I have been DVRing the current season of VH1’s Couples Therapy (quit judging me) after hearing that Whitney and Sara from The Real L Word would be one of the featured celebrity couples. I was sad to hear that The Real L Word would not be continuing on Showtime, but I’ll take seeing the pair on Vh1 over not seeing them at all. This season features Jon Gosselin and Liz Jannetta, Ghostface Killah and Kelsey Nykole, Taylor Armstrong and John Bluher, and Farrah Abraham all by her lonesome. But this isn’t about the couples. It’s about one question that was posed to the couples that struck a nerve with me.
In the second episode of this fourth season, the couples were asked to discuss their darkest moment(s) in their past or current relationships and reflect on how that relationship impacts them in the present day. One of the key points that the therapists tried to drive home was that the past does not dictate the future, and that the past must be dealt with in order to ensure a positive and happy future. The question got me thinking about the darkest moment I’ve had in a relationship. I was engaged to my middle school sweetheart, J, after tracking him down and writing him a letter that resulted in me taking a week-long vacation so we could reconnect and him leaving his life behind in one state to start over with me in another.
J stole my identity, racking up thousands in credit card debt after he learned to perfectly forge my signature. He once threw all my blankets and pillows out onto the damp lawn because he thought another man had been in the bed. He beat on me repeatedly, once blacking my eye so badly that I couldn’t leave the house. He was verbally abusive on top of the physical abuse, making me feel worthless. He kicked down doors when I tried to hide from him. He wasted all his money on car parts and alcohol, leaving me to pay rent and all the bills. He cheated on me, no doubt more times than I’m aware of. He isolated me. After I finally grew a pair and left him, he continued this streak with other women (financial, verbal, and physical abuse, landing himself in jail on various felony charges, and likely still getting in trouble to this day).
I’m not bitter about J whatsoever, and I no longer wish him a slow and painful death. I don’t wish him well either; he’s a blip in my past and I don’t care what happens to him. What I didn’t realize until watching that one episode was how that relationship still affects me to this day. I wrongly assumed that getting over the jumpiness around my husband and not wanting to throw things against the wall during arguments meant that I was over the pain of my time with J. I thought that getting to the point where I was past loving him, past hating him, and simply nothinged him meant that I was healed. Damn, was I wrong.
I drive my husband crazy with my financial worries. I stress about how much money I have left, what I have to pay, and I’ll extend that stress months out to things that haven’t even happened yet. I do this when not once in the six years we’ve been together have we ever been in a place where we’ve been in a financial crisis. I do it because of J. I never stopped to think that even though he’s not on my mind, the damage still lingers and is the reason I never relax when it comes to cash. It’s horribly unfair to my husband and our relationship and something I hope I can work on now that I’ve pinpointed the real problem.
The most important thing that I realized after thinking about that relationship question was that, if I’m being 100% honest with myself, I really only have one legitimate complaint about my current relationship with my husband. Minor annoyances (like his socks being left in random places) aside, the single thing I have an issue with that is a legit complaint is that my husband isn’t as emotional as I want him to be. That’s it. That one, tiny little thing, is the only real thing I have to complain about in my marriage. Imagine how stupid I feel as I write this, knowing that I married someone so close to perfect that it hurts, and knowing that 95% of the trouble we face is because I am still damaged deep down and I have yet to fully let it go.
As far as exactly how to let it all go, I have no idea. I think recognizing it is a fantastic first step though. Acknowledging that it exists, telling myself that it doesn’t have to exist, and finding a way to make it exist no more. Realizing that I’m in a safe place and don’t have to be on guard so much is a great feeling. Even though I feel foolish for allowing things buried in the past to still affect my present, I know I’m not alone and I know it’s a common problem people have whether they know it or not. I never thought that there were so many steps to let go of a past experience, but I’m thrilled to finally be able to take the last few.