I had an extensive collection of guard towers in my marriage. They stood side by side, almost forming an impenetrable wall that encircled the union. Each one was fully staffed and stocked with binoculars and communication devices so that no surprise attacks could occur.
There was a fatal error made in their construction, however.
They all pointed outwards, watching for external attacks.
I went into marriage a realist. Sort of. I knew that fairy tales weren’t real and I had seen firsthand the ugliness that life can deliver. I say ‘sort of’ because I would never have thought that my husband was capable of delivering that ugliness. I had a realistic view of marriage but I didn’t have a realistic view of him.
I set out from the beginning to protect my marriage. I was afraid of external threats. I always had a deep fear that I would lose him, but I assumed that it would be to death. That fear was not unfounded since I has lost 13 friends that way in the preceding years. So I erected those guard towers to alert me to any incoming hazards.
When years passed with no alarms, I grew complacent. Fat (figuratively speaking) and happy within the protected enclave of the union.
And that’s when the attack occurred.
There were no alarms because my attention was focused in the wrong direction. Much like a pickpocket or a magician, my husband performed his tricks while ensuring my focus was elsewhere. And it worked.
My guard towers gave me a false sense of security. They were focused only on outside threats and, even worse, they were built so densely that they kept others out even when they offered no threat.
My towers are different now. I have pruned their numbers, limiting them to a few so as not to obstruct the view of the greater world. I make sure that they are on alert for hazards inside the relationship as well as those coming in from the outside. I ask them to be selectively permeable, much like a cell membrane, allowing benign bodies to pass.
I do have to be careful, as my guard towers are now prone to false alarms. When I hear sirens, I have to learn that the threat may be a ghost from the past and not a real menace.
I am happy within their borders. I trust their ability to alert me to danger. But I am not complacent. And that’s the best guard tower of all.
6 thoughts on “Where Are Your Guard Towers?”
An excellent comparison.
Hi Lisa…. I can relate to much of your post.
Upon reading it, and please be patient with me a moment, I wondered if it wasn’t a little one-sided and blaming. I then cruised a few of your other posts and pages and realized that it perhaps is more one of deliberate emphasis of one aspect of what you went through. Let me explain.
The end of my marriage was somewhat parallel. One day, seemingly out of the blue, she comes to me, “I’m done”. After 13 years, kids, struggles, joys, etc. Am sure you can relate. Then similar to you, another person waiting in the wings. Which everyone told me there must be but I couldn’t fathom. I joked for a time that there was a revolving door on my house. Me out, him in.
Arguably she was wrong in some things. Yet for me, until I got past the bitter blame, I could not hear what I needed to hear about myself and how I participated in getting the relationship to the state to the intensive care unit. And shocked to find that it was on life support and she wanted to pull the plug. And I was the one who responded to it all with alcohol and drugs. So I was far from balanced and healthy myself.
In reading more of your material, it is clearer that your perspectives include more than just watching out for his wrongs. Sorry, I don’t mean to be critical or overly analytical of you or your posts. I find them quite refreshing and resonate with my experiences on many levels.
Here is the connection and what really resonates to me about your guard tower analogy. I too was looking everywhere else in my marriage and it destructed from within. And like you, without blaming, I too had to come to grips with the fact that my ex may very well have had sociopathic tendencies. To watch me writhe in pain as she carried on openly with another man seemingly immediately after she asked me for a separation.
So I agree there is importance in identifying what is NOT our stuff. Yet doing so without tripping over that oh so fine line into the blame zone. Been there, done that. I take your point in this as saying that we need to identify their stuff versus our stuff so we know what to accept responsibility for and what to avoid next time.
I wrote a post nearly 2 years ago containing something similar to what you said about sociopaths. I entitled it The Everyday Sociopath and described my observations and experiences with people who are not violent, but subtly hurtful, oblivious, non-caring, controlling, or agenda-driven yet function in everyday life and appear “normal” or even “wonderful” to onlookers. Yet their lives are full of walking wounded due to their painful ways.
Well… went on longer than I intended.
Thanks for this post. I agree with and resonate with much of what you have to say.
Look forward to reading more.
Ahh, yes. The blame question. It’s such a delicate balance, isn’t it?
In my case, I have learned to accept responsibility for my part (tendency towards anxiety, becoming complacent) while refusing to take the blame for his actions (deceptions of all kinds spanning years, ending 16 years with a text and no further communication and refusing to cooperate with the courts, leading to at least one warrant for his arrest). Those things are on him.
For me, because of the extreme nature of his actions, the hard part was placing that responsibility on him without anchoring myself firmly in a victim role. The trick to that was to take the ego out of the equation. I’ve accepted that he did those things not TO me, but in spite of me. He was obviously a very unhappy man living under the guise of a loving and supportive husband.
As for the sociopath designation, I held fast to that label for awhile; it was the only framework that allowed me to make sense of the cruelty of his actions. In reality, however, that would have meant that he maintained a normal facade for 16 years. That’s hard to fathom. I have my theories on what happened, but I’ll never know. It’s a marital autopsy with no body.
Thought i would join in the conversation. There are two parts to this. (1) The marriage. (2) The separation (or in my case abandonment). Yes, each of us must take full responsibility for their part in a marriage, the good parts, the not-so-good parts. Sometimes the good or not-so-good falls more or less on one or the other, only the couple can bear witness to which. The separation, the ending of a marriage is different. Unless there had been abuse, then If that decision to leave has been made by one person only (rather than ‘let’s talk about this’); or if there is infidelity behind the scenes; then I respectfully disagree. In these instances the ‘blame’ can be cast onto one person as the decision has been theirs. Sure, there is no harm in self-reflecting on how you may contribute to a better partnership next time. However, I get frustrated with divorce advice that says to move on you must take half the ‘blame’. To me that excuses the other person and opens up lack of immoral behaviour codes all over society. It says that a person can behave however they like because they can turn around and cast at least half the blame on someone else for their behaviour.
Also, just an interesting point of both the post and the comment, is that you both cast the ‘blame’ within the marriage (either with the spouse or half-half) and no responsibility cast on the third party involved – they are COMPLETELY off the hook. Just an interesting observation (because I do that too and i have no idea why).
I like the distinction between blame in the marriage and blame in the end of the marriage. I’m not sure where the distinction is for me. I found evidence that my ex had been lying for at least 4 years, leading an escalating double life. Where is the marriage and where is the end?
Also, I place no blame on his other wife. He presented himself as single. She was a fool- marrying him after 3 months and never meeting his friends or family or even seeing his home state- but she was not a knowing mistress. She was as shocked as I was when she found out about her husband (I talked to her while he spent a night in jail). However, she again was a fool when she chose to take him back even after she knew the truth. I worry about her and hope she is okay.
Thank you Elizabeth2560, you took the words out of my mouth. I should take half the blame? I was busy with my my (our) daughter who was in the hospital from Sept. to Dec. She was pregnant and was having contractions every day. I worked four days a week and spent two to three days in the hospital with her, two hours away. I was constantly trying to bring her comfort and strength. He visited maybe 3 times during those months. Found out later he started screwing his whore starting in Sept.. While we spent Thanksgiving in the hospital with her, he sent a message to his best friend, “I’m missing D”. She KNEW he was married because he could only see her on certain days. She doesn’t get a free pass, she has been married twice before, I would LOVE to get three rounds in the ring with her! I know I have some blame. but not half, I was busy being a mom while he was busy trolling. One day he calls me on my way home to say he wants to go to dinner. I go home. take a bath and notice things are missing. He had told me ON THE PHONE, I LOVE YOU, I call him back and said what the hell. He says “Oh, I didn’t know you were going home, was going to tell you at the restaurant I am leaving you!” The hurt is still here, two years, one month, 27 days and two hours later. I wish he would of just killed me, the pain would of ended that night.