Category Archives: boundaries

I was freed

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When someone says “back off” or “leave me alone,” they likely mean it.  Because for most people, it means they have put up with something or someone for some time before they reached the point of asking that person to back off.

In 2012, I made a wrong decision to speak to the biological father of my child.  The first time he contacted me, I was glad that he did and I remain glad that he did.  He contacted me to ask for my help in contacting my son because he felt quite sure my son would want to meet him.  Would want to know about him.  A valid request, or so it would seem.

During this first conversation I got a bit upset because he really started off implying that he knew better than I did what my son would want.  He called with a chip on his shoulder that he had allowed to be there for 18 years.  I can tell you with 100% confidence that he was crazy to think that.  My son and I are very close.  And on top of the fact that we are close, my son has known his entire life about his biological father.  My son doesn’t remember him at all because the guy chose a life of chaos over fighting for the right to be a father.  My son was barely over a year old the last time he saw this guy.  And when my son was only 14 months old, I met the man I would marry.  Later, when we married, that guy gave up his rights to my child, my husband adopted my son, we celebrated the adoption, and he became his loving and legal father.  The best part of being with the guy I married is that he 100% became a father to my son.  Because he wanted to do that.  Because he chose to love him as his own.   I’ll never stop being grateful for that.  And each year, up to and including this year, my son and his father celebrated Adoption Day.  And I love that.

So, in 2012, when the biological father contacted me I said I would talk to my son and ask him if he was interested in contact with the guy.  I also told him that I found it offensive that he would make the assumption that I would have spent all these years filling my son with hatred or not telling him he was adopted at all.  All these years, I have done an AWARD-WINNING job of biting my tongue and telling my son that this guy did a brave and loving thing.  That, because he was not able to be a father, he gave my son a great gift by letting someone else be his father.  I even told him some of the good things about the guy.  I never sat him down and bad-mouthed the guy.  AT ALL.

In any case, the short story on that is that my son wasn’t interested.  He sat down with me and we talked at length about the guy and the relationship I had with him.  I reiterated how, even though my son was not planned, he was the best thing to come out of the relationship with that guy and because of that, I would never say I wished I had never dated him.  But this time I did answer all questions honestly and include information about why the relationship didn’t last.  And why I was glad that the guy hadn’t stuck around at that time.  Ultimately, my son said he never felt he missed out on having a father, that my husband had been the father he felt close to, and that there wasn’t anything he needed or wanted from that guy.

And the guy accepted that.  Which I thought was weird, but he explained that he didn’t know my son and hadn’t seen him since he was a baby.  So he wasn’t losing out on a relationship because there had never been one.  Whatever.  Not my decision or concern.  I don’t agree, but I don’t have to agree.  I didn’t miss out on that great kid, he did.

So, he called to request the contact and I called him back a few days later to say that my son had decided against any contact.  The guy agreed to honor my son’s decision and said he would not ever bother him again, but that he would be more than happy if my son ever wanted to contact him.

And then life went on as it had been before the calls.  I put it behind me and felt good about how I had handled the contact.

Not long after, I got a text from the guy saying it was good to talk to me and he would like to talk further.  I froze when I got the text because I worried first about my child and my family.  He had left us alone since the adoption years prior and I was happy about that.  I can honestly say I didn’t think about him much while raising my child because I was able to raise him with my husband.  And when I got the text, things were in chaos in my house.  I had filed for divorce the year before that and my husband and I went to counseling and had the divorce dismissed after working a lot on things between us.  We were moving and our son had turned 18, and our daughter was just going to enter her high school years in the fall.

In any case, I didn’t respond right away and then I finally responded that I thought us talking further was a bad idea, but that I’d think about it.

And then we did start texting a bit.  Just general information about how life was going, where we lived, and things like that.

And then just like that, I was talking to him a lot.  Telling him things he never deserved to know about me.  Excusing things he did and making it ok that he lied and manipulated and abused me.  At times, when we first started talking, I would shut down because I would start to feel that nagging in my gut saying I was walking a path that was dangerous for me. But I also felt a strange sense that the forgiveness I was expressing was more for me than him and I began to feel a release of emotions that had been stuck so deep for many years. 

I began to recognize…myself.  The girl in the corner and the current me all in one package.  I was empowered by how I started to feel. 

That guy was around when I was raped in college.  And he was strangely supportive.  By that, I mean he supported me the best ways that he knew how, while also having been a large part of the first sexual abuse I ever experienced.  And as he talked with me about my college assault, I began to realize that connection.  I began to realize that I didn’t need to reconnect with him because I wanted us to share some fond memories of the love we once shared.  I was glad he came back into my life because it shook me to my core.  It forced me to see what I had never wanted to face before that time…that he assaulted me on a regular basis for years before I fell in love with him.  

The day this became clear to me was a day I will never ever forget.  A day one of my friends had to rescue me from myself on the side of the road as every bit of confusion and self-hatred sunk into me like the weight of the world.  I punished myself that day for every single thing I ever said or did that was related to him in my life.  I called him the same day and let every bit of emotion come out the way he should have had to hear it when I was 20 years old.  

That day I became a victim all over again.  A victim who all at once believed that I was not good enough.  And because I wasn’t good enough, I deserved the abuse from him for all the years I suffered.  

And the strangest, most traumatic, most horrifying, but also the greatest part of it all, is that in the midst of the realization that he was not ever anything to me but an abuser…

I was freed.  

I remember thanking him one day when I was with him because in that moment I knew, as I flooded back into myself, that I was going to be ok.  That I was as far away from me as I would ever have to be and that I could now turn around and start back on the path to the Girl in the Corner.  Back to myself.  And I’m so thankful for the day I fell apart because it was my beginning. 

I saw and talked with him after that only a few times.  He didn’t know it, but I was so clear in those moments and I got exactly what I needed from our conversations so that I could truly heal from all of the abuse.  

I took back me and I began to heal and then I left him behind, where he belongs.  Where he always deserved to be–in the past.  With the other people who abused me and tried to make me to blame. 

And then I healed.  

As I did, he tried to contact me and I was thrilled to find out that I didn’t care.  At all.  I told him to leave me alone.  To back off.  He didn’t get it at first, even tried to be my FRIEND, but I had the support of a great friend and a great therapist to end all contact.  

I was free. 

I am free.  And I AM good enough.  

I am strong.  Strong enough to know that all of his ridiculous attempts to get my attention after that time don’t matter.  I’ve blocked him out and I am done. 

Forever. 

KK

I won’t compromise and I’m not sorry.

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Grab life and move forward.  Feel deeply.  Love hard.  Have fun every chance you get.  Don’t worry about mistakes.  Everything works the way it is meant to work.  Chaos is good, it keeps me moving forward without giving a lot of thought to what I’m doing.

This is how I have plowed through life, starting with my teenage years.  I didn’t like to plan, I liked to have fun, and I enjoyed waking up and going on adventures even when the people around me tried to convince me to slow down and think about it first.  Even when my gut said, hey you should stop and notice this, it could be important.  Consequences?  Those aren’t things you worry about when you have life by the tail and are hanging on for your perfect, happy ending.  Except, I don’t think I ever thought much about what that happy ending should look like.

That’s ok when you are as young as I was and taking on life as chaotically as I was comfortable doing most of the time.  What I am facing now, is that I shame myself for being that way back then because I stayed that way.  I justify the negative experiences I have had by saying I wasn’t cautious enough, controlled enough, nice enough, girly enough, and I wasn’t always honest.  I wouldn’t say if I was uncomfortable.  I didn’t hold firm to my ideologies to ensure that life was exactly what I deserved.

You have to compromise to be in relationships, right?  Wrong.  One definition I found for compromise is this:  to accept standards that are lower than is desirable.  Hmmmm.  That makes me squirm a bit in my skin.

Accept standards that are lower than is desirable.  Hmmm.  Yeah, I don’t think I’m willing to do that.  Not ever again.

I have a bottom line.  So do you.  I have a core set of values and needs.  So should you.  I feel like those things are not negotiable.  They have to be serious things, obviously, not just “I like musicals so if you don’t there’s the door.”  You have to discuss things, you should negotiate some matters, you want to consider the other person’s opinions and decide if you want to change yours.  But that should never mean giving up your bottom line.  It is a boundary issue.  And that is something I never understood before recently.  And something I will be honest and say I am still struggling with just a bit.

I am having a great time rediscovering me lately and I know I’ve been saying that a lot.  It feels really, really good the majority of the time.  It stills feel scary sometimes too.  Because I built and lived with very poor boundaries.  If I didn’t want someone to walk out of my life, I let a boundary go so that they would stay or so that I felt I should stay.  If I wanted a person to like me, or love me, I was willing to ignore the fact that they were mean, or jealous, or a liar, not willing to be emotionally supportive, or said hateful things that I find unacceptable.

A book I reference a lot right now in my life is Boundaries and Relationships: Knowing, Protecting, and Enjoying the Self by Charles Whitfield.  I love the book.  I read it a lot.  On page 103, Charles Whitfield has a table of characteristics of safe and unsafe people.  When I have to look at a relationship in my life that is feeling “off,” I always check out that page first to see if the person is in the “safe” column.  If a new person comes into my life, I open to that page.  The safe characteristics that are most important to me include supportive, are real with you, accept the real you, validate the real you, and hear you.

I feel conflicted and a bit gross even writing those down here!  You know why?  Because it feels selfish to me.  The book focuses on knowing and protecting my true self and that is something I believe many people always felt I did fairly well.  I guess maybe I should have been an actor.  I feel like I’m a pretty supportive person to those I love.  But I also feel like I have spent a fair amount of my life being a person in the unsafe column.  “False with you, unclear, indirect, boundaries unclear/messages mixed.”  Those are the items I see which I feel fit me for a long time in my relationships.  And that is difficult to digest.

I moved out on my own in November 2012.  That feels like a very long time ago.  To be fair and completely honest, I had a pretty great marriage for many years and he is not an awful person at all.  He is not even the person I most often think about when I am writing negative relationship stuff.  Since I moved out, I have realized that those unsafe characteristics of my own personality really need some work.  And apart from the sexual assault healing, that’s why I go to therapy.  To understand me and to make changes that I feel are necessary to change those unsafe things to the safe characteristic instead.  Top of the list for me would be wanting to have appropriate boundaries and being clear and direct.

I know I’m improving.  I know this because I have met someone who is new to my life and I have maintained my boundaries and been clear and direct.  It’s pretty awesome.  What’s coolest about it is that even though it is new, it is completely authentic.  I know that in my past, this would not have been the case.  Because when you first meet someone there is a tendency for people to give in and compromise your own stuff.  To impress, to seem more the same, more of a match.  And I don’t feel the need to do that at all.  In fact, I’m more me than I have been in about 20 years when I’m around this person.  How freakin cool is that?

Many of the things that I used to love to do, and want, and be fell by the wayside after the assault.  I compromised who I was and what I liked to do to fit what I thought I needed.  To be good enough.  To fit into what I thought being a grown up really had to look like.  It wasn’t all bad, I’m not saying I haven’t had a terrific life.  I raised two awesome children, I have amazing family and friends, I finished two college degrees, traveled a lot, and had a lot of great times.  I’ve always been surrounded by some quality people who have been there for me through it all.

Going forward I won’t compromise, and I’m not sorry about that.  It feels good to finally understand that it’s ok to just be me.  And that in just being me I could be exactly the right person for someone who feels good about just being who they are too.

KK