Should–The Enemy of Peace

I’m trying to process a complex emotional situation at the moment, and true to form I’m making it harder than necessary by focusing on how I think I “should” feel. “Should” is the enemy of peace. “Should” is the quintessential set up for disappointment by creating expectations that are based on personal opinions shaped from experience. Unfortunately, reality doesn’t take “should” into account. Reality simply is. Today’s reality is that I’m headed to court to find out why my ex-boyfriend is in jail.

I know how I’d think one of my friends should feel if they were in my situation, but my reality is different. I loved a man who suffers from alcoholism. To me he’s almost three people; the dangerous, violent, angry, and insecure person who shows up when he’s drinking, the highly sensitive artist I met who struggles, and the person I believe he is. I’m in love with the fantasy man I’ve created, the potential I think he has. Unfortunately, that means I’m in love with a fairytale, a Prince Charming I’ve invented, I love a person I think he should be, not who he is.

I haven’t seen him in nearly two months, that’s when after two years, I finally accepted that he’s a pathological liar that will always leave me holding the bag. He was always telling me how he was going to contribute to the household, that he was getting a promotion, that he’d pay me back. I’m not stupid, part of me always knew he was making empty promises. The other part of me wanted him to be telling the truth so I held out hope, which in this case was a bad thing.

I’ve thought a lot about why I did that, why did I hold out hope when there wasn’t a shred of evidence he’d deliver, in fact, there was a longstanding history indicating he wouldn’t. The capacity for denial of fact to placate the heart is amazing. As the song lyric goes, call me Cleopatra because I’m the queen of de-nial.

For years I brayed like a donkey that if a man ever laid his hands on me, I’d kill him in his sleep. I meant it. Yet when this man beat me on four separate occasions, I made excuses. He didn’t mean to, his father was a bad role model, his mom hated him, on and on. I called the police twice and he spent a few months in jail. During this time, I visited him, I put money on his account, and I sent him things to make his sentence (for beating me) more comfortable. It’s hard for me to believe I did this, but I did.

He spent a very tumultuous year in and out of rehab, again with my support. During this year I got sober, I lost my dog of 13 years, and my father had several health emergencies resulting in him requiring 24-hour care. Rather than provide support, he created more stress for me. In this time I began to realize that I could not make him recover. On one occasion, we were out running errands and he chose to drink and I left him in a parking lot. A week later he was arrested for public intoxication breaking his probation and leading to another month in jail during which I did not visit, call or send anything. That was very hard my heart hurt knowing he was in there alone, scared and without support.

He got out, and for about 9 months I tried to be supportive even though I knew he was still in the same place. His actions showed it. The spring, summer, and fall were marked with lies and disappointment. I didn’t want to give up. Eventually, I realized I had no choice and told him no more. That was early December of 2019. I told him to get a year of sobriety and consistent employment, then we’d talk.

In the two months since I’ve separated myself from him, he chose to quit his job because it was messing with his sleep (or he was fired and told me a cover story). I hadn’t heard from him in about three weeks and my fear of him being dead kicked in so I started looking in jails and the arrest reports to see if I could find him and I did. He was arrested in another county and then sent to the county we previously lived in (I moved in an effort to rebuild).

In the week since learning he’s in jail again, I’ve had a hard time sleeping. I take no pleasure in him being in jail, it breaks my heart. I’ve done everything I can think of to help him become stable, but he is not ready. I have accepted that he may never be ready. I’ve managed to ignore my instinct to visit him, comfort him, send him letters, or provide money for his commissary account. I tried that and he didn’t change at all. Being involved with him puts my insecurity into overdrive and creates a constant state of anxiety for me. Not to be melodramatic, but it puts my life in danger.

Yet I feel like I “should” be nice, I “should” help him. If I was in his shoes, I’d want someone to comfort me. The thing is I’m not in his shoes. When my family and friends, and A.A. came to my aid to help me out of the hole I was in; I made changes. I didn’t just stop drinking, I worked on myself to be more confident, to have boundaries, to get out of my head and be of service. I’m not in the same place I was a year ago which is why I’m not in his shoes.

Rather than accept help and make changes he’s functioned on hubris, insisting he knows best. He’s still lying to himself (and the rest of the world), drinking to avoid feeling the disappointment of how he’s living and hurting those around him. I have compassion, I know he’s unhappy, but I know I cannot help him, he has to help himself.

So why am I going to court today? I want to know what he did. I fear that he hurt another woman, if he did, I’m going to feel partially responsible. He has a history of domestic abuse, he was even arrested for being violent with his ill, 70-year old father. When he hurt me, rather than aggressively prosecute him, I protected him. Had I worked to ensure he was fully prosecuted he would have ended up in state prison for a couple of years. Instead I “helped” him. Did I put another kind-hearted woman at risk?

I’ll find out in a couple of hours.

6 thoughts on “Should–The Enemy of Peace

  1. Oh, the shoulds…if those aren’t a curse, I don’t know what is.
    I once had a therapist tell me I was going to should all over myself and she was right. I’ve should all over myself a lot. In fact, I’m currently shoulding and I don’t seem to know how to stop.

    But let me ask you one question about your situation – can you really control if or what he did to another human being? Even if you had reported him when he beat you, you know you have no control over his decisions – he could choose to do that again or choose not to. Granted, I know this exactly what you’re saying in this post, but I also believe you may still be harboring some hope for him.

    You and I both know this isn’t in your best interest.


    1. I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, but you’ve always been honest and direct with me and I feel you deserve the same respect from me. ❤


  2. Should is such a hard and ultimately pointless word. We should all have made different decisions in life.. but we cannot change the past.

    Neither can we be responsible for other people’s actions or behaviour. The only person who can solve your ex-partner’s problems is him.
    But I also know how hard it is to walk away from a relationship that is toxic.. but, it eventually feels ok to have done that..

    Wishing you well..


    1. Thank you. Never would’ve anticipated the feelings I’m experiencing. As it turns out he was arrested for domestic violence again. It appears he will continue to do this as long as he can. I updated my protective order and spoke out about how dangerous I believe he is in court. I have closed the store but it hurts. However the pain of healing is much better than the pain of being stuck.


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