taken for granted.” (Huntington, p. 429)

    — Reflector

    P.S. Here’s the link to the entire essay:
    http://sorenkierkegaard.nl/artikelen/Engels/208.%20Huntington_Loneliness_and_Innocence.pdf

  6. EyeOfTheStorm says:

    I like that article, Reflector, although I had to read pretty slowly to capture the main points!

    I especially like the description of the process of losing your childhood naivety and becoming aware that other people are watching. The battle between inner happiness and outward acceptance begins, and most of us struggle through that for years.

    I have often thought that my wife, my narcissist, reacts much like a pre-teen to most situations. I think most of us do at times, but let’s stick to the drastic case – the narcissist. This article explains some of that behavior. It’s as if she faced that inward-self/outward-appearance struggle, and decided that the outward appearance is all there is to reality. I don’t see an inward self in there.

    I’ll stop before I convince myself that I understand more than I really can! Thanks for the insights.

    – EyeOfTheStorm

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