I was one of those people who married in haste and had 11 years to repent at leisure. But, I didn’t repent. Instead I poured every ounce of emotional and physical energy into keeping that relationship alive. I flexed, I smiled, I acquiesced, I became every woman in the world he could possibly desire. It was not enough. He genuinely needed every woman in the world to thrive. Possibly the only position that would have sated his boundless drive was the Oval Office.
When he left, he said it was for my own good. I cried. I pleaded. How could abandoning me be for my own good? All I wanted was for him to love me enough to be loyal. Is that too much to ask? He assured me to the last I was attractive. It was not about me. It did not mean I was unlovable. He was leaving for my own good. During the initial years of separation, I sensed this dimly. The tragedy of sexually transmitted diseases – particularly AIDS- became well known. I escaped. Yes, but, I argued, that would not have been an issue had he committed to monogamy. Besides, what is the use of living disease-free if you are also living love-free?
It is for your own good. As a child, I hated that phrase. In retrospect, I see there were times it was for my good – for my safety. But many times it was for the good of the person in authority – a dominant person insisting he or she was doing it for me, but in reality, getting their own adult way. That’s what I thought my first husband was doing: getting his own adult way.
It has taken me 25 years to understand fully. Yes. It was for my own good.
When I thought I had healed enough, when that first husband had joined himself to another marriage, I felt freedom to love again. So I married. Raised a family. Enjoyed poverty-laced tranquility. Twenty years later, I left. Not because of sexual infidelity. Not due to physical abuse. Because of financial co-dependence and a complete withdrawal of communication and relationship of any sort.
Some will ask, “Where in this scenario is unconditional love? Where the Proverbs 31 concept that a woman will do her husband good all the days of his life?”
Another woman pointedly said, “You need hang in there. Take control. Just tell him how it has to happen. Save that marriage by taking charge.”
But, I knew my man. I knew that his phrase, “I can’t,” however faintly or despondently uttered, was true. I resisted the urge to force him to change into someone he could not be. Nor could I remain in that situation without my knee-jerk reaction of taking responsibility for issues that were not my own. In my removal of myself, I gave him freedom to step up to the plate and take responsibility.
It was for his own good-and for mine-that I leave.
Only then did I understand my first husband. Yes. It was for my own good. He knew himself. He did not have the moral fortitude to change. Rather than make empty promises, he set me free.
I knew myself. It was impossible for me to stay without continually picking up responsibilities that were not my own. Rather than coerce change from my second husband, I walked out, leaving the gate ajar behind me, hoping, hoping, he would follow.
Love allows choices. To allow another person to choose and to take responsibility for their own actions -for better or worse – is for their own good.