There was a knock at my front door last Saturday. From my seat at the kitchen table, I could see who it was.
It was the person who said that I was the trash that belonged on the curb. It was the person who said I moved my daughter to the ghetto. It was her Father and my ex-husband.
This was a moment that I had thought about many times. What am I going to do if he knocks on my door one day? What will I say? Will I let him in?
He chose to stop speaking to me over 4 years ago. The last lengthy discussion we had was right before Christmas of 2009. It wasn’t really a discussion though. It was just him accusing me of all sorts of infractions as a parent and partner. I mostly sat there listening with my jaw agape the whole time. It was impossible for me to respond; I was simply so shocked. And my responses wouldn’t have mattered anyway. No productive conversation was going to take place. He needed to berate me with my failures to make him feel better about his own. His ego had been waiting for this opportunity. I remember this clearly as the point in our relationship where I had finally reached my limit. Enough; I’m done.
Since then, we have avoided being around each other. We have not spoken on the phone or face to face. Some of the most uncomfortable moments of my life happened during our support conciliation meeting and the closing on the sale of our house. I don’t think anyone has ever despised me as much as he does. I ruined his plans for a happy family life. Never mind what he had done to me.
And in regard to our daughter, we have only communicated by email. He has put a great deal of effort into scrutinizing my every decision, looking for ways to judge and criticize. I have tried to keep him informed of anything that affected her, such as school work and extra-curricular activities. All questions and answers have been documented electronically. It still gives me a slight bit of anxiety when I see that I have a new email from him. I spent years walking on eggshells.
During stressful times, my home has been my sanctuary. It’s my own private refuge. When I literally needed a place to hide from the world, this was the place. Choosing it didn’t involve him, although he thought it should have. I chose what neighborhood to move to. (The ghetto, remember? I overheard him saying this to our daughter, who was 8 at the time.) But I did not move us to a ghetto. We have lovely neighbors, on a nice quiet street, in a good community, with a quality school system. Our house is cozy and warm, with the comforting smell of soup cooking on the weekends and large planters full of flowers by the doorstep. I am proud of the space I have created for my daughter and I. It’s not Park Avenue, but it meets our needs. So I think I should be selective about who sets foot in it.
That front door to my home is a very real symbol for the boundary that I have needed to establish with him. I didn’t always understand boundaries. I was raised to be open and truthful. I grew up believing that other people value truth the way I do. I was taught to “turn the other cheek” when someone did me wrong. In church on Sunday mornings, I was urged to forgive. But without understanding where to draw the line, I contracted the disease to please. I wanted to make people happy all the time. Even after being hurt and betrayed, I always tried to give people another chance. This really wasn’t working for me.
In order to set boundaries in our relationships, we need to evaluate what we stand for and what we are willing to accept from others. When we set a boundary, we have to be ready to disappoint others. This is hard for a people-pleaser. The haters will see this as bold and selfish. But there is nothing wrong with making yourself a top priority. Ask yourself, “what do I need to do to re-gain my personal power?” The answer might be that you need to remove someone from your life. It takes bravery to set and enforce a boundary. You should not feel guilty about it. You can be kind and even compassionate without letting people take advantage of you or walk all over you. To stick with it, it helps to surround yourself with those who love, support, and respect you.
So I bet you are wondering if I opened the door and let him in.
Yes, I did.
I failed to enforce my boundary. I let the disease to please creep back in. He was there to pick up my daughter. We have been getting along better lately. We have been able to speak to each other face to face and be somewhat comfortable around each other at events that she is participating in. This is certainly for her benefit. That sounds like a whole bunch of bad excuses, doesn’t it?
He sat rather humbly on the edge of the couch and politely declined a beverage. We made idle chit-chat about our child until she was ready to leave with him. Benign as this was, I still knew immediately that I shouldn’t have allowed him to cross that boundary. I was uncomfortable. This is not someone I trust. Being a good co-parent is one thing. Opening up the door to the possibility of being bullied, manipulated, judged, or criticized is another. He’s not welcome to do any of that to me. He needs to stay on the other side of that door.
© Vulnerable Path, 2014