The Bible talks about iron sharpening iron. I always thought that meant if I was stuck with someone long enough, we’d gripe and annoy each other enough that both of us would hold in our bad behavior. Cynical, I know, but rooted in personal experience.
For years I’ve written about being altruistic and how it’s hurt me. I’ve said it’s for suckers.
My new relationship with my new wife has caused me to have an entire paradigm shift. Not because she gripes at me or asks me to change, but because she sees the world so much differently than I always have. She recently told me that I’m naive. And that she’s known it since we first met. She doesn’t see it as a bad thing, and she knows she can see things I can’t see. It’s the combination of the two of us that’s changed my paradigm.
I have always given till it hurt. And it always ended up hurting… Every single time. I heard myself often saying that no good deed goes unpunished. I believed that.
That isn’t reality as I now understand it. I had a bit of an emotional breakdown this week because I came to the harsh realization that the majority of people I considered my closest friends were literally manipulating and using me. As I’ve started extracting myself, it’s been confirmed, because as soon as I’ve turned off the “giving” faucet, they have told me to take a hike.
Nicole saw through them as early on as January. I hoped she wasn’t right, but so far her track record for evaluating the character of others has been 100%. I’m sad because it means I wasted 33 years letting that happen, out of naïveté and out of the way I was raised. On the other hand, I’m happy, because the first time ever, I don’t feel used.
My divorce settlement is costing me a small fortune. I didn’t do anything wrong, it’s just the way the law works. But six figures is a steep price to pay to another able-bodied adult simply because we decided to break up. It takes away from what I can provide for my new wife and daughter and it makes me angry. I feel like I’ve brought this giant burden along with me into the marriage. I’ve been feeling very bitter about it lately, even moreso as friend after friend has proven themselves to be users. But even in that difficult circumstance, Nicole has been by my side, telling me not to look at it as being screwed, but to look at it as the fee I have to pay that allowed us to be together. You can’t buy that kind of support.
I allow(ed) people to walk all over me my entire life. In every facet of my life, from church, to friends and family, to relationships, and even acquaintances. I have kept my mouth shut as I’ve been berated unfairly, as people have borrowed money or asked for help with no intention of ever repaying it. I’ve been in relationships where I was only wanted when I was providing something.
I simply don’t think that way. I incorrectly assume that people are mostly good and that if you are good to them they will be good back. But without the ability to discern bad apples and set boundaries and stick up for yourself, you end up in an endless cycle of hurt and resentment.
I don’t have time for resentment. I have a wife that loves me, cares for me in ways I’ve never experienced before, who knows my song and sings it back to me when I forget. I have a 7 year old daughter who I’m reasonably sure loves me, looks forward to her time with me, and who relies on me like only a child should. I live in a beautiful little home full of pets, full cabinets of food, heat in the winter and cool in the summer. I have a new church home where I’m just starting to connect with people. I have a new family in Nicole’s family, where I know I am cared for, and I know they would fiercely defend me if I were in trouble.
What I’m basically saying is, I now know the truth, and it’s setting me free as the Bible says. It’s been hard because it’s dashed a lot of closely held ways of thinking and illusions about who I could count on and how i should treat people. But I’m coming out the other side a person with more confidence, zero bitterness and resentment, and laser focus on being the best husband and father I can be, providing a kind, honest, caring, peaceful, God-centered home. That is, my friends, what life is really all about.