I saw this flat tyre recently, and it surprised me by eliciting a profound response, from depths unknown, because the only thing that came to mind was “...like marriage to Steve!” — immediately followed by the sound of an imaginary record scratch; wait, what?
Those who know me well enough will understand what I mean when I say that I asked myself what on Earth that meant, and this is the gist, because I think it may be instructive for you too.
This tyre was once brand new, highly effective and fit for purpose. It did its job well until the wear and tear of life and work took its toll. But clearly the tyre was never rejuvenated or replaced, and so continued to degrade and risk. Now the gamble of peril was being flirted with, because it was only a matter of time before the situation got worse. Let's recap a little.
CAREERING AROUND ON PERISHED TYRES
Steve and I had started his business in 1992, and he worked like the clappers to turn a dream into reality and provide for us. This he did successfully, but at what cost to himself, and at what cost to us; first as a couple and then as a family? Steve worked himself into a burnout whilst caring more about his client's dreams, and quietening his screaming people pleasing demons, than those of us waiting to love him at home. Figuratively speaking, he allowed us to career around on perishing degradation, and it was only a matter of time before the situation got worse.
Then in 2013, after feeling existentially threatened and insecure about my friendship with Helen for months, he decided upon a Faustian pact, and duly began the affair with her. He thought this would reverse his ailing midlife crisis and rejuvenate him to former glory; and who knows, perhaps it did for a while, but here’s the thing.
I’ve written many times about how I now see that my time with Steve was not a healthy relationship founded in genuine unconditional love (despite feeling like it was for a while), but a codependent trauma bond. Well, guess what? He’s leapt straight into a new codependent trauma bond with Helen, thinking/hoping/praying she will keep him buoyant, thus sparing him the work of having to do it himself. But how can she, however well-intentioned she might be? Sure, she'll give it everything she's got - maybe for 24 years like I did - but eventually they will realise she's not the answer to his problems, he is. And at what cost and at what age, considering this late stage of their lives? This is why as a couple they must now succeed at all costs, because neither will want to start yet again in their 60s and 70s.
Keeping Steve mentally and emotionally buoyant used to drain about 90% of my day, every day. This was depleting, as I'm sure you can imagine, well now multiply that by 24 years. For the most part, it felt like I was trying to wrestle a never-ending, deflating flat tyre whilst married to him: you can make some progress forwards, but it’ll cost you more damage in the long run. Sure enough, by September 2013, Steve was no longer fit for purpose and blew out.
What's interesting to me now is how my subconscious mind keeps dredging these things up for me to process, all these years later, helping my continued purge of all things Steve. You see, one of my strongest current desires is to never give him a thought, but he's [ahem] 'somewhat resistant' to paying Child Maintenance, and so he's making himself a recurring presence in my life - like someone's hidden prawns under my floorboards or something. It'll be rooted out soon enough, but it is what it is for now. Like an unsightly wart; a benign overgrowth of human tissue, but you'd rather not if it's all the same.
What my NLP training has taught me is that the subconscious mind will, in an act of self-defence, bury painful memories and then reintroduce them when it believes you're ready to handle them, whether that's at a convenient time or not. As readers of Too Relieved already know, September 2013 was a particularly cruel month for me, as my mum died and Steve left me for Helen, leaving me with two heartbroken young children to nurture through. It truly did feel like all too much, all too soon and all too much at the same time, so it's hardly surprising my subconscious mind stepped in to help me handle it all.
What fascinates me now is, whilst the most immediate post-Bomb Drop pains have long since passed and been dealt with, now my subconscious mind is dredging up relics from decades ago - like this flat tyre metaphor - to further enhance my advanced healing. You see, when Steve first ended our marriage, I was devastated, but because I had to tend to our two emotionally broken children, I didn't have time to process my own needs. Then the children eventually settled, and I set to work on myself, not least by writing Too Relieved, to aid the purge; and it helped a lot. Now my life is better, and I have so many blessings to count - bar the occasional Steve-CMS shaped irritant - I'm best placed to finally realise my life with him was not the ideal I was telling myself it was. It was not something based in reality.
It would seem that my subconscious mind doesn't want him to get away with being the inferior life partner he was, and is determined to reveal his true likeness, warts and all. It's true that I had idealised him when I was younger, which must have been exhausting and terrifying for him to live up to. There was no louder cheerleader for him than I and, as an insecure and unassuming man, he didn't always appreciate the attention I drove his way - but that's how we built the business: I marketed his immense skills, and he did the thing I said he could do. But he buckled under the weight of our success and blew up what he perceived to have hurt him. Rather than changing some things to help and heal himself, he ran it all on flat and eventually into the ground, before looking for a new stooge to prop him up. Have you ever driven a car on a flat tyre? Like I said earlier, you can make some progress forwards, but you risk greater damage. Yeah, well, welcome to my life pre-September 2013.
A car being driven on a flat tyre is heavy, unwieldy and totally compromised. You're not safe because you don't have full control and are at the complete mercy of circumstance. Well, ditto my marriage to Steve. Urgh! And I can only appreciate this in hindsight by comparing my life then to now. It's kind of like having a headache, taking pain relief, and not realising until much later that the headache's gone; you haven't sensed it gradually melting away in real time.
WHY AM I TELLING YOU THIS?
I wrote Too Relieved primarily to help others who have also had their hearts and minds smashed by the callous misdeeds of others, but also to help me purge the toxins of my own delusions. By writing about what happened - before, during and after the collapse of my marriage - I was able to release deeply held misrepresentations of the past, where I had almost idealised Steve to the point of sainthood. Reality continues to beckon as my subconscious mind continues to dredge, because we all tell ourselves stories - and I certainly did in what I now clearly see to be my 'make do marriage' - but they only help up to a point. After that they're actively hurting not helping and you need to let go.
I am telling you this now so that if you're in a similar space as I was in September 2013, then look at all the hope you have to look forward to. I know it feels dark, heavy and hopeless now, but I promise you it will get better if you just hold on and keep doing the next right thing. It may feel like you're standing at the foot of a mountain right now, overwhelmed with the life ahead of you, but no one is expecting you to reach the summit by lunchtime, your progress will be a process not an event. All you can do now is the same as any mountain climber who wants to reach the top, put one foot in front of the other and repeat, repeat, repeat until the summit arrives to you. Let's face it, there's no alternative, because no person at the top of the mountain ever fell there, did they?
You are going to have to dig into your deepest reserves of strength, grit and determination to prevail here, but you can absolutely do this. The personal qualities you believe to be missing from your toolbelt right now (e.g.: "I'm not strong enough to get through this") are a) just false, negative stories you're telling yourself, so flip the script to make them empowering, positive stories instead and b) will arrive like the calvary when you need them most, because they always have. You can lean into the qualities you have now and develop what you need when you need it, because that's how we humans live, learn and work. You will be okay. You will be changed, but you will be okay.
And, of course, I'm here if you'd like some help and support. Until then however, take self-care of yourself, and don't run your life on flat, into the ground. Maintain your mind, body and spirit like they're invaluable, because they are, and self-neglect serves no one.
Take care and always be the best version of you,