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A Woman In Total Control Of Herself

By Marla Martenson


I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I was not always a woman in total control of myself.

Actually, in romantic relationships, I always felt like I was spinning terribly out of control. I've spent decades searching for answers to why I continually chose verbally and emotionally abusive men. I overstayed every time, searching for ways to make things better. As much as I wanted to blame him, the men… the common denominator was me. I stuck around for the put downs, control and gaslighting every time. I thought I loved myself, but obviously there was something within me that did not feel worthy. Something allowed me to take the abuse, the verbal and emotional hits. In my subconscious, I somehow felt this treatment was inevitable, and so I was powerless against it. I had to do something though.

In the spring of 2021, now in my third marriage, after two decades, enduring frequent criticism, impassioned lectures, diminishment of my interests, disrespect, and insults lobbed at me like stink bombs, I was finally in total breakdown mode. My nervous system was completely out of wack, producing chronic joint pain, breast pain, brain fog, and I had started to stutter when speaking. I knew that stress could cause serious illness, or worse. This could not go on.

Finally one spring day in 2021, I did something that I am still astonished by. At noon, my husband gave me a kiss before leaving to go have lunch with a friend. I felt a pang of sadness and guilt as I said goodbye. I watched out the window as his car turned out of the neighborhood, then scribbled a note and left it on the kitchen counter apologizing for the way I was doing this. I quickly loaded my red Toyota with three suitcases, and our dog Macie. I drove 1,000 miles north, to my mother’s house in Seattle, sobbing the whole way there.

  I almost turned around and drove home at least a dozen times, but I knew that I was saving myself. My dignity. My very soul.

Even though I knew it was the best thing for me, for us, because heck, he was miserable as well, I missed our home in Los Angeles. I missed my routine. I couldn’t see how I was going to be able to get past the feeling of deep loss. I was certain that I would go to my grave confused, and dis-regulated, feeling like a complete fuck-up in the relationship department. After all, the choices I made in romantic partners my entire adult life turned out to be a predictable destructive, toxic pattern. So, I decided to make it my task to discover why I did this, and how I could prevent it from happening again. I was determined to clean up this sick pattern I was in.

But I was determined to adjust to my new life and heal. Over the summer, I joined a group on a spiritual retreat at Mount Shasta, which was truly amazing. As the months went by, it did feel good to be free of constant arguing and criticism, but I still didn’t feel right. I could not stop crying and I felt constant anxiety in my body. Even as I wandered through the aisles at a mall or the big box stores that my husband and I used to go to together on Sundays, sights and smells would trigger a new torrent of tears. I so wished that he had loved me enough to show up at the door with flowers, apologize and realize he couldn’t live without me. I knew that would never happen. His pride would not allow it. He would actually rather get a divorce than say he was sorry, or admit to any wrong doing. When I’d get back in my car, I’d smash my hands on the steering wheel and scream and scream.

I was so distraught and depressed, I often stayed in bed for days on end, my phone, laptop, tarot cards, and hot tea next to me, grateful I could work from home. I sobbed into Macie’s fluffy, black fur.

When I finally ventured out from the bedroom, each morning I brewed some strong coffee, lit a candle, and wrote in my journal, getting all my feelings and ideas out. After a short meditation I took a brisk walk in the crisp Seattle air. Once a week I had a session with a therapist and a divorce coach to the tune of about seven thousand dollars. I have to say, I didn't feel that talking to a therapist and coach shifted anything in me, they just listened as I rehashed my feelings, and said that I should go no contact with my husband. That never felt right. We owned a house and and dog together. I didn't want to go no contact. I just wanted peace.

After two years of searching for a way to heal. I finally found the golden ticket! I was able to up level my self -esteem, value and self-love and find peace. Four things were key. Setting strong boundaries, diving into shadow work, healing co-dependency and hot yoga. (yoga done in a room heated to about 105-112 degrees)

A boundary is what you will and will not accept or tolerate in yourself and others. Setting and holding strong boundaries is a game changer.

Carl Jung defined the shadow archetype as the dark and emotional side of your personality or psyche. Shadow work is the process of getting to know the unconscious parts of our self that we are not currently aware of. All of the stuff we tucked away in our childhood.

Co-dependency is a learned behavior. It's an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, satisfying relationship. People with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive or abusive.

Hot yoga was an intricate part of my healing. When I could not stop crying, I became concerned about my health, mentally and physically. I knew I needed something.

One day I asked myself, “What do you need, Marla? What?”

A voice in my head replied, “Hot yoga.”

Hmmm.... I actually hated the thought of sustained contortions in a hellishly heated room, but I Googled hot yoga studios in my area and signed up the next day. The first couple of weeks were so challenging that I told myself I wasn’t coming back, but something in me spurred me on. So, five days a week, I showed up on the mat in the back of the room and literally cried through most of the hour.

At the end of class, the teacher would check in with me to see if I was okay. “I’m getting a divorce,” I sobbed. I could not get used to saying those words.

 But, I kept showing up. I felt cleansed and stronger. I was purging decades of trauma. Toxins were expelled from my organs. Painful insults and arguments oozed out of my pores and onto the towel and mat. My nervous system was being regulated.

 I was astonished at the results and I was proud of myself. Hey, I was pretty badass. I slowly started to truly love and respect myself, set strong boundaries, and conquered co-dependence.

I am so passionate about this that I became a certified transformational life coach, helping women change patterns and heal. I offer various programs, my signature is a 12 session 1-1 program in Boundary Coaching which encompasses Boundaries, Shadow Work, Co-dependency, Self-worth and more.

My latest group experience is called A Woman in Total Control of Herself. Five sessions to transformation. This is a container where you're fully supported, energetically turned on, tapped in, and attuned to the flow of your life.

It's all about becoming the woman who confidently knows what she wants, what she will and will not accept or tolerate, and embraces life with grace, dignity and strong boundaries!

In this space, you have broken old patterns, you are attracting and crafting a life filled with passion, purpose, and unapologetic badassery!

So join us! We start March 11th 2024.

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