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Control

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People always say that looking back on their divorce, they can always see what they could have done differently, or how one small change could have stopped the whole thing from unraveling. I still don’t have the answers because the wounds are still fresh, but one thing I have learned from my marriage and its dissolution is to LET GO. Or as the French say, “lâcher prise.”

I spent ten years being controlled and watched like a hawk. I was told what to wear, how to sit, where to sit, how to hold my silverware and even how to brush my hair. It changed the way I related to people. Because I found myself in a situation where I had, seemingly so easily, given up control, I subconsciously expected people to in turn let me control them because I no longer had the right to control myself. I was so angry at myself for getting myself into a situation where I felt trapped, and in turn I was angry at those friends who wouldn’t let me control them. I would be pissed off about the silliest things- lateness, cancelling at the last minute, a missed phone call…because things weren’t going as I had planned them and I no longer felt I had control.

One of the nicest things about my annus horribilis is that I have taken the time to step back with my friends, both new and old, and stop trying to control them. I let them come and go, like cats. I accept and delight in their quirks. I have beautiful, weird friends who are all unique in strange ways. The end result is that I now have these amazing people in my life who want to be there, people who like me, and the people who aren’t meant for me are no longer around because I have stopped trying to control them and the relationship. It is a good feeling. The new friends and the new friendships I have been able to build in the past six months restore my faith in humanity and have taught me things I did not even know were possible just a year ago. New friends are what I am grateful for this Ramadan.

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Author: Nicole Cunningham

American Expat and convert to Islam living and working between Lausanne and Zurich, Switzerland.

8 thoughts on “Control

  1. This blows my mind, in a very good way. Thank you for the insight into myself.

  2. Salaam ‘alaikum, and ramadan mubarak.

    I hadn’t realized you were going through a divorce. I’m sorry to hear that.

    Perhaps the control thing is an aspect of north African culture? I had gotten involved with a Moroccan woman in an online romance back in early 2001. When we finally met, she turned out to be a very controlling woman in similar ways to what you described in your post: I had to walk in a certain way (never mind that I had spent about a decade in marching with drum corps/military units), I had to sit in the car in a certain way. And so on and so forth. Needless to say, that relationship ended very quickly. Coming back home from Europe (where she lived), I told a woman friend about my experiences with her, saying that I probably would have gotten an ulcer if I had kept the relationship going. My friend said, no, you would have had a heart attack. She was probably right.

    • wa alaikoum salam and ramadan kareem!

      Interesting, I had never thought of it as a maghreb thing, it could be possible.
      I know that being controlled ruined my health and probably contributed to my ankle rehab taking so long.
      That said, going back to it being a north african thing, i don’t think the control was with malevolent intentions- it may just be cultural. But in the end it wasn’t worth the pain for me.

  3. Sorry to hear about the dissolution. I had no idea. I guess I’ve been kind of lazy about blogging and reading blogs over the past year.
    Best of luck to you. Eyes forward!

  4. salams, very interesting..i think it may well be a north african thing..i think there exists a great concern for mainatining a certain image..obvioulsy in a village, or close knit community image is a point of honour but i don’t think this entirely diminishes in alien environments either. it can feel stifling, you just have to maintain a strong sense of self.

  5. I’m so sorry.
    Good friends are hard to come by and I’m glad you’ve found yours again. xx

  6. Oh yes sista – I am of agreement here! Long live re-found, re-kindled, re-formatted, re-understood, re-wined friendships!

  7. I never had the control issue with me ex (we could probably fill a book with what we know about cross-cultural marriages), but the changing of oneself for another in the form of accommodation was noticeable. Women are, by nature, accommodating creatures. Introduce someone w/ a whole other set of values and expectations, and we tend to bend more. I found that I, the loudmouth not afraid of confrontation, was avoiding it just because I feared the fallout. I even recalled myself telling a friend that my ex ‘complimented’ my personality type and kept me in check. WTF…’kept me in check’?! However, something happens in marriage and divorce that profoundly affects us; ideally for the better. A phoenix rises out of the ashes, and all those things we bent and twisted ourselves into are no more. The non-negotiables and deal-breakers are so clearly marked. Here’s to you, the rising phoenix, Nicole. 🙂

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