For the first thirty-five years or so of my life I let other people do most of the choosing for me. They dictated the kind of person I should be. They told me the things I should like. They told me what behavior was appropriate and what wasn't. And I fell into line.
The reasons why are numerous. I wish I'd realized earlier that I had choices.
It was around age 35 that I first went to therapy. Again, the reasons why are numerous. It was a life saver in a very real sense. And it was there that I learned I can choose. If I don't like something about my life I can choose to change it. I can choose things that make me happy even if the people around me don't like it. It was a rebirth. I was deciding who I was for the first time.
It was an incredibly empowering time. But there were still difficulties. I had to learn and develop ways to get through those difficult times. Those people who'd had control over me for so long didn't give that up easily. My tendency to surrender to their will and be bullied into submission didn't go away after one session -- not even after many sessions.
New habits and thinking patterns are hard. It takes time and a lot of work to change who you are, whether you like who you were or not. And, unfortunately, I couldn't convince my therapist to travel everywhere with me and give me the little nudges I needed in the tough moments. The moments in between sessions were killers.
That was kind of the long way to tell you about my Power Songs. I found various things that kept me empowered between sessions, and my Power Songs were some of the best. Three cds of very personal songs that helped me remember what I wanted and why I was working so hard and that it would all be worth it.
One of those songs was Shania Twain's "Any Man of Mine." It felt very empowering. It felt full of self-determination. It was all about teaching people how you want to be treated, which is a big deal in therapy.
My husband mostly loved my Power Songs. He (eventually) supported the changes I wanted to make and the new person I was becoming. He would sing with me when I played my Power Songs. Except that song. He hated it.
I assumed it was because it was country. I'm a fan; he's not. But when I asked him why he said something along the lines of, "Have you listened to how it talks about men?"
I'm gonna tell you all the truth. How it talked about men hadn't ever crossed my mind. Those first stages of therapy were incredibly selfish times. They had to be. But it meant that I was so worried about how I was treated that I didn't consider how he was treated.
The song basically says a woman can behave any way she wants and the man better shut up and love it and behave the way she wants. He better tow the line.
It's often what our society teaches. It's what my mother modeled. I believe it's a leftover from the feminist movement of the seventies. It's the old story of the oppressed rising up and oppressing their oppressors.
But it's not healthy. It's not good for us as women either. It's just bullying in a different form.
Learning to treat each other with respect has been a steep, uphill climb for both of us. Neither of us was taught this growing up. It wasn't modeled in our homes. Sarcasm and emotional manipulation and bullying are the languages we learned. Teaching him how I wanted to be treated was only half of the solution. Learning how he wanted to be treated was equally important.
Over time I've learned that the most empowering relationship, the most healthy relationship, is one of mutual respect. One that makes each person feel valued. One that's not all about me or all about him but about us. As a unit and individually. We matter.