My shame and the shame I laid on those I love. I’m not sure why God is asking me to share this story. I hope that maybe someone, somewhere, can learn from my mistakes and manage to avoid the regrets that I now carry. That would be reason enough for writing this down and hitting publish …
I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s new book, Daring Greatly. It’s about shame, shame resilience, courage, and vulnerability. I have experienced dozens of aha moments in just the first few chapters. … I shared with you previously that I have been on a journey of discovery and that one of the things I was discovering is that men and women perceive things (actions, attitudes, tone of voice, etc.) very differently. … men are conditioned , from childhood, to feel great shame at any perceived weakness or failure. (It may also be helpful to note that men typically react to shame in one of two ways: rage or retreat.) Two memories instantly slammed into my consciousness. Things I wish I could undo. Neither takes place in a single moment in time.
The thing you also need to understand, about men, in order to really get this next part, is that sexual rejection is deeply shaming to them. They risk major vulnerability when they approach us sexually and when we reject them … it can do major damage to their spirit and to our relationship! (Please note that I’m talking about men in committed relationships … not the cads in night clubs looking for one night stands.)
We came home from Branson and Bert went to the doctor. He came home with a referral to a cardiologist and an appointment for a carotid doppler. Those referrals always seem to take forever and I felt like I was constantly waiting for him to have another episode. It wasn’t a fun way to live. Once he saw the cardiologist he was given a heart monitor to wear (constantly) for 2 weeks. It’s hard for me to remember the exact order things happened in here but the carotid doppler revealed blockage in his left carotid artery and the doctor scheduled a carotid endarterectomy (surgery). I was relieved except that they didn’t think that was what caused the episode in Branson or the frequent weakness and exhaustion. Then as we were waiting for the scheduled surgery, they called and said they were postponing that surgery because the heart monitor had shown a more urgent need for a pacemaker. Just the word pacemaker freaked me out. The doctor explained that Bert’s heart rate was dropping way too low to sustain consciousness and there was a scary possibility that it could, at some point, stop altogether. The pacemaker would be a back up system to kick start his heart when the rate dropped below 60.
I was living in constant fear. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was also dealing with chronic pain from a recent car accident as well as insomnia and depression. I suppose I was a bit of a perfect storm and as I said, “As women, wives, mothers … you may be inclined to excuse what I share here and urge me not to be so hard on myself. I promise … I’m not beating myself up. I just wish I could change the past and thereby change so many things.”
Sex had been really infrequent for quite a long time because neither of us had felt like it. Every once in a while Bert would drop hints that he was interested but I was so caught up in my fears and turbulent emotions that I would shut him down without really thinking about it. I had no idea how much damage I was doing by that choice. But honestly … I’m not sure if knowing would have changed things. I’d like to think it would but the truth is that I was so focused on dealing with my own pain that I couldn’t see his!
It was either a Friday or Saturday night when we were sitting in the living room watching TV when Bert walked over, leaned down and kissed me. I kissed him back and then pushed him away and told him to “be good.” He responded that he didn’t want to be good and leaned toward me again. I slammed on the brakes and told him that I didn’t think this was a good idea given his health. I might as well have dumped a bucket of ice water on him and then hit him with the bucket! He was mad. Told me that if I didn’t want to have sex with him I shouldn’t blame it on his health and that he was perfectly fine for sexual activity. I promptly burst into tears and raced out of the room.
I think, looking back, that night began the downward spiral that ultimately killed intimacy in our relationship. 4 years ago. And we are just now starting to rebuild.
Can I please ask you for a couple of quick favors?
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