Today begins like any other day. I get up at what I used to think was an obscene hour and make myself coffee. I’ve come to love this time of day; it’s still dark, and it’s quiet, because no one else is awake yet, except for the people in the cars I can hear on the expressway. It’s just me, the rising run, the chirping birds, and the dull drone of rubber tires on black asphalt.
But today is different because today I’m anxious about a conversation I will be having with my husband from whom I’ve been separated since December, just before I got sober.
Today we will be discussing what to do with our relationship, or marriage, although I haven’t been able to call it a marriage for some time. Toward the end of us living together I thought of our marriage as a “joke.” That’s what I called it. We were roommates, silently passing each other like ships in the night.
I felt more alone in my marriage than I ever did single.
ALONE because instead of addressing our issues and talking through them, he’d ignore them, sweep them under the rug. I’ve always been a talker, but because his way of coping was to shut down, I eventually shut down, too. There was zero communication. You can’t have a relationship without communication. We took a Couples Communication class at Kaiser, but soon went back to what was easiest, which was not talking. As our communication diminished, my Wall of Resentment flourished and I could no longer see the person I’d fallen in love with and promised my heart to.
ALONE because, more days than not, I woke up to an empty house and came home to an empty house. He was, and still is, married to the gym. He vowed, early on in our relationship when we were just dating, that I’d always come first. I remember our wedding, when he was reading his vows to me, thinking how his words were bullshit. He may have believed them, but I sure as hell didn’t because actions speak louder than words.
ALONE because I found myself battling depression and alcoholism by myself, without the support of a loving partner. I find myself making excuses for him, still; he knew I wasn’t okay but didn’t do anything to help because he didn’t know how to help. How could he? Would I?
I didn’t feel like I had the partner I needed, and expected, in a marriage.
Looking back, I never should have gotten married but I did because I thought it the right thing to do at the time; the Save the Dates had already gone out, like dandelion fluff in the wind. And everyone else was doing it, so I wanted to, too. Or so I thought.
But, no surprise, I was unhappy—the clinically depressed kind of unhappy. It had started before we even got married and lasted three long years until I made the difficult decision to move out. I just couldn’t live that way anymore. I couldn’t live with him, and I couldn’t live with the person I had become; a “closet” alcoholic and someone who couldn’t stand the sight of the person they were supposed to be in love with—and spend the rest of their life with. I would go for walks in the morning before work, hoping his car would be gone by the time I got home. I didn’t want him there. I hated him for being there, and I hated him for not being there. If that makes any sense.
I wrote a lot during this time, and was usually drunk or high (or both) when I wrote. My hatred overflowed from the depths of my soul into the little white box of digital paper on my computer screen. I haven’t gone back to read any of it. I’m afraid to because it was dark and ugly. I don’t know if I will ever bring myself to read the words I wrote. Perhaps it’s for the best. Leave the past in the past.
Because I was so unhappy, my drinking habits accelerated and were quickly getting out of control. I hid bottles of vodka in the closet in the guest bedroom, the tiny room I had retreated to and had been sleeping in for the better part of our marriage, even before our marriage. I had a small army of those mini airplane bottles in my car, at the ready, any time I felt the need to take the edge off, which was every day, multiple times a day. I’d secretly dispose of the empties at the gas station whenever I got gas, which made getting rid of the evidence easier than it was at home. I knew I was only harming myself, but I didn’t care. I didn’t care about much then.
Every day, all day, I was consumed by thoughts of how hopelessly unhappy I was, and what to do about it. My friends knew, my parents knew, my coworkers knew—everyone knew because it’s all I could talk about because it’s all I could think about. Like I said, I was consumed. I finally decided to seek professional help when I realized my coworkers, especially, knew too much. They, no doubt, were getting tired of hearing the same laments over and over and over again. I was like a record on repeat. They, of course, were supportive but when one said, “Shit or get off the pot,” I knew I needed to take action. And so, I moved out.
Despite several attempts at explaining WHY I moved out, I still don’t think he understands. This is what I said to him, which in my mind, makes perfect sense and is clear as day:
My perception of you, myself (I hated myself for hating my husband), and our relationship is not good and needs to change. So my mindset needs to change. In order to change my mindset, I need to change my environment.
He hated me at first. The pain he experienced as a result of my decision was sudden and acute, like ripping off a Band-Aid. The pain I had felt was more of a slow burn, building over the years until it popped like an overinflated balloon, finally releasing the pressure of a tortured and broken soul. Having finally made a decision, I immediately felt better. The clouds above my head were clearing. His storm had just begun.
I don’t know which kind of pain is worse.
I found an apartment and celebrated my first night there with a bottle of champagne. And unpacked with a bottle of whiskey—a big one. I felt free. And happy! A weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I felt that I could finally move forward. Well, not exactly. We’ve been in a holding pattern now for nearly ten months, a month longer than I’ve been sober.
When I moved out, in my mind, I was D-O-N-E, yet told him I didn’t know what came next for us because I didn’t want to hurt him any more than I already had, and perhaps I wasn’t quite ready to say the D word. Even if the relationship wasn’t 100% done, I was done trying. He was going to have to be the one to reach out this time and make an effort. He was going to have to initiate. He was going to have to COMMUNICATE if he wanted me, any of me, back. I wasn’t holding my breath.
Between last December and now, we’ve had one serious talk about our relationship. He said he wanted to give marriage counseling a try. His reason made me bristle. I didn’t say anything then, maybe I will today. It wasn’t because he loved me and couldn’t imagine his life without me, it was because he didn’t want to fail at marriage a second time. (He was married before, for 10 years.) Even so, I was open to the idea of counseling but wasn’t going to be the one to pick up the phone because I felt like I was always the one to do stuff like that. If it was going to happen, it had to be him. I needed him to show me he cared. It never happened and I can’t say I’m all that surprised.
In the meantime, after his hatred for me and what I’d done subsided, we’ve been friendly, celebrating our summer birthdays, and even taking a few weekend trips away together here and there. I’ve noticed my feelings towards him have shifted a bit, as absence can make the heart grow fonder. I’ve actually found myself enjoying his company—which I never thought possible—and have even missed him at times, which surprised me. Because we don’t live together anymore, I’m not around him enough to be annoyed by all the things that used to annoy me.
He reached out to me last week wanting to talk so today is the day. I’ve been thinking about it all week and what I want to do. Do I want to give this another go? Do we call it quits for good and file for divorce? I don’t know. I feel like I’m being torn right down the middle. Part of me wants to try again; maybe this time will be different. I wonder if things would be different enough now that I’m sober. To be clear, even though I was a heavy drinker, my drinking was not the reason our relationship disintegrated. Maybe that’s naive to say, but our problems, I believe, stem from our lack of communication, mainly, and perhaps incompatibility.
So what now? What do I want? Do I want to try and make this work, or is it time to move on?
I want to make this work because he’s a good person. He’s kind and honest, unlike most of my previous relationships, so a good heart, loyalty, and integrity are all very, very important to me. He’s extremely intelligent and knowledgable and a great conversationalist, but not very street smart despite having grown up in “the ‘hood” (he spent his time inside reading books) and lacks common sense which drives me absolutely insane.
I think often about a woman I met in a mosaic class I took not too long ago. I opened up a bit about what I was going through and she said she could relate in that her husband lacks common sense and it drives her insane, too. She’s got quite a few years on me and has been married for decades. She said something along the lines of our husbands being the kind of people who are really intelligent, but lack common sense, but are loyal to the core. And that’s why she’s stayed with hers. But is that enough?
Moving on both scares and excites me. I don’t want to have to start over. I don’t want to date. I’ve never been much of a dater and shrivel at the idea of ONLINE DATING. Oh god, please, no.
I’m afraid of making the wrong decision. I’m afraid of losing someone I care about. I’m afraid of being alone, and dying alone one day. I’m afraid of never finding The Right One to experience life with. I’m afraid of myself, and of always being too critical of others and having unrealistic expectations. I’m afraid of not taking chances and having even more regrets.
I’m afraid of going back to that place. Terrified. It was the darkest place I’ve ever known and I’m proud of myself for having the strength to claw my way out, and will protect what I have now with great fierceness. I never could have gotten sober had I stayed in that environment, and I don’t regret moving out for one second. It was the best decision, for me, at that time. And I believe it was for him, too, because I know he wasn’t happy. I told him, “I know you don’t see it now, but this will be good for both of us.” And it has been. We’ve both grown.
I’m excited by the possibility of meeting someone new, one day. Not today, not tomorrow, not next month or even next year. But one day. Someone who will support me and help me grow.
I need more from a partner. I need companionship. I need a doer. I need a communicator. I need someone I don’t have to explain my jokes to and who has a sense of humor. I need someone who likes adventure and spontaneity. I need compatibility.
Maybe I just answered my own question.
But what if it’s different this time? How I hate what-ifs.
I realize no one can make this decision but me. But I wanted to share this for several reasons; to get it off my chest because it’s been weighing on me, to maybe help someone else going through something similar feel not so alone, and because I am open to any advice or encouragement from this amazing community.
Thank you for reading. Love to you all.