Tuesday, August 20, 2019

"I love you too but you know we're not happy, right?"

Those were words I uttered to the Mr mid-March last year and you have no idea how scared but proud of myself I was to finally say them.  That may shock most of you, but we've decided it's time to open up about some personal stuff that we feel could benefit others.  I hope you'll be kind should you comment knowing what it's taking for us to share something so deeply personal.

The Mr and I got together at ages 17 and 19.  At that point in your life, you're basically what your parents and limited life experiences have shaped you into.  We each had our own baggage to bring to the relationship, but at that age, you don't care about that stuff.  All you care about is getting laid, living life, and making your way together.  This isn't just the tale of two kids bringing their own emotional baggage to a relationship.  We all do it.  In case you haven't noticed, we are ALL effed up and if you think you're not, you probably need help most of all!  LOL  You can have the best childhood ever with parents who showered you with affection.  But there are things you take forward with you, even in a seemingly perfect upbringing, that will make relationships with you challenging on some level to another person whether it's a spouse, parent, sibling, child or friend.  We all bring forward coping mechanisms we learned from our parents or those close to us.

I was a child of divorce, as you all know.  "Kids are resilient," everyone likes to say.  Bullshit.  Those are words spoken by lazy people who don't want to admit the damage they or someone they know has done to a kid and hopes life will somehow straighten them out on their own.  Kids are not resilient, they are sponges.  Kids will remember things you said to them that you would swear on your life you never said.  I very distinctly remember accidentally knocking a doll bassinet into the head of my 2-year-old cousin.  Why do I remember it?  Because when my cousin, who was not hurt, started to cry as I apologized to her, my dad said, "watch what you're doing, dumbass!"  His brother told him his daughter was fine and not to yell at me, but my feelings had been hurt, I burst into tears and ran upstairs to my mom who was with my aunts.  I told her what happened, and in a rare moment of bravery, she called my dad out for it in front of everyone and said we were leaving.  I heard them fighting later, and he said not to ever make a fool of him in front of his family again, and she said he was the one being a fool, she didn't have to say anything.  You have to know how incredibly rare this was for my mom to stand up to him.  She didn't do that.  I also don't want you to think my dad was some abusive man who hurled insults at us on the regular either.  He didn't, which is probably why it hurt so much.  (I suppose he did get some digs in veiled as jokes..." pick your ears instead of your ass" is one that stands out when I wasn't listening.  Or if I said something stupid, it was "your mouth got ahead of your brain again."  I thought it was funny then, but I recognize now that it had an impact.  I also recognize those are direct quotes from his own father.  I told you...sponges.)

I saw a cycle of my dad letting anything that might upset my mom sit there with a glazed look while she "got it off of her chest" and then do nothing to improve it.  He didn't like conflict especially if he knew he was in the wrong.  I knew enough to know by the time he left by 4th grade that I didn't want a marriage like that.   I learned a lot of things from them as a kid.  My mom was emotional, kind, thoughtful of others, and a talker.  She was also a pushover, didn't stand up for herself much and turned to food for comfort.  My dad was a schmoozer on the job (in more ways than one), confident, and strong-willed.  He was also stubborn, desperately wanted to please his overbearing father (who cannot be pleased) and uncompromising.  I picked up all of those traits from them both and used them to my advantage and disadvantage.  After their divorce, my life was basically praying dad would pay child support on time, so our utilities weren't threatened.  This was when having deductions come out of your paycheck looked bad, and mom wasn't going to push it because she needed the money since she was making less than 10K per year back then.  He knew it and I think he liked the power.  This bred my intense need for security both emotionally and financially because what was left of my childhood was in constant limbo by a dad on a power trip and a mom too worried about him withholding and knowing she didn't have the money to fight him in court.

If you asked the Mr for the first 20 years of our relationship, he would and did tell you that he had a pretty idyllic childhood.  Small town boy, played in a band through most of high school including at prom for a song, had a bitchin' Camaro for his car, parents thought he hung the moon, and he idolized one of his cool, older brothers.  If you dug a little deeper, his mom was the only girl in a brood of boys that were kids of a prominent doctor in town and reputation was more important than happiness.  The boys got a free pass to act a fool, and she was burdened with the "what will people think!?" syndrome that she still deals with into her 70's.  They are "sweepers"...problems don't exist...sweep it under the rug and jump up and down on the lumps.  The idolized brother modeled less than exemplary behavior, which thankfully the Mr learned from instead of modeling himself, but it made it no less painful when the shine was taken off of him.   He spent most of his life, including into adulthood being relentlessly bullied by his other older brother.  His dad had a heart of gold and was a workaholic.  Owning his own business meant he was away or interrupted a lot during the Mr's childhood and to compensate, the Mr got a LOT of Star Wars toys!  (Which his brothers had no problem bringing up at the wake when his father passed.)  The Mr watched his mom subtly manipulate his dad to buy things to appear more wealthy than they were because of her issues passed down from her mom about reputation.  The Mr picked up on that and learned he could get things from his parents if he pushed the right buttons.  If it didn't work immediately, he'd bide his time.  The Mr's bully brother was a gangly bird of a teenager who was allowed to order two sandwiches, and despite being 7 years younger, in the spirit of not wanting to play favorites, they allowed the Mr to do the same.  This set up a pattern of fast eating and food hoarding for the Mr that he is still improving upon.

I went into our relationship, knowing I was broken because of my parent's divorce but also very black and white as to what I would and wouldn't accept.  I was strong-willed and was viewed as a leader when warranted.  I repeated some of the same patterns I saw from the good things like being thoughtful of others and a talker/schmoozer to the not so good like not standing up for myself when I felt like I didn't matter to being uncompromising.  I always said I was "tactfully blunt," and I still am.  The Mr came into it being a people pleaser who molded his personality to fit others to fit in and never liked to rock the boat.  Conflict is a four-letter word to him.  He doesn't like his reputation questioned, even when warranted.  He bottled his feelings until he'd get to an explosive moment where he'd want to "burn it all down" and would use his mother's art of manipulation, so he looked like the good guy never realizing he was doing it.  (Or at least not wanting to admit to it.)

You can see how this would eventually come to a head left unchecked, right?

It did just that last year but had been building in me for more than a year at that point.  The Mr has always had a bit of a road "entitlement" issue.  As our city has grown and is about on par with Atlanta and Chicago traffic, it's gotten worse and trust me, I get it!  It is absolutely maddening to drive anywhere here to the point we both desperately want to move, but his job has too good of benefits to make it feasible.  Unfortunately, it got to the point I sometimes felt unsafe riding with him.  I didn't bring it up unless it was a truly close call or an incident where surely he could see the way it unfolded wasn't called for.

He'd pretend he didn't know what I was talking about, which would piss me off because we both knew what had just happened.  I felt like my mother, who was allowed to vent her feelings but not have them considered on that particular subject.  He had grown more impatient with life in general, which I blamed myself for because I've always been so angry and passionate where injustice was concerned.  I would listen to him complain about people to the point I had to decide if I really wanted to go out and have someone tick him off or just stay home.  But who was I to complain about him?  He's nice!   He goes to Hobby Lobby with me!  He provides a good life for us, goes along with anything I suggest so I need to just shut it.   My feelings aren't that important because I've got a cushy life by all accounts.  I'M the broken one.   I've been saying it since day one of our relationship, so how could he not buy into that eventually?  I constantly feared he would leave me just like all of the important men in my life did, but he was always reassuring that wasn't who he was.  He didn't believe in that, and I believed him.  (Still do!)  But I began to feel like he didn't respect me enough to not get so upset when saying something about his driving issues even when I said I didn't feel safe.  We don't fight often, but when we'd get into a verbal "knockdown, drag-out" session once every few years, he'd imply divorce because he knew it was the quickest way to shut me up.  This isn't all of the time but in really bad ones, that I can probably count on both hands over a 27-year span, but it's the only way he knew how to shut down an argument he didn't want to have and then it would leave an unerasable scar in me.  It killed me to think after all I went through with his family in the beginning and how much I was his biggest supporter when others turned their backs that he could so easily turn his on me when the going got rough.  His parents didn't fight or discuss in front of them.  Everything was fine!  He had been given nothing to model on how to have fair fights with a spouse, and since we were each other's first significant other, we didn't have previous experience of what not to do.  All he knew from his experience was conflict = bad and shut it down asap.  If he went below the belt a little, so be it as long as it stopped.  I'd get over it.

The bone of contention wasn't necessarily about the driving (it was, but it wasn't) but the behaviors behind how we both dealt with it.  I carefully choose if what was done was enough to say something, I say it, he pretends he's not trying to beat the dude beside us to be "first", I tell him "I'm not blind, I see what you're doing", he doesn't acknowledge or says he's not doing anything.  I tell him I'm not stupid and stop insulting my intelligence.  The rest of the day is ruined for me because I feel he doesn't respect me or thinks I'm stupid.  I sulk.  He wants to get back to "normal" and tries to talk about everything but the issue.  We spend all day basically not speaking, and if the issue dug deep enough, it went into the next day until he would sense my mood and finally talk about it just to not have to deal with it anymore.  I would say it was fine, but inside, I was still hurt but again, who was I to say anything?  He's the golden child, and I'm the tough as nails uncompromising one to everyone else.  I always told him from early in our relationship that my family liked him more than me, and if we were both drowning, they'd throw him the life preserver.  I said it jokingly, but I was serious.  If I heard "poor Mr" one more time from them, I was going to scream.  He was nice, how could I not do X, she's so mean, I don't know how he puts up with her.  POOR HIM.  Of course, who doesn't want to be put up on that pedestal, so he wasn't going to agree with them, but he wasn't going to correct them either.  That gets in your head big time...on both accounts.

I felt myself disappearing.  After last years Valentines Day leg lock-up where the doctor said my heart rate was at stroke levels from the pain, I found a search the Mr did for "prednisone irritability."  I actually thought it was kind of funny and forgot to mention it to him until about 2 weeks later.

"Was I irritatable on prednisone?"
"You were snappy."
"Oh, I saw you searched it, and I just wasn't sure how bad it was, I don't remember being irritable."  "You said something, and I thought "wow, that was uncalled for!" so I searched it."
"What did I say?"
"I don't remember."
"So I said something so bad that you searched for drug side effects but don't remember what it was?"
"How am I supposed to improve what might set you off if you can't give me an example of what I said?"  (It should be noted this is a BIG bone of contention for us.  He tells me how mad I made him with something I said, I asked what I said and he can't tell me.)
"I don't know, but you were pretty snappy, and I didn't think it was fair."
"It also wasn't fair that I had just been rendered immobile for 3-4 days and was terrified to move for two weeks.  I'm sorry if I got snappy, but you never said anything, so how can I change if I don't know what I said?  I was scared shitless the lock-up could happen again.  Here I was writing you love notes and praising you online for taking care of me for those two weeks after and you were sitting there harboring resentment against me.  How could I have been so wrong?!"

That was really kind of the last straw for me mentally.  I couldn't win.  He gets mad at me for something I said, I want to improve but don't know what I said.  It's like failing a test and not being told which ones you got wrong, so you know what to study for.  I also got the news Grandma was declining.  It would be two weeks before she passed, but I was emotionally drained of everything.  I felt my only safe space that I had in him was now on shaky ground because he'd been feeling one way toward me (not good) while I felt another.  My mind reeled.  He apologized to me in the kitchen and said it wasn't fair he didn't say anything, and we stood at the stove and said he loved me.

My response was, "I love you too, but you know we're not happy, right?"


I'm sure I've burned your eyes enough for today, so we'll pick this up again tomorrow.  I want to leave you with this.  Please don't judge either of us yet based on what you read today.  We have decided to let you in on this path to healing we've been on over the past 18 months because I hate nothing more than presenting people with half the picture of a whole life.  A lot of you who read regularly have been on this journey with us for close to a decade, and we respect you enough to bring you along for the ugly.

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  1. Very tough words to hear but I appreciate the bravery it took and it did open my eyes to what was under the surface, easily ignored but always nagging at the back of my mind. I think everyone can relate to this idea that you can cruise along and know some things maybe aren't working the way you'd like them to but we think it's maybe too hard to change. Well, change is hard but change is good. I won't give much more away yet.

    1. Cruise control unfortunately doesn't work with marriage. We both deserve much than hoping everything is okay. change is hard but we're both worth the effort. <3

  2. You guys are digging deep, that's a good thing.

  3. I love your honesty and openess. You are strong and brave to share these parts of your life with us, it's hard to open up about relationships. Thank you for telling your story!

    1. Thank you, Sarah! It's definitely not easy but after much discussion, we both agreed it was the right thing to do.

  4. You guys are so brave to put this out there. Thank you for trusting us enough to share with us.

  5. Good for you for verbalizing your journey together. This reminds me a picture I keep on my desktop of a butterfly and a caterpillar and the caterpillar says, "you've changed," and the butterfly says, "we're supposed to."

    1. Isn't that the truth yet somehow when people say "you've changed" it's usually said in a bad way. Change is constant and if you're lucky, you change and grow together.

  6. I have been following you since "Sparkpeople" and you have me on the edge of my seat. I've been married for 32 years and I totally understand the "I love you but we're not happy." We are okay now, too, but thank you for baring your soul.PS the email on this is my husbands and I don't know how to fix it. LOL!

    1. Aww, thanks for sticking with me! I'm so glad you're better and sorry you were able to empathize. I never understood it when people said "marriage is work." I always thought love was enough but my naivety was showing. ;-)

  7. Hi there, Anele. I don't know if you'll even remember me (think way back to SparkPeople)... it's been a really long time... and though I never comment, I've never stopped reading and rooting for you and the Mr. in every way. I comment today, not because I have anything profound to say, but because I think it's especially courageous, loving and generous of both of you to share this particular part of your story. I also wanted to say that you're not alone. Dearly Beloved and I have been married almost 20 years and our baggage finally caught up to us this past May (maybe it takes 20 years together to grow to the point where being this real is even possible... like the Velveteen Rabbit? I know many, many couples who hit a wall 20 years into marriage). We are at the point where we either build something new and mutually satifying together, or build happiness separately. Dearly Beloved and I have many similarities to you and Mr.. At the moment I'm cautiously optimistic in that at least we're in agreement that depite loving each other very much we're not actually happy, that things have to change (we're in the process of digging through the damage to identify exactly what/where change is necessary to moving forward), and that we both want our marriage to be more than simply 'settling' (we haven't come this far to simply come this far). We're riding a crazy emotional roller coaster, and everything feels hard and threatening, but we're still holding hands as we wade through it together. I'm ridiculously proud of that alone... that and the fact that we both agree we want our marriage to be 'more'. So! I'm really looking forward to hearing what you have to share about your own process. I don't know if I'll comment again, but I wanted you to know that I'm still here rooting for you both... and for my own marriage. Commenting here today is an act of faith and hope in the truth and promise of 'more' for all of us. {{{HUGS}}}

    1. I absolutely remember you. (Vintage girl on the beach pic, right?) Thank you for sharing your challenges right now. I hope that tomorrow's post will give you some good resources to consider. Next week, I may review the ones we found most helpful if people are interested. Hang in there and feel free to post anytime! I hope you're doing well!

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