Honesty has always been extremely important to me. Some have even accused me of the cliché “being honest to a fault”. So when I think about my intrinsic need to receive and give authentic truth, I have to ask myself why I didn’t do so in my failed marriage?
The idea of dishonesty in marriage may lead one to think of challenges with fidelity, finances, or parenting. However, my dishonesty was subtler and cloaked. I was guilty of the worse kind of deception: self-deception.
While my former husband lied about his relationships and interactions with other women, I lied to myself.
It all started when I told myself that first lie 20 years ago, “Renee, you deserve to be loved and protected by a good man”. You see, despite the dismal and heartbreaking opinion of men that I developed from watching the elder men in my life mistreat their wives, I refused to give up hope that there were still good men out there. I also underestimated how much my self-worth had been damaged by witnessing the dishonor of the women I loved and respected. To top it off, I was also damaged from outside sources like the media and images I continuously saw that didn’t reflect my identity.
Logically I believed that I deserved to be loved. Consciously, I even believed this was so. But deep down, if the whole world were quiet I may be able to hear my REAL truth. No one will ever love me. I even had the “evidence” from the media and my family’s dysfunctional examples to prove it:
- I am not good enough
- I am not pretty enough
- I am not smart enough
- I am not skinny enough
- I am not accomplished enough
- I am not educated enough
- I am not feminine enough
- I am not a virgin
- I am not from a good family
- I am too loud
- I am too independent
- I am too trusting
- I am too idealistic
- I am too nice
- I am too poor
- I am too black
- I am too dramatic
- I am too emotional
- I am too sexy
All of this “evidence” were messages that I received from the people and world around me. They were also too much to bear. So instead I convinced myself that like any other attractive, smart, nice, giving woman, I too deserved love.
The tricky part came after we were married. I began to use my new status to prove my true beliefs wrong. In my not-so-clear mind, I thought that if I could be the perfect wife then I would also prove that I really did deserve to be loved.
So, although I enjoyed my carefree job as a cocktail waitress, I quit and traded in my halter top, shorts and fishnets for a suit, button down shirt and pumps.
Although I felt sexy in my petite, curvy yet athletic body, it was much easier to be accepted by other women in my new overweight, spanks and double-digit size wearing mom body. My short and sassy hair was grown long and dutiful.
There was a time when I would quit a job, sublet a lease, or sell all my furniture for an international adventure with a sister or friend. Those times were now viewed by my peers and community as immature and reckless.
My friends once consisted of men and women, straight and gay, young and old, all nationalities, cultures, and religions; but after I married, those relationships faded and we mostly shared time with other married couples.
Young and fearless I braved living independently in cities like New York and L.A. Married, we settled down in my hometown and later an even slower suburb.
And finally, my once passionate career of acting had been reduced in my mind to a fun time, good experiences, and lack of judgment.
I gave up my truth to be a “good” wife and mother. My belief was that the real Renee was not deserving of this life. I asked myself, “What good husband wants his bald wife to saunter sexily over to the PTA while talking loudly to her gay boyfriend about her latest acting gig which afforded her to be able to take a girls’ trip with her single girlfriend to a nudists’ resort in Aruba”?
My (wrong) answer: NONE. No good man would want a wife like that. And so, I disappeared; as did my truth.
Judgment, poor self-worth, and ensuing bad habits of pleasing took over. I became more and more buried under my attempts to be good enough. There was never an unwillingness to express my truth; but an inability to do so that stemmed from the suppression of my true self.
Today, I proudly walk through the world with truth and an authentic love and appreciation for the woman I have become. When those untruths try to seep in and sway my personal constitution, I remind myself that there is only one Renee, made purposefully and uniquely by a perfect HAND that makes no mistakes.