Secrets, everyone has them. The question is what do we do with them and what do we do when we learn other people’s secret. This is a tale which I can relate. Cecilia has what she believes is a perfect life, a handsome husband, three wonderful daughters, a successful career and an active volunteer life. While that isn’t exactly a description of my life, it comes close. The there is Tess married with a son and extremely close to her cousin Felicity. Close as sisters they share all aspects of their lives. Rachel, a still grieving mom whose only daughter was murdered, now grieving the departure of her son, daughter-in-law and only grandson to New York City. This new grief catapults her into an obsessive belief the school PE teacher killed her daughter.
It all comes crashing down when each woman learns a secret. Each reacts differently but all causing more chaos in their already damaged lives. Cecelia must decide if she should keep her husband’s secret. In making the choice to keep the ugly truth secret many lives are affected and changed forever. All three women’s lives are intertwined through St. Angela’s Catholic school. As each woman faces choices concerning a secret they struggle. What is the right thing to do versus the best thing for their families.
I understand how difficult it can be when you learn an ugly secret truth about your husband. Hindsight is 20/20. I can see how my choice to keep the ugly truth to myself, I caused damage to myself and my daughters. As difficult as it would have been to face it whe it happened, I would have been able to reach out for help. I could have avoided the deep sadness and depression during my marriage and post divorce. Secrets destroy a soul. That’s is what Cecilia learned. That is what Tess learned. It is what Rachel learned. It’s a lesson I took a long time to learn.
Liane Moriarty has an ease in her writing that captures what most of are honking. Whe. Cecilia thinks to herself, I can hear myself rambling and chattering but I can’t stop. I talk when I’m nervous, I thought that’s me”! When Tess wondered what she was lacking that caused her husband to look elsewhere, that was me. And when Rachel becomes obsessed with “justice” and “vengeance” that was me too. Life in Melbourne, Australia isn’t very different than life here in Texas.
We read stories everyday of women that have been abused by a man. And sadly these women tend to repeat bad choices and go from one bad relationship to another. For anyone with a solid self-esteem and self-worth, it is incredulous that any woman would stay in such a damaging relationship. Here is something that so many people fail to understand; the abuser rarely walks in and begins the abuse immediately. There is physical abuse and emotional abuse. They go hand in hand but emotional abuse can happen without physical abuse. That is my story.
Why didn’t I share? I was embarrassed and ashamed. Slowly over time my sense of independence was destroyed. Over time the belief I was lovable was destroyed. Day by day comments, looks, turning things around so I would begin to question myself believing somehow I caused him to cheat and having my concerns being dismissed and ignored regularly created a complete sense of instability. If my ex-husband was home I was always tied up in knots because I was worried I wasn’t making him happy. When he was out-of-town I was tied up in knots because I worried about what he was doing. Should I have left years ago? Of course, but he didn’t reveal his true-self all at once. He did itslowly over time. Think of a bucket being filled by one drop of water at a time. It takes a long time before the bucket overflows. So don’t judge your friend who finds herself in my position. Listen to her. Don’t rebuke her for not leaving sooner. Hug her. Offer support anyway you can. Don’t exclude her because she is no longer a couple. And certainly do NOT remain friends with her abusive ex-husband.
If I could give advice to any woman who is living with a narcissist, it would be to read as much as you can about narcissism and how narcissists manipulate their victims. I would encourage her to find someone to share any secrets i.e. his cheating, his addictions, his crimes. Had I come forward the first time I found out what he was doing, I might have received support from my friends. However the shame he created in me, kept me silent. Silence is a killer. It kills your spirit. So speak up. Leaving is scary. I am facing homelessness at 56 because I was a stay-at-home mom and with no full-time work experience since 1984, I can’t get any business to take a chance on me.
Why do I write about this again? I write about this again because I can’t just dump the over-flowing bucket of abuse. It leaves as slowly as it came. Now I have a small hole in the bottom of the bucket and daily a little more of it drains out. It is just going to take time, a lot of time. Sadly I don’t have time when it comes to a job. While my ex enjoys a life in the lap of luxury, ignores his children and pretends he never destroyed lives, I work to survive and they learn to accept life as fatherless children.