I am by nature an introvert, a quiet person who does not speak much until comfortable with the people I am with or until something just bursts out of me, needing to be expressed—generally interrupting someone, so sudden and strong the desire to express myself becomes. This could stem from my thinking that everyone else has more interesting and insightful things to say; or my feeling that I have to wholly agree or disagree with something to state it and identify with it; or my not wanting to offer ideas and opinions that I cannot back with evidence; or my recognizing that my mind is often blank, just absorbing (or not) the things people are saying with nary a comment or question coming to the fore; and so, I am often quiet. This is who I am. But I wonder if I am quieter than I would have been if I had been in a normal relationship instead of this relationship where my words and comments were always second-rate—always second to my ex-husband’s?
Can I blame my continued reticence to speak and participate on this relationship, where my voice and opinions always came after my ex’s, in both importance and validity, and where my voice was discounted, or shunned, or simply not sought? How much can a person take being discounted, her opinion only sought to concur with his, and not take that out of the bedroom or the kitchen or the living room and out into the world? The dynamic of this relationship must have continued unknowingly in other relationships. I’m certainly not blaming my introversion on my husband or our relationship, it was there before (was that why he “chose” me?), but I do wonder if I would have outgrown it sooner, better, more effectively, if I had felt respected at home? (Conversely, I wonder what my acquiescence did to him. Did it embolden him to perceive that he was always right and must always be submitted to? Did he lose any ability to debate and discuss by my not putting up a competent defense? Or did he merely continue in the path that was laid out for him as a child, when he was perceived as the boy genius?)
Natural weaknesses ended up being enforced and “strengthened” in the dynamics of this relationship. Add to that the fact that we lived in Israel for most of our marriage (I moved there by myself when I was 22), and Hebrew was not my mother-tongue and never became as strong and effective as English was for me. So, not only did I have to find the thoughts and ideas, but then I needed to express them in a foreign language. Add to that the indulgent smile (or long-suffering look) when I would use the wrong word or verb form, even if done in a friendly manner, dampening my desire to speak up. And then, opposite that timidity, was this paradigm of speech, a man who does not hesitate to express his opinion, state facts or variations thereof, and seek to convince even if he does not believe in what he is saying. So, the confidence to speak and participate retreated even further.
I remember that he told me once that he had convinced a friend of his of the existence of God. My reaction was to shutdown, to tell him that I don’t want to get a repeat of the lecture. I did not want his mind to take the controls over mine—I feared it from pretty early on in the relationship. I wanted to keep my doubts and questions intact, and not be flooded by his certainties and proclamations (believed or not). Perhaps I just wasn’t mentally strong enough to challenge this man. My intelligence, I have found, is quiet, more collaborative and interactive. I do not try to overpower people, but simply to express my thoughts and ideas, and draw out theirs; the most I hope for is a reverberating thought or question in someone. I trust in their mental capacities, whereas he trusts in his own, only. What a difference.
It truly was, in many respects, an unbalanced relationship. The safeguards that love naturally imposes to make that imbalance seem insignificant wore me down with time. The passion of being together, of being touched and loved by him, could not compensate, ultimately, for the pain he seared upon me. Unfortunately, the friction that two opposites generate realign over time, reinstating the true unbalanced nature of the relationship.