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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

I awoke this morning from a very insightful dream.  In this dream I was once again married and being ignored by my husband. As in life, he was very self-absorbed. However, in my dream he had asked me if I “minded” something. I started to answer with a truly co-dependent response, “only about what it might do to you.” I caught myself mid-sentence in this scene and instead had the courage to tell him what I really thought without holding back so he “wouldn’t get upset.”  Of course, in this dream scene as I was talking my husband stomped off totally ignoring my answer to his question. In the dream I got angry enough to follow him around as he tried to evade me and  forcibly communicated my feelings and thoughts. Not surprisingly, they poured out of me——a veritable flood of emotions centered on abandonment issues and my anger and hurt over always be ignored.

You see, my life used to be like that. And this dream showed me, after all these years, the part I played in contributing to the sad state of affairs our marriage was in. I grew up in a family that taught me at an early age not to communicate feelings and to expect those around me to intuitively know what I wanted without me having to tell them because it was wrong to “want anything for yourself.”  This was the perfect upbringing to create a nurse who married a Viet Nam veteran with PTSD, depression, and a vast array of other “take care of me” issues.  I thought I was careful to avoid the role of care taker, but indirectly, and some times directly, I did so any way. I bought property in the middle of of the woods—-a cottage that was secluded and would feel more safe to him than a home in town would.

I started a pattern of living my life centered around meeting his emotional needs and neglecting my own. I got to the place where I wasn’t even able to acknowledge what I was feeling—-denial worked. I learned early into our marriage that I had to walk on egg shells and that the slightest comment or action that insinuated challenging what he said or wanted could trigger his anger. I was very afraid of his temper although he never struck me.

I am ashamed it has taken almost a decade for me to realize, thanks to this dream, that in never telling him what I was feeling or what I wanted I was setting myself up to be a doormat.  I did tell him sometimes, and fights usually resulted.  My childhood taught behavior of silent martyrdom was further reinforced. I have to take responsibility for contributing to and maintaining the dysfunctional communication patterns in our marriage.  Before this morning, I tended to blame him for all the problems we had, but now I can see I set the stage for what happened, and then I played my part well.

Where was God in all this? Definitely not at the center of my heart and being as He currently is but, instead, more on the “fringes of my soul” where I went to pray  automatically and superficially most of the time. At times, I viewed God as just another male authority figure that intimidated me. I am very grateful that as my life has unfolded I have discoverd that perception of God was totally wrong.

God is now with me every moment. God is a part of my being so interwoven into my essence that all I have to do is think the word “consent” and I know his love is engulfing me, guiding me, and is always there to help  me handle life’s challenges.

Those who knew me then and now know I am now much more assertive about saying what I think, feel, and need—–sometimes abrasively so (I’m working on my sarcasm). They also know the part my faith plays in my life now because I write, talk, and hopefully act in a way that reflects that.

So, the lesson I learned from this dream is no one can know what I’m feeling, needing, or wanting unless I tell them. God can, of course, but my fellow human beings cannot. If I want my relationships with other humans to be healthy, then I need to communicate my feelings and thoughts directly—-implying them or communicating them non-verbally with my facial expressions or tone of voice is not an effective means of communication.  Putting the needs of others first over my own is also a threat to building and maintaining  healthy relationships. When Jesus told us to love one another as we love ourselves I believe he was also telling us that we need to love ourselves. There is a lot of wisdom in the recovery slogan “to thy own self be true.” God bless and keep you.

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