The Farm on Oak Creek

The Dance of Dysfunction

After my recent post on what went wrong with my marriage, a friend called and confronted me.  She felt I’d been disingenuous and given myself a break in the responsibility category.  She asked point blank what I’d done to contribute to the breakup of my marriage.  She meant other than growing up and violating the unspoken yet agreed-upon terms of the union.

What she wanted to know was who I’d been in the last years of my marriage.

This is actually a good question for me to answer.  If I ever want to be in a relationship again (something that feels very doubtful at the moment), I need to identify what went wrong on my part.  Fortunately for me, about 6 years ago on my mission to “fix” Ed and our marriage, we attended an Imago Therapy weekend.

I would recommend Imago to any couple interested in better understanding the dynamics of their relationship.  It was truly eye-opening.  Once the sessions were over, I understood that I had married Ed in a subconscious attempt to heal my relationship with my mother.

Unfortunately, I had married Ed in a subconscious attempt to heal my relationship with my mother.

I meant to repeat that, mostly because there is now, and was then, no hope of healing my relationship with my mother.  Thus, there could be no hope of healing my relationship with Ed, who had married me in an attempt to heal his relationship with his mother.  Oh lordy, how the Wheel of Life spins!

So, there we were, trapped together, both of us harboring hurt from our childhood and both of us still playing out the same survival patterns that we’d developed and plied to ill-effect during our early years.  For my part, my childhood resulted in me developing incredible patience and the ability to accommodate all sorts of “slings and arrows” –I’m quoting Shakespeare but this is such a Medieval expression. Did you know that on the battlefield the slingers were the deadliest of men?  Just as David did to Goliath, these eagle-eyed men could send their stone out of the sling at 60+ miles/hour to mortal effect.–while I waited to be accepted for who I was (warts and all) and valued for what I had to offer.

So, what did I do with Ed?  I waited without complaint, because that was my survival skill as a child.  I accommodated, another survival skill, saying “yes” when I should have said “hey, wait a minute!”  My most deadly survival skill is optimism.  One of my sisters and I were talking about this the other day.  She has the same trait.  If we have one good day, then we believe we’ve turned the corner.  Life is going to be good from now on.  Everything is back on course and will never again deviate.  Of course, that’s not how it works, but when you’ve spent a lifetime believing that crumbs are a feast, every morsel becomes a fabulous meal.

The end of my marriage began in 2011 when Ed quit his job and I became the breadwinner.  (Thank you,  Of course, in the pattern of my childhood, this should have been my moment of triumph.  At last, I’m valuable, and worthy of respect and acceptance.  But in the pattern of his childhood, I’d just become in every way his mother, who is a powerful, accomplished and successful businesswoman.

What a dance of dysfunction!  So there I am, waiting for him to do for me as I had done for him, and offer the respect and consideration due the one bringing home the bacon. Well duh!  Of course that didn’t happen.  How could it with both of us playing out our unmet childhood needs?

But I wasn’t a child any more.  More and more often, the words “hey, wait a minute!” were coming out of my mouth.  When that didn’t work, I started resenting him when–reality check–I had created this monster. Still, I clung to the relationship.  Every good day as a sign that things were on the upswing.  Unfortunately, Ed dithers.  With Ed, one minute life is great, the next it’s manure.  One day he loved me and pronounced himself committed to our relationship, the next he had a foot out the door.  But no matter his mood, there wasn’t a single day when he offered me the respect I thought I deserved, the respect I hadn’t articulated that I needed from him but simply expected him to offer.

Even recognizing how I was contributing to what was happening couldn’t keep me from finally getting angry.  I’m not nice when I’m angry.  I’m not patient and I’m not accommodating.  I say things like, “You need to leave and never come back” and mean it.  And once I’m done with someone, I’m done.  I’d rather die than look back, much less GO back, and I never regret it.  Not for one minute.

Life is good and the future looks fine from where I sit this morning.


© Denise Domning, 2023