Check out my book, Thrown Away Wives: The Trauma of Starting Over After Age Fifty, on amazon.com.
There is another obstacle thrown away women face and which I haven’t really talked about: Anger. For some of us it remains just below the surface and for others it rages right out in the open for everyone to see. I think most of us are overtly angry once we come out of the shock stage and that’s to be expected. It makes sense, and it’s one of the stages of grief, which is also experienced when the marriage ends. But the kind of anger I’m talking about here is the kind that rears up and sticks to you and changes you.
I went through what I called my “primal scream” phase, where I felt as though I was pulling back on the reigns of anger all the time, just to keep it from running away with me. At times it was hard to control, but I thought if I let the scream out it would never stop. That passed, of course, but I still feel buried anger. It rises up every time I can’t afford a doctor when I’m sick, or I need clothes and can’t buy them. I didn’t sign up for this, and would never have been in this situation had I not met my ex. I get angry when I think about how much better off I’d be now, had I never let him into my life. I know. Water under the bridge and all that.
But the thing is, there are some women who let this anger rule their life. They come apart at the seams and it is apparent to everyone observing them that the wheels are OFF. But these angry women don’t care. They choose to scream and stomp and swing the anger around like a weapon. Thing is, this weapon hurts nobody but them because everybody else can leave.
I was thinking about one of those women today as I drove home. This person is attractive and smart, has a good sense of humor, used to be a pleasure to be around. But when the wheels came off, all anybody could do was run. I have rarely seen such venomous behavior, and thought I was witnessing someone actually going crazy.
It came to mind again, that a person can either choose to roll around in the pain and misery and become accustomed to the smell and taste of it…even come to like it… or they can choose to get past it. I chose to move forward, even though it felt like I wasn’t moving at all sometimes. I kept at least some forward momentum…still do. What’s the difference? Why do some move forward and others sit down and waste precious time? I don’t know. Maybe I have more patience than some. Maybe I have what it takes to stick with a goal until I reach it. Maybe I’m just stubborn or stupid! or maybe I know if I don’t do it, nobody will. Not sure. But clearly, it’s good idea to put as much distance between us and catastrophe as we can. And whether you call it pain or anger or disaster or WHATEVER, it must be shaken off. Otherwise you allow a person with no character to ruin yours. If it is such a horrible thing to have someone throw us away, why in God’s name would we want to languish on the trash heap?
People are adaptable. And we can adapt to garbage too (think hoarder). Be aware of that and shake that s*$t off. Keep walking through that valley and WIN! We’re all grown up now. Nobody’s going to come and lift us out. We have to do it ourselves.
I cover this subject quite a bit in my book, but don’t believe I’ve blogged about it. It’s important, and I hope some of my readers have NOT experienced the horror of thrown away wives in their lives, or been one. If they haven’t, they likely will, either directly or tangentially. So if you know someone who has a loved one going through this, please tell them about this site. Otherwise this will be another relationship fatality, based solely on one man’s inability to commit, or to control his animal urges. And yeah, women do this to men as well, only not as much…yet. The truths here apply to both genders, so no worries.
First it is supremely important to know that this is NOT like any other divorce a person may have experienced: It is DIFFERENT late in life. Folks it really does NOT take a genius to understand this. Peoples’ values CHANGE by the decade, roughly, and later in life, it is family and home which become “sacred”. When a spouse is discarded, their very VALUE SYSTEM is dismantled. That alone is traumatic in a way you can’t know unless you have experienced it. So if you become a support person, get that in your head, on your radar, and know that the person to whom you offer help is CHANGED, and broken in a way you can’t comprehend. So forget about preaching or trying to FIX that person. They are unfixable in the beginning. No, you are not qualified to fix anybody, least of all a throw away. The best thing to do, then, is just be quietly available and let the person know that they are safe and that they CAN rebuild that value system, because the number one thought among us is that we are RUINED forever. Yes, time is short, but in our minds, we are as good as dead and we are terrified beyond words.
I remember how I felt when people talked about what happened to me, and preached their fixes to me. First of all they were not QUALIFIED to analyze my situation, and second of all, their preaching voices merely blended out of sync with the primal scream constantly in the back of my mind. I wasn’t READY to be preached at and I wasn’t ABLE to be fixed. I went from a whole, life long work of art to micro dust. Reassembly takes a long time and what results looks NOTHING like what existed before, except on the outside. Some of us are fighters; it’s in our genetic makeup and we eventually stand up and move, dragging parts behind us usually, but we move. Others just need more help…and more compassion.
Remember we are past career ladder climbing as a CENTRAL value; we are past child rearing and daycare stories as a CENTRAL value system. It’s about home and family. And by family I mean that we HAD become a support location, an oracle if you will, a place for gatherings and extra strength and wisdom for our children and grandchildren. Imaging being EJECTED from that position to poverty and nothingness in the blink of an eye ONLY because we got older. And I mean really imagine it. Give it some thought. And know that we are now thrown back twenty or thirty years, in terms of values, back to making career central in a time when nobody wants to hire us because of our age. Are you getting this? It’s a monumental problem for the ones thrown away.
Supporting a throw away, either emotionally of financially, is hard. Because this grown person who appears to be okay is really a vibrating mass of trauma, stress and fear. We LOOK okay, but WE ARE BROKEN. So please lower your expectations and be KIND. All throw aways need in the beginning is to feel safe again, to feel like we belong SOMEWHERE, and to feel like one living human being cares. We need to know it’s okay if we need to get up during the night to make decaf coffee, because we can’t SLEEP while you DO. We need to know it’s okay if we don’t laugh at jokes or participate in book club, because we don’t FEEL like it. And for God’s sake don’t try to take us to a party. What makes YOU feel good WILL NOT WORK for this person. Understand that. Baby steps, folks. Baby steps. This is post trauma stress.
Don’t step into the aid arena if you can’t hack it. And you will set your ‘LOVED ONE’ back to ground zero if you get frustrated and eject them from your life. You will do irreparable harm to your relationship, probably permanently. If you do that you demonstrate your inability to practice empathy, and you demonstrate your ignorance of the influence of age cohort (decade) in life. You didn’t pay attention in psychology class in college in other words.
Compassion is the key. And compassion is more rare than anyone realizes. You can’t KNOW that unless your survival depends on compassion and you realize there is none, even from your “loved ones”. So I appeal to you from the bottom of my scarred heart: Practice true compassion. Nothing is more precious to a throw away than safety, and you can offer that. Now I’m not saying you adopt this person forever, but picking up the pieces with them, one by one and making an attempt to HELP them reassemble, is the kindest thing you will ever do. It’s harder than watching a loved one die; that’s easy compared to this. Don’t start the process if you can’t hang in there because it takes a long time.
Hi Friends. I have gotten into the simplification mode lately, getting rid of a lot of things I thought I’d never part with. I think this is normal once you reach a certain age; but if it’s not, too bad. It’s where I am.
I never know anymore, whether my feelings are a result of the trauma I still walk through, or whether it’s age related and thus “normal”. I guess I think that my life is much simpler now and I don’t need so many clothes and pairs of shoes, which makes sense. But I also want to clear out all of the pictures and chochkies and vases and candles…not sure what’s going on there. Decorating is one of my joys/pleasures. But lately I just want nothing, plain, clean. As I lugged a load into the car to take to Goodwill, I got to thinking about the differences in me now, and of all of the “different” relationships in my life and I’m not sure I’ve really written about those aspects of being thrown away in sort of “instructional” detail. It’s pretty bad, almost as bad as being thrown into poverty and chronic financial stress. Almost.
When it first becomes clear that we are about to become refuse to be discarded, I think the first thing we do is reach out to our family or friends (or both), so that someone can help us construct a rational thought. I’m not talking about RESCUE; I’m talking about THINKING STRAIGHT. The shock is so great that the primary reaction isn’t even tears; it’s pacing and hearing the roaring in your ears and feeling your heart race within your chest…and this goes on for weeks. The only respite is sleep, which comes rarely and from which you HATE awakening, because the anxiety races back into the void like a freight train, nearly pinning you down. I reached out and can’t remember a thing I said. I know I just wanted someone to help me THINK things through. I’ve rarely asked for help in my life, and am usually the problem solver. But this time, I couldn’t think linearly and I was TERRIFIED beyond belief. I couldn’t solve a problem as simple as punching my way out of a wet paper bag. I was lost and traumatized. But somewhere in the back of my mind I thought I would be okay, that there was someone out there who loved me enough to be in my corner, just BE there. Wrong.
The first year was a blur; I hardly remember it. But what I do remember is how quickly I went from having a three level, 4000 square foot, beautifully decorated home, to riding out of my driveway with my brother heading away forever. My ex had paid bills out of the equity line to the tune of over 98,000 dollars, leaving the mortgage severely under water. Instead of him sticking me with that, I stuck him with it. But regardless, I was now homeless. Now, I would think that anyone who professed to love me or even like me a lot, would understand the kind of trauma just THAT ONE event brought to bear. Forget about lawyers, humiliation, embarrassment, financial ruin…forget all of THAT. Just think your loved ones would want to rush to you and keep you upright and thinking straight, would feel your pain at least a little bit and want to HELP you. No. Doesn’t happen that way. People don’t really care.
Thrown away wives are INCONVENIENT, in the way, a burden…and like bringing a zombie into your home. I turned away very slowly from the ruination of my life and the ruination of my FUTURE, to face the rest of my life struggling and alone, only to come face to face with the reality of “love”. I faced daily calls and emails from lawyers, and the ones from HIS were designed to drive me to suicide, I’m convinced. And I had to work through bank accounts and records and appointments everywhere, try to SURVIVE..while still trying to work AND not “BOTHER” anybody with my life.
The person who LOVED me embezzled money out of our joint account by writing normal bill amounts in the checkbook…remember HE insisted on taking complete control of all finances…while ACTUALLY paying bills against the equity line…98,000 dollars worth… and withdrawing that money to send it who knows where. Then he told me I needed to pull money out of my retirement investments to “make ends meet”, at which time he would make it a point to show me the checkbook where he had written in all of the monthly bill entries. I’m an idiot. He protested too much and I should have caught that. He took my child’s inheritance. I literally handed him my retirement nest egg too. His plan worked to a tee.
Do you think anybody who SHOULD have come alongside me to help me, actually DID come alongside? Well, one did for a little while, but I was inconvenient and ruined the look of their mansion. So I got thrown away again. 5000 square feet and no children in it, and my one bedroom being occupied was too much. I’m shaking my head. And don’t get me wrong, I’m a nice person! Too nice for my own good a lot of the time, but I’m an introvert. I don’t make a lot of racket! I keep things clean. But I do sleep in the bed and take showers and go downstairs to make coffee. I eat and wash dishes and vacuum, buy food, try to help. Apparently I have a big aura. That must be it. I had the nerve to be broken. That was the problem. People do NOT want to be around imperfection, folks. Look around you.
And love. Love is parasitic. That’s the way our world has become. People run around looking to OWN someone and take what they want from them. They want to jump on and ride for a while or take their assets, they want to be taken care of, to have a trophy, to control or to rescue themselves from loneliness. They want a cook, a housekeeper, a sex object. And LUST is not love, but most people think it is, particularly men. Nobody seems to look at love as two way at all. So when people talk about love, I IMMEDIATELY start assessing who the parasite is. And I almost always find it very quickly. So love is a four letter word for me. It never used to be. Maybe that’s the worst part of being thrown away. I don’t know. But I imagine love like this: Everybody has at least one arrow, but HOPEFULLY two. If your love is mature and true, you have two arrows, one pointing out, one pointing in. But MOST people have ONE arrow, and it points right to them. Check it out! You will be amazed.
Trust. Don’t make me laugh. I was played like a cheap banjo and stripped of my very life by my ex. And I am SMART. But he as the ultimate predator and he killed my life. Killed it and never blinked. He took everything I worked my ass of for, my whole life an never looked back. So…I WONDER whether I will ever be able to trust again. I really hope I can. I miss that part of my character. I used to be very trusting and loving.
Bottom line is this: This crap messes up the emotional equilibrium for…well about six years so FAR. And as I have said, some women cry when they talk about it after TEN years. So the jury is out on the healing timeline. But all of my relationships are broken. Parent (my father passed away before the blowup), brothers, sisters, daughter. All. I have asked myself a thousand times whether it’s really possible for people to be so compassionless and cold hearted, whether they can really NOT get it to the extent that they DON’T. And yeah, I think they don’t get it, but is that because they don’t WANT to or because they’re not that smart. Well….both. And they make it very clear that they can get along fine without us. That is until they are thrown away. But it hurts that they don’t care about us, really, don’t “love” us. And they CAN get along just fine without us. Just like our exes. So does it really matter that we were thrown away? I’m trying to answer that one.
Not everyone has my IQ, but let me tell you, if someone I love is isolated and desolate, I NOTICE. And that’s mostly because of my heart, not my smarts. I go to them and FIND OUT why they are absent from life. AND I find out if I can HELP. There’s a good word. As long as I see them doing something to try to help themselves, I am right there, right alongside. I know when someone is down, trying to get back up. It’s therefore my job to try to help. Period. But that, folks, is apparently UNUSUAL.
But there’s another layer of the emotional bog. I don’t feel the same around my friends either. I feel like I’m somehow out of focus in the context of our friendship, so I’m awkward in a way I never was before. I don’t feel important anymore, and if you think about your friendships, you know you do feel important. That’s part of being friends. That part of me is wounded, maybe permanently. And yes, one would think I could benefit from counseling. Well, the thing is, most counselors don’t understand this kind of trauma either, because most are men and they haven’t been women thrown away, and most of the women counselors haven’t been thrown away because they knew the sh(&heads when they approached and drop kicked them. So…no help. Nobody gets it. I LIKE counselors; they have great ideas, but in THIS case, they are clueless. (Sorry counselors). And when I make new friends, which I have…quite a few of them…it’s not the same. There’s a wall behind which I hide my insecurities. It’s HARD for me to reach out; in fact, it’s easier to just stay to myself, which I do. And of course that feeds the loneliness. So…another important aspect of being thrown away.
It’s lonely, the weight of which is nearly as bad as that initial anxiety; but it’s better than being around people whom you know don’t care about you enough to notice that you’re turned around backward, that your life has been thrown on the trash heap. And yes, I have changed. I, for example, can see the sh*^head syndrome from a MILE away and have learned, happily, how to decapitate (figuratively of course) these so called men. I feel sorry for them, skipping happily near to me, thinking they can play that stupid game. I have a lot of cat energy so I study them and pat them around a bit just to watch the manipulations and lies…then I tell them to get lost. Which they hate because they’re narcisists. And which I find immensely amusing and funny now. The bad part is that there are so MANY of them. They are EVERYWHERE.
A fellow throw-away asked me why she attracts guys like this and my answer is this: We provide stability, financial well being (good credit), goodness and light, honesty, integrity and strength…and we look good. These are all things these predators look for. So yes we are always going to be targets for them. The trick is to recognize the beast and cattle prod it away. Several times until you laugh.
But recovery and realizations aside, emotional healing is SLOWWWW. I wonder whether I will ever really feel joy again. I wonder how it feels to laugh and be carefree…like I used to be. I wonder whether I will ever feel good about myself again…after six years, this is how I’m feeling.
So there you have it. Remember this and let’s see how it is next year. And I cried when I wrote this, for your notes you know. So if you cry too, that’s okay. We’re still here. We’re moving forward.
Until next time…