Postlude of Sorts

Two weeks ago I wrote about a snippet of conversation that I knew would lead to a fight with TN. It’s a fight that was desperately overdue. It’s also a ridiculous way to get your spouse to communicate with you, but that’s how we roll at the House of Nerds.

If you look up stiff upper lip in the dictionary, you’ll see a photo of TN. He has that British stoicism down to a science. That’s not to say he’s not emotional. His humor is vast, witty, intelligent and at times biting. He loves deeply and isn’t afraid to show it. He’s empathic and sensitive and a gentle soul. But when he’s unhappy about something, he buries that so deep it takes dynamite to dig deep enough to get to it. He doesn’t hide it all that well. He becomes sullen, withdrawn, and generally crabby. Normally I wouldn’t share something like this, but he completely owns this side of himself so I don’t feel like I’m speaking badly of him.

The only way I can crack the wall he puts up is to pick a fight. It can’t just be any fight and it doesn’t happen instantly. It has to be snide comments and frustrations aired over a few days so he knows I’m annoyed. It has to start with him thinking I’m the one in the wrong, I’m the one being bitchy.

I’m sure you’re thinking why don’t I just ask him what’s wrong when I see it happening. Trust me, I try. Sometimes he starts talking, but then he gets upset, adds another row of bricks to the wall and says, “I can’t talk about this right now.” It’s not that he doesn’t want to, he actually believes he can’t.

So I play along with this dysfunctional game. I get annoyed by his behavior. I start making snide comments. After a couple of days, I finally say something that breaches the wall and he explodes. I don’t even cry anymore when it happens. I used to get so upset by the things he’d say in anger. My heart would hurt and tears would burn my cheeks.

Not anymore.

Since we had the reset to our marriage and sex life two years ago, we’ve not really had one of these huge, days long fights. Some of that is because we have just gotten along better. Not to toot my own horn, but a large part is because I have made a conscious effort to not hold onto annoyances and anger. It’s not always easy, but I have managed to change my thinking most of the time. The fact that I can and do choose happiness over other emotions tells me that my own mental health is well managed right now. Another first for me.

Perhaps that’s why while he responded in anger, saying words that in the past would have angered me and cut me to the core, I was able to just sit, listen and watch him. As he threw his barbs, none penetrated my heart and I realized that I am stronger than I knew.

The end result of the fight was good. He’s addressing his unmanaged anxiety with his doctor. New medication is slowly starting to work. He’s making an effort to be more open and willing to talk. It’s an ongoing process and I am not naivé enough to think this will never happen again, but I am confident that we will work through the usual marriage issues.

Perhaps even more important than all of that, this realization of my own strength has been comforting and empowering in ways I never expected. That’s going to come in handy when we finally start facing the differences in our sex drives and comfort with kink.

Stay tuned.

 

 

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Movement

I am trying to write about where things stand with TN and having a helluva time getting it out. No one cares about the minutiae and I don’t need to air ALL of our dirty laundry. And yet it’s difficult telling the story without some of it.

For now I’ll just say that things are slowly, and I mean s l o w l y, improving. He’s followed through with something that has been a sticking point for a long time so in general our relationship is improving. Our sex life is another story, but I’m hopeful that it will follow. We essentially had two days of arguing and fighting over a week ago and still haven’t had make-up sex. So yeah, S L O W.

 

Prelude to a Conversation

TN gets out of bed at 10 and enters kitchen. 

TN: (Loudly to drown out the news on TV that NDG is watching.) I am so sick of this election. (For approximately the 273rd time this week.)

NDG: I know you are.

TN: I won’t say it again.

NDG: I just don’t know how to respond to that.

TN: I seem to be pissing you off all the time lately.

NDG: Yeah, kind of.

Silence.

* * * TO BE CONTINUED * * *

Obviously that was my subconscious picking a fight because it means we will eventually be forced to have an argument and then a conversation. In the bad old days, the only way I could get him to talk about hard stuff was to pick a fight. He’d stew over it for awhile and then would sit down and talk to me about the real issue. I don’t think I realized until I typed that just how far back we have slipped. Even worse, I’m now realizing how much I’ve been letting stupid annoyances fester like I used to do. For the past two years, I was able to get over them by choosing to ignore and focus on the positives. I chose to be happy. I have a knot in my stomach because this Sunday morning epiphany is that he’s not the only one who has regressed. This shit has been festering in me. I’m not proud of that.

Intellectually, I know that acknowledging there’s a problem is the first step to repairing it. Emotionally, I’m bruised and hurt and defensive and want to hide from all of it.

So yeah. Happy fucking Sunday to me.

 

 

 

Here We Go Again

As I look back at my writing over the past 18 months, I can see that I tend to write more when I’m feeling down about life, relationships, sex. (I’m counting the numerous posts that I never publish in this.) When things are going well, I tend to not even think about sitting down to capture my feelings. I guess that’s good because I’m fully in the moment enjoying life. The downside is that the blog has started to feel like the place I go to whine or complain. A friend has told me that even the sad posts have an underlying optimism, which I do think is true, but I never really celebrate the good times here.

I posted a few days ago that I’m struggling with balance, but in hindsight I think might be the wrong word. Yes, life is hectic and I’ve overcommitted myself this fall. I like to be busy; I like to feel like I’m making a difference in the world. I don’t get paid for the things I love to do, but that doesn’t matter because I see the fruits of my labor in other ways. As a grown up, as a mentor, hell, even as a parent, I am incredibly satisfied right now. Everything else is falling apart.

***

Four years ago I started seeing a therapist. I said it was because my depression was back and I needed help to get it under control again. That was definitely true, but I had another motive. I went so that I could find the courage to leave TN. We had just been going through the motions of a marriage for quite awhile. Intimacy was all but gone. We were living like roommates. He didn’t contribute to the partnership around the house so I didn’t contribute in the bedroom. Despite the issues, it wasn’t all bad. We liked each other a lot and we had good times as a family. We came together as we dealt with our son’s illness and supported each other through the scary times. We were excellent friends, but there wasn’t much there in the way of a marriage.

Somewhere during two years of therapy, I realized I didn’t want to leave. I stopped trying to change him and instead worked on changing my reactions to him. It took awhile and my therapist later confided that at the beginning, she didn’t think I’d stay married. Somehow I found what I was looking for so when I ended therapy two years ago, I was once again excited to be married. I was looking forward to growing our relationship. As I’ve written over the last 18 months, we have done that. There have been fits and starts, but we were always moving forward.

I can’t pinpoint when it happened, but sometime over the summer I became complacent. He had already stopped really making an effort to do the hard work required in a happy marriage. I don’t believe it was deliberate on his part. His work has been extremely stressful for several months, our son was in the hospital, and his own anxiety spiraled out of control. It continues to be barely contained most days. He stopped helping around the house, he became more irritable with the kids and with me, he withdrew into his den and his head much of the time. I felt like I had to nag to get him to do the most basic things. Even then they rarely happened and I ended up doing them myself so resentment has set in. Between chest pains and stress headaches, his health has been declining but he stubbornly refuses to seek additional help from his doctor or his psychiatrist. Eventually I stopped trying as well. I stopped managing my expectations and started not caring because caring just hurts too much.

Instead, I’ve filled my life with even more volunteer work. I recognize that it for what it is: a way to feel satisfied and fulfilled. I’m so busy and exhausted these days that I don’t care that he only wants sex once a week. I stopped initiating sex months ago because the rejection hurt. My maladaptive coping mechanism is to be so busy that I can use that as the reason for the lack of intimacy in our lives. It’s a stupid trick and my rational brain knows exactly what I’m doing. But it does help quell the feelings of sadness as the minutes and then hours tick by as I lie alone in bed at night, naked, waiting for him to join me.

I can separate myself from the situation and look at it as an outsider. I know what I would tell a friend to do and yet I don’t do it myself. I know that nothing will change without talking about it, yet I keep quiet. I make half-hearted attempts, lots of them actually, but always hold back what I really want to say, what I need to say. I don’t want to add to his stress. I don’t want to hurt him. I know how he reacts to hard stuff when he’s in this state of mind. He doesn’t hear that WE have a problem. He hears that it’s all his fault and then he gets depressed on top of anxious. That kicks in my nurturing mode so I end up comforting him and saying it’s OK just to make him feel better while I’m suppressing my own emotions. If it were anyone else, I would say that he’s a master manipulator, but I don’t believe that he is. His feelings are genuine and there is no way he would deliberately emotionally abuse me like that, but I end up feeling that way regardless.

So here I sit in this weird place. On the outside, I look busy and dedicated and happy about the chaos that is my life. It’s not a total lie. I do love that part of my life. I just wish it didn’t feel so out of whack with the rest of my life.

 

Balance

I’ve spent a good portion of the day writing, trying to sort out feelings and problems and ways to cope. All I’ve really managed to do is make myself even more depressed about the state of some parts of my life. Instead of posting that dirty laundry for the few people who still bother checking this blog, I’m posing some questions.

How do you balance the various roles of your life? Spouse, friend, daughter, professional, parent, breadwinner. Whatever it is you do, how do you make it all click? What do you do when it’s not? Do you even think it’s possible to maintain them all at a level that sustains you?

For all of the navel-gazing I’ve done today, the only thing I’ve realized is that I will never be satisfied. I will never find that balance I crave. And I don’t know whether to be happy I finally realized that or bawl my eyes out that it’s never going to happen.