The legal language of divorce states that a marriage is irretrievably broken.
As I ponder my decision whether or not to go forth with divorce, I think how do I KNOW if my marriage is broken beyond repair?
How do I feel toward my husband? Is there love? Is there a desire to have him in my life? To live with him? Why am I indecisive about staying or leaving? Is it my feelings toward him? Or my fears about being on my own and not having him to lean on?
I'd love to hear experiences of others who are weighing the same question.
I love many things about my husband: he has integrity, intelligence, sense of humor, loyalty, responsiblity, and warmth. He is a nice guy. Aside from the times when he acts out, usually under stress, and takes out his anxiety on me, he can be very sweet. He was supportive when I was pregnant, very protective of the baby when she was born, very loving of her. He was involved in raising her from day one--we learned how to straddle her, how to bathe her, he went out and bought a rocking chair so that nursing her would be more comfortable for me. Throughout her 15 years he has been involved and loving.
We share similar tastes and sensibilities around running a house--he is a bit of a clean freak, which is fine, and he usually helps around the house. He would help with dishes, always grocery shop, always take out the garbage, used to love making breakfast on weekends. He was devoted to the house--always getting tools, working on finishing the basement, always looking for ways to improve the function of the house and get the best possible things. This does not show how he related to ME, how he showed affection and attention to ME, but he was devoted to the family. I liked how he was always caring and playful with our pets. I am the pet person in the family, I wanted a dog, and though he did not really want the responsibility, he went along with my wish and was very committed to the animals. We have great memories with raising two dogs from puppyhood. I even have a canary, and he'd love to give hi;m fresh veggies or fruits. I liked that kind of caring about him.
He was supportive of my education and my yoga pursuits. He was never jealous about my hobbies or spending time away from home. He supported my month long yoga teacher training. He went with me to search for a house rental beforehand, and was supportive while I was there and homesick and talked with me on the phone through various tough spots I had being away from home. When I started grad school, we just got back from our weekend honeymoon in the City and I had to type my first paper for school on a typewriter. He went out and bought a wordprocessor (back then they were primitive little computers) so I'd do my schoolwork easier. That was caring of him.
Mostly the way he knows how to show love is through doing things for me. Fixing things about my car, taking care of the house, caring for me if I'm sick. I never in my life had to worry about him cheating on me. Never. He'd never even think about it.
I used to like us spooning together. Just holding before sleep.
The problem were those times when he acted aggressively or abusively and later had no recollection of doing anything wrong. If I'd tell him that I felt hurt, he simply could not acknowledge my feelings and then work NOT to do it again.
This became bigger and bigger with time. Because the previous "offense" was never cleared or resolved, they just piled on. I felt more helpless. I felt more bitter and angry. I tried to fix things, tried to work on myself, tried to talk with him, but the bad situations repeated themselves. Not every day. Not every week, or sometimes even not every month. But when they happened, they were hurtful and damaged the relationship. I did not want to get hurt again so I distanced. I got angry at his insensitivity or even cruelty. Then I became indifferent. I withdrew because I felt helpless to get any change.
So, he'll SAY I am his "treasure," or "precious", but over time, I've come to see that these are superficial words. I can appreciate that he LOVES me in the best way he knows how, the only way he is capable to. That has been the dilemma. Is that good enough for me? Is that enough to nurture me emotionally?
In the past year of separation, I have been able to manage well on my own. I have lived with my daughter and provided for my own emotional needs, without my husband here. Is it better or worse?
I ran to court without blinking an eye to file for divorce when he threatened moving in. Clearly, I was afraid that he'd move in and bring back the fighting, power struggles, chaos, fear, anxiety, tension, stress. It was clear to me I did not want that. I have no evidence from the past year that we communicate better and resolve conflict better. Trust has not improved but eroded more--because of his threats and bullying.
So, I like living without him better because I know I have my peace. I can only blame myself if I am unhappy. He has helped financially in the past year, but emotinally, I have been on my own. We have had contact, but it was not loving, warm, kind, gentle, intimate, close. It's been rather businesslike, or if he gets stressed about living apart or losing money, it was quite unpleasant at times. I don't know if we could have worked on resolving or improving our issues while living TOGETHER. I can't say if the separation maybe brought us further apart just by the fact of not being in each other's life daily.
That's why I sometimes question if my request for separation hurt of helped the marriage.
Why am I angry now?
I am angry that I put in more effort in the relationship than he did; that I tried to express that there were problems but he did not attend to them seriously; that I tolerated things I did not like too many times and did not know how to say "No" effectively; That I did not take care of myself sooner; that I did not detach from his behaviors, tantrums, controlling, verbal abuse, etc. sooner; that I was not honest with him sooner about what he was doing and what I was feeling; that I walked on eggshells thinking that would help things, avoid conflict; that I did not value myself enough to speak up for myself sooner.
I am angry that I did not invest attention into MY OWN life but always worried about what he was doing, why, how, when, and how I could influence HIM to do things or not to do things. I did not have a life. Even now, I'd take out many books on Narcissism from the library and obsess about how narcissists behave or why, and only now I ask, "Why don't you get a life?" Go out and do what you want and what makes you happy. Why waste my time on his mental illness?
I wonder if I did that more, if I made my life more fulfilling on my own, if that would make it clear that I don't need or want to be married to him, or if that would make my marriage to him more tolerable because I wouldn't rely as much on him to meet my emotinal needs, or would be able to find other fulfilling things? I can't say.
All I know is that right now, I feel I have a LOT of anger in my body, and it is so easy for a small interaction with him to really trigger it so it is impossible to have a calm dialog. I don't know what it would take for me to settle down in my own anger toward his bullying, stubbornness, threats. I can't imagine that I can soften and warm up toward him when I feel that he views and treats me as an object, that he demeans me, that he talks down to me, and tries to punish me with money.
That degree of anger and resentment may be the "irretrievably broken"--the lack of goodwill on my part to reach out a white flag. The digging in my heels, "I've done enough."
I realize the many good things he brought into the relationship. Many of them are practical impersonal things. I hear of women who say how their husbands or b/f's do little endearing things for them, like draw pictures, or write special notes, or warm up the car, or give them gifts that are not expensive, but very thoughtful and personal showing they truly understand and know their woman, and these little things make their love grow.
I recall my husband would buy me a gold necklace for our anniversary each year. I liked them, and this was a very nice gift, but after getting them year after year, I admit I was disappointed. I couldn't tell WHY. I should be happy he thought of me, he found something tasteful, and spent money on me.
Talking to a therapist she mentioned how these seemed conventional gifts, rather impersonal. Almost even as if buying something for a mother. Not specifically showing an intimate knowledge or connection to ME. And I agreed. It felt kind of impersonal year after year. I feel sorry that I even told him at one point that I did not want any more necklaces because I simply don't WEAR necklaces or jewelry, it's not ME, and they are expensive, and then just sit in a box. I think no matter how nicely I said it, he would have been offended and hurt.
I wish I had a CLEAR feeling in my heart if I LOVE him and want to BE with him.