Saturday, January 22, 2011

he left

Just for two or three nights, he said, but who knows. And although obviously on one level I care a lot, on another level, I don't even care if it's three nights or thirty. I'm upset - still crying from the last fight - but I'll tell you what, when he walked out the door and locked it behind him, I felt like an elephant had climbed off my chest (to be replaced by a slightly smaller elephant). I love my husband. But on our run this morning (we've started - had started? - a regimen of going on admittedly short runs twice a week together) he wanted to talk about how annoyed he was that a friend "checked up" on him and told him that he should get back to AA meetings (he's a recovering alcoholic, but hasn't gone to meetings in about three years), and when my husband said that he didn't really think that AA offered what he needed (or words to that effect), and he doesn't buy this "higher power" stuff anyway, his friend said, "You're a garden variety alcoholic. And this existential crisis stuff is, frankly, boring." (God bless him.) My husband didn't like that. What he really meant, perhaps, was that he needs more, or different, help than AA offers, and that may well be true. But everyone whose life difficulties manifest themselves in flirtation with atheism wants to think that they're special - like they've discovered antimatter, and high school students haven't been reading Nietzsche's syphilitic tripe and calling it "deeeep" for forever. It makes me weary.

Anyway, I said that I appreciated why he was upset, but I was on the whole more sympathetic to his friend. And then he went on about how he was not just angry with God, he really didn't believe in a personal God (he's full of crap - I can tell when someone is lying to himself and me, and that is what is happening here), and I never listen. I listened to him for probably twenty minutes, five to ten of which had no interjection from me. I finally responded starting with, "I'm interrupting you now," because he had changed topic three times and was just, really, ranting about all the things he hates and is angry about. I rant; I know what ranting is.

The problem is that all the conversations I have had with my husband since, maybe, November when he stopped traveling, fall into four categories: (1) sweet sentimental nothings about how much we love each other that aren't grounded to challenges and realities in our actual lives; (2) administrative nonsense about where the car is and what we're getting at the store; (3) him spewing venom about things he hates or is angry or miserable about, unpunctuated with humor or self-deprecation; (4) us screaming at each other. I thought I had won some sort of victory because lately we'd managed to cut down on #4. But I can't do a thing about #3.

I thought the shrink would help and I think in many ways it has. (I haven't jumped through enough administrivia to get myself an actual therapy appointment yet, and I know that has not helped.) The only clearly noticeable change so far is that he wants to talk to me about things more. That's good, I think, but unfortunately there are only two things he ever wants to talk about: how much he hates his life and how miserable he is and how he wants to die (I could insert quotation marks), which he ascribes to his job but which obviously couldn't be explained by a measly job unless he were an executioner or maybe a pimp; or, how much he hates the faith and the fact that he was raised in the faith. He never wants to share or discuss deeply about his ponderings about the meaning of this or the future of that; it's never up, or out, always down. Straight down, into an endless abyss.

Loving someone means being there for them in dark times, too, listening to them when they suffer, offering them words of reassurance. But there are people who not only reject words of reassurance, but attack them. Who will say, when you say helplessly, "I love you," "I love you too, but [continue despair]." To be a good wife to someone I knew beforehand was depressive, I know I have to have some stamina for that. But it ran out so long ago I couldn't pinpoint it specifically.

When I am coming home from work, I give him a call to say that I'm on my way and I'm looking forward to seeing him and I love him. If he doesn't answer, or answers in a foul mood, I know to brace myself for an evening with the devil. Sometimes I forget to call, and as I step off the bus, I am filled with dread.

I'm not a sentimentalist. I'm just not coping any more.

Toward the end of our rather awful conversation on our run/walk, he said something foul - took the Lord's name in vain, for the millionth time this month - and I snapped. I call him on that sometimes, but if I did every time, it would be every other word. I told him for the dozenth time at least that as long as one of us was a Christian, he was not to blaspheme. (How could that POSSIBLY be difficult to remember?) I had been trying to listen, trying to be patient, already upset, but with that, I lost my temper. And when we got to our house, I told him I was going another two miles, and I would be back.

The whole time I ran, I thought about what I would do if I had to leave him. When I'm angry or scared, I think about the worst things that could happen - maybe to toughen myself up in case they do. But this time I wasn't angry, I was just thinking. I pictured in my mind asking the question of my spiritual director. If he abandons the faith, I will have grounds for annulment under the Pauline privilege, I believe. But I don't want to start over with somebody healthier. I don't love anyone else. I don't want to leave him. I just don't know how to have a marriage that's not grounded in the faith - a struggling faith, fine, but something. And I realized that leaving him isn't revenge or rebellion or melodrama or disobeying God. If he leaves the faith, and I have grounds to leave him, there is only one question that matters: can I live my life as a Christian if I stay in this marriage? I realized that I didn't know the answer.

I came back. I got my street clothes, and I decided to finish watching a TV show I'd started before we left. He came in twenty minutes later with a heavy sigh and, "Can I ask you something?" I didn't have the peace and equanimity to start it again, but of course, there's no saying "I'm not ready to talk about this," with him. (Then I get "you never listen," an accusation I will always get no matter how much I do listen, and then we have a fight anyway.) He asked me - it's funny, I forget what he asked. When we were walking, I had said something to the effect that I believed he was lying to himself about what he did and didn't believe. (I'm certain that's true.) And he asked me whether he wouldn't know that. I said he wouldn't. I said he hasn't been grounded in a long, long time; he changes moods and personalities almost every day; many of the things he says are unhinged. I've noticed this for more than a year. I haven't said it, because he does not take comments like that well; to say it is a guaranteed fight. (What unhinged person takes being called on it well? Not many, I suppose...) But he asked. And I am so tired from keeping these things from him. I can't do diplomacy moves with a blasphemer and God-hater who shares my bed every day. I'm actually not that strong a person, and the crosses I already carry have taken all I have.

He told me our marriage was more stable than it had ever been and I told him he was wrong. It was more stable two years before; before his six-month unemployment stint (which was horrible), which was followed immediately by him finding out that he would have to testify at the RE-trial of his murdered roommates. The trial was in the same month I had my surgery. Also in the same month in which he had to show up in court for two traffic tickets, which is obviously irrelevant, but which he viewed as more or less akin to crucifixion at the time (and for some significant period thereafter). And around that time, he started with the not believing in a loving God. Nothing has been the same since. We both needed help before, but there's a difference between latent defects and things that are right on the surface, ruining everything.

One of the things I told him in the "not grounded" explanation is that he is paranoid. Now I'm not a psychiatrist...I know there's a technical definition. Heck if I know what it is. He knows I'm not a psychiatrist, he knows I mean it in the colloquial sense. But that's one of his "words." If you ever find yourself married to my husband, and you want to see if you can get him to scare the living hell out of you, use one of the following phrases:
  • "You're paranoid." (Also, "You're a conspiracy theorist.")
  • "You're -------- abusive." ("You're being emotionally abusive" works. It doesn't matter if it's true.)
  • "Your behavior is threatening."
Those things are deal-breakers, marriage-enders, to him. If he actually hit me (he never has), he might not think that physical abuse would be a deal-breaker. But if I stood there with a black eye and said, "You are physically abusive," that would be a deal-breaker. In other words - I have to lie to my husband, about my husband. I already need help and support, but I have to lie to him - and I have to lie to everyone else.

And for the record, he does act paranoid. He applied for a promotion (at a job he hates, remember) that he didn't even want, and he didn't get it. This ruined - totally - at least two straight days. I never know when some moderately-significant thing in his life will not go his way and all of life will be forfeit - no plans, no time spent with him, no ttc, favors I needed him to do will not be done, possibly raging fights, he'll cancel social plans and I'll be forbidden to say why. This is living with an alcoholic, just without the ethanol. So, anyway, the paranoia - he said that he thought the girl who got it had said bad things about him to everyone at the office and maybe that was why he didn't get it. Let's be honest: that could be true. But he had no evidence and he said himself that she's a nice girl. The next day, he even took the statement back. But he does things like that all the time. Whenever he's in a bad mood, he says outlandish things about others' actions and motives. When he's in a better mood, he says moderate things. What will set him into a bad mood - I mean, there are things I can predict, but not everything can be predicted.

Anyway - he lost it after I used the word "paranoid." He demanded an example. I can never give an example when I'm already being yelled at, but I offered the ones with this job. You know why that doesn't work? Because anyone can come up with a rational explanation for any one instance of paranoid behavior. Of course she might have done what he accused her of. (I forgot to trot out "even the paranoid have enemies" - stupid me.) Then he said I was attacking him, that I pushed his buttons on purpose, I know that he hates that word. Yes, I know, but I was answering him. And I never tell him what I really think of his behavior, because I know he'll lose it. This time I did, because he asked; it was daylight, I couldn't say it was too late to discuss it; and how long can you keep things to yourself? When is the right time to start telling the truth? And I want to be clear. I wasn't shouting, I wasn't angry. I was upset, but I wasn't trying to hurt him or attack him. I do that, I have done that, but it's not what I was doing. He said that I had some points but I was only half-right, he wouldn't accept the paranoid comment, what was I talking about. After he started nit-picking my examples I told him that he never listened and I recanted all the examples but I wasn't backing down from my conclusion; he's not grounded. He took the Lord's name in vain again, and I told him that from now on, I was not talking to him after he did that, and the conversation was over.

At that point he lost it. He started shouting at me, blasphemed several more times (what does that accomplish if there's no God?), told me I was deliberately pushing his buttons since I know he hates the word "paranoid," I was attacking him and he only attacked me afterward (I never attacked him. I said things I know he finds offensive, but I can't help that. He asked what I think and that is what I think), and then, that he was leaving me. And I said, "Good!" And usually when I say that, it's because I'm so angry, and he's hurt me, and I want to hurt him. But this time, it wasn't...I just felt calm. Like whatever would happen, would happen. He actually started packing. Apparently he packed a bag to spend several nights in a hotel. I used to descend into a hysteria of tears when he would suggest this (he threatened it a lot, because he gets emotionally claustrophobic and feels trapped, and because he knew it upset me), and beg him to stay, usually successfully. I resumed watching my TV show, and I found myself laughing - I felt happy. Somehow, I had a light heart.

He came back in with the bag on his shoulder and told me that he would not be attending our friend's birthday tonight (he knows it's important to her that we come), he would be gone two nights, possibly three, staying in a hotel. And I should just tell everyone that he isn't feeling well. I told him that I wasn't lying to everyone. He said - repeatedly - that if I told people we were separated, then he would really leave me. I told him that he had choices - don't do something no one can be told about, or deal with them being told. We have serious problems - what other people think is completely irrelevant. He accused me of being trailer trash and airing our dirty laundry (he says this regularly - I grew up very poor and my mother is mentally ill. I want to clarify here that I am no saint, but comments that I know cut too close to home I avoid in fights, because he is very sensitive and has a very bad temper. He attacks things about my family and childhood that he thinks will really hurt me whenever he is angry). I told him that it wasn't dirty laundry, but I was tired of lying to people and I would not be put in a position to lie to people any more. I'm not broadcasting it from the rooftops; I just won't promise to lie. I told him I was tired of living in emotional isolation - he was no support, and I wasn't allowed to seek anyone else's, either. If he left and I wanted to talk to someone, could he even name one person I was permitted to tell what was happening? He resisted the implication (though it's obviously true) that I'm constrained to keep secrets. He said it wasn't his fault that I don't have any close friends around here. I asked for a name, and he named an IRL friend who's IF. I asked whether I could quote her the whole conversation, and he became visibly uncomfortable - he didn't say no, but he wanted to. He said that I shouldn't be telling everyone at the party that he'd left, but that wasn't the position with which he started out. Honestly, if I refused to say something, it would be to protect the listener (and that I will do, because most people are too fragile to hear most things. Like you all don't know that). But I WILL NOT LIE for him any more.

I think he just realized that emotional isolation is a variety of emotional abuse. I hope that he's calm enough, by the time he gets to his hotel, not just to realize that he needs to add that to the list of Forbidden Words, but to realize that that's what he's actually been doing to me with the "tell them I'm not feeling well." (Sometimes I do say that, since he clearly isn't; but I realize, although he doesn't, that a lot of obvious lies and euphemisms raise way more eyebrows than the truth. If I show up at a party and say, "My DH isn't coming because we got in a fight and he refuses to be seen in public with me," people will laugh, even though they know it's also true. If I say that he's feeling poorly (when they talked to him on the phone an hour before), they probably talk about us behind our backs.) So I tell them that he's feeling depressed, or antisocial, or can't deal with people right now, or is really unpleasant company, or is mad at me. I've been doing this for a little while. It's such a relief to tell the truth. And you can see in their faces that they know it's true - but that it's not the end of the world. Amazing. The truth really will set you free.

Anyway, throughout this last conversation, I kept telling him that I had already established that I didn't want to talk to him, and I just wanted him to leave already if he was leaving. He stuck around to try to badger me into agreeing not to tell anyone that he was going. He kept at it for quite a while. And eventually I broke down and started crying. I told him that he had not been himself for more than a year. That I couldn't take the personality changes. The rage. The venom. The depression. I'm not that tough. I can't listen to this. I told him clearly that I am not coping and I can't take any more of this. I told him that I wanted him to go. There is no lighter side - sometimes he is heavily sentimental about how much he loves me, and that's sweet, but he is never light-hearted. He never wakes me early in the morning to see the sunrise. He is never "so excited" about anything - anything. He never skips anywhere. He is never patient in traffic (or any delay or inconvenience); he never lives in the moment. Sometimes I can persuade him to fret less and be nice to people, but that never goes the other way - he is never calming me down or making me more patient. And lately my appreciation of even his affection is tinged with darker thoughts - about how little that might really mean when it's important, and how fast his mood could change. Around my husband, I now guard my heart almost at all times.

I am so tired. The burden is so heavy, but I didn't even notice until I could set it down, and that, even now, only partly. When he left, I walked up to the door, slid the chain, drew the curtains. My heart beat faster in fear that he might have forgotten something and would come back, but he didn't. I know the panic and hysteria and heartache are hovering right on the edge, but right now, I feel so much relief. I want him to come back when he is better. If that's 2012, I think that might be fine.

I am willing to have a "serious talk" with him, and my calendar opens up around...March 1. I have frankly already filled my quota of serious talks for 2011. First I would like him to prove that he can have important but not serious talks - a hope-filled, light-hearted discussion about our future home, jobs, etc., phrased in terms of the possibilities open to us, rather than the horrible things we need to run away from. A conversation about the things in life for which he's grateful, in a tone of wonder, not spite. A conversation about how much he loves his parents and how grateful he is for his childhood that's not a prelude to the all-important "but" that introduces how they failed him by not forcing him to work harder in school (so that he now has this horrible ridiculously well-paid job that's just giving him no reason to live), or by raising him in the faith (so that now, when he later abandons the faith, he feels a great loss because the world suddenly doesn't have meaning and all these rotten lying people raised him to rely on the idea that it did). I don't know when I've had a conversation like that with him. It might have been...four years? It might not have been ever.

I haven't decided yet whether I feel like going to the grocery store. I think I have to scratch making the whole fancy cake I was going to because I no longer have time, but I'm going to my friend's party, and I'm going to have a good time. And I may also gather the energy to finish my blitz-cleaning of the house - I did five rooms and he was supposed to do the sixth, but he didn't. But I can do that. And tomorrow - will take care of itself.


  1. I am so sorry. I felt the pain and anguish and the emotional abusive, (yes I fully agree - a good chunk of it is emotional abuse), very tangibly through the computer screen. Do you need anything? I know that sounds like a trite question, but I am serious. I wish I lived closer and could come over and help you clean or just hang out or do something. I am praying for you...

  2. I don't comment much, but I just wanted to say I'm sorry. Marriage problems are the worst. I had moments exactly like yours...where you feel a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders. I felt that when I decided to leave my husband. That feeling for me didn't last long and we decided to work it out. He was willing to change and I was willing to change.

    Our husbands sound very similar. Short temper and everything. I started refusing to talk to him once he raised his voice at me. My husband was diagnosed bi-polar about 10 years ago. I think the diagnosis is wrong, but we still treat the depression with drugs. It has helped immensely.

    I hate this for you! I will be praying!

  3. You bear such a heavy cross. Heavier than anything I've carried. You are a strong woman. Know that I'm praying for you.

  4. I'm really sorry. I can definitely understand, after what you've shared with us, why you'd feel such relief at his leaving. Marriage is difficult with both partners in the best of mental health - and your husband seems to be in crisis at the moment (or for a while now, maybe).
    Let me know if you want company or if you want to get out of the house - I'm close by!
    Wish I knew something better to say, but I will be praying for both of you.

  5. There are no words to comfort you. Just know I am praying for you.

    When you are married to someone who is ill you need to protect yourself so you don't catch that illness. My sis married a sociopath and my bro married a bipolar woman. And it is hard to hold on to the sense of your worth.

    I'm asking my sis to pray for you too- her prayers are my saving grace. I hope your suffering can be lessened soon. I will pray for your husband's healing too.

  6. As someone that has survived an abusive relationship (pre-Mr JB, of course), I understand your relief. It is so hard to have to compensate for another person and get little in return. I pray that you will find consolation in your solitude. I wish that I lived closer to you so I could make you soup.

    I'm praying for you.

  7. Oh misfit.

    know that I am praying for you and DH.

    Sending lots of hugs to you also.
    Wish that I lived closer so that I could give you one IRL.


  8. I will be praying for you too...sounds like you've been carrying quite a burden with all his harshness...if he's "ill" how much can he expect another person to take? I don't have any answers and maybe he needs more time in therapy. Sometimes "things" just have to get worse before they can get better. Hopefully for here on gets better.

  9. Misfit,
    Just woke up and was dithering about church (again). Then I read your post. I wish it were more, but I am getting ready to go now, no more dithering - and to the parish where I should, and not necessarily where I want to and I would head out to the kiddie Mass if I could just to have a bit more to offer up. You provide so much comfort to so many people - I will be praying there is some for you soon - I am so sorry. hedwig

  10. Please know that I am praying for you. And dh, too. I am so sorry for all the pain.

  11. Misfit, this is so sad to read. Thank you for sharing your pain with us. I am praying for you and sending lots of cyber hugs your way. Knowing you are going through this makes me feel sick. I can't begin to imagine how you are feeling.

  12. I’m so sorry, Misfit. I cannot imagine the stress you’ve been under for such a long time. What a tremendous burden. I could feel the stress reading about you bracing yourself when you come home. I hope the therapy helps him fight his demons in the long run. It does sound like such an uphill battle right now. No matter what, I’m here for you if you need anything.

  13. So sorry O,

    This sounds horrible and in some ways I can totally relate. My husband and I have had our own share of blowouts and even tinges of emotional abuse (I hate saying it though). So at least don't feel like you're going through this alone. We are all here for you and will support you in whatever way you need. Keep us posted and definitely be safe. I know he hasn't done anything physical but if he started to lose ALL hope, you never know what could happen.

    We just care about you, k?


  14. praying

    emailing you now.

  15. Thank you for opening up and sharing this with us, which may have been cathartic for you (I've no doubt, it always is for me) but must have at the same time been very hard.

    There were moments, or rather, the entire span of 3.5 yrs, when I was dating DH that I needed to lie for him to people, and I applaud you for not doing it anymore with your DH. I think because I succumbed to making excuses to protect him and my pride, we now have a lot of issues in our marriage stemming from my resentment. Enabling isn't healthy for anyone.

    I'm so so sorry you've been dealing with all of this. If you need anything, or just to talk, you know how to find me.

  16. I am so sorry you are going through this...please know I am praying for you both.

  17. I'm so sorry. I know it seems like you're in such an irreversible situation and that it can't get better, but it can. Praying for you.

  18. Thank you all so much for your kind words and prayers. My DH called and we had a good talk. I think we have had a lot of un-aired issues; very much my fault too for keeping things to myself and blaming him for it. And maybe in the long run it's for the best that we got it out in the open. We'll work on having some new operating rules now to keep things at a manageable level. And of course, not everything is magically cured - life is not like that - but, God willing, we shall keep marching toward improvement. Every day, in every way...

  19. I'm really sorry you and your husband are having problems. I'm praying that whatever happens, you can go forward with a clear head. I truly hope you two can work through things, if that's the direction you want to do. If not, then I hope you can move forward with no regrets.

  20. Goodness. Your post describes my own marriage in so many ways. The anger, the paranoia, the anger. Only mine still had the alcohol involved. And another woman.

    My husband (I guess soon-to-be ex) is so unhappy and I can see him desperately grasping at things in an attempt to feel good. And I know personally what it is like to receive such personal, low-blows from the man you love while you keep all the hurtful things you could say to yourself because you KNOW how bad they hurt to hear.

    I applaud you for all of your efforts and all you have endured. I don't think you really know unless you've been there. I know I never did before. I wish the best for you.

  21. Praying for you. Glad to hear you had a good talk.

  22. I'm late commenting, but I wanted to say that I've been thinking about you pretty much continually since reading this post. I'm glad that you & DH had an honest conversation. It's obvious that you love him -- it's apparent in your words & the fact that you're still willing to work on the marriage with him. I hope that this begins a healthy transition for your relationship...

    (((hugs)))... & I'm not usually much of a hugger :)

  23. I'm so sorry you're dealing with all this. My ex-husband had a lot of depression/anxiety/paranoia problems, and it really takes a toll on a relationship. Now that we're no longer together, I can see how my personality contributed to it and the role I played, but I also know that after ten years, I was completely worn out. I remember just feeling so tired, trapped, and suffocated, and I had reached my limit of being blamed for everything. I also remember holding my breath when I would hear him come home, because I never knew what I was going to face.

    It sounds like you're still communicating (which is good), and still have it in you to work through these difficult times. I hope things continue to improve for you both.

  24. I am glad you have shared this with us. I imagine it wasn't easy and I am glad we can be the friends who listen to the whole truth and let you get it off your chest. Some of it sounds very familiar with the mental illness that I grew up with/still experience with family members. I had ex boyfriends that resemble some of this as well. I know how tiring it can be. I want you to know we are here for you. Am saying a prayer for you now, friend, for strength and guidance and for your dh, for healing and to be set free from all of this weight.

  25. I am so proud of your strength to stand up to yourself and address these issues. It seems as if he needs direction and I am praying for that for him. You had me hanging on to every word and my heart was aching for you. I can't get over how proud of you I am for handling it in this way. He needs to change and you are holding him accountable. It takes two and you are asking for him to take more part in this. I really look up to you for your strength. I can't stop thinking about this. Misfit, you will be in my prayers. Hugs

  26. Misfit - I'm so sorry to read about this. Please know that I am praying for you.

  27. I do not think I have commented much on your posts- but felt the need to do so. I give you much credit for this post- a huge sign of health! I too was in an emotionally abusive relationship is damaging to be held hostage by someone's emotional instability. I am praying for you and hoping maybe you could go see someone to talk too.....I am a psych nurse...if you ever feel like emailing...please let me know.. I am lebecrose_at_aol