My marriage ended like this: he said he had a pattern of acting out with other women online. A pattern from the past where he’d get his girlfriend to break up with him – by cheating online and then behaving in dismissive ways where she’d then be forced to put a stop to it by dumping him. It was a secret pattern that he held close, telling no one – for years – not even me, his wife (the latest victim of his pattern).

It ended because of a pattern.

When you make a quilt you need to set it up so that it has a pattern with balance and flow. I’ve never taken up quilt-making because there seems to be a lot of work that has to go into maintaining the pattern and it’s tedious and time-consuming.

In a quilt, a pattern makes it beautiful. In a marriage, it doesn’t.

His pattern is a label to describe something he repeated and became good at, skilled at. He used the word pattern as if he gave his explanation a lot of thought before speaking it out loud. A “pattern” seemed to remove him from his own actions as a cheating, lying betrayer – he’s not that because his actions came out of a “pattern” – they fit into a nice little box marked “pattern.”

Box closed.

Problem solved.

And this new woman? She cures the pattern, according to him. Never mind that together, they are creating a new patterns: one of distorted reality and careless, selfish actions, hurting others and blaming everyone else but themselves for the dysfunction that now ripples through two families like dark gray clouds constantly looming overhead and threatening a storm anytime. Makes everyone nervous and then clears up and becomes blue and quiet, but not to be fooled. The storm is still coming.

His unspoken words to describe his pattern, or, his escape from his pattern, repeats like this: screw you all for trying to control me.

My therapists words for me were: ‘You have a pattern of retreating into yourself when you feel abandoned.” I think, who wouldn’t? Retreating from a marriage, and from yourself, are behaviors that are as organized and repetitive as the carefully placed pieces of a pattern on a quilt. There is a safe place inside yourself where you close off when hurt and want to say aloud: screw the world. But you don’t say that because no one is there. You’ve retreated and gone away from everyone. And there isn’t really anyone to go to anyway because people have lives and patterns of their own to deal with.

Patterns are there unnoticed until you are pushed to face them head on. Until the betrayal, until loss, until insanity, feeling the mental and emotional breakdown of every single thought in your head. It’s like taking a beautiful quilt – warm and soft and comfortable – and throwing it into an industrial strength wood chipper that takes it in whole on one side and blows it out the other side as tiny pieces of confetti chips.

That’s what my thoughts have felt like. You can’t piece them back together like they were before. Nothing looks right or feels right anymore. The pattern may be to retreat if afraid. You may not think about it. And yet be abandoned anyway, because of it. You cannot keep retreating and repeating the pattern – but there is no easy way to reorganize the bits and pieces of thoughts that sit in a pile in your head after being thrown and shredded and discarded by a person who was supposed to be safe.

Summer, 2010


One response to “Patterns

  1. *Thankful to know that I am not the only one who feels exactly this.*

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