I happen to be married to a loud, aggressive man.

He happens to be married to a avoid-ant, minimizing, want-everyone-to-be-happy-no-matter-the-cost woman.

He gets louder. I shrink more. He thinks my shrinking is ignoring him. He gets more upset. I hide away.

It's a vicious cycle that has landed us in counseling. But now we can see the cycle. I can see it starting. I can feel the shrinking coming on. I can feel my brain fogging over.

And still, the hard work has yet to be done.

Why do I shrink? Why do I minimize? Why do I fear the loudness? Why do I fear not being liked? Not being well-received? Being misunderstood?

Somewhere I decided my label should be "Unworthy."

I am unworthy. I am unworthy of your time. My thoughts, feelings, emotions, words are unworthy.

I picked this label up at a young age. I was sexually molested for a number of years at a house across the street. I kept going back. I wanted them to be my friends. I felt the terror of knowing what would happen when I went over there and couldn't decide whether or not that was scarier than them not liking me or, even worse, them telling my mom. I felt like I kept choosing to go over there and endure the pain so, naturally it seemed, I was choosing to partake.

The shame, oh the shame. No bath got me clean enough. No amount of soap could wash away the filth I felt.

I was not worth just being friends with. I was not worth just being a daughter. These were things that I felt I had to earn and justify regularly. I had to justify my existence. Sometimes that took doing things that I hated. But I wasn't worth being accepted on my own. So these things I did.

Can I tell you that feeling doesn't go away? Can I tell you that carried on into relationships as I got older? Can I tell you the first six months of my marriage were SO hard because I my normal "tricks" of getting a guy to pay attention to me weren't working on my poor husband?

You learn ways to justify your existence to different people. You learn that you are only worth what you can perform. You learn you are only worth what you can offer. You learn are only worth the sum of your parts.

This is a burden I have carried for 26 years. After so many conversations with so many women who don't know how to break this cycle, I think it's time I finally start talking about it. So, forgive me if I don't write about things that are light and fluffy. But I want to get this out there. I want us to talk about it. I want women to know that they truly are worth more than what they can offer, what they can perform.

We are worth more than the sum of our parts. More than a number on a scale. More than being good at sex, a great cook, having a hot body. Whatever. You name it. You are worth more.


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