Thursday, July 19, 2012

How you feel doesn’t matter



Memorial Day Weekend, 2007. I had just separated from Beta Husband a few months prior, and I had my own apartment for the first time in my life. Two of my best girlfriends flew all the way across the country to celebrate with me be there for me during a really confusing time.

One night during their stay, we rented a Zach Braff movie called The Last Kiss. I really liked Garden State, and I’m a huge fan of Scrubs, so I had high expectations for this movie. But I was seriously disappointed. It was beyond awful.

But one line near the end of the movie really struck me, and it’s been playing in the back of my mind ever since. It remained my constant companion for months after I saw the movie, and even now, the line pops into my brain periodically as a gentle reminder.

Since the movie was so bad, I’m going to encourage you to not watch it by basically spoiling the whole thing for you. Here’s the gist of what happens.

Zach Braff’s character gets engaged to his long-time girlfriend – a sweet, pretty, girl-next-door type that makes all his friends jealous. Fast forward a little bit – they get into a huge fight, and he cheats on her with some skanky college girl. During their make-up conversation, he confesses his infidelity to his fiancée. Devastated and heartbroken, she leaves him and moves back in with her parents.

Desperate to win her back, ZB goes to her parents’ house to talk to her, but she refuses to come out of the house. Her father comes out instead. ZB says something like “I just want you to know that I really love your daughter.”

Now, here’s the line. I can’t remember it verbatim, but it goes something like this. The girl’s father says, “It doesn’t matter how you say you feel. What matters is how you treat the people you say you love.”

Hearing that line, in thick of my divorce, froze me to the couch cushion. My breath caught. My skin prickled. I closed my eyes against the hot tears and finally exhaled as Guilt eased its death grip on my chest.

Suddenly everything seemed so clear. No one can feel your feelings for you. Others can only observe your actions, hear your words, and experience how your words and actions make them feel. So how you actually feel is of little consequence.

Could it be that simple? Even if an asshole loves you, he’s still an asshole?

Every nasty thing that Beta Husband ever said came rushing back to me. Every thinly veiled lie, every contemptuous glare, every silent treatment, every misplaced punishment. But instead of anger, which is what I usually felt after reliving that nightmare relationship, I felt peace.

For almost nine years, I stayed because he said he loved me, and I forgave every transgression.

He says he really loves me…
He says he’ll do better from now on…
He says he can change…
He says…

Eventually, he says was no longer good enough. I needed a he does. But there was no he does.

A few weeks after suffering through that awful, yet life changing, movie, Beta Husband called. For the first time, I heard him cry. He promised, he begged, he yelled, he apologized. I remembered every tear I shed over him in the previous nine years and how every tear was met with distain. He never once cared if I cried.

I realized that the man on the phone wasn’t speaking from a place of love, but rather from fear – of being alone, of change, of starting over, of uncertainty, of what people would think – that he mistook for love. And even if he did really love me, I would have no way of knowing.

Whenever Guilt hovered around, that movie line reminded me that I made the right choice to leave. Whenever someone who had never walked in my shoes called me a quitter, a sinner, or something worse, I silently quoted that line. It became sort of a mantra.


Many years later, that movie line creeps into my head on occasion. In a marriage, especially when you become parents, it’s easy to take each other for granted. You get tired, busy, lazy. You let life pull you in every direction except toward the one you love.

Today, those wise words from that awful movie serve as a different kind of reminder. My sweet, wonderful Hubs can’t feel my feelings, so the only way he’ll ever know how much I love him is if I treat him like I love him. So I should probably stop blogging now and join him on the couch. I want him to believe it, not just read about it. 




Pouring my heart out with "Things I Can't Say."



16 comments:

  1. what a great post and true idea. and it holds true for all our relationships. words don't mean squat if our actions don't fall in line.
    i had an abusive boyfriend in college and i kept falling back in with him after a terrible episode because his words were sugar coated and beautiful when he apologized and said he loved me. the bruises to my skin and my heart were covered up with his sweet words until i finally realized that i couldn't stay anymore no matter what his words said. if i had, i'd have eventually become dead at his hands, regardless of what his words said.

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    1. Wow. I can't imagine what that must have been like. To stay with him as long as you did... to finally leave him... both actions took an enormous amount of strength and courage. So glad you're here with us now.

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  2. Wow, your post gave me goosebumps. Good for you for moving on and keeping strong! That line from the movie is so important for everyone to hear. Goes to show that wisdom can come from unexpected places. :)

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    1. It totally does. Makes me think they could've done more with the movie. :) So glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you so much for stopping by!

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  3. Thank you for this post. It is so true.

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    1. Glad you came by. Just read the first line of your latest post, and I can tell I'm about to be an avid follower. Big hugs to you! #BeenThere

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  4. So glad you had something that gave you strength through such a tough time...and I love how you turn it around now to show love!
    Michelle
    http://normalchaosforamultitaskmom.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-beauty-of-rose.html

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    1. Yes! Exactly. That line doesn't even make me think of my Ex's darkness first anymore. Now, the first thing I think of is how I need to show my Hubs how much I love him today. Thanks for visiting!

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  5. Melissa, good for you for having the strength to leave a bad relationship! I'm so glad that things worked out for you and now you have a wonderful marriage and such a cutie pie baby! Go enjoy your well deserved hubs time!
    Lisa

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    1. Thanks so much, Lisa. The road is long, but the happiness at the end is even longer. :)

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  6. Love your post. And YOU. Reading this made me thank GOD for my "failed relationships" that led me where I am today...

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    1. Amen, sista! That rough road brought you right here, to this place, to this moment. Every bump earns us the blessing of the loving families we have now.

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  7. What a powerful post. We can say all the pretty words we want, but it's our actions that really show what we feel. So true. But hard to remember.

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    1. Thanks, Shell. It IS hard to remember. We assume our loved ones just know, but that's a slippery slope. So glad you stopped by.

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  8. "Even if an asshole loves you, he’s still an asshole"

    I think that, right there, needs to be a public service campaign.

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