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The Price of Resentment

by The Next Family January 06, 2016

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By Lisa Keating

Nearly five years ago I began perusing a calling, vision, dream. I had no idea how I was going to do it or how long it would take. I began running after it excitedly, nervously, and filled with a Pollyanna view. I was going to make the world accept (and even love) our gender non-conforming child. Ready. Set. GO!

Back then, I felt desperate to save our child from years of persecution for being different than other kids. I was on the defense all the time. Pushing back on cultural norms, limitations that young children face that don’t exist in the same way for adults. Women and men can have any length of hair without being told they can’t or without their masculinity or femininity being questioned. Have you noticed hair trends in the NFL? Sometimes I don’t know if it’s 2015 or 1987 watching football games based on hair styles.

Children are critical, blatant, and blunt in their communication. They are continually trying to make sense of the world around them. One at eye level and another way above their heads. It’s confusing, scary, wonderful, curious, and changing at a rapid speed. Partially because they are growing rapidly. Also, in part, the older a child gets the more that child is exposed to.

I don’t blame a child for not understanding a gender fluid or transgender child. It’s not necessarily because they have been told to reject or judge. All of us are limited by a gender system that keeps us small. Holding us to standards that are imaginary, harmful. A system that creates violence, bigotry, isolation. Being raised in the 1970’s and 1980’s I am all too familiar with the limitations women were pushing against. Those women didn’t know me, but they fought for the future idea of me. The dedication of those before me, demanding equality, have laid the way for me to do the same for transgender and gender diverse people, regardless of age. Standing by and doing nothing wasn’t an option for me, at least it didn’t feel like one. It still doesn’t.  So began my journal creating a non-profit and taking on the world.

My husband, Dmitri, and I talked at length about my vision, intentions, and how to begin. Discussing what role our family would play in this process Pollyanna lenses make everything possible. Both of us being optimistic people by nature made my lofty vision plausible. One thing to know about us is I’m the extrovert and he is the introvert. Pretty cut and dry. As the extrovert, I had grandiose ideas that make him squirm. This vision nearly cost my marriage and my family; the entire point of this vision.

I don’t mean to keep you hanging, wondering what the hell this mysterious “vision” is. Here goes (Christmas Vacation style drum roll, please!)

Safe and inclusive environments for gender diverse youth and their families. 

If you identify within the LGBTQ spectrum, love someone in this spectrum then you know how monumental this will be. Changing peoples perspectives is no small feat. When your purpose is to spread love through acceptance, like mine, you see Pollyannaland with rainbows and unicorns. We are a long way from this vision. There are incredible, talented, dedicated people fighting this fight. It will take all of us to reach the tipping point. And we WILL get there.

Okay, here is where we get to resentment. Over two years ago, on our 11th wedding anniversary, I spoke a sentence that terrified me and knew I had to say. One that haunted me for six months. “I’ve been thinking about separating.” Dmitri’s response was, “Me, too.”

Anyone who has had a conversation like this knows it’s a gamble to climb back out of this place with any success. What I can tell you now is that both of us were justified in our feelings. Dmitri asked me what I wanted, all I could say was, “I don’t know. All I do know is it’s not this.”

As I dove head first, unapologetically into creating a non-profit and changing the world, resentment began to grow. My husband resented my efforts and I resented him for not being equally enthusiastic or invested in my dream. We slowly began to lose respect for one another causing our love to fracture. One of the many results of this resentment between us was anger. I was extremely angry.

I wanted (expected) my partner to be by my side advocating for our child. Helping me make the world safer and more loving who do not fit into our narrow perimeters of female and male (MY way). My expectations caused Dmitri to withdraw. The more he pulled away the more I pushed back. Resentment became part of our daily interactions with one another.

Resentment is like a cancer. It reaches beyond the two people it started with. The multiplication rate is rapid. Those around it become susceptible, sides are taken, judgments formed.  People begin to feel cornered, desperate then become reactive. Keep in mind that we are still raising a child through all of this. No one wins in relationships suffering from resentment. Not a single one.

The only solution I know is giving up needing to be right. The need to validate opinions, perspectives, expectations. Letting go of hurt and rejection. Seeing the other person for who they are in each moment. Not comparing them to who you thought they were or, worse, should be.

I don’t know about you but I instantly become resentful of someone who tells me what I should or should not be, have or do. Instantaneous. Zero to sixty flat. I don’t need anyone’s help criticizing, judging, or picking ME a part. I’ve been at it for decades. I’m a pro.

Since that anniversary confession, I have been clawing my way out of that lonely, dark place. We both had a sense of relief with our confessions. From there we could take action. Before it was like the Great Wall of China between us. Speaking those words allowed me to finally breathe, relax. I could begin to ask myself, “What do I want.”

I didn’t necessarily want to divorce Dmitri. I wanted to divorce from the pain, isolation, and what appeared to be a failed relationship. All I knew was that I didn’t want what our marriage had become. Neither did he.

So much of this stemmed from an extrovert wanting to take on the world for her child. And an introvert wanting to simply love his child and wife. Neither is right, wrong, good, or bad. Only different. The truth in all of this is we both were acting out of love.

Love for one another, our daughter, and humanity. We both deeply want less suffering in the world. It causes us angst, heartache. Dmitri and I believe in justice, equality, and community. Often, how we express it doesn’t look the same.

I offer humble words of wisdom for those practicing couple-dome, marriage, unions and raising children together.

  1. If you start feeling resentment towards your significant other treat that like a tsunami siren. That great wave is coming. It is only a matter of time.
  1. If you are raising a child who is outside defined “norms” (pick one) fight like hell for them. Listen to that little voice inside of you. Trust it. When I ignore mine all hell breaks loose.
  1. Remember that your way of changing the world is unique to YOU. Release your expectations that your partner, spouse, relatives, or friends are going to do it like you and with the same conviction. Especially if it’s your passion.
  1. Surrender and trust. These two qualities are the most powerful mindsets I know. Surrender does not mean give up, be walked on, or taken advantage of. Surrender is a state of letting go of control. Specifically that which you have no control. Which is everything EXCEPT your thoughts and actions. Trust that the act of being surrendered will provide you with all the clarity, insight, and flexibility you need. EVER.
  1. Forgive daily. Buddha said, “You will begin to heal when you let go of past hurts, forgive those who have wronged you, and learn to forgive yourself for your mistakes.”

Forgiveness makes us whole again. It blurs the past. We can reconcile marriages, and nations with an act of forgiveness. If you do not practice forgiving resentment grows. I had to let go of so much; my ego, convictions, fear, and proving that I was right. Letting go of all that hurt. It took courage, honesty, compassion. My triad is better for it. All my relationships are better for it. Our Magic 8 Ball doesn’t have my answers. I do. With surrender, trust, and forgiveness my family is still intact; happily and joyfully. We practice loving each other daily. That is what I want.

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