My long-suffering mother maintained her dignity until the day she died. I modeled dignity from my mom before my marriage and during my marriage. But when my marriage unraveled, I became undignified. I took the moral high ground and got in the gutter with my spouse. I reacted with unhinged insults. I got louder and uglier if he got loud with me in public. Winning a round or two meant losing my dignity.   And losing my dignity took me to a place I didn’t want to go, but I didn’t care about dignity; I wanted him to stop hurting me, so I fought fire with fire and gave as good as I got until it nearly overtook anything good I had left in me. Constant fighting means constant exhaustion and constant irritation. I was bitter.

I want to regain my dignity, all of it. I am still trapped in the dysfunction, and I’m trying to deal with it by listening, responding properly, self-care, and focusing on myself. It still hurts, and I still falter. I take two steps forward and ten steps backward and feel like a failure. I can be dignified outside the home and with others, then backslide when I get home. I don’t want to erase my progress, then give up and give in…again. I want the cycle to end.

I hit the reset button and looked at who I am and want to be. What old and new values do I incorporate in myself as an individual. I want to be who God created me to be. Regaining my dignity to me means managing my negative thoughts with positive thoughts. And convincing myself that the bad names my spouse called me yesterday, today, and tomorrow are untrue so don’t take it personal. And deciding to show me the same compassion I show a stranger.  And remembering that silence is golden, walk on by, and hold my head up on the inside. I let go of being discouraged and start encouraging myself if I take two steps back or fall.  Whatever happens, I keep going and keep moving forward, no matter how many steps it takes. The road I’m traveling on is a hard one.

My marital relationship is over, and I accept that there is no We. I am an individual—a person with needs, wants, desires, and goals. Being independent in marriage sounds good, but it’s a new concept. I’m learning. Independence in marriage isn’t about other men; it’s about expressing my individuality, apart from my spouse. I continue to nurture my autonomy while respecting that I am still married. I don’t ask permission to visit family and friends out of town, but I inform my spouse where I’m going and when I will return. If there is a school event, I drive myself, meet my spouse there and enjoy the event. I sometimes go to happy hour with co-workers after work, not to carouse or get drunk, but to decompress, have fun, and laugh. I take myself out to dinner and a movie and come home feeling better than when I left. I have no more expectations about togetherness.

Regaining my dignity means maintaining my dignity. Regaining my dignity means developing and maintaining my self-esteem, self-worth, and self-respect in my whole self, all the time, around everyone. Regaining my dignity means managing my emotions. I don’t want to lose my dignity anymore for any reason. I don’t want to turn it on and off when it suits me. I want to continue discovering who I am, getting strong, being sure of myself, and maintaining the best version of myself. I want to be ready when the time comes to leave the dysfunction, walk out the door, and live my whole life with dignity.