I hated keeping my marital struggles, let alone this drama, from you guys since it was such a big part of my life. But I felt like blogging about our difficulties was an invasion of Tim’s privacy, so I kept mum. As for the divorce itself, I needed to get through it first. Besides some things are best described after they’re over and done with.
Given how much brain space it’s taken up, though, you can understand why I’ve been putting out fewer posts over the past couple of years.
Things hadn’t been good for a while — about three years, actually. Before that, we evened each other out pretty well. He helped me live somewhat in the present; I helped him plan for the future. He also weathered my temper on quite a few occasions, which was no mean feat. I could get pretty nasty before I was on the right medication.
But eventually I did get on the right meds. I (mostly) evened out on my own, but Tim didn’t. His ADD kept him prone to extremes, to all-or-nothing. Dealing with someone who is stuck so in the moment, especially emotionally, can be wearying and trying. It’s great when things are good; but when negative moods strike…
Anyway, things came to a head around the time Tim got suicidal, and I used up everything I had (and then some) to take care of him. I had nothing left to give, and he still needed help — and a wife. I couldn’t be there for him in either capacity while I recharged.
Low battery mode
The recharging is when things got bad. I was angry that I’d used everything up on him — that it felt like I was always using up everything on him, leaving me very little (or nothing) to take care of myself. That no matter how little I had to give, I still had to make sure he was taken care of: money, appointments, insurance, emotions, etc. It’s not that he did nothing, but the bulk of the work was on me, which had drained me completely.
So I prioritized myself. I started cocooning. I’d watch YouTube videos while Tim watched other things, wearing headphones so that I wouldn’t disturb him, but also so that I didn’t have to interact with his latest need.
To be fair, some of that need was for a wife. I’m not blameless in this. But other times it was him needing to be taken care of. And I had to take care of myself first. So I did the bare minimum it took to keep things running.
What was especially upsetting is that he didn’t step up more in my time of need. When it came to him, I was expected to find the capability somewhere to both deal with life and help him; but when the tables were turned, he just wanted things from me and seemed angry/bewildered that he didn’t get that.
To yet again be fair, he did step up during the miscarriages. He was grieving too, but he fetched and toted and checked in on me, ran out to get the latest candy request — anything I needed. It just would’ve been nice if I could’ve seen that behavior again while I was so far down, even if he was still struggling with his own depression. Goodness knows, I’d have to overcome my depressive symptoms to help him before.
And one more “to be fair”: I had spent most of our marriage — miscarriages/aftermath and brief depressive spells aside — taking care of him. So this was somewhat new territory. But he could have seen my need and stepped up the way he did during miscarriages. He didn’t because he never had a problem putting his needs over mine; but I wasn’t allowed to do the same.
So yes, I cocooned. I didn’t deal with his needs unless it was absolutely integral to keep the household running. I watched those videos to make myself laugh again. When the fights got bad, I slept in the other bedroom, then stayed there for the better part of a month because I needed the space from both his emotional and, er, physical needs.
I’m sure he felt abandoned, which I suppose he technically was. But I repeatedly told him that I needed to take care of myself for a while. He didn’t change his behavior to help with that; so while he probably felt abandoned by his partner, I felt like I didn’t even have one.
I did eventually recharge. But the resentment from that whole episode lingered on both sides. And I began to see just how unequal our partnership was.
Wherein I did most of the work
I always did a lot for Tim, including things as simple as making his own appointments. The refrain I heard over and over was that ADD made appointment-making too hard. He claimed he’d forget why he was calling. Or he’d cite depression as making phone calls untenable.
It didn’t seem to matter to him much that my depression also made it difficult to deal with the phone. The difference? I knew it had to get done, so I’d make myself do it. He knew that I’d eventually do it, so he didn’t have to push himself.
So I made all of the appointments for two sick people and dealt with all insurance matters, including arranging and tracking copious amounts of referrals, half of which didn’t reach insurance on the first (or sometimes second) try. This meant I had to call and check up to make sure that each one was received.
To once again be fair, I did convince him — after much, much cajoling — to try calling insurance a few times. But it was confusing stuff, and sometimes he wasn’t asking the right questions or giving the right answers. In those cases I’d interject. He’d understandably find it too confusing to listen to two people at once, and he’d give up and hand the phone to me. That became another reason he wouldn’t make the calls, though at least that was slightly more reasonable than “I’ll forget why I’m calling” then getting indignant when I suggested a sticky note.
I also had to go with him to all of his doctor appointments, lest he forget to ask important questions or forget what the doctor said by the time he got home. At one point I was even going to therapy with him.
This in and around handling all of our finances: paying the bills, making sure we saved in general, making sure we saved toward various goals, making sure we didn’t go crazy with spending, etc. And of course back when we had debt, I was the one figuring out how to split up the money, tracking our progress and so on.
Another “to be fair”: I’m rigid, and I’m not sure if I could’ve handed the reins over, especially to someone with such severe ADD characteristics (impulsivity, losing track of things, etc.). But being the CFO was a big responsibility on my plate, even if I’m the one who glopped it on there.
Then it got worse
So it was already bad. But it spiraled over the last three years.
Tim became increasingly dependent, each time citing either depression or fibromyalgia as reason he needed even more help. And sometimes that really was the case. He definitely had bad days, but at some point he seemed to quit trying on his good days.
He’d do the laundry and begrudgingly, often with a scowl, take out the trash and recycling and… That was about the sum of his duties. He kept saying that he ran all of my errands, but that actually became less and less true. By the end I was running the majority of grocery trips, drug store trips, etc.
Meanwhile I would read about everything people like Revanche and chronic illness bloggers did around/despite their conditions, including even sometimes cooking and cleaning. If I had the temerity to bring it up, he’d get angry and say that everyone’s case is different. And that they didn’t have eczema or ADD, which increased his own limitations.
In short, he wasn’t even willing to try new responsibilities because he’d already decided that they would hurt him and/or that he wasn’t capable.
And to a certain extent I enabled this. I worried about his pain levels and ADD too, so I picked up more and more of the slack without much fuss. But even when I started finally asking for help, I didn’t get it.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was the personal pizzas. He started asking me to make them for him every single time — even on days that he wasn’t confined to bed. His excuse was not just the pain but that his ADD would make him forget about it/get absorbed in something and not hear the timer.
I started refusing, which led to actual fights. About pizza. Which would end in him either going hungry in protest or banging around the kitchen, indignant that I was making him do it. Either way, exhausting.
His temper also got much worse. He was short with me and generally more misanthropic than he used to be (and he wasn’t a huge lover of humanity to begin with). His feelings were even more easily hurt — and he had already been pretty sensitive. He was also more prone to hyperbole than even a severe ADDer should be.
He quit trivia at least four times, each time due to some slight from me (I was told) or because I didn’t want to spend money while out or… I don’t remember all the reasons. But suffice it to say that his temper was always involved. And he was never going back. Ever.
That’d last all of two weeks, by which time he’d remember that he couldn’t stand being alone (another issue we had), so he’d begrudgingly come back. And there’s no fun like being with someone who’s begrudgingly present!
All of these were pretty obvious signs of depression, but he didn’t want to talk about trying a new medication or adding something his Cymbalta. When I’d bring it up, he’d insist that I was overreacting and projecting because of my own depression.
Money is the root of all (okay, most) fights
Of course, one of the biggest issues in our marriage was money. What else would a personal finance blogger fixate on, after all?
Ever since money stopped being tight, it felt like every time I turned around there was some new way Tim wanted to spend money. I know it wasn’t really that bad. But I did have to say no a lot. And a fair number of times, he’d wear me down over the course of several discussions/arguments. I’d be sick of the fights, and I knew he wouldn’t stop. So I’d cave.
So more resentment grew. I’d be angry about all of the compromises I made, especially since I felt like there wasn’t a lot of reciprocity, and he’d be resentful of whatever I’d most recently said no to.
Like when I repeatedly refused to get two GoPro cameras that Tim wanted. His idea was to do a Spy vs. Spy-type deal, but the spies were the dog and cat. He’d take any interaction footage, do voices for each animal, then put it up on YouTube as a way to make money.
Never mind that GoPros are expensive or that it’d be difficult to affix a camera or that — short of being one of the few people to make it big and get sponsors– he’d get almost zero money. He got angry at me for not being supportive and for prioritizing money over his creativity and entrepreneurship. I never gave in on this one, thank goodness.
Another issue was the yard, which Tim wanted to “fix.” It’s strewn with nasty, thorny seeds put out by some weeds in our yard. Pulling up the weeds wasn’t enough because the seeds were everywhere and would just start new plants. So I agreed to look into solutions. Grass was out — it’d only get seeded itself, not to mention run up the water bill — and gravel would make it too hot for Pandora to walk. So Tim landed on astroturf. I got a quote from one guy and did some research online. We were looking at $11,000 to $13,000.
But that wasn’t enough to deter Tim. He thought it was worth the money if that we could actually use our backyard. If necessary, he said, we could take out a loan.
He kept bringing this up off and on — mainly on — for months. Another thing I never relented on.
But perhaps the worst argument was over the goddamn pool light.
The goddamn pool light
As you may recall, we got a pool table. The table was a little under $1,700. But then the cue kept butting against the wall that divided the kitchen and living room. So we had to cut that back for a cool $1,500, bringing the cost of the table up to $3,200. Which is why I was too embarrassed to admit to you guys that the thing barely got used.
Because after the wall was fixed, Tim decided there was another problem: the lighting. The various light sources — the lamps, the ceiling fan with its blades, the light from the sliding door, were creating shadows and throwing off his aim. The only solution: a light shining directly down on the table.
The thing is, I didn’t even like the non-beer logo, non-stained glass light options. Because, thanks to an incredibly ugly one in my childhood home, I hate the idea of a light on chains in my house.
So I didn’t like the aesthetic, was loath to spend yet more money ($200 to $300 on the low end) and I suspected that after the light came in, he’d insist that the breakfast bar was keeping him from playing. He had talked about wanting to have it cut back before.
So I refused to budge on the light. He in turn refused to play. Meaning our pool table sat unused for a couple of years.
He’d bring up the pool light pretty regularly. Sometimes in a more gentle, coaxing “I’ll definitely play if I get this” way. But often in an angry, resentful way.
An attitude problem
He seemed to feel entitled to all of this stuff. I think that was the problem. He felt entitled to things he wanted because we technically had the money (for most of them). Since I cared about him, I should want to get it for him to make him happy. So when I said no, I think he felt like it was a reflection on how I felt about him, what I thought he was worth.
I tried explaining that this was about securing our future. But as long as we had money in savings, he made it seem like I just didn’t care — or that I cared more about hoarding money.
And honestly I almost caved about the pool light. I told him that once we won his SSA disability case, we’d get one put in. But the more I looked at the lights (and their prices), the less I wanted to do it. So I went back on my word.
Admittedly, that wasn’t fair. But honestly we were fighting so much, and he was still so prone to extremes and irrationality (more on that in the next post), that I was beginning to wonder about our future. I didn’t want to be left all alone with a light fixture I hated.
Besides, even if I did agree to the light, I still suspected the breakfast bar would be the next thing I’d have to hear about. Because it felt like even when I relented, it was never enough.
After a three-year off-again, on-again argument about getting a phone, I finally said yes. Then Tim decided I was using it too much to talk to my trivia friends (especially during the times he quit the group) and hated when I took it to run errands. So he said I should buy my own phone. I was using it maybe a third of the time; and my fun money/household money paid for a third of the phone.
When I’d refuse to get my own phone — both because of the price tag and the increased cell bill — he’d get disproportionately angry and frustrated. Sometimes he’d say he just wasn’t going to use the phone anymore because clearly it was my phone and he’d shove it at me.
These hyperbolic, all-or-nothing rages brought up all sorts of baggage from my dad, who would frequently rant and rail and speak in absolutes of despair, anger or resentment: So-and-so hated him and wished he were dead; all of his coworkers would be happy if he never came back. And so on and so forth. The parallels made the whole thing even more exhausting for me.
So that was a broad view of the problems. Read Part 2 to find out how he acted when we tried to fix things and Part 3 about when I finally asked for the divorce. Incidentally, please, be mindful in your comments of the fact that Tim may still read the blog. (And the post will be hard enough for him to get through, I imagine.) So please no nasty epithets.