(First published at www.thelovesafetynet.com – this article is recommended for those already working through the steps in Back From the Looking Glass)
Looking for Love? Give Up the Unhealthy Dream . . .
The ancient tale begins with Bluebeard, the richest man in town, living in his castle on the hill.
We then meet the young woman—and her two sisters—whose hand Bluebeard sought in marriage . . .
Right from the start, all three sensed something was not quite right about Bluebeard; after all, his strange blue beard was there on his face right in front of them. Bluebeard’s wealth and prestige, however, caused them to ignore their initial instincts. The young woman was not seduced by Bluebeard, but by the idea that marrying him would cause all three to gain status and social superiority.
Steve will often ask;
If you are with a narcissist, I wonder why you decided to ignore your instincts?”
If you are familiar with the tale, you will be aware it was a truly horrendous situation Bluebeard’s young wife was walking into. In the original version—which you can read in Women Who Run With the Wolves—she earns a last-minute reprieve at the end of the story.
In my opinion, Bluebeard is a symbol of our unhealthy ego and this story about its destruction.
. . .
In our family’s personal story of Bluebeard, I now know that the unhealthy ego in our household was not just in Steve but also lived in me.
For example . . . when I first met Steve; he was charming, the captain of the football team and had a wealthy and flamboyant father (who it turns out also was a narcissist). Right from the start, along with many other danger signs, my instincts should have seen Steve’s lack of compassion for me.
Instead, I wanted to believe the fairy tale romance my mind was constructing . . . with myself in the starring role.
Can you see the unhealthy ego in this?
Because I didn’t want to let go of this dream (of us the perfect couple and better than everyone else), after we were married I didn’t tell too many people that behind the scenes Steve was regularly rude and abusive towards myself and our children. I was ashamed but preferred to blame myself that the dream had not materialised, rather than see it was unhealthy in the first place.
Things didn’t improve for us until I let go of that dream . . . and this took a lot of grieving.
However, I didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater; letting go of the dream didn’t involve leaving Steve behind.
I had already seen too many people throw their marriage away for another ‘roll of the dice’, kidding themselves their prince would come along ‘next time’; but because the unhealthy dream was still there, end up in the same situation all over.*
Instead, I let go of wanting to be a princess carried off by my prince and decided I would need to face the fact Steve and I were both broken and in need of help. Even more important was that I had to accept it would need to be me (and not some knight in shining armour) who would lead us both out of the mess we had found ourselves in.
I decided to stop waiting for a hero and instead to become my own hero.
But what are heroes really made of?
. . .
In terms of social acceptability, our problem was not small and very embarrassing to admit. However, the problem was not going away without me acknowledging we needed help and accepting that help from whoever would offer it.
Asking for this help from community services, the police (and police social workers) took finding humility in myself as much as courage.
It squarely forced me to face the fact that really I was no better than anyone.
I also resisted crying victim.
Instead, I learned to face facts that an honest relationship takes discipline and hard work. Raising children especially. A good marriage is both challenging and rewarding but takes dedication, selflessness, patience and humility.
These qualities in a person do not come from a desire to be better than other people. Like exercise, prayer or meditation, they are disciplines and practices requiring physical acts that must be performed repeatedly.
. . .