My parents divorced when I was in kindergarten. I went from seeing my father every day to only getting to visit every other weekend. Even so, I still have some wonderful memories of our laughter-filled weekends together. My dad had to work long shifts at the factory to make ends meet, but he would be with his children as often as he could manage.
When I turned 8, my life drastically changed again: my father got remarried. He moved to another state with his new wife and her children. My father’s new family became his focus and I felt like I was fading out of the picture. Unfortunately, his new wife was hiding an alcohol problem and she would verbally abuse me when she thought he wasn’t looking. Pretty soon, my dad was so wrapped up in this situation that he stopped seeing me! From then on, it felt like he stopped learning who I was.
I could remember some nights I would wake up from having nightmares and I would run out into the living room to find my dad sleeping on the couch. I would wake him up and ask to lay by him and he would comfort me. After I was calmed down he would have to sneak me back to bed in fear of his wife being angry with him for spending time with me. I felt like he was hiding me and that feeling took a toll on my sense of self-worth.
It took a while, but the situation with his second wife deteriorated. She cussed me out in front of him and he realized she had been sneaking alcohol into the house behind his back. My dad concluded there wasn’t anything he could do to fix his wife. He moved on, found another wife and another family. Once again I felt myself fading even further into the background.
These feelings of rejection from my father led me to believe I wasn’t good enough to deserve a lifelong partner. I was able to feign confidence when I first met my husband, but I was deeply damaged by my relationship with my father and the subsequent experiences I had with men in response to that childhood hurt. These insecurities caused me to be jealous and fearful that he would leave me too. I aimed for perfection and when I would fail at being perfect I would either lash out at him or retreat into myself.
As things got more serious between my soon-to-be husband and I, I became more vulnerable and afraid. He learned to talk me through my fears about rejection, letting me unload everything I had been carrying for so many years. He built me up when I fell into my lowest points by reminding me I am not damaged goods. He has been my support system. By helping me let go of past hurts, my husband helped me to forgive my father.
Even as a happily married adult, it still hurts my father grew more distant with each of his remarriages. My relationship with my father still isn’t perfect, but it has gotten closer since I got married and had children. My husband has to remind me my dad may be self-focused, but that doesn’t mean something is wrong with me.
My husband has helped me to love myself again by loving me just as I am. I know he sees me for who I am. I never fade into the background. These experiences with my husband helped make my marriage for what it is. My relationship with my husband took me from heartache to healing and for that I am forever grateful.
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