That phrase is generally understood to be referring to our financial states, but I was thinking today that I lived far beyond my means emotionally, in the marriage. I extrended myself to exhaustion, trying to keep something going for which I didn't have the resources.
I was, for many years convinced (and told, since the alcoholic refused to take any responsibility for our relationship whatsoever, it was always and forever all my doing) that if I just tried harder, I could make it work. I'll never forget hearing somewhere, at a meeting, or perhaps a 12-Step speaker, that it's impossible to sustain a relationship when only one person is willing to put in the effort.
When the other person has made it clear that they are unwilling to respond to me in any way other than the one they've chosen, whether that way is dismissive, painful, or merely indifferent, and I keep on trying, in the hope that they will "come around" "see the light" "get the program" I am living beyond my means. When I am expending myself in the effort to get what I want, giving more than I can afford emotionally, not receiving what I need in return, I am spending resources with no consideration of what happens when it's all going out, with nothing coming back in.
I want to be clear that this was my choice, to live beyond my emotional means. I may have felt like a victim, bvut I was a willing, if misguided, participant.I may have been susceptible to the acceptance of this treatment because of a self-image damaged in an abusive childhood, but I was also going regularly to an Al-Anon meeting, and denying to myself, my sponsor, and my Higher Power that I was married to an emotionally distant, and increasingly verbally abusive man.
Abuse creates abuse, and the cycle is broken only when the secret is broken. I pretended that my marriage was good for many years, partly from sorrow, and also from pride. It hurt my pride that I, a woman who had been in Al-Anon for many years, was living this way.
My pride was hurt, and I felt ashamed that my pride was hurt, shouldn't I be above or beyond this after all the time I'd been in Al-Anon?
And then my beloved friend died, and suddenly pride was no longer of the slightest importance.
My grief opened me to my Higher Power, and completely, with utter clarity, to myself. I knew that I was emotionally bankrupt in that marriage, and that I had given all I had to give. That knowledge gave me the peace to leave.
I've survived the worst of the grief for my friend, my marriage, my dogs, and the life I wanted so badly to have, that I was willing to deny the reality of the terrible loneliness I felt in that marriage.
I went to a meeting tonight where the topic was "Living in the Present Moment" and I felt gratitude and peace as each member of the group shared. I listened to the ways that each of us has fought with ourselves, sometimes for years, before we could find the peace and strength to choose to live in the now.
I pray to be granted relief from what AA's Third Step Prayer terms "the bondage of self."