This is the second of a three-part series. Read Part 1 here.
Tim himself insisted we go to marriage counseling after one too many nasty fights. We were in it for a little over a year. Alas, it didn’t do much.
While I certainly got called out on a few things, the counselor often sided with me — usually because Tim was being hyperbolic, all-or-nothing or otherwise irrational in the extreme.
The root of his anger
He was grumpy from the pain a fair amount of time. But when he was out-and-out angry, it tended to be because I kept going to trivia, despite him dropping out. He was hurt that I seemed not to care when really I was just trying to maintain the social circle I’d finally built. I made it clear that he was always welcome to come back, but I wasn’t going to stay home just because he did. Which, to be fair, he had done quite a few times when we first moved to Arizona.
There were times that I asked him to stay home from Magic to be with me so that I wasn’t alone. He was hurt that I wouldn’t do the same now. But he was going out several nights a week to play. I was going out one, sometimes two, nights a week. Plus I eventually actually learned Magic just so that we could go together and I wouldn’t keep putting my emotional burden on him.
Besides, I needed to have friends, and I wasn’t willing to make the unhealthy choice of always staying home, giving up those friends, just so that we were even. And he shouldn’t have wanted me to.
But it got more irrational than asking me to leave my social circle and be lonely with him.
Like his idea for the backyard. The first idea — if we astroturfed it — was that he could start training dogs back there as a means to make money. (There were too many painful thorns for him to have done it in the yard as it was.) Then he started talking about how he could kennel dogs — we’d just have to have a dog run built! Beyond the start-up costs, which he was sure we’d make back, there were the issues of zoning, insurance and his desire to start a business when he always said he’s unable to handle stress. But when I’d list some of these issues, he’d just get angry that I wasn’t being supportive.
Then it got even weirder. He decided that we could recoup the cost of astroturf by inviting people from the dog park over as a sort of private dog park. They’d donate a little money and over time we’d make the cost of the astroturf back. When pressed, he admitted that his friends had been a bit evasive as to whether they’d give money. But that didn’t deter him from being sure it was a way to pay for the backyard fix-up.
He also suggested we let his friends help him put in the astroturf. No, they hadn’t done it before. And it didn’t matter that the biggest part of the cost was still the material itself. And no one ever addressed what all the pee and poop would do to the material. I was just mean and short-sighted for not supporting any of this.
Then there was irrationality mixed with hostility, like the time I was invited out to dancing after trivia during one of the periods that Tim had quit the group. So he asked/told me to go stay at a friend’s house afterward, so I wouldn’t interrupt his sleep.
First of all, he slept off and on all day no matter what. Second, my friend didn’t have a bed in her guest room yet. Third, it was my house. That I pay for.
Then in what’s probably a more debatable point, I refused to go sleep on the guest bed to keep from disturbing his sleep. Hear me out:
- I’d need to get into our bathroom to take out my contacts/brush my teeth, which would wake him up anyway.
- There was unfolded laundry and some thrift store donation boxes on the bed.
- He was asking rudely
- He was really just pissed I’d even gone to trivia without him, so he was in a snit, which I didn’t feel like feeding.
When I got home, he demanded I go sleep in the guest room. (I should mention he was wide awake when I got home. Because he knew I was going to wake him up, in his mind there was no point in going to sleep at all.) When I cited the laundry issue again, he then blamed me for having done the laundry. (Whaaaa????)
Then he decided to go to the guest room himself. He shoved the laundry aside, spilling the donation boxes and breaking one item in them. Then in the morning he didn’t see why he should be the one to clean it up because it would hurt his back. He did eventually clean it up, but there was a lot of attitude involved.
There was also the time he got mad that I wouldn’t take out the recycling for him. Admittedly, it was an easy task, but it was also the principle of the thing: I did enough already.
So he dumped the entire recycling bin onto the floor and was shocked when over the next couple of days I refused clean it up for him. After all, his back was so bad, why was I asking him to hurt himself? I told him that he acted like a child, and I wasn’t going to clean up after his tantrum. Again there was a lot of attitude when he finally tackled the mess.
With the marriage counselor’s help, I convinced Tim that he had to take on more responsibilities. That I couldn’t do it all on my own — and he shouldn’t want me to, even with his pain. So he started making his own pizzas and making some insurance/doctor calls. But he would still get resentful and sometimes even angry when I insisted he make the calls.
He acted put upon more often than not when I just wanted him to do some simple task. And I’d always hear that the task wasn’t simple for him because of the ADD or the fibro. He refused to ever place silverware in its holder in the drawer. At first it was his back: It hurt too much to bend down to get at the dishwasher’s silverware holder. As a solution, I started taking the holder from the dishwasher and put it up by the silverware drawer. No bending required.
So then it was his hands. They were too bad for the fine motor skills to grasp and put away the various utensils. (He insisted this even when he was somewhat regularly playing his Nintendo SNES.) So he would shake the silverware out of the holder — making a racket that set my teeth on edge — until the utensils were in a pile in the drawer.
And yes, I could have put the silverware away myself. I could have made the calls (and sometimes still did when I really didn’t want to fight about it). But it was once again about the principle. I already started and unloaded the dishwasher. I already worked and dealt with all of our finances and all of my own appointments and insurance foibles. I already was running an increasing amount of the errands.
I had to draw a line in the sand.
Not enough progress
At some point this past summer Tim stopped taking his Cymbalta altogether. Weirdly, it actually mellowed him out some, especially in therapy. He stopped shutting down completely, with the exception of walking out of a session once.
But his outbursts did still happen, and he didn’t want to try a different medicine or otherwise keep up with his mental health.
By that point his erratic behavior seemed so normal that I’d often just take it as par for the course rather than as a warning sign that he needed medication. Besides, frankly I was tired about fighting about it. You can’t make someone take a prescription he doesn’t want.
Oh, and about a year and a half ago, Tim stopped watching most of the shows we used to view together. We didn’t go out a lot — for both financial and health reasons — so one of the main ways we’d spend time together was watching TV and talking about the shows. I’d watch some of his YouTube stuff with him, but by and large we were in different rooms, unless he was in the living room watching videos.
In short, the counseling wasn’t helping. The marriage was draining me. It exacerbated my depression to the point that I had to get on a new medication. I was angry and frustrated and felt alone in the marriage — and certainly alone in trying to fix it. Most of what I heard from Tim were just complaints about what I wasn’t doing for him or what I wasn’t willing to pay for.
And speaking of things I wasn’t willing to pay for, fast food was a constant source of contention. Neither of us cook. I simply couldn’t handle one more thing, and cooking is depression trigger for some reason, while he maintained that he couldn’t because of the fibro. No matter what we did, he couldn’t find enough things to keep around the house (besides cereal) that he would/could eat due to his sensitive stomach. So fast food got eaten more often than not, at $8-12 a pop.
Later, when he was on his own financially, he expressed shock that even the cheaper end of that would work out to around $240 a month. The fact that he’d never done the math before — “because you said it was okay” — was infuriating. He knew it was a huge source of stress for me, but he chose to take my permission (given out of exasperation — and a lack of any idea about what else to do) at face value. Because otherwise he’d have to take on the hard task of trying to change, so once again my needs/stress/unhappiness weren’t enough to stretch himself.
I don’t pretend to be blameless in the marriage failing. I had plenty of things that hindered the relationship
I’m kind of standoffish physically in relationship. I’m just not all that touchy-feely. I don’t hug or kiss a lot. And thanks to PTSD, I jump if someone touches me when I don’t see it coming.
Tim grew up in a very physically affectionate household, so my deficit in this area may have made him feel unloved. He repeatedly complained that it kept him feeling too separate from me. I’d make sporadic efforts to overcome my tendencies, but they’d peter out. I didn’t try very hard in that arena.
Instead, I showed Tim I cared by taking care of him, which was really all I could handle. And of course the resentment that taking care of him brewed didn’t encourage huggy feelings.
I’m also very rigid. I like things done a certain way, and I tense up when they’re done differently. Not to mention that I knee-jerk to “no” when it comes to spending — or most any type of change, come to think of it.
I also have a lot of anxiety. We’re not just talking about the irrational zombie thing. I fret about most everything, even little stuff I tend to go to the worst-case scenario. It must be exhausting.
And even when I’m well-medicated I have some symptoms of depression.
Also, in fights (thanks to years with my dad), tears well up as soon as voices get raised. Even if I’m angry, not sad or scared, I have tears coming down my face. It hurt him to see, which made it hard to have arguments.
When we did manage arguments, I often wouldn’t let things go. He’d want a break, some time away, and I’d keep harping on the topic, not letting him alone. Partially this was because I was sick of him shutting down, but a lot of fights got worse because I couldn’t just let him sit quietly or nap or whatever.
Also, I’m not all that romantic. Again, I showed Tim I cared through acts of service, whereas he dealt better in acts of love. I think this made it hard for him to feel loved sometimes, even though we said “I love you” all the time.
Finally, I did cause us to be isolated for years, which affected Tim’s social skills. When we quite playing Magic, we lost our entire social circle. I never made any effort to find a new one (though neither did he) until — prompted by therapy — I turned to Meetup and found our trivia group. In the intervening years, I was insular and fine with it just being the two of us, so Tim lost what social skills he had.
Plus I’m sure there were habits of mine that he found annoying but was too polite to say something about. That’s true in any marriage.
In short (too late)
So it wasn’t all him. I freely admit I wasn’t a blameless spouse. But there were a lot of reasons for the anger and resentment to build and build.
No matter what I said or did, nothing proved to him that my needs should override his fear of pushing himself. I know that I can’t understand the pain he lives with daily, but if he loved me the way he said he did, he should have been concerned enough to at least try a little. Other people with fibromyalgia do push themselves because they care about their loved ones — and because certain things just have to get done.
But he had me, and he knew that I’d step up to make sure the household ran smoothly. And he let himself ignore what comes next in that statement: I’d step up no matter what it did to me. Because unlike him I didn’t have the luxury of letting someone else worry about it. I was the someone else more often than not.
And maybe if I weren’t disabled myself, maybe then it would have been okay. But I have chronic fatigue and work full-time plus one overtime weekend a month — and any other overtime that I’m offered — and safeguarded our financial future and dealt with our financial present and made appointments and dealt with insurance and ran errands and did (admittedly minimal) chores around the house and had my blog.
To rarely be the one who was allowed to be sick, to be made to feel like I wasn’t doing enough for him because I’d ask for help, to be made to feel unsupportive when I was trying to interject reality, to have to tiptoe around his temper and his sensitive feelings,… Well, it took its toll.
And I tried to tell him that increasingly often in arguments, in counseling, when he’d balk at something I was asking him to do. But he didn’t listen. And some of that was the depression — which, I remind you, he refused to deal with — but I think at least part of why he didn’t try was simply because it was inconvenient. Because change is hard, and he knew (or thought) he didn’t really have to. That I’d be around no matter what.
But no matter what he thought, if he loved me like he said he did then he should have wanted to try. He should have cared enough to do something because the woman he loved was hurting and exhausted and unhappy. But the fact is that my needs ended up not mattering as much as his own. Not until it was too late, and the divorce was on. Which you’ll read more about in Part 3.
Again, please remember to not be too nasty in the comments.