As I reflect on it more and more I have come to understand that I fell into an age old story. Girlfriend. Wife. Mother. Dependent spouse. A story of identity lost. Of supporting someone outwardly while internally telling myself that his career was more important. I had internally suppressed my own goals & desires while externally supporting my first husband in all of his career goals. This greatly contributed to the demise of my first marriage. We decided that it made more sense to focus on advancing his career since he was the primary breadwinner. He was more vocal about it. I was a silent accomplice in this. In doing so we plunged headfirst into a very dangerous game.
I recently identified a pattern in dysfunctional marriage. At least this was the pattern that came to play in mine.
- You get comfortable with each other. Too comfortable. Comfort is seductive. Comfort is a siren who wants to pull you into the abyss of the next phase…
- Complacency. Defined by Merriam-Webster as: satisfied with how things are and not wanting to change them. This is the pivot point if, and only if one person has enough awareness to start giving a shit about the direction of the relationship. If one person is able to identify this and start talking about it with engagement from the other person there is hope. The further you get into complacency the harder it is to get out of it.
- Once we have reached complacency we then arrive at assumption. We assume that 1) everything is fine, the water is calm & things are good; 2) that our partner feels the same; and 3) that our partner wants nothing more of us and vice versa. We all know what comes from assuming 🙂
- Expectations emerge and are left unmet. Un-communicated expectations are the new norm. Unmet expectations turn to disappointment which leads to…
- Resentment. The ultimate time bomb in a relationship. Once you start resenting your partner you are well on your way to permanent distancing.
My former husband has reached the pinnacle of his career and did so at a mere 34 years of age. Much earlier than many of his colleagues. My role in all of this? The most exhausting levels of emotional and mental support that I have ever given to someone. Every time he leveled up in his career it was the equivalent of him taking the bar exam. He did this 5 times over the course of our fourteen years together. They say that behind every good man is an even better woman. Sadly though this woman is invisible. I don’t want to quantify myself in this way. Instead I’ll give you another example.
Glenn Close is one of my favorite actors. I am in awe of her ability to drop a powerful one liner with the stillness of a mountain. In the movie The Wife (2017), whom she co-stars with Johnathan Pryce, she travels to Stockholm with her famous author husband where he receives the Nobel prize for literature. *Warning, plot spoiler ahead* Throughout the arc of the narrative we see the backstory of their relationship. The role she played in his journey to greatness. The sacrifices she made with her own writing so he could rise to fame & glory all the while she stayed home with the kids.
When interviewed by a reporter who had started digging into her early writings in college he makes a revealing discovery that could unravel her husband’s greatness. I’ll give you one guess at who the real author was. At one point in the interview he looks at her and says, “who are you?” She replies with a dead cold stare, “I, am a kingmaker.”
That was me. The kingmaker. The quiet one in the background holding it all together for another while falling apart on the inside of myself. I have since left that spot on the chessboard of my dysfunctional marriage. I am no longer a kingmaker. I am in the process of learning how to move my Queen to wherever she needs to be in the game of growth, connection, expansion, empowerment, & relationship.