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I Stayed In My Unhappy Marriage As A Way To Punish Myself For My Past Mistakes

couple11As the one year anniversary of my divorce fast approaches, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the role that I might have played in the demise of my marriage. While I have previously admitted to myself that my ex-husband’s lack of attention, affection, and the fact that I couldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him, contributed to me becoming emotionally distant and detached from both him and the marriage, as I got dressed this morning, I thought of another reason why my ex and I aren’t still living in marital bliss.And it starts with me not being honest in the first place about why I stayed with him for as long as I did.

When I was young and dumb- in my early 20’s-I had a brief affair with a married man. Yes, I knew he was married, but a part of me- with the low self-esteem that I’ve always had about myself- felt kind of flattered that a married man was attracted to me. I enjoyed the attention, the phone calls, and the flirting. At first, that’s all it was. But one night, even after telling myself that I would never allow it to go any further than that, I slept with him. Now, I’ve never been a member of the proud side-chick clique…I took no pride or joy in the fact that I’d given my body to another woman’s husband. In fact, I felt the exact opposite. I felt like shit. Guilt was the only thing I felt when I looked at myself in the mirror. While the flirting, compliments, and occasional pop-up visits he made to my house were cool, I felt horrible about playing a role in cheating and breaking another woman’s heart.

That affair didn’t last long at all…less than a couple of months. Eventually, I realized that I wanted my own man, not one who belonged to someone else. I moved on and started dating another guy. However, I knew that Karma was waiting up ahead for me…like an accident on the freeway that we don’t know has happened until we come to it. ‘What goes around, comes around,’ ‘You reap what you sow,’ ‘Karma is a mean ol’ bitch, and she’ll pop up when you least expect her to,’ ‘An eye for an eye,’ …all of those phrases danced around inside my head. I knew that the same way that I’d opened my legs and bed to a married man, that same fate awaited me the moment I met a guy that I really liked and got serious with. And it did. All of my relationships that came after the affair as well as my marriage- from beginning to end-were plagued with lying, cheating, manipulation, physical, emotional, and verbal abuse at some point or another..and I was on the receiving end of all of these things. And one of the things that I can remember saying to myself each time I was faced with another lie or proof of my husband’s infidelity, was, “Suck it up and deal with it, Ms. Thang. All of this is nothing but the karma you knew was going to come  for you eventually because you slept with a married man.”

For years, this was my mindset. Every time I had to have confrontation with another woman over my own husband, every time I sat at home and wondered where he was and why he wasn’t answering my phone calls or he was ‘working late’ again, every time I was tempted to check his cell phone while he was taking a shower…I told myself I had only myself to blame for all of it. In my mind, I was playing God and punishing myself…as if I somehow knew that this is exactly the punishment He had written in the cards for me. I punished myself for nearly ten years. Until one day, back in 2011 when I finally discovered social media and Facebook, when the very man that I’d had the brief affair with, hit up my DM’s. No, he wasn’t trying to hook up, at least I don’t think he was. He simply asked me how I’d been. I replied, “Fine.” I was engaged to my ex-husband at the time and I’d posted photos of us on my page. He told me that “I looked happy,” to which I replied, “I am.” That was the one and only time he ever inboxed me since that time. But because I had accepted both his friend request and the request that his wife later sent me, I got a first hand look into their marriage…or at least a look into it from the outside looking it.

The thing that struck me was, while I had been punishing myself for having slept with this married man- something I’d done throughout the dating, engagement, and marriage phase of my relationship with my ex-husband- this man had gone on with his life. Judging by the family photos he and his wife posted often, it appeared that he had happily moved on after his infidelity, while I was still sitting around feeling bad for what I’d done years earlier. The guilt that had tortured me and lingered over my head like a dark cloud for years after the affair, didn’t seem to bother him at all. And it wasn’t until after I’d finally gotten divorced from my own husband last year that I finally forgave myself for the role that I’d played in that affair. Because while I had been a participant in the infidelity, I’m not the one who cheated on that man’s wife, he was. I’m not the one who broke the vows that he’d made to her, he was. I finally realized that I shouldn’t be the only one still feeling bad for him cheating on his wife. Whether he finally came clean to her or she found out on her own, I don’t know. But I do know that while I received more my fair share of karma, I refused to continue to be a glutton for punishment. I am not going to tell myself that I don’t deserve true love, commitment, and happiness in a relationship because of something that I did wrong a decade earlier.

I’ve admitted my wrong, endured my own share of heartache and pain, and now I’m moving on and letting go of my past.I refuse to judge myself or let anyone else judge me by my past, because I don’t dwell in that place anymore.

As the late Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better, you do better.”

The first thing  I do when I meet a man  is look at his hand to see if I see a ring, even though the fact that he’s not wearing one means nothing, because he could have removed it. Unlike the 23 year old young woman I was then, I’m 38 now…much more wiser and mature, and I have no desire to be with a man who has any kind of attachment to another woman- whether his relationship status is he’s dating, it’s complicated, or especially if he’s married. I don’t even need those kind of problems in my life. I know that the man God has for me is not a man who’s married to another woman. I’ve been happily single for nearly a year now, and I plan on waiting until the man who is made for me comes my way. I won’t settle for anything less. I allowed my own husband to mistreat me because I felt I deserved it…so I stayed and allowed him to disrespect me repeatedly, and he did exactly what I’d allowed him to do, until I finally got tired of it.While there are consequences to every action, nobody deserves to be anyone’s personal doormat. Pray for forgiveness, forgive yourself, and let it go.

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