Archives for posts with tag: change

I read an article in Psychology Today entitled What drives emotional abuse in relationships.  I could identify with so much of it.

Firstly, the blame.  ‘I feel bad, and it’s your fault…You push my buttons’ is the accusation the article highlights.  For me, this translates into ‘You make me angry’ and what this does is shift the blame onto me.  The article suggests that angry and abusive partners fear their inability to cope and seek to control their environment and the people in it.  My sister recently mentioned how he has always been quick to anger.  She cited the example of when the girls were young and they dropped their ice cream.  He would shout at them but, as she pointed out the other day, no child deliberately drops their ice cream; it’s an accident.

‘Disengaging partners…try to deal with their sense of inadequacy about relationships by simply not trying – since no attempt means no failure’, the article goes on to explain.  So true, as every time I tried to discuss us, he got angry and blaming and gave no indication that he cared about me or the relationship.  Stonewalling and disengaging by one partner can make the other feel ‘unseen and unheard; unattrative; like you don’t count; like a single parent.’  This was exactly how I felt.  I used to describe myself as being single in a relationship.  I know I was definitely lonely, incredibly lonely when I was with him, yet fine when I was alone.

The following extract sums up my situation in a nutshell: ‘The most insidious aspect of living with an angry or abusive partner is not the obvious – nervous reactions to shouting, name-calling, criticism or other demeaning behaviour.  It’s the adaptations you make to try to prevent these episodes.  You walk on eggshells to keep the peace, or a semblance of connection.’  No relationship should be conducted in this manner.  Even now, I’m finding it very hard to stop automatically reacting to others in this way.  It’s become my way of life.  I engage in ‘constant self-editing and self-criticism to keep from pushing [people’s] buttons’.  I second-guess myself to the extent that I’m aware that I don’t know who I really am.  But I’m working on changing this.

‘Victims’ it goes on to say ‘will blame themselves…when the abuse is subtle…implying that you’re ugly, a bad parent, stupid, incompetent, not worth attention…you are more likely to think it’s your problem’.  This couldn’t be more true.  Look back through my past journals and you’ll find me analysing situations and searching for ways to get things right.  I had an ‘if only I could be a better wife, mother, housekeeper, cook blah blah blah, or sexier, thinner, better organised, more fun blah blah blah.  I didn’t feel that I was good enough in any respect.  I was working out and losing weight, to the point where I was less than 8 stone and could pull my jeans over my hips without undoing them.  His response: a look of disgust and a comment that I wasn’t back to my pre-baby weight.  I had a housework schedule to ensure that everything was done on a regular basis: he would always find something to fault.  I was cooking meals from fresh and on a budget: he didn’t want fish that day, he wanted a roast.  There was always something.  And I’d kick myself for getting it wrong.  Why?  I was never going to get it right.  For him, it would always be wrong.  I asked him what he found fun – I would do it, just to try and get some kind of connection, but ‘I don’t find anything fun’ he would say.  And I felt that was somehow my fault too.   I look back to that time and think I was pathetic, pathetic to be trying so desperately hard to please him.  Then I think, no – I should admire myself for being so determined to do my best to make it work.  At least, I can say with utmost honesty that I tried everything.  And despite his constant blaming me for ‘what you’ve done to me and our family’, I know that there was nothing more I could have done and I am not to blame.  I’m so thankful I wised up.

So now I need to watch my reactions and put a halt to the habitual responses.  We are divorcing, the relationship has been dead for a long, long time, and it’s time for me to make no apology for getting on with my life.

Thank you Psychology Today for giving me greater insight into my situation.

It’s my life!

When I was a child, I used to feel sad when Christmas and the New Year were over. For some strange reason, I also used to feel afraid. Although I can understand why a child would feel sad that the fun and festivities had come to an end, the feeling of fear doesn’t quite make sense. It was a fear of a whole blank year stretching out ahead; it was a fear of the unknown; it was a fear that the happiness wouldn’t return; it was mourning the loss of an oasis, when the ordinary, everyday could be forgotten.  But wasn’t it strange for a child to experience that fear?

Then I grew up, got married, became a mother, took on more and more responsibility, especially that of making Christmas special for everybody (alone, as husband just sat back), and it became stressful. There was a pressure to get it perfect, that I was responsible for everyone else’s enjoyment; irrational, but there all the same.  And that took away the pleasure for me and I always breathed a sigh of relief when I took down the Christmas cards and put away the tree. Now I only had the normal, everyday pressures to deal with – alone.

Today I’ve started thinking about that childhood mourning. Why? Why for the first time since my early teens has it come into my head?

Because I’ve just removed all signs of Christmas and instead of feeling the normal relief, I feel sad and afraid and I’m mourning the loss of the oasis that has been the past two weeks. Why? Why this return of those childhood feelings?

To begin with, although Christmas was sad, because we weren’t together as the proper family we should be, which is my fault because I’m ‘the one who is splitting up the family’, it was also happy. Happy because I spent time with my children, and my sister, and my friends, and a special friend. And I didn’t even attempt to make anything perfect because there was no way it could be made perfect so why bother trying?  And in a funny kind of way, that made it better. I didn’t have to do everything alone, I didn’t have to slave away feeling resentful while husband sat there with his feet up, I didn’t have to persuade him to come out with us or join in, I didn’t have to put up with his drinking or sitting miserably with my family and wanting to go home. I forgot all about him and got on with my life.

I spent time with people who want to be with me. I went walking with my sister and her dog and a friend on more than one occasion, ending up in cosy pubs, drinking mulled wine.  I went to London with my daughter, visited Covent Garden, saw the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square and had lunch.  I went to the theatre with a friend, heading to the West End on the off chance we’d get tickets for something, and we did and I had a great spontaneous evening. I went out for breakfast and lunch with my daughters and we talked about our lives and our hopes.

And it was an oasis in a difficult time and I could forget about my problems for a couple of weeks. But now it’s back to reality and the year ahead contains so much uncertainty and husband doesn’t want to discuss things so communication is impossible and it’s always down to me to instigate difficult conversations and I’m mourning the limbo land of the holiday season.

But when I took down the tree, I thought: hopefully, next year, this tree will be going up in my new place: a place where family and friends will be welcome, and laughter and fun will be allowed.

So, despite my circumstances being difficult, I had a much happier, better Christmas and New Year than I’ve had for a long time.  I spent time with people who mean a lot to me and I went…

dancing with another.

Husband’s back.  And with him, the mess.  His stuff takes over every surface.  He takes over every space.  I used to think it was me, incapable of keeping the house nice, but after the weekend, I know it’s him.

Did he have a nice time?  He says so but he’s in no better humour, grumbling and moaning and speaking aggressively about the things he’s unhappy with (my texts not getting through, the phone company being uncooperative).  I asked him not to talk to me like that and he put on a pathetic, girlie voice and asked me if he should talk like that.  Honestly, how childish. I’ve got no time for this anymore.

He complained about a pile of clothes on the landing – the girls had been sorting and clearing their wardrobes and we need to decide what we’re going to do with them.  “What’s happening with the clothes?” he asked.  That’s how he expresses his disapproval “what’s happening with…?”  I’ve got no time for this either.

Then I heard him tutting and sighing and reloading the dishwasher because he wasn’t happy with the way I’d done it.  Another thing I’ve got no more time for.

Because this weekend has reminded me how I want to live: with music and laughter and joy and cooperation and support.  And after four days of us living like this without him, I’m not going back to the old ways.  I’m done with pandering to his stupidity.

And when he came back, I realised that I might still be here as a physical presence, but in all other ways I have checked out of this marriage.

And I am not to blame.

Because I know how to be happy, and I know how to love life.

And I want to be happy, and I want to love life.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

And if he wants to be sad and miserable and look for the worst in everyone, then that’s up to him.  It’s his choice.

But it’s not mine.  And it’s not my children’s.

And the woman who went along with his miserable way of living?

Well, she’s gone.

Next weekend will, I feel, be a turning point.

Husband won a competition for a weekend away.  This will be the first time that we have spent a few days in each other’s company without anyone else around.  For a long time now, I’ve known that we need to talk, to have a serious conversation about the wreck of our marriage, but we are either at home and it develops into an argument, which just makes things worse, or on the rare occasions we are out the children are with us so nothing can be said.  He has seemed to have completely ignored the fact that I told him I thought we should separate.  He’s shown no sign that he cares about me.  He’s just carried on as usual.

I really have no desire to spend the weekend with him pretending to be happy and that everything is all right.  However, I can’t not go.

And I am curious.  Curious as to whether he will raise the subject. Curious as to whether I will raise the subject.  Curious as to how I will feel.

At this point, I have no idea of our future.  Like I’ve said in other posts, I woke up one morning in February to the fact that I had no desire to put any more effort into this relationship.  I’ve spent the last few months hoping that this feeling will change and trying to come to terms with the new me, one I was never expecting to see.  The future that I envisaged – husband and I continuing together on our path through life – has been replaced with multiple paths, all heading in completely different directions, and I don’t know which one I’m going to step on to.

Perhaps things will be a little clearer after next weekend.