The Olive Branch

“This has been the olive branch we were waiting for you know?” 

“Olive branch?” 

“Yeah.” 

“Can I express how much I hate that?” 

“Um…okay?” 

As a woman I have been objectified plenty, but this…this was a new one for me. It was odd to think of myself as an olive branch. A peace offering? More like a vergin sacrifice.  I’m not the type of person who feels very peaceful. Not internally anyway. But to think I was used as an olive branch bothered me. 

My fiancé and his sister had a falling out that ended with a court ordered no contact between he and her for six months. The bruises and scratches on his face didn’t take long to fade, but the long term effect of her violent behavior left deep scars on his psyche. Six months came and went, and they still hadn’t spoken.  After our engagement we began talking about who we wanted involved in the wedding. I knew he wanted his sister involved, but just didn’t know how to tell me. I brought it up. We talked about it. We agreed we wanted her involved. If she was going to be my sister, it was important for me to involve her in my special day. To integrate her into my life and let her know she was not hated, but still loved and that I was choosing to love her. So I wanted to send her a letter asking her to be my bridesmaid. Everyone seemed very happy with the idea, including the future in-laws. 

No one did anything to prepare the way for me as far as I knew. 

I was writing this letter of love and peace blindly. Sure, I was choosing to love her, but I did not grow up in a family prone to secrets, and now I was realizing I was addressing a family that had many of them. Did she even know I knew about stuff? Did she even care? How much did I actually know about it all? Was anything exaggerated? 

I sat and agonized for several days when I was trying to think of what to write. “I know things are awkward…” was a phrase that kept coming to mind. It felt like an understatement. In my family people resolve conflict to the best of their ability, which can be awkward, but always ended in resolution and hugging it out. No one was ever court ordered not to speak. That’s beyond awkward. Still, I had no better way to express what that might feel like. Awkward was all I had. Awkward was how I felt. So it was the word I used. 

“Babe, I should not have been the one to break the silence between you and your sister.” 

“…”

He said nothing, and I didn’t quite know how to go on, so I just kept talking. 

“While I understand everyone was hoping for a mediator, I’m not a professional. I had nothing to do with these years of fights and I still don’t. I’m not angry at you, but I just want to express how rude it was to discuss this invitation, expect me to extend it, and not initiate something either of your own accord or have some mutual family member initiate some kind of healing process beforehand.” 

The conversation ended cordially. He understood me and I made my hardline boundary to not have him do this to me again. To learn to resolve this kind of conflict. Or at least protect me by not asking me to get involved. Or just not assume I ought to get involved. Just don’t involve me unless it involves me. 

Still, I felt used. 

I have to be very careful in relationships, because as an empath I realize I am prone to being used, especially in unhealthy ways. Emotionally, I get wrapped up in it, thinking that because they love me, and I love them, their battles become my battles. Often times this would lead me to fight battles that were not my fight, or to fight their battles for them. I am only now  learning that you can support a person without having to fight their battles for them. You can love them and support them as they face their struggle without getting caught up in a struggle…especially when you are the least informed and most biased party involved. Yes, I feel the strain of the wars he fights, but I know it is not my place to fight it. I cannot let the stress of war force it’s way into my heart unwelcomed, and if my lover brings it with him, he must learn that he has to protect me from his wars as well. As I will protect him from mine. 

Still, I feel used, which puts up alarms and makes me struggle internally. I wanted to cry because it was unwanted, and it made me question what I bring to the table versus what he brings to the table. It made me feel violated and uncomfortable. It was awkward and disappointing. It makes me wonder if it’s always going to be like this? Will I always just be used up and sucked dry by the people who claim to love me? When I feel used I automatically go into the highest protection mode I can, and since the fight method doesn’t work well with abuse victims like my fiancé , flight seems like the most viable option. I want to run from the war, which means running from the one who brings it home. I won’t of course. Nothing comes from running away. So I brought it up. We discussed it as lovingly and as seriously as I could manage without the yelling and tears I really wanted to express it with. 

But I had plenty I wanted to do instead of just talk about it. 

I wanted to yell in his face how disappointed I was that he doesn’t do more to protect us. To protect himself. I wanted to express how much I feel I already do for us in our relationship and I expected more from him. I wanted to hear what he had to say after giving him the what-for. But no conflict raged out. We talked. Like people who just met might talk. Guarded and honest without the emotions that lovers ought to share with one another. I set my boundary firmly. No drama. Little emotion. Just words. 

Still I question in all of this: is it not unnerving for the olive branch to be taken from its tree? Perhaps my reaction is a normal one? Perhaps even an olive branch protests its own symbolism? All the same, I did what I needed to. I said what I had to. 

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