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."
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.