Navigating that pedestal

To put someone on a pedestal:

To believe or behave as if someone or something is perfect, wonderful, or better than others, to the extent that one is unable to see its potential flaws or faults.

Once again, comments by bloggers have prompted a post.

In a comment by beleeme on my last post, she said, “I put my husband up on a pedestal. I thought he was the upstanding, level-headed, law-abiding, honest, smart, successful doctor/husband. Boy, was I wrong about some things. Dishonest and what a risk-taker. It all built up so much – mental breakdown – career trashed – lack of identity. I respect him now; it’s just different…”

The second conversation was with Don’t Lose Hope in comments we had about children knowing about their father’s sex addiction. She expressed her concern for her grown daughters’ being deeply traumatized by the knowledge of everything their father had done. In my comment I said, “I know that my husband’s sponsor told his adult daughter right away and she didn’t speak to him for years. Maybe not always, but it seems more difficult for daughters who put their Daddy up on a pedestal of what a great husband looks like.”

I have heard this before from betrayed wives and wives of sex addicts. The concept that we felt like we made a stellar choice in picking our husband just to find out we had been duped by a consummate liar and cheat. So many stories of choosing an honest, handsome, well-liked, successful, career-minded man, a pillar of the community. Or that our love story was special. We were the couple everyone talked about as being so perfect together. We were the example of the parents who got along, never divorced, solid and stable. Having that perfect husband, or being that perfect couple seems great until the reality sets in that there is no perfect person or perfect union. And that reality, can be like a freight train.

In my case, I knew my husband was flawed. I knew he suffered from the abuse of his parents. I knew he often lied to get himself out of tight situations. I know he normalized this behavior. It was his survival instinct. We have been together for 35 years. We don’t appear, from the outside, to have any serious issues. I would call us financially successful, and we worked as a team to get to that place. I never romanticized our love, or our relationship. I’m not that kind of girl. His parents were a problem from the beginning. They were almost a deal breaker. I nearly walked away, twice. I could say my concerns were because of them, but really, my issue was with the way Blue Eyes wasn’t stable around them and didn’t appear to have matured beyond his childhood wounds. I thought about this a lot. We were engaged for five years. I do love my husband though and I was willing to accept all of the challenges in order to build a life with him. I was convinced the longer he was with me, and with time, he would mature beyond those wounds. I was wrong. I don’t regret choosing Blue Eyes, but it has been much more difficult than I could have imagined.

So where does that pedestal come from anyway? I have read a lot about how a woman’s relationship with her father has bearing on the man she chooses to spend her life with. There’s the concept that we are looking for the love we didn’t receive as children, but we continue to choose men who don’t know how to love. Then there’s the theory that we are looking for the same kind of nurturing love we received from a really great father, who appeared to be the perfect husband to our mom, but it’s difficult to find anyone to live up to childhood fantasies. There’s the concept that we marry cheaters or addicts because our fathers were cheaters or addicts. And also the idea that we marry someone with the same emotional intelligence we have. Well, I’m exhausted just thinking about all this. I have two fathers, my birth father and my step father. My father was a cheater and a bully who left my mom when I was six, but he never abused me. He fought for his parental rights and picked my sister and I up religiously every other weekend and during his summertime and holidays, and for the most part, we had fun. As a matter of fact, although I don’t respect him for the choices he made to hurt my mom, I still love him for who he is. My step father was awesome as a dad. He was always there and nurturing with solid parenting boundaries and a loving heart. My sister and I are truly lucky to have him in our lives. Both dads were around, home for dinner, active with parenting, did stuff around the house like mowing the lawns, and changing their own car oil. I didn’t know any other kind of dad, or man.

Blue Eyes’ dad, on the other hand, was emotionally vacant, worked all the time, didn’t eat meals with his children, and didn’t spend much quality time with them. He never mowed a lawn. He didn’t even know how to use a barbecue when I met him. The bigger problem, however, was that his love was conditional. He expected his children to perform to a certain standard. Tenderness and affection were withheld. Punishment was swift and stern. Blue Eyes’ mom controlled everything in an obsessed and militant manner, and dad didn’t even try to make things better. There were so many days prior to our wedding day when I expressed to Blue Eyes that I wouldn’t marry a man like his father. There were days I screamed it, and days I just cried the words. I know he didn’t want to be like his father and he really wasn’t, at least not emotionally. Despite the abuse, Blue Eyes was a very gentle and affectionate person. There is no way I would have welcomed him into my life if he wasn’t. I had never been abused. I wouldn’t have put up with it.

The thing that I was, though, and that I have learned in therapy, is neglected. And neglect was what Blue Eyes was able to get away with. Not because I welcomed it, but because I didn’t even recognize it. As a child, regardless of how loved I was by my dads, so much of everyone’s attention was directed away from me from the moment my sister was born. She was a handful, a very needy baby and then the divorce six months later. And although I was happy my abusive dad wouldn’t be living with my mom anymore, I had no idea how the divorce would disrupt my life as a very loved, and for 5 1/2 years, only-child. Both parents re-married and had children. My Dad had a lot of children. My needs were set aside. I immediately became a caregiver. I was self sufficient. No one had to worry about me, and on many days of my childhood, I was my baby sister’s sole caregiver.

What Blue Eyes did get from his father, was a VERY STRONG work ethic. In his family, career and money mean everything. Blue Eyes feels like his worth is attached to his success as a businessman. There is absolutely nothing I can do to change this. For years and years I just let him go. He worked as much and as often as he wanted because I thought it would make him happy, and I handled everything else. Everything else. I had no requirements of him. We would plan for him to be home for dinner, but he rarely made it. He traveled a lot. He didn’t have to call home. Long distance phone calls and especially International phone calls were so expensive back then. By the time email and Skype came around, his patterns were set. Out of sight out of mind. Then when he had his acting out travel partner, it must have been mighty uncomfortable to contact me and he knew he didn’t have to. I would be there, at home, taking care of everything, no matter what.

So, I know for sure that I didn’t marry someone like my fathers, but I also wasn’t seeking anyone different from them either (I actually wasn’t seeking ANYONE, tbh). Not at all. Even though my Dad was a cheater, I had my step Dad, who wasn’t. I never even contemplated Blue Eyes as a cheater. He just didn’t have it in him. He was kind and sweet, not cruel. Neither of my Dads are addicts, and I had no idea Blue Eyes was a sex addict, so no, that’s not on me either. In the end, I felt loved and taken care of by two fathers. I have always known that I was innately more emotionally mature than Blue Eyes. I don’t believe in the concept that all of us marry someone at our own emotional maturity. I was about as emotionally mature as a 26-year-old can get when I married Blue Eyes. He, on the other hand, had a long way to go to meet me. I knew that, and was willing to help. Because… I’m a helper. It was all based on the fact, however, that he wouldn’t purposely hurt me. That was an unspoken given. I was choosing him. He wasn’t family. He wasn’t my job. He was my partner. I just didn’t know that he had no clue what being a partner really meant.

I know I have talked a lot on this blog about Blue Eyes putting me on a pedestal. My family as well. Believing that I am made of impenetrable stuff. Nothing can get me down. I can handle anything. This concept does not build me up. It actually hurts and depresses me. I want to be treated like everyone else. I want people to know I’m vulnerable. I don’t think anyone should be on a pedestal. It’s a very tenuous place to be.

18 thoughts on “Navigating that pedestal

  1. Good post. I was neglected too, in childhood and in the marriage. Most of the neglect was from my mother. My dad did the best he could with the time he had – I was child #4 – he was a tradesman working very hard and lots of overtime to feed and care for 6 people in our house. He did so much more for us than he received as a kid; I truly respect him and miss hime A LOT (passed 18 mo ago – I’m still raw). My dad evolved light-years as a father compared to his childhood. He had a loving, tender heart and so did I. He taught me to drive the tractor and garden. All love. He taught me self-reliance too.

    I almost left my husband 6 or 7 years before D-Day b/c of neglect. Went to a lawyer. Told husband. I wanted more emotional and physical connection (that’s hard to come by with a guy who is IA – I didn’t know at the time) and I believed I deserved more and I had stated my needs for years. I have no problem stating my needs, but there’s no guarantee we’ll get what we want, eh? I knew that marrying a doc who worked nights, weekends, and holidays meant I’d be on my own a lot (I married at 26 too). OK. I’m independent. But I craved connection. I don’t need a lot. I’m not high maintenance. I knew I wasn’t getting what I deserved. At that time, I had no idea what was really going on.

    Yep – my husband fell HARD. Our private marital betrayals is in the hands and paperwork of several state medical license boards. It’s been a nightmare. I’m “baby-stepping” my way back and he’s still lost. I should write about some of my childhood wounds and I have a post in the works about ‘sense of purpose’ … just haven’t felt like writing. Coughing so much. Wears me out.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I didn’t even realize I was being neglected. It hurts my heart thinking about it. And yes, we all need a sense of purpose, to feel loved and needed. When we marry, I think we expect to get what we give and when we don’t get that, some of us adapt instead making sure our needs are filled.

      I would definitely like to hear about your childhood. For me, writing has been healing and it has also simply helped me figure out my new reality.

      When will the cough go away? I can only imagine how tiring your health scare has been! ❤️

      Liked by 2 people

      • Eeeek about my spelling grammar errors. Oh well…

        Maybe I should write about childhood. I’ve processed that so much in therapy and a younger woman; I feel like I have a handle on it. There are quite a few really positive things about how I grew up. Yep, we shopped at Goodwill for clothes, but I learned how to grow food, raise chickens chase pigs (they’re faster than you’d think) and walk miles and miles through the forests around our homes.

        ACEs are discussed quite a bit now in therapy-land for complex trauma.

        The cough – who knows? It’s a symptom of a 1/2 paralyzed larynx. I have to give it a year to see if the nerve heals. But if the larynx stays paralyzed – I still cough??? ENT doc is treating it with meds – not working – his theory (which makes sense) is that my Vagus nerve is highly traumatized from the tumor and the surgery and that’s causing the cough reflex. Too much talking = cough, too. And exercise, cold air. Sigh.

        Liked by 3 people

        • A YEAR? Oh my, coughing is exhausting! I hope it goes away with healing.

          I think writing about our own childhoods and how it relates to how we handle adulthood is helpful not only for us, but for others who struggle with understanding their feelings and also feeling alone within their own thoughts.

          Although we are all unique, we share commonalities and the ways we are the same unite us. Not everyone has the luxury of good therapy. I know when I sat in the trauma therapist’s office the first time, the last thing I wanted to do was rehash my own childhood. But now, almost 6 years later, I can finally see how much my childhood influenced how I handled the betrayal.

          There are a lot of things I really loved about my childhood… I learned to garden from my Portland grandpa. I learned how to preserve fruits and veg from my grandmas. I learned how to gut a fish at 5 years old from my other grandpa. He drove a truck from Tillamook, Oregon to Portland back and forth on the week days and then ran a charter fishing company on the weekends. Very cool. I caught a halibut that was bigger than I was when I was four… maybe I had a little help! :). Good memories. It was fun being an only child for 5+ years. xoxo

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yum, Halibut! Awesome you can gut a fish. I’m a wimp. I was present as a wee one on “chicken butchering day” and innards freak me out. 😉

            I agree about sharing experiences – many people often feel alone in their experience as a child and don’t want to talk about it. Turns out, things we may be ashamed to talk about are actually very common.

            I’ve been coughing since March ’19. It’s worse now (post-op). The year is how long I have to wait to see if the paralyzed nerve to my larynx regenerates. If not, then a more permanent solution to my left vocal cord not working would happen (surgery). That wouldn’t stop the coughing, though. It would just stop me from aspirating. I have temporary vocal cord injections so I don’t aspirate now.

            They give meds to try to calm the nerve to stop coughing – so far – not working (seemed to for the 1st few weeks, then not). I am really frustrated with the coughing. Doc has increased the med. I have to just keep trying with him.


            • I can only imagine the frustration. BE has an almost constant cough due to one of his chronic illnesses. It’s quite ironic though that he seems to be able to control it when he needs to. He used to have a choking situation and finally they did an upper GI and found that he had ulcers on his esophagus. He takes high doses of Omeprazole. Our neighbor is dying of esophageal cancer and now BE is paranoid. It’s literally always something.

              I hope the cough subsides soon. ❤

              Liked by 1 person

  2. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. While I never thought my husband was perfect, I did have basic assumptions like: he’ll never intentionally deceive me; he’ll never undermine our marriage; he’ll never do anything criminal; he’ll never cheat. I simply didn’t believe the capacity to do those things existed in him. So yes, when I learned how very wrong I was it wasn’t just heartbreaking that those things happened, it was devastating that I was so suckered/ duped. It was the biggest choice I would ever make and I got it completely wrong.

    My dad was awesome to me and my mom and not a cheater. I thought I had found someone similar. I wasn’t looking for him to fill some void within me and I wasn’t looking for a project to fix or to heal. I was looking for an equal partner. I had no idea that he was so completely and utterly unprepared for that role.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I agree and relate to every single word. It’s still quite mind boggling to me when I sit and think about. I considered myself an intuitive person and yet 30 years went by before someone slapped me in the face with the truth. 😢💜

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, this post resonated with me. Ironically it got me thinking about my sister, and trust me that is a other story all of its own! But also about my choices: i was told once that I was ‘the rock that everyone clung to’, and that included my first husband, and the choices I made when I married him. That also applied to Danny when we met him. But then I wanted someone’s to ‘take care of me’ , and now I know that the only person who can ‘take care of me’ is me! A brilliant thought provoking post Kat. ❤️

    Liked by 5 people

    • It is sad though that we just want someone to love us and take care of us, it shouldn’t be that difficult, and yet other people’s needs or wants always seem to override ours. It’s not fair and not right. It’s downright heartbreaking. We do it for them! Anyway, I hear you! We’re made of different stuff. I do think though that if they aren’t at least trying to meet us half way, it’s not a good fit. Thankfully we are resilient and forgiving, but we know the truth now. We must embrace our own needs and not be martyrs. Happy 2020, Moisy! xoxo

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I don’t necessarily think we marry someone like our dad, or someone who is the opposite of our dad. Some people do but many don’t. The choice of a life partner is way more complicated than that, and is influenced by a lot of different factors. However, I think a lot of us who marry addicts are the kind of people who are helpers and givers. We’re the kind of people who put others first. (Although, of course, there are exceptions to this.)
    I resonate with your experience of being the family caretaker who married a man with a very powerful work ethic, and one which often took him overseas. I also resonate with not being made of impenetrable stuff, and of being vulnerable – just like everyone else.

    Liked by 6 people

    • I agree, DLH. I find all the psychological theories fascinating, but we do each have unique stories, needs, strengths, challenges. It’s so very complicated really.

      I spent 5 long years actually thinking about my life commitment to my husband before marrying him. If there was even a moment where I thought he had the capacity to cheat on me (much less be diagnosed as an addict), the story in my head would have played out very differently.

      I equate cheating with cruelty and somewhere along the line, I somehow likened my husband’s values and feelings to mine. I didn’t believe that he could hurt me so wholly.

      He just isn’t me. He doesn’t have the same upbringing or devotion to the truth. He grew up using lying as a survival instinct and rationalizing destructive behavior to combat the shame. I know from his perspective he didn’t think what he was doing was cruel. It was his secret life that no one would find out about. Now he knows better.

      When I met my husband, we were 20. I had no idea what he would become. I was the straight A student who maxed out the number of classes I could take as I was putting myself through by working two jobs. I was organized and hard working. BE on the other hand, didn’t work. His parents paid for everything. He pulled all nighters not because he was that hard working, but because he was distracted and would procrastinate and in hindsight I would say he has ADHD.

      As I write this, I actually think I am the one with the powerful work ethic. I think BE puts his value in success. He also feeds off the people part of his personality, the salesman in him. I have actually been the family caretaker AND the business caretaker, picking up the pieces as he muddles through proceeding as he wishes, following his own whims, never really learning responsibility or integrity.

      I’m sure you can hear in my words how very tired I am. I have not done myself many favors over the years. Thanks for listening. 🙏🏼

      Liked by 2 people

      • I resonate with so much of what you write here, Kat.
        Marrying someone I thought would be faithful was number one on my list of priorities, too. It was always my main consideration, no matter who I dated.
        I also was a straight A student. My parents encouraged me to get an education, but never contributed anything financially.
        And like you, I equated cheating with cruelty. If you love someone you treat them with respect. You don’t lie to them, or compartmentalise your life, or repeatedly do things behind their back that you know would hurt or even destroy them.
        I can see how much you have done through the years for your husband, the family and the business – out of love, and a very deep sense of personal responsibility. No wonder you feel absolutely shattered. That level of self-giving takes its toll eventually. But it’s a million times worse if you then discover that you haven’t been loved and respected in return – at least not in a very healthy way. You wonder what really has been the point.
        I think you crash with more force than if you had never been betrayed.

        Liked by 3 people

        • I was the first in my family to graduate from a 4-year university. I really wanted more for any kids I might bring into this world. I wanted them to have a broader perspective, travel, know that we are but a speck in a big universe, and understand how important it is to be giving of not just money, but time and energy. I always wanted to travel the world. My Grandmother was born in Oregon and never left the state in all her 66 years. That was never going to be me. It just sucks that the person I chose to spend my life with was so broken. It doesn’t negate all that we have done together, but it does put a shadow over it on many days. This kind of betrayal has shattered my ability to trust people. I really do hate that.

          Liked by 1 person

          • That’s a great achievement and wonderful goals to have for your children. My parents have always lived within 50 miles of where they were born. I have lived in 3 different countries, and currently live in a different country from my family. Yeah, our lives are hugely affected (constrained?) by the needs of the person we marry. And once something like this happen, you lose that healthy, positive ability to trust and assume the good.

            Liked by 1 person

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