Part I: The Way You Make Your Bed Is The Way You Lie In It…No Sheet!
As the youngest of four children, I was raised to do as I was told.
So the fact that I married someone who loved to tell me what to do actually wasn’t surprising at all. I was in training for this marriage my whole life. It was what I knew and what I assumed was normal and natural.
I’m not saying it was comfortable, what I believed in or what I wanted for myself, but it was definitely familiar.
From the onset of my marriage till recently, I cleaned, did the laundry, ironed the clothes, ran the errands, cooked the meals, and when the kids were born, I took care of them as well because Dick said this was my responsibility. Not once was there ever a “thank you,” an acknowledgement, show of appreciation or gratitude.
Instead, it was expected and assumed that I would handle all of these chores, whether I was working outside of the home or not. As Dick frequently reminded me, “What’s the big deal? So you take care of the house. It’s not like you do anything else all day. If it wasn’t for me working, making a living and paying the bills, you’d be out on the street.”
Help of any kind was obviously out of the question.
Anything that would have made my life easier or would have benefitted me in any way was about as likely as me winning the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. Needless to say, as much as I hoped and prayed, no one ever rang my front door bell while standing there with a bouquet of flowers, ready to inform me that I just won a major jackpot and my life would soon change for the better.
When my friends asked me why I continued to put up with Dick and let him push me around the way he did, I told them that they didn’t understand what it was like living with him. He made all of the rules, did what he wanted whenever he wanted and I had no other choice but to go along with it.
Fear played a major role in my being submissive to his constant demands.
Throughout my marriage, Dick promised me that if I thought being married to him was bad, I should try to divorce him and see what would happen to me then. He’d make sure I had nothing. When I gave up my career to stay home with our kids and lost all sources of an income and a means to support myself, the fear of winding up penniless and homeless kept me bound to a man who treated me like I was the rug at the front door to wipe his feet on and step all over. He had no respect, nor did he care about me at all. After being treated like this for well over two decades, my self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth were shot to hell.
This should explain why a month after I filed for divorce, I was still changing the sheets on the bed that Dick slept on, doing his laundry, ironing and making his meals. That and the fact that he threatened to not give me the $75/week that he claimed he didn’t have to (which was supposed to pay for all of my personal expenses) but generously did out of the goodness of his heart kept me from rocking the boat.
I was told by my attorney as well as by everyone else, to stop doing everything for Dick. I was not his employee and we were getting a divorce.
I decided to live dangerously and took a baby step by not changing the sheets on Dick’s bed. When Dick saw that I left his bed unmade, you know what hit the fan.
Coincidentally, this latest outburst happened the night before Josh went back to school. There was definitely a pattern emerging here…I filed for divorce the day before Josh’s 21st birthday and I didn’t change Dick’s sheets the day before Josh left for college. I wondered what the significance of all this was. I’m sure that one day I’ll figure all this out. In the meantime, I had far more pressing issues to deal with. (*Pun totally not intended)
Like an animal that stalked its prey, Dick waited for the kids and me to all be together in the same room before he pounced. Going in for the kill, he confronted me with, ” Aren’t you changing the sheets on my bed?” “No,” I calmly responded. “Why not?” he continued. “Josh changes the sheets on his bed. Ashley changes the sheets on her bed. I change the sheets on the mattress I’m sleeping on and you can change the sheets on the bed you are sleeping on. I’m not your employee,” I replied with a hint of defiance in my voice.
“Oh really? Now you are going to pick and choose what you do? Then I don’t have to give you money anymore,” he retorted. “One thing has nothing to do with the other,” I answered, feeling the tension and tightness quickly begin to constrict the muscles in my neck, head and back as the volume of my voice raised.
“Wait till you see what happens to you next,” he vehemently threatened.
Seeing where this was going and not wanting the kids to witness yet another major confrontation, I walked out of the room and out of the line of fire.
Dick was pissed off big time.
I was a nervous wreck.
I anxiously wondered what his plans for retaliation would include.
In a miniscule way, this capricious act of refusing to change Dick’s sheets felt liberating.
The shackles binding me to him were ever so slightly starting to lose their grip.
As the saying goes…All great journeys begin with a single step.