Monday: part three, Marriage and Relationships

And I think Kay comes up as the deepest relationship because she is always there. But her friendship came later, I was already moved out and in college when we got close, and I can’t say that I felt a connection at first. Not exactly. But it wasn’t that glass wall feeling either. More like she had cracked the glass, maybe. It was more on her end, Kristin doesn’t have surface friendships. Seriously. She won’t waste her time. I don’t know. And she really proved to me, no matter what I do, if I’m mean, or ignore her or scream at her to go away, no matter how awful my behavior has been over the years– and she dealt with a lot from me after the boyfriend– she is just always there, and still loves me, still cares about me, still thinks I am worth that. I don’t know. I really don’t know. She’s safe.

Bea has been reading, and giving me feedback as she reads. “This is what you need. To feel safe, to have safe people in your life and to be able to believe they are safe. You and Kay went through a lot together. She proved, over and over that she is safe.” 

Bea has taken everything I have written so calmly, like it’s all normal and fine. I feel sort of dumb now for not just emailing this to her earlier, but it is a lot, and I am still afraid and anxious about everything that I have written. It’s just….so much of what I wrote is really….ME, my feelings, those deep inner feelings in that core part of me. So it’s scary, to have her reading this. 

 I trust her to just be there. Honestly, I don’t think it is realistic to think that you can have every friendship or relationship be like that. I’m not sure that most people even get one relationship like that. 

“I think you’re right, not every relationship, not even every friendship can be that deep. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile friendship or that it’s not important. But not every relationship, even ones where you allow a connection will be like the one you have with Kay.” 

I do wish I could have some of that with hubby. But..I don’t know. 

“I think that the relationship we have with our spouse is very different than other relationships, so it’s very hard to compare it to those. No matter how close a friendship is, the relationship with our spouse is the closest attachment relationship we have as adults. This is the relationship that is going to bring up old fears. Trigger old hurts. It’s why, when hubby doesn’t see you, it really hurts, because it brings up every time you felt unseen and unheard by your mom. And for you, some of those times you were asking to be protected, and she didn’t see or hear you, so when hubby doesn’t see you or hear you, or really triggers a lot of old hurts.” Bea says. 

“He’s just….gone. I don’t know.” I sigh. I’m so tired. “I’m just so done. I can’t…I just can’t keep trying.”

Bea asks me if it would be fair to agree that a part of me is feeling something, versus all of me. Maybe it’s that a part of me is done, or a part of me feels distant and gone from him, too separated to fix anything, I’m sort of floaty and not all there, and feeling sort of defensive, so I’m not sure what she asks. 

“No.” I say the word. It sounds like a pouty two year old. I can’t help but laugh at myself. “I can see your point,” I relent, “but I just want to be stubborn right now. So, no.”

I can hear a smile in Bea’s voice when she says, “Okay. You can be stubborn.” We both know I’m fairly self aware, although the things I’ve managed to hide from myself still scare me. 

I can look back now and see that maybe, I “tested” Kay in a lot of ways before I decided I could really depend and trust her to care about me and be there no matter what I did. And hubby..I think I’ve thrown several tests his way from the beginning of our relationship. He passed enough of them that I felt safe with him, that I knew as long as things stayed on the surface they would be fine. 

“I think we all do this, to a point– test the people we are in relationships with. You might test a bit more, or be more on the lookout for signs of failure, or passing because you really need to know it’s safe, but everyone tests in some way or or another.” Bea tells me. She makes it okay, and not crazy behavior. 

But now? The last year, year and a half, I think I’ve given him tests and he fails them left and right. He fails them miserably. I mean, so much of this wasn’t really conscious, it wasn’t anything I was thinking about it. But therapy made me think about it, and I can see where I have “tested” hubby. The thing is, though, knowing now that I do this, I have tried to explain to him, give him warning, help him. Because I want him to pass. But he doesn’t listen. And he fails. Ugh. I don’t know. I hate that it’s like this with him. But I really can’t keep trying, either. I want something more, but it’s so painful, I don’t even have words, to keep reaching out and not being heard or seen. I can’t keep doing it. And it makes me regret telling him anything more than the surface stuff. I hate that he knows about Kenny, about the boyfriend– even if it’s not details, even if it’s not much that he knows– I hate that he knows any of it. It’s like having a stranger know my secrets. I don’t know. It sucks. I don’t like it, I hate that I told him and I wish I could take it back. 

“I can see how bad this would feel, to have him know these things and feel so far away. Of course you wish you hadn’t told him. But that wouldn’t really make things better, either.”

“Yes, it would. I was stupid to think it could be more. To talk. It would have been better to not have ever said a thing!” I snap at her. I’m so angry. I hate that I told him. I really am regretting it right now, and I can think of several other times I have regretted it. 

“It doesn’t feel good, to have someone so distant know these really personal things. It doesn’t feel good to have them know these things and act as though they don’t know it…….” Bea is still talking, validating my feelings, maybe explaining why it is good he knows. I don’t know. I’m hiding in the room in my head, curtains pulled, doors shut. I’m gone, only vaguely aware of anything. 

I go back and forth between wanting to fix things, to somehow find enough courage to be vulnerable enough to tell him how absolutely alone and ignored I feel, and how angry that makes me, and how hurtful that is to just wanting to live on the surface and be the most perfect happy wife and not upset his inner peace and just be…whatever. Numb to it all. Gone but here. Because that part of me is just so done. Angry and tired. I don’t know. It’s my own fault, in so many ways. Hubby was safe. I loved him because he was safe. He didn’t dig for more than the surface, and I like that. He was safe, and I had fun with him, and we could talk for hours and laugh and I don’t know. It was just enough connection to love him. But not so much it felt unsafe and scary. So I married him. I don’t think I was aware of all that then. I can see it now, so clearly. And now I am asking for more. What right do I have to do that? I thought he wanted more, I thought that was the whole thing with him ready to leave last year and then I told him the ugly secret, and I thought we were going to do better than hide things and pretend. But it’s all he wants to do– pretend everything is perfect. Ugh. I don’t know. I’m so angry with him. I feel like I spend half our time together sort of baiting him, trying to get a reaction, any reaction. I just want to have some sort of reaction from him, see that he is paying attention, that he cares enough to respond, even if it is to yell or get mad back. But he doesn’t. He mostly ignores me or talks to me in that monotone “you are crazy” voice and tells me to “knock it off”. So what’s the point? Nothing I do matters anyway

“Ahhh. He’s really in hot water lately, isn’t he? This is hard. I do think you have the right to ask for more. I can see, of course, this isn’t what he expected, what he– or you!– planned when you married, but marriage is about being there for your partner. If you can support your partner, can’t be there for them, care for them, the what is the point? You are growing, have been doing a lot of growing this whole past year. He needs to grow, too, so your marriage can grow.” 

“He can’t grow. He can’t do it. He won’t!” I snap at her. 

“Ahhh. But, look how hard you’ve worked to grow. It hasn’t been easy, has it?” Bea asks. 

“No. So why do it? What’s the point?” I mumble. I sort of mean it. I started therapy because I wanted to be normal. I wanted to not have the freak outs I had, the meltdowns and crying jags, the anxiety attacks and the flashbacks (it was the boyfriend stuff I brought to therapy first). So, now….I don’t know. I feel lost. 

“I believe we are always working towards health. That we are always working towards being better versions of ourselves. Why does a plant keep growing? You’re like a flower, just bursting out from underground in the dark soil towards the sunlight so you can blossom. That’s why. Because it’s in our nature, it’s our drive to keep growing and being better versions of is.” She answers. She means every word, and while the words could sound cheesy or fake, coming from Bea and laced with authenticity, they are real. “But hubby has to want that for himself. You can’t force it.”

“I know. I really thought….when he asked…the shrinks…I made that list…but he never…and I stopped asking him about it.” I realize I am speaking in really chopped up not even sentences, but it’s all I can get out. I’ve been hunched over pillow Bea has against the arm rest of the couch, face buried, sitting princess style, Hagrid in my lap, sobbing off and on. It’s too much. My marriage feels like it is falling apart.  

“I know it feels like you are far apart now, but you guys always seem like you are together when it counts. I know he isn’t, hasn’t been, there and present for you, but he is capable of it. We’ve seen him do that here, more than once. But I don’t think either of you coils tolerate that deeper connection on a daily basis at this point in your lives. I think it would be nice if he could tell you instead of using his defense– to say, ‘I’m not really in a place where I can connect and talk right now. Can we do this tomorrow?’ Would that be better?” Bea is thinking out loud, putting her ideas and thoughts, feelings into the space between us. I like that she does this; it feels safe to me, transparent on some level, to hear what she is thinking. 

“No…I mean. We are together because we both can act the part, the image…I don’t know.” I shrug. I don’t know how to say what I’m trying to say. 

“Even from the first time I met you, you guys really has this sense of ‘we’ did this, and ‘we’ are in this together.” 

“Well yeah…but no…I mean…that first day? I yelled at him half of the way here, then sat and had this super hidden, invisible silent anxiety attack. He thought I was getting a migraine. I was mad out because I hadn’t had time to change into my ‘grown up’ clothes and it was his fault.” I laugh, a little. 

Bea laughs, too. “And now you know me and realize I don’t care about clothes.” She laughs more. She says she is fashion hopeless. I actually think she dresses cute, and comfy and she looks like Bea– which is safe to me, and it’s…I don’t know. She dresses real. Its not like my mom who dresses for what others think. 

“I was freaking out, having anxiety…because we were meeting a shrink. I was sure you would realize I was crazy, that I should be seeing a shrink myself. I was really freaked because I didn’t have a long sleeve shirt on, and I was so sure you would notice the scars on my wrists. Or picking my fingers.” My face is hot with shame. Even though Bea knows the where and why of the scars, it’s still shameful and hard to bring up.

“I’ve never noticed them. I definitely didn’t that day. Some shrink I am, huh?” She laughs at herself; she isn’t technically a shrink, she is a social worker, a therapist. 

I laugh, too, then turn serious. “We just can be a team in public. I don’t know.” (It’s only now, writing this, that I realize we are a team, and I usually have a sense of ‘we’ when it comes to parenting things. It’s the other stuff– marriage, us, just being friends, that I don’t feel anything but a glass wall.)

Bea asks of I can try to remember that sense of connection, of we. She asks if I can maybe try talking to hubby, telling him how alone and just left I am feeling. 

“No. No. Don’t you get it?” I want to shout at her. “I can’t. I keep trying, I can’t anymore. At this point, he is going to have to reach out to me and just really prove he wants to connect.”

Bea is silent for a minute. “I can understand that. You’ve been trying and trying. It’s a lot. I do think that if you are needing him to reach out, if you are putting this in his corner, it’s only fair to tell him.”

“No. I can’t.” 

“Alice. You articulate yourself very well. Write it if you don’t want to say it.” Bea pushes me a little bit. Why is she always pushing me I’m things with hubby? 

“No. I’m not explaining myself well.” I pause, and Bea waits giving me space to find words. “This is so hard. So damn hard to say….” 

“It’s okay. I’m not going to judge you. I’ve never judged you or thought anything bad about you.” Bea offers some reassurance, almost like she is reading my mind. 

“Ugh…I just…you really might this time. It’s so…you might.” 

She doesn’t say anything, and I find that more comforting than if she has insisted she wouldn’t. Because she ‘might’. She ‘could’. She is only human. So…the silence, for once, feels safer than words. 

“I just…if I tell him, then he will say something just to fix the problem. Which means nothing, except he is doing something because I told him to. Not because he cares or wanted to. Or he will shut me down really quick. Either way, I get hurt. And I can’t. So, he loses. There is no winning in this if you are my husband. That’s how terrible I am. That’s the kind of person I am.” I say the words, and my voice is harsh and cold. I’m angry. With hubby, with myself. Maybe with Bea. I don’t know. 

“Ahhh. That makes sense. It all makes sense. You aren’t terrible. You are hurt. You were hurt. You are struggling with trust and connection, and you are seeking it even though it scares you. That’s what this is. It’s okay. This is okay. If you can, tell hubby all of that, right down to not being able to win. You aren’t bad. You’re hurt.” Bea says softly. She speaks slow, and quiet. I listen and her words sink in, a little. Maybe. Maybe I am hurt. But if all this is from trauma and hurt, how the hell do I undo it? It’s not fair. 

This whole relationship stuff is hard. I barely understand if. I feel like a little kid playing in a grown up world. Where almost everyone else knows the rules and how it works and I’m lost, just pretending I know what I’m doing but terrified. I don’t know. I remember, maybe last year, you said in an email that this relationship between you and I was important, and I said it wasn’t. You said something about the fact that you wouldn’t lie to me and say it wasn’t because it was, but that you understood it was uncomfortable. It’s a little funny to me, now, how adamant I was that it wasn’t important, when clearly, it was. But, even then, I would have said what mattered was that I got along with you, that you were nice, that you didn’t make me sit in silence freaking out, that you didn’t act all shrinky; I knew to a point it mattered, but it was more surface. I didn’t feel like Ryan– that all I needed to know was you were bound by laws and ethics to keep my secrets and do your job, but I really was so sure relationships were not as important as you were making them out to be. I can admit I was wrong about that. Clearly, the relationship matters an awful lot to me. It’s why I was so afraid when I was mad at you for popping the bubble. It’s why I’m always afraid that the next thing I share is going to be the thing that is too much and makes you leave. (Side note, maybe that is part of why talking about the eating stuff is scary. I’m afraid all of that plus my trauma mess will be too much and you will give up on me, or be mad or be annoyed or something and leave). I just don’t want it to matter. I don’t want it to be important. I don’t like feeling so afraid all because of another person. I don’t like it at all. I can’t explain it, exactly, but it is terrifying and everything in me really just freezes at the idea of willingly putting myself in the position to be so afraid all because of another person.

Bea, thankfully, is attuned enough to me to be aware that she can’t bring up anything I’ve written here, and so she doesn’t. The only thing she says is something about how it is very hard, very vulnerable making to allow another person that kind of power over you. I realize I never thought about it like that. It is control, power over emotions that needing someone else gives that person over you. I wonder if this is why I struggle so much with letting my husband in. I’ve already been in two ‘relationships’ where a boy or man had the power physically and emotionally. Now I’m terrified to do anything at all to let go of what control I have. I don’t know. To be continued………(because yes, there is more!!)

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5 thoughts on “Monday: part three, Marriage and Relationships

  1. I’m thinking about this piece of what you wrote: “I just…if I tell him, then he will say something just to fix the problem. Which means nothing, except he is doing something because I told him to. Not because he cares or wanted to. Or he will shut me down really quick. Either way, I get hurt. And I can’t. So, he loses. There is no winning in this if you are my husband.”

    I absolutely recognize the feeling of longing for something but not wanting to ask for it, because it feels like it will only have true meaning if it comes spontaneously. I feel this a lot (especially about my mom but sometimes also about friends and even sometimes about my husband). And you are right, it’s not really fair to the other person, a person who might even love to give you what wish for if s/he understood what it was.

    With some difficulty, E. convinced me to tell my husband more about my depression (not really as much as she suggested, but much more than I had ever told him before). I didn’t tell him very much about what helps, but a little. What touched me the most, though, was that after I told him, he spent the whole day the next day reading articles online and learning more about the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse. He told me he always knew it was wrong but never had a sense of how common it was or the psychological damage it causes into adulthood. It wasn’t a kind of comfort or caring that I would have thought I needed, but it meant a lot to me that he wanted to understand better. This has helped me realize that even when people don’t react exactly the way you expect or wish, because they are just different from you, the way they do react can also be very helpful. (Of course, that still hasn’t allowed me to tell him everything, at least not yet.)

    I wonder if your husband would like to do more but also feels vulnerable? He could be afraid he’ll say the wrong thing and drive you away. Or that you’ll think what he says is lame and inadequate. After all, even the best of spouses can’t be mind readers. Maybe you could give him a tiny bit of information in a letter, not too much to scare you too much, and see what he happens? Or go out without Kat and without others where you can just have some fun together and be reminded of why you enjoyed him? I don’t know if those ideas just make your roll your eyes (if so, sorry). I’m really just wishing for you to have a meaningful connection that can bring you some comfort.

    Love, Q.

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    • He probably does feel vulnerable. Or rather, wants to avoid feeling that way. I don’t know. But you get the whole thing about actions only having true meaning if they aren’t asked for. Ugh.
      Your ideas are good ones. I am just in this stubborn place right now. When i leave it, i will probably follow your advice.

      Thank you for your wishes for me. It made me smile and feel some hope. Xx

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  2. I’m not quite as outspoken as you are about not talking with my husband, but I, too, have been very resistant about sharing things. Recently, I have been noticing how lonely I am for him and that he seems lonely for me. I think that it’s time for me to look at taking some of these barriers down. It is really scary to honk about, though!

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  3. I find intimate relationships to be the most difficult part of life. I commend you for having the courage to get married and work on it, and take that risk. It is really hard.

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