FIRST, Let me say that I am not an expert, licensed or a professional Marriage Counselor. What I post is what I and my partner Suzanne Meehle, LLC learned from our previous marriages. As friends we often talked about life and what we’ve learned, then we turned on a recorder when we talked. This blog is a result of those recordings.
TAKE YOUR POWER BACK!
I read a post on Facebook the other day and before I could get a chance to answer, it was blocked from responding. I wanted very badly to help this person so this idea came about.
I won’t say if it was a man or woman who posted but I may put the pronoun “she” in this post because I will be answering it from my own experience.
The Facebook post was about their partner constantly insulting them, berating them and consistently making them feel hurt and less than. It had been happening for a long time and they were tired of it but at a loss as to what to do short of divorcing them.
First, let’s play a game.
You are sitting around a large table with 5 people sitting at the table with you.
In front of everyone is an empty glass and in the center of the table are a myriad of bottles and mixers. It’s a very thirsty group.
You have an empty glass as well but at arms distance in front of you is a block of ice, and an ice pick.
You reach out and grab the pick and jab it into the ice block. As the pick hits the ice, a piece of the block falls off. As you reach for it, the person to your left picks it up first and puts it in their glass. As you turn to face them, they shrug and begin mixing a drink.
Once again, you jab the ice block and the second person to your left and raises up to grab the next piece. When you stare at them and say “hey”, they don’t even look at you.
A bit disgusted at their assumption that the piece was theirs, you look around the table but everyone is examining the liquor and ignoring you.
The next jab into the ice fits your growing mood. As that piece of ice falls away from the block, the person at the far end of the table jumps up and runs to your seat and grabs the ice just before you. Laughing, they run back to their seat, giggling as everyone laughs and clinks glasses.
Now your anger is beginning to show.
Standing up, you glare at everyone but again, they ignore you. The seated person on your far right reaches to grab the pick but you’re so surprised, you pull away and the pick finds a new place to stick. They quickly grab the ice chip, placing it in their glass. You grip the pick tightly and watch them sit down while everyone applauds their quickness.
The person sitting on your right turns to you grabs the last piece of ice and says, “You just haven’t been quick enough”, and laughs!
Your anger is palpable and as much as you try to fight it, a tear falls down your cheek.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, YOU HAVE GIVEN AWAY ALL YOUR PIECES!
As in my first marriage, I gave all my pieces away. I sat with the ice in front of me and let everyone around me take away the pieces, but specifically my partner. Notice I said “I let” or “I allowed”? What happened to me was TOTALLY AND UNEQUIVICABLY MY FAULT! OMG, it’s my fault? What the hell do you mean “it’s my fault?”
Here goes, and don’t panic, it is fixable (with a lot of pain and confusion on your partner’s part because for the last umpteen years, (you’ve been putting up with this kind of treatment), giving them your pieces.
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You teach people how to treat you!”
Well, if, the very first time someone took your ice, and you didn’t express a dislike that they did it, you gave them permission to take it.
If the first time someone called you a name or told you that you were stupid or dumb or unable to understand and you let them walk away without calling them on it, you gave them permission to say those things to you again, and again, and again.
If the first time someone questioned your intelligence or described what you do or did as wrong or not good enough, you gave them permission to treat you that way, now, the next time and for the rest of your life.
Because you didn’t say something to the first person who took your ice, “you don’t get to take the ice I chipped off the cube, I chipped it, not you!” You taught everyone at the table that it was okay to take what was yours. It was all your fault!
Now, there are several ways you could have handled the ice issue.
- You could have told everyone at the table that you had the ice pick and would be chipping off a piece for yourself.
- You could have stopped at the first person and instead of letting them get away with taking the ice you had chipped away for you; you could have told the group that it was to take their turn chipping their own ice.
- You could have offered to chip the ice off for them all and when the next chip was for them.
- You could have told the group that you didn’t like anyone touching your ice so you would take the first shot, then it was up to them on how they got their own ice.
The most important thing you should do the first time someone does something to you or says something to you that you don’t like or is hurtful, is to speak up. It is your right to speak up, it is within your power. It is important to speak up and tell someone that you don’t like what they did or said. You can get angry all you want but until you actually tell them that you are unhappy with their actions, they will continue to do those things without any consequences.
I know you’ve heard this before: “You are the power; You have the power! Take it all back!”
That’s what they mean. You have the power to voice your concerns and dislikes. Every time you let someone do or say something painful to you and don’t say anything, you have given away a piece of you. And that person will keep “chipping away” at your power. Open your mouth and voice your choices to accept or not accept an action. Only you can stop the chipping or loss by taking it all back because they certainly aren’t going to give it back. Would you give away the power that was given to you freely?
When you do this, you will be in for a fight! The person or persons that you gave the ice to will fight your taking it back because they’ve had it all this time and why are you suddenly telling them that they can no longer take, do or say what they want?
This war is yours and yours alone to fight and there will be days when you just want to give in and let them take it all away. And that will leave you with a shell.
But, if you are tired of being the whipping post, the one who always loses or gets hurt. If you have reached the end of the rope, fight back by taking back your power. Meet the wall that will be thrown up around you and chip away at it, little by little, piece of ice by piece of ice. Create a glass big enough to hold all the ice you gave away and are collecting. Make the glass transparent so that people around you can see you gathering and will tread softly because you are not letting anyone take pieces of you away again.
I had the fight of my life, gathering me back. I spent many painful days and months being brave and demanding the return of my pieces. At first, there was a great pushback, arguments and fights that brought me to tears and often put me in a fetal position but I prevailed. I kept on fighting until I had gathered “me” back and let everyone know that I was back and they could not longer take pieces, nor would I give away any more pieces.
Let me tell you about that moment when I knew I was free.
In the middle of my divorce, I went to see a psychologist, recommended by our former marriage counselor. I went to her for 6 weeks. I know, you probably think that 6 weeks is way too short but this was a very wise psychologist. The 4th week in, she recommended a book for me to read, “The Dance of Anger” by Harriet Lerner, Ph.D. This book opened my eyes and my head. It is now an old-fashioned book, some 40 years later, but still holds the best information on how to take back your power. I have recommended it to quite a few women and those who have read it, feel as I do.
Anyway, in the midst of my soon to be ex haranguing me constantly about how I didn’t deserve anything because he brought in all the money and I was a poor mother and wife and probably having an affair, otherwise why would I leave him, (I was not having an affair by the way), and he couldn’t afford to give me any money anyway. I went to see this Psychologist.
I truly enjoyed our sessions, tough though they were, and when she gave me the book, I took it home to my little apartment and read it as soon as I could. Once I began the book, to be honest, at first it was a little slow but I kept on reading because there was something I was supposed to get. And get it I did. I cried, I laughed, I shouted and scared the crap out of my daughter who was living with me. Mostly, I learned! And I learned and I took it all in. 6 weeks into therapy, my Psychologist asked me if I had read the book and if so, what did I get out of it? I talked for the whole hour and went over by a half (she didn’t charge me extra) until she finally held up her hand and began laughing. “I’ve never had anyone learn so much in such a short period of time, she said, tell me how you will use what you’ve learned?” It was her fault I went 2 hours. At the end of 2 hours, she shoo’ed me out of the office and told me to not come back!
“You have obviously learned what you were supposed to learn Toni, you truly get it. I don’t think you need to come and see me anymore. Get out of here and practice what you’ve learned!”
And I did! Want to know how? I called my ex, this was before texting or cell phones, and made arrangements to meet him at a local bar. Someplace public and where we could talk.
I went to this bar at the appointed date and time and when I walked in, my ex was already there with a beer in front of him. I walked up to him, said hi and sat at the bar stool next to him. Smiling, I said hi and ordered a glass of wine.
In all the times before, he was able to goad me, to break me, to make me so angry that I would explode and lose control. Thank you God and my doctor for “The Dance of Anger”.
I turned to talk to him and he smiled at me. “You realize that our arguments aren’t helping us any, all the money is going to our lawyers. Let’s see if we can work this out together. (BE AWARE, BE VERY AWARE when they are suddenly nice). I wasn’t totally fooled. “What did you have in mind for division of property?”
As he extolled all the virtues of him keeping as much money as possible and that he should keep the house and since I was working I didn’t need any kind of support, and my job should pay for the child I who was living with me, (now I was making enough money) I felt my anger grow and I’m sure he saw that and was delighted. But; he hadn’t read the book.
When he finally finished, he grinned at me as if to say, “eat that you bitch”, I smiled back. “I wish I could agree with you but I have spent almost 20 years and 3 kids with you, you are also responsible for paying the bills and I will need help. Child support, the car, etc; etc. I told him how I felt calmly and without rancor. It was my turn to watch his face turn red with anger. He started to explode but I held up my hand and said calmly, “I am not going to talk to you if you get angry, I will walk away and we can let the lawyers work this out!”
For the first time in any argument with that man, he exploded first but I remained relaxed and calm. As he began calling me vile names, and the other bar attendants began looking on, I took the last sip of wine, picked up my purse and stepped down off the stool. “You will have to tell all that to your lawyer. I’m leaving now so any hashing out will have to go thru our lawyers. And, because you got mad and called me names, I will make sure that you pay for both lawyers. Have a great day!” And walked out, calm, collected and at peace. The only thing I did when the door closed behind me was shout “YES!” and fling my fist into the air. The same thing I did when the judge declared the divorce final!
The light that shines out of you, the lightness you feel, the freedom and strength came back stronger and surer than before. I had found all the pieces and I was whole!
by Toni Zufelt
In the many years since I’ve been a complete person, I’ve never wavered by giving away any part of me. I’ve never lost faith that I was enough or that I was a valuable and worthwhile person, friend, lover.
Since then, I met, fell in love with and married a man that after almost 30 years together I still look on as the Yin to my Yang. He is the first face I want to see in the morning and love going to sleep holding his hand. I am truly happy and truly whole. I’ve never had to give away any part of me to him or anyone else unless it was my choice. And if I give a piece away, I always know where it is and where to go to get it back. And this man never demands any part of me except my heart, but that I give away willingly!