I’ve been thinking a lot about my environment lately. I have my kids. They’re my world. They’re destructive and confrontational, as boys tend to be, but they’re sweet when they want to be. My two-year old is always sweet to me.
I have my cats. They’re jerks. I have a dog that I hate and never asked for in the first place. I get sick of waking up in the middle of the night to his pointless barking. If anyone were to break in, he’d hide with his tail between his legs.
Sometimes I share this space with my ex. My kids get to see their mom, so that’s good, but she usually leaves on her days off. She goes out with her friends, gets tattoos, has dates, goes out to eat, etc. I’m stuck here with social anxiety and food stamps that are only enough to feed my kids.
She divorced me to force me into PTSD treatment. Over the years, I’ve gotten much better. My roadblocks have been her, constantly reminding me of how bad I used to be. I’ve become comfortable in playing the villain, or at least the troubled anti-hero.
I didn’t ask to be in a position to kill a child in Iraq. I didn’t want that guilt consuming me for most of my adult life. I didn’t ask for my emotions to be hijacked and make me afraid to be loved.
Most of all, I didn’t want to hurt her. I can apologize for the rest of my life, but it won’t change anything. She keeps living in the past. That’s the underlying issue. I know I was a bad husband, or at least the good in me was suppressed by a monster, but the real damage was done by her perception of the world.
I had to act because that child was pointing a rifle at me. She’s acting because she’s pointing a gun at herself. She’s running instead of fighting. She’s taking cover and not requesting fire support. The enemy is controlling the battlefield.
I can’t help her anymore. Bending to her every whim is making me worse. My latest therapy sessions have been about how to deal with her instead of my PTSD. It’s clear there’s more harm than good living with this version of her.
I’ve become aggressive in my job search. My kids deserve a dad that works hard for them, not a sad-sack bowing to a narcissist’s every whim, trying to protect them from alienation. I’m done with school for now, and without a job, I’ll never be able to leave the house.
My ex and I spoke for hours a few days ago. I understand her life was complicated and confusing. I can understand her not wanting to repeat history with her own kids. What I can’t understand is that she never considered other options. Maybe she never saw me as a man that could raise kids. Maybe she doesn’t understand my family values because hers were so unique. Maybe she doesn’t understand there is help for her. Too bad I can’t divorce her again to convince her to get help.
What I know is that her past is consuming her, as mine did after Iraq. She refuses to see the good in me as an example of how to overcome the past. I know I’ll have to move on, and she’ll hate me for that, because the next woman I meet will know the good in me.
My ex deserves the good in me. She always has. She just won’t accept it. I’ll never stop loving her, but I have to take care of myself and my kids now.