Disinfecting with Sunshine

When I first thought to write about the adventures of Dan and Tina, I’d thought it would be a mostly humorous endeavor, with anecdotes from the often strange and amusing experiences we’d shared. In fact, we’d often talked about it, saying “that’s going in the book,” when something memorable, outrageous or funny would happen.

There remain humorous memories to relate but this project has presently become more of a therapeutic outlet to order and understand my thoughts and share my story.

I am embarrassed and ashamed that I allowed myself to be subjected to an emotionally and psychologically abusive, often humiliating relationship.

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There are stories I’ve never told anyone, because I knew how my friends, family and therapists would react. I knew what they would say and I didn’t want to hear it. I was also deeply ashamed of myself for sacrificing my self-respect on the altar of love for a compulsive lying, promiscuous, uncontrollably impulsive alcoholic and drug addict. I didn’t want anyone to know how pathetic I’d become. I couldn’t face it, myself.

I’m disappointed in myself. I think of myself as an intelligent, logical man, but I lost confidence in my ability to reason, the veracity of my own memory and I allowed myself to be debased. I allowed a mentally ill woman to induce strife in my other relationships. My loyalty and defense of her cost me good friends. Everyone who knew us warned me away from her. I threw sense and caution to the wind and dashed myself repeatedly into the rocks trying to hang on to the illusion of a beautiful, intense, almost supernatural love.

To better make sense of a confusing few years when my sense of reality was being deliberately warped and managed, I’m setting order to my thoughts and memories. To overcome my secret shame, I’ve decided to be open about the abuse I abided in the hope that getting it out will defeat it’s power over me. I’m going to tell my stories. I feel a visceral need to reassert objective reality. Maybe it will help others in similar situations. Maybe it will help restore my sanity and self-worth. After realizing myself, the potential to overcome my shame by airing it, my therapist reinforced the idea when he suggested it in a session. He had done his dissertation on shame and told me that daylight was the best cure for it.

I am sharply aware that I don’t come off well in my stories. I’ve been a deluded sap and a fool. Ultimately, I am responsible for my own misery and misfortune. In my defense, since I had essentially married my “high school sweetheart,” and met Tina just months after my divorce, I’d never had the dating experience most of my friends did. I’d never been much exposed to women who live by deceit. My brain rebelled at obvious red flags, because what I sometimes thought I was observing simply could not have been reality in the world I was familiar with. It would be too outrageous for me to wrap my naive mind around. When I went through rehab for alcohol dependence, one of my peers in group told me that I was dangerously naive – that I was so naive as to be a danger to myself.

I couldn’t or wouldn’t see the forest for the trees. I looked at everything as isolated incidents and refused to acknowledge the overall pattern of behavior. I know some people reading this will think “what a fucking idiot.” I think that of myself, often.

I’d never previously understood how and why battered women stay with their abusive husbands. My experiences have provided me new insight. I don’t fully understand the psychological mechanisms at play, but I can sympathize with it. I can’t judge too harshly anyone who stays in an abusive or toxic relationship. Love and denial are powerful forces that trick and cloud a rational mind in unexpected ways.

My optimistic innocence is part of what makes me me and I’d mourn to see it lost because of Tina.

Through it all, as much as I came to hate Tina for warping my sense of reality, for humiliating me, for emotionally crippling me, a part of me still loved her and I hated myself for that.

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