Dear Visible Man,
I am a 39-year-old African American woman who has a history of taking care of family members, while being indifferent to myself.
In telling my story, I know that there will be those who will sit in judgment of me. They can do so, but they have never walked in my shoes.
I am currently awaiting the outcome of a judicial proceeding for a crime that I took legal responsibility for, but I didn’t commit. Here’s what happened:
I was visiting my (now ex-) boyfriend in another state in the Deep South. As we were driving back to my hotel, our car was pulled over by the local police. He had just been paroled four days earlier and was staying in a state mandated work release facility.
As he was pulling over, he told me that he was driving on a suspended license and did not have auto insurance—both infractions that would subject him to arrest. In addition to these concerns, he had been smoking marijuana (and no, I do not smoke).
So, once we were stopped, the police searched the car, and found marijuana. Being from Seattle, where possession of such a small amount is not a big deal, and not wanting “my man” to go back to prison, I told police that the marijuana was mine.
I assumed that the police officer was going to write me a citation or make me throw it away—at least, that’s what would have happened in Seattle. But to my disbelief, I was formally arrested, fingerprinted, and photographed, and I had to come up with bail money in order to get out of jail.
I have since returned to Seattle and I have hired an attorney to defend me in the state that I was arrested. I have spent thousands of dollars dealing with this nightmare.
Recently, I returned to the local court to face the judge. My ex-boyfriend drove me to the courthouse, but waited for me in the parking lot while I faced the judge and responded to the charge.
My attorney and I explained the situation, and even mentioned that my ex-boyfriend was in the parking lot. The judge was very sympathetic, but she said that unless he was willing to get out of the car, come into the courtroom and take responsibility, she would have no choice but to hand me a formal sentence.
It was clear that the judge, prosecutor and my lawyer were disgusted towards my ex-boyfriend for failing to “man up.” In a way, I understood why he was unwilling to come forth- he was sure that he would have to go back to jail for violation of his parole. Still, he was willing to allow me to take the weight of his actions– and he was my man! How could he do this to me?
In the end, I was formally sentenced, and thankfully, I’m allowed to complete my legal obligations in Seattle rather than being forced to remain thousands of miles away from home. I have since ended the relationship, but he continues to contact me, saying that he wants me back in his life.
Today I carry a mixture of feelings. I am still traumatized by the experience that I endured. I feel betrayed and I am angry with him for allowing me to go through this nightmare. I have flashbacks that keep me up at night. I have some feelings of depression and being lost.
Yet at the same time, I still have strong feelings for him. He continues to attempt to contact me, even though I’ve placed a block on his phone calls. I know that the relationship is over, but it’s difficult for me to move on. My eyes are open to his actions and irresponsible behaviors. I know I have to move on with my life.
I would appreciate any feedback or suggestions you may have so I can find resolution.
Kiki Seattle, WA
Before responding, I want to thank you for having the security within the psychological self to share your story. It is clear that you have acknowledged your error in judgment and you are taking responsibility for actions that were not of your own making.
You do sound conflicted on how you feel and what you want. You have likely experienced the following:
Anger/sadness in that he allowed you to carry the weight of his actions.
Being betrayed as well as his unwillingness to “man up.”
Symptoms that are impacting you physically as well as emotionally.
As you explore these feelings, have the willingness to explore the actions of this individual prior to the incident that has now impacted your life. This individual, after being released from jail and while being housed in a work release facility while on parole knowingly chose to:
Consume marijuana in the car he is driving.
Drive with a suspended driver’s license.
Drive without automobile insurance.
Conduct these behaviors in a jurisdiction in which the listed infractions are offenses that mandate arrest.
Clearly, this is the behavior of an individual who is irresponsible, reckless and heading towards self-destruction. He must want to look within the self and question why he is committed to behaviors and actions that will clearly lead to his return to a life of incarceration.
It would be an error to focus on his “unwillingness to man up.” Instead, let’s focus on his choices. In this situation, this individual, faced with the option to accept responsibility and return to jail, he chose instead to “sacrifice” the woman “he loves.”
He affirms his willingness to be there for you in driving you to the courthouse for your formal sentencing. Now he seeks to have you remain in his life given the “sacrifice” you have made for the relationship. It may be apparent to him that you are prepared to make more sacrifices.
In your writing, there was a statement of “a history of taking care of family members while being indifferent to myself.” It may be that this individual has “sniffed out” your nature to prioritize the wants of others over your own.
Have the willingness to ask yourself the following questions:
Why do I prioritize others above myself?
Why do I allow others to use and abuse my kindness or me?
If I am living in fear, what is it that I am afraid of?
Have the willingness to love the self and in doing so “love me more.” Ask yourself the following questions:
How can I move towards living with fear instead of living in fear?
How do I respond to the conflicted feelings that lie within?
How do I move forth? What lies ahead?
YOUNG WOMAN, you are not alone. There are many travelers like yourself on the journey we call LIFE. The answers to the questions above reside within you.
You must want to have belief, faith and trust in self.
You must want to embrace your fears because these are your and your alone.
You must want to extend to the self the gift of the apology and receive in return the blessings of forgiveness.
YOUNG WOMAN, the psychological and physical symptoms you are experiencing (depression, flashbacks, etc.) may be a response to “betrayal trauma.” This form of trauma is a violation of implicit and explicit trust. The closer the relationship, the greater the degree of betrayal and thus, trauma.
There are seven subtypes of trauma, of which betrayal trauma is identified as being the most intrusive and damaging. Recovery from such a traumatic experience can occur, with therapeutic work. The error of one’s thinking is that time heals emotional wounds. Without work (therapeutic involvement), time is simply what it is and no more…. Time.
YOUNG WOMAN, your ex-boyfriend has given you a “gift.” It is called the “gift of exposure.” He has, by not taking responsibility, shown you who and what he truly is. He has also shown you what can be expected of him in the future should you decide to return to him.
As you struggle with your feelings, ask the self the following questions:
Do I deserve more in my intimate relationships?
I have only one life. Am I willing to settle for less?
What am I willing to do in order to get what I want?
Finally, as I may have feelings for him, DO I LOVE ME MORE?
YOUNG WOMAN, in closing, you may be correct in your earlier assessment, that there will be those who will have much to say in their rush to judgment. However, such individuals have failed themselves by not “listening” to the wisdom that comes from your story. Simply stated, they are “not ready.”
If you have the opportunity to speak to the ex-boyfriend, encourage him to benefit from the loss of this most valuable intimate relationship. And in doing that, forgive yourself. The passages below can be useful for both of you.
“To err is human” is a common expression yet we should not believe there is always room for error. In some cases there is no room for error. None.”
“A wise person learns from his/her mistakes, makes corrections and finds the right path; the foolish one will continue without direction, never finding the road even when it is in front of his/her face.”
–Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life, Dr. Micheal Kane
The Visible Man