I’ve been thinking a lot about subtext recently – when someone says something that doesn’t match up to what they actually think or mean – and it got me thinking about some of the things people said to me in the days, weeks, months, even years, after my husband left me.
“You’re better off without him.”
“Think of it as being released.”
“He was a weight around your neck.”
“I never trusted him.”
“The first time my husband cheated on me would be his last time.”
“You should have walked out years ago.”
I know what my friends and family were trying to do. They were trying to comfort me. Support me. Help me. Love me. I know they were, but sometimes those words of ‘support’ cut me to the core.
Because if you really look at those phrases, and how they can be interpreted by someone who is in emotional pain, it’s not hard to read the subtext behind them. You weak fool. Why did you hang around him so long? If we could see him for who he was, how couldn’t you?
And then it becomes so easy to see yourself as a total loser. Why was I so blind? How did everyone else see what I couldn’t see? Was I really that stupid for loving him?
Because I did love him.
Or… maybe I really was just that stupid. I knew he’d been unfaithful – several times. But our kids were young, each time he promised it would never happen again, and I didn’t want to break up our family. So was I trying to do the right thing… or was I scared to confront him?
And if I’m honest, I also knew that the kids and I were not the number one priority in his life. His actions made it clear that he was number one, followed by his job. And my actions only reinforced that belief. So was I weak – and frightened – that maybe I couldn’t have coped on my own?
The answer to that is… maybe I was. But I don’t think so. I’ve proven to myself over and over and over again through the years that I could look after myself and the kids.
But I loved him.
I loved him.
So yes, maybe the reality is that I was a fool, but that’s not something to say to someone – even in subtext – when they are reeling in a whirlwind of despair.
So what do you say in that situation? Perhaps as little as possible. Choose your words carefully. Don’t add to their pain – even if it is well meant.
Just be there. Listen. Support. Love.
You have no idea how much your support matters. YOU – family and friends – are who helps us get through that long dark tunnel until we emerge back into the light.
Thank you to all of you who stand by our side.