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.