Happy New Year
A new year.
Who among us does not look to it with hope and promise? Yes, it's only a "date on a calendar" but that doesn't make insignificant. Life is about renewal. Nature does it, well, naturally. We humans, sadly removed from the natural rhythm of life, just need a little help with that, I think. Shame on those who shame those of us who use this "date on the calendar" to reset our lives. And so with that, as we head into 2022, I asked myself what could I write that could really help or at least support women married to alcoholics? I receive emails from women who have found the blog or my books and thanked me for my words. I am humbled but also motivated to "do more." I know - I know, I know, I know - the daily sucker punch to the solar plexus life with an alcoholic husband is. I remember (too well) those early years when I could barely process what was happening to my marriage and life. What did I want to hear? In retrospect, what would it have helped to hear? Thinking about my own journey (and what I wish I had done. What I regret not doing) and thinking about the emails I receive, I have come to believe this:
As women, we come into a marriage with essentially two selves or identities: our personal identity and our financial identity. From my own experience and the experiences other women have shared with me, one of those two will suffer, or suffers more, when married to an alcoholic husband. For me, it was my financial identity. I am perhaps the last generation of women that will be raised with the idea of the man "providing." I didn't have this idea in any sort of concrete or patriarchal way. I was raised by a stay-at-home mom and I planned the same for my children. I never saw my husband as "the provider." I did not feel his job or role was somehow more important or valid than mine. I saw us as equals. Partners. For the rest of our lives.
And with that, I abdicated all my financial identity.
So when I looked up almost 20 years later and my life and soul were being consumed by the monster of his alcoholism and I wanted so desperately to escape...well lets just say the flesh was willing but the bank account was weak. (Non-existent.)
However, though I have no real financial identity, I have always had a strong sense of self or personal identity. I have good (great!) friends. I have hobbies and activities that feed my soul. And though someone else's drinking will poison your soul, I fight hard to save mine. Some days I feel like I am running free and clear along the shore line: other days it feels like a crocodile has me by the ankle and is trying to drag me to an underwater grave but I do at least feel I have some strength to fight.
Conversely, what I find with many women who contact me is that they have a very firm and strong financial self in place. Frankly, I am quite envious when I read about their financial situations. Many women already own their own homes, are the primary income source for their family and marriage and/or have a professional career that they could return to or more fully engage in to create the necessary financial means needed to leave their marriage. To be honest, I read about these financial situations and think, "I wish...if that was my situation...I'd be gone now."
But what I hear in these emails - now that I have thought about it - is these women don't feel as complete in their personal identity. This is not a criticism and it's not that these women are weak but rather where their energy or focus was directed at creating their financial identity, mine was always more directed at my personal identity. And whether you are going to stay married to an alcoholic or desire to leave him, both selves needed to be developed. You can't survive the alcoholic marriage nor can you leave the alcoholic marriage without both selves strong and united.
This was not meant to be a "teaser" post but is long enough. Tomorrow I will share my thoughts and ideas on tweaking out that You that is You beyond the finances, beyond the roles both accepted and assigned and beyond the anger and grief and confusion of being married to an alcoholic. Until then, enjoy the promise of a new year.
And stay as far away as possible from the crocodiles of life.