As a Left Behind Spouse dealing with an MLCer, you deal with rejection and often infidelity; feeling insecure is normal! The double bind is that it’s not an attractive force. What can you do to work through your fears in a reasonable timeline and not become stuck in fear? Some of your fears are about your relationship with your MLCer, while others are about you and your life without your MLCer and life beyond your MLCer.
Common Left Behind Spouse Fears
- Shame—what will people think?
- Angering your MLCer—Monster
- Ruining chance of reconciliation
- You are Unworthy/not good enough
- Your MLCer’s Criticisms are True
- Not finding love again
- Loss of money, status…
- Loss of dreams for future
- Starting over in love
- Starting over financially
- Damage to children
- Loss of home
- Returning to the workforce
- The pain, despair…won’t end
- Never be happy again, or at least not the same level of happiness again
- Life is over—downhill after this
- I’m damaged goods
- What do I do on holidays?
How Does Your Fear Influence You?
Fear is self-perpetuating—being afraid causes more fear. How do you feel when you’re afraid? Nervous? You probably don’t want to look your MLCer in the eyes for fear of what you might see and for fear of what they might see in yours as well. Fear erodes confidence along with self-worth. Fear is self-loathing. MLCers may think they want someone to rescue, but in the end, they’ll choose the person who loves and values themself and who knows what they want and stands up for it. Is that you? Or is your fear holding you back?
I decided to write about this when recalling an exchange with Chuck during one of the periods when it was clear he was preparing to leave once again. The tension-energy in our home would increase for a few weeks as the alienator pressured him and he, in turn, taunted me. This episode came about 15 months after Bomb Drop, so I’d had time to adjust and learn his patterns. During this period, he’d been telling me for weeks that Monday would be the day and yet Monday kept coming and going. We were out working in the yard and he’d been going at me with taunts and I’d just been shrugging them off and he walked past me and asked aren’t you afraid?
My answer came quickly and felt natural. You can’t live your life in fear Chuck.
I felt a sense of calm and authenticity. I’ve had my share of saying words I wanted to mean before I had the emotional strength to back them up yet—Acting As If, but this was not one of those cases. I meant it and I felt it—so much that I felt a bit of a double take that he felt I should have been in fear; because that didn’t make sense to me.
Maybe I just got lucky that my MLCer returned and nothing I did helped us get where we are today. Or maybe what I did influenced Chuck and helped us survive. Both luck and my actions are likely responsible since being a perfect Stander doesn’t guarantee your MLCer will return.
Fear and insecurity aren’t just bad for Standing, they’re bad for your personal success. They’re bad if you choose to stop Standing and still live in them. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it because I want to drill it into you: The things you need to do as a Stander are the same things you need to do if you’re not Standing. If you aren’t Standing, the axiom the best revenge is a life well-lived applies here.
Become an Attractive Force
What does it mean to be an Attractive Force?
There are things that attract and things that repel. Grace attracts. Joy and smiles attract. Anger, paranoia and needy-helplessness repel. Self-Confidence attracts; self-loathing and low self-worth repel. It’s easy to understand how and why you may be falling apart when it seems your world is doing just that. Imagine an MLC Left Behind Spouse who is not falling apart. I’m not talking about someone whose Bomb Drop was years ago, but imagine someone who loves their MLCer and is Standing for their marriage, whose Bomb Drop was less than a year ago who is not falling apart. Do you want their secret? How might a broken down, confused MLCer feel about such a person?
If there’s another LBS out there who you think has got it together, they’re an attractive force to you in that you may wish you had some of whatever it is they’ve got. MLCers feel this way too. It doesn’t mean life isn’t challenging and that sometimes you don’t cry, but if you’re choosing a positive and joyous outlook and exuding confidence—even if at times you’re Faking it ‘Til you can Make It—your MLCer may wonder how you’re handling the falling apart stuff so well. The MLCer is likely lost, confused, ashamed, guilt-ridden and running away to chase a fantasy, he or she may expect that you should be just as lost if not moreso; they want to know how you’re succeeding and even thriving in such difficult times. You’ll even feel the pull of your own attractive force.
The Insecure Alienator
But you’re worried. Your MLCer left you for someone who is insecure, paranoid and controlling; why can’t that work for you? If someone is attracted to another person because they need to feel the hero and feel needed or that they have a purpose, they’re revealing their own insecurity. Like attracts like, but that doesn’t mean you should be insecure now because your MLCer is insecure. If you want to reconcile and have a healthy and stable marriage, you both need to be mentally whole and healthy, not riddled with insecurities. Instead, show confidence and self-assuredness and let your MLCer be curious about your mental success. If you stay broken because you think that is what will bring your MLCer home, you are trying to attract broken to broken and those two things will not make a stable relationship. Broken + broken does not equal healed or even healing. Two broken people are more likely to become stuck in their brokenness or to fall further—becoming more broken.
Instead become aware of where you’re broken because awareness is the first step toward change and healing. Fear is normal, but if you allow your fear to dictate your life and hold you back and even break you more, you’re making fear your master. Being an Attractive Force doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid; it means you have the courage to choose those things that attract like Grace and joy and as you choose those, some of the other positives become easier as well. You are more important than your fear! The life you want it more important than your fear!
This post got a bit long, so I’ve broken it up into a few posts. In the next post I’ll discuss some fear-based behaviors that may be holding you back.