Being alone at the small house on the river became easier. It was quiet there. I was quiet there. The pull to be with others loosened. The pull to be with the worry and drama of my own thoughts, also loosened. One day, while writing in my journal about Ron’s struggles, I began to wonder about what hidden wounds I possessed that bled into my daily actions and reactions. I knew they were there, but focus on Ron’s issues provided a convenient excuse to ignore them.
I reflected on my search for inner peace over the past few years. Bits and pieces swirled in an eddy of confusion. My brain understood the call for compassion, but my heart still felt anger. My heart also felt love, but my brain pierced it with doubt. One night, I woke in the heat of anger from a nightmare about Ron cheating on me. But he wasn’t the one that had committed the act in real life. He was the wrong target for my fury. I thought about past nightmares and recalled one about being frozen in place while Ron yelled at me. My resulting fight for control had also been aimed at him, but again – wrong target. Growing awareness sent me deeper into shadows from my past. Threatening eyes peered out at me.
Yes, Ron had cheated on me with alcohol as his mistress. Yes, his abuse of alcohol had exerted control over many parts of my life. But it was not that simple. His love and fidelity were major reasons I had stayed through difficult times. His gentle nature had been a key attraction when we met – he never yelled! I began to wonder, had my strong attraction to him been due to the positive characteristics I saw? Or did the alcohol fulfill the needs of a damaged ego to be controlled and cheated on? Or was it both?
The answer to that question was not as important as the door it opened. The turmoil inside me didn’t go away, but the writing in my journal turned in a different direction. What part had I played in our family’s difficulties? Ron had obviously brought alcohol on board, but what had I loaded onto the rocky vessel? My anger for sure, my stubborn nature, my need to feel in control. But we had both also brought love for each other and our children, persistence, and the ‘glass half full’ view of the world. I started exploring reasons to stay together, instead of just reasons to part.
Before I could accept Ron the way he was, I needed to accept and own human frailties. I needed to aim my intense love at the one person I could change, and who seemed most in need of it – me. I also needed to determine what I wanted – not just from Ron, but for my life. I possessed control over my own actions and responses, but could I give up the need for a sense of control over things outside of myself? Could I instead work on understanding why I responded with anger or fear? I wanted to feel free to express myself, even when it conflicted with others. Could I find the key to unlock my true voice? And perhaps the biggest challenge of all: trusting Ron enough to let go of my fierce need for independence. But what would that mean – dependence? This one sent a shiver of fear down my spine.
Days passed, and I realized I would never be able to allow myself to be dependent on another. But independence wasn’t working either. Then it came to me, like sunlight breaking through a leafy canopy overhead. There was a third choice: interdependence – two people giving and taking, interacting with and for each other, mutual dependence between two people, not just one person’s dependence on another. I wasn’t sure I could do it, trust Ron enough to let my guard down, or allow him to trust me enough to lower his. But interdependence might offer a full spectrum of possibilities, along with the flexibility to change from one moment to the next. Life is full of changes. Was I ready to move beyond the shadows of the woods?
We did reunite. Ron went back to the Vet Center for a while. Today he continues to drink, but less. When drinking increases I express my concern out loud, without anger – usually – and he cuts back. I accept that this battle will never end, but we can work to maintain boundaries we can both tolerate. I also accept that I value his kind heart, his ability to make me laugh, his fidelity, and his unyielding love and acceptance more than complete sobriety. The pain that leads him to drink does not have to spill into my heart. I cannot mend it, but I can have compassion for his plight without making it mine. I can offer support without anger or fear of being controlled. It is not a fairy tale marriage, not a choice some would make. But it is the story of our marriage, moving in the general direction of ‘happily ever after’.
The End (but possibilities always continue!)