Today’s Lifestyle Column: Gaslighting by Proxy

Out of the mouths of babes. As our children speak innocently and intelligently about their world, I also hear you, your opinions, your judgements, your disgust in their voices. My responses to them now are what I said to you then. My feelings and interpretation of life’s events matter too. They get that.

You said, “I know. I get it.” I believed you. Until your actions or lack thereof showed me you got (wanted?) none of it. Unsaid and underlying: My way or the highway. I tried and tried and tried and failed and eventually gave up exhausting attempts to get my thoughts and feelings to count in the relationship. You are like a brick wall, I kept saying. You disagreed. Oh, the time we spent debating the existence of an imaginary structure. Clearly, it was there. What I couldn’t see at first was that it only worked one way. This idea was unfathomable to me because I was taught that relationships are give and take. Reciprocity required. That is not what happened here. I was not expecting this.

I put my back up against the bricks and went along with your theories. Smoothing things out. Keeping that peace (facade?) for the good of the outside world. The alternative? Constant conflict, debate, disputes about the mundane as if they were life-threatening or altering. Coming home after work, the first words out of your mouth: “Did you find that blue Lego that is missing? Where is the “kitchen pen”? It has a home, so it is always there for you when you need it.” Three children under three (infant twins to boot) plus Mom home all day does not equal precise knowledge of the locations of small things. I had enough small things keeping me busy. Like the pen, I wish I could have counted on you being there for me when I needed you. Ultimately, I figured out it wasn’t our home. When I grew tired of being the doormat (who wasn’t me), I would rebel like a resentful teenager (also not me) and ask to “phone a friend (read: the rest of the world)” to confirm how ridiculous your demands were. My eyerolls disgusted you. Unbecoming to a wife. Plan B: Unbecome a wife.

My babies would have found me some other way in this universe. Technology and all. But we all know that they wouldn’t be the same ones I have now. People and society and books and movies tell me I should feel my marriage to you was worth it because it resulted in these exact amazing beings, who have my heart now and for always. That they wouldn’t have (genetically) happened any other way. And I should be fine with what happened in our marriage because it brought them to me. but, I am not allowed to say “No, it wasn’t worth it” because saying that is saying I wish my children didn’t exist. I didn’t know two things could be true at the same time. It wasn’t worth it. And this in no way means I wish for a world where I don’t know the love of these exact beings that came from my body. My love for our children is and will always be steadfast, no matter how much I disgusted and betrayed you and our picket fence playhouse. My leaving you “ruined their lives.” Well, I had to save mine first. And then I put the oxygen masks on them. We’re all still here.

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