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Yesterday morning I sat up in bed as my husband was sitting across the room putting his shoes on.  He had been withdrawn and grumpy for the last few days so, in my never-ending quest to become bolder, I simply said the words:  “Are you upset with me?”  I’m so brave, I know…

He paused and then we had a conversation where he told me:
1.  His addiction wasn’t really an addiction, it was just his attempts at filling a “hole” in his life of something he was missing and he only accepted 50% responsibility for this “hole”, the rest was my fault.
2.  He didn’t think I was a Godly Wife because I didn’t “desire” him but he couldn’t prove it because he didn’t know any scriptures to back it up with.
3.  He couldn’t believe that there was never any “attraction” between us because why else would we have stayed married all these years (almost 19) if we weren’t attracted to each other?

I felt he was angry and speaking from his heart, finally saying how he really felt so I very calmly asked some questions to clarify his statement until I was satisfied I knew what he was saying.  Be proud of me, that took A LOT of effort, just sayin’.

I rode the bus to work and started writing him a letter which I finished on a break later in the day.  I wrote about how he had brought pornography into our marriage right from the start and after just a few years we were convicted that it was wrong so “we” stopped viewing pornographic materials.  (It always made me feel so yucky inside, it wasn’t very hard for me to stop.)  I felt like I was writing with “righteous anger” and the words just poured onto the page.  I refused to accept responsibility for any percentage of this “hole” in his life that was clearly there long before I ever met him and I informed him that yes, indeed, he had an addiction and needed to admit it and defeat it.  I concluded my handwritten, 9-page letter (on 6″ x 8″ paper) by saying there were plenty of $500/month apartments near where he worked and he should go get one and be gone from our house for a minimum of one year.

My anger has changed over the years, I used to withdraw and “turtle up” until it was safe to come out again.  In my quest to “find myself” I have become a warrior, hard as a diamond and cold as the Arctic.  Don’t mess with me, I will not be your doormat anymore.

So after work I go home and immediately have a phone situation to deal with.  Almost 2 hours later I have solved one of our two problems and am sitting in the easy chair, playing Farmville2 on my laptop while my husband is sitting on the couch next to me, watching a show and reading a book, acting like everything was fine and dandy.

I have not given him the letter, wanting to write it up neatly because it was a rough draft with things crossed out and what not.  I am trying to keep my face neutral to stern, hoping he will notice and ask me what’s wrong…

It finally becomes obvious that he is not operating under the belief that our morning talk had an impact on our relationship so I finally asked him if he had any other thoughts regarding our conversation that morning.

He put his book down, sighed and said that obviously I had some thoughts about our conversation so why don’t I share them?

We wound up having a good, open, honest talk.  Maintaining my austere aloofness I asked him, point-blank if he still thought I was an Ungodly Wife and if he still believed he didn’t have an addiction.

It immediately became clear that just as I shouldn’t have any serious talks at night after I’ve taken my sleeping pills, he shouldn’t have any serious talks first thing in the morning, despite his belief that he is a morning person…

I put my newly-found sunglasses of Love and Forgiveness on while he did most of the talking and realized four very important things:
1.  My husband has absolutely no self-esteem whatsoever.  The self-talk that goes on inside his head is so cruel and negative – he almost cried while talking about it and if I wasn’t in Xena Princess Warrior mode I would have cried too, it’s horrible to imagine anybody living with that.
2.  My husband has the emotional maturity of an 8-year-old.  Seriously.  Sticks and stones can break his bones but words and dark glances will kill him.
3.  My husband is not a good communicator.  He uses words that I associate with completely different things than he does.  For example when he said I wasn’t a Godly Wife because I didn’t “desire” him I immediately thought “sex”.  He meant something more along the lines of “respect” and wanting to spend time with him… and so on.  Most likely I’m so weary of having sex all the time that I’m on the defensive, hearing and seeing “suggestiveness” in everything he says and does.  But still, what he means is not what is usually communicated to me.
4.  My husband is probably depressed and should be on medication.  He actually said the first part – that he wonders if he’s depressed.  I said let’s go to the doctor and he immediately resisted, claiming it was embarrassing enough to be going to a counselor.  I have quite a bit of Prozac left over from when my doctor switched me to another medicine so I suggested he start taking that (yes, I know, all kinds of wrong and illegal) and if after a month he felt better, then he could go to the doctor and get his own prescription and if he didn’t feel better he could stop taking them.  He said he doesn’t want to be stuck taking pills for the rest of his life…. ugh!  (This one I will win, he just doesn’t know it yet.)

So, to sum it all up, for almost 20 we’ve pretty much had the exact same needs – to be appreciated and loved/respected for who we are – but we’ve been speaking totally different languages and had completely unreasonable, and entirely unspoken, expectations regarding the other.  That, right there, changes everything…  I decide to hold off on giving him the letter.

I grew up with no self-esteem.  I started to recognize that fact it in my 20’s and have been actively working on believing that I have value for the last 10 years.  I never imagined guys would have this problem too, and especially not my macho, controlling, selfish, easily angered husband.  I had actually thought he esteemed himself too highly for all these years, if you want my honest opinion.  But last night he was broken before me, poured wide open in emotional honesty for possibly the first time in his life.

This changes the way I will talk to him – I will use simpler communication not expect him to react like a mature adult.  I will give him more encouragement and praise and ask the girls to do the same.  I will (quietly) ask men at church to encourage him and build him up.  I will wait another year to see if he improves and re-evaluate life at that time.  If he is playing me, and I’m sure some of my friends will think he is, then a year is ample time to prove himself to me one way or another.

My eyes are wide open and my heart is still going to be guarded but last night, in just a few moments of listening and hearing what he was saying, everything changed.

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…with six more weeks to go for my husband to prove that our family is worth him becoming a better man.  His previous attempt, a couple of years ago, at a Big Change only lasted three weeks total and then he quit so I think this next week will be very telling.

Progress/Improvements I have seen so far:
1. He opens car doors for me.
2. He tells me he loves me at the end of every phone call, every time we say good bye in person and occasional, random times throughout the day.  It’s actually kind of driving me nuts… He never spoke those words to me before without being prompted and/or pressured into saying them so it feels like it’s almost too much now… It’s hard to believe he means it because I’ve gone years without hearing him say it to me even once.  It’s also hard to  get a straight answer from him when I ask exactly what does it mean to him when he says “I love you” to me… but overall it’s still progress.
3. He has made an appointment for a counselor who specializes in addictions this week.
4.  He doesn’t get as angry as quickly as he was, especially at the girls.
5. He gives me hugs regularly that are just hugs, I don’t feel like there’s a sexual motive behind them for once.
6. He apologizes frequently for not realizing what a angry, selfish, controlling husband and father he’s been for the 18+ years we’ve been married.
7. In these last two weeks he’s cooked two meals, done several loads of laundry and cleaned our bathroom sink and counter and the downstairs kitchen sink and counter as well.  All things he never or rarely did in our marriage before.
8.  He got me a nice Valentine’s Day card (even though I said we were postponing Vday until after the two months was up) and hand-wrote a really nice 3 page letter about all the things he likes about me – 1 page was physical stuff and the other 2 pages were character stuff.  The pages were tiny (maybe 4″ x 6″?) but still, what he said on them was very nice.
9. We had a disagreement Sunday and even though he wasn’t happy with me he still treated me with kindness and dignity and  this morning he apologized for being mad at me for the last two days.

For my part during these last two weeks I have been a naughty, naughty girl.  I’ve really been pushing his buttons by doing things I know he doesn’t like – such as borrowing the Twilight series from my friend and making the whole family watch them.  (Except the last one which isn’t out on disc yet).   They’re hilarious by the way, I haven’t laughed so hard at awkward teenage romance in a long time.   I started talking about getting a tattoo, which he has been firmly against for quite some time.  I went to the movie theater yesterday to see “Hansel & Gretel, Witch Hunters” with my friend and oldest daughter (Love, love, love Jeremy Renner!  Could have done without the swearing though…) and on Sunday night I insisted on going to the evening service of a church (different than the one we attend on Sunday mornings) with my same friend and I intend to keep going to that church’s Sunday evening service for as long as I can.  I’m sure there have been other ways I’ve really tried to get his goat but I can’t think of them right now.  (It is past my bedtime, yawn!)  However, in spite of all these things I’ve been doing (and probably a few more) on purpose to test him and see how serious he is about keeping his family together, I’m actually impressed with his responses.  He is rising to the challenge and “manning up”.  Way to go dude!

Something that he and I talked about on Sunday evening was that there really isn’t a foundation to our relationship that we can go back to and start over on top of.  I’m not sure why he married me but I married him because he said he loved me and he pushed me into having sex with him while we were dating.  I had been a virgin up until that point  and I thought if I didn’t marry him I would be an old maid forever.  (I was 20…how stupid can one be?  Ugh!)  There is no passion, no place of being “In Love” to return to because  it was never there in the first place.  In order for us to develop passion, romance and the feelings of being “In Love” we are going to have to develop them from scratch and damned if I know how to do that after almost 20 years of building walls around my heart so he can’t hurt me anymore.  I honestly think he doesn’t know how to start from scratch like that either but he’s surely giving it the good ‘ole college try, which is more than I’ve been interested in doing for our marriage for probably at least 10 years now so I guess that makes him the better man in this situation.

He’s always had a “Never Give Up” attitude and never considered divorce as an option.  Me?  I’ve prayed to God at least once a year during every year of our marriage begging for a divorce from this man.  God always said NO.

Of course I’m coming from a “broken home” (making me automatically a lower-class citizen as compared to the rest of my husband’s college graduated, married forever, working in the church ministry family) and no one in his family has ever divorced so in their eyes we would just move a step down from being the poor, uneducated, blue-collar, lower-class family members to the actual black sheep category.  I’m honestly not sure that my brothers would care if we divorced all that much, they don’t ever talk to me anyway, just my husband.  I’ll keep my sister, he can have my brothers, ha, ha!

Anyway, that sort of is talk for another time, maybe farther down the road, maybe never.  At the moment things are going well and our relationship is remarkably like a fairy tale, minus the unlimited funds that seemed to come with “Bibbity, Bobbity, Boo” and the waving of the magic wand,  so I’m choosing to enjoy every minute of it and be the princess I always wanted to be and who knows, maybe the Toad will turn into Prince Charming soon and the Ice Princess will melt into his arms… because with God – anything IS possible, eh?

Okie dokie…  Today is Sunday night.  Last Wednesday night my husband and I had our “little talk”.  I expressed in the firmest terms that I know he is addicted and I am very upset that he has not managed to gain control of it in these last 18+ years of our marriage.  I was soooooo angry – it gave me strength I didn’t know I had to stand up to him like I should have a long time ago.  I offered him a choice – in addition to mandatory counseling I said that EITHER I move out of our bedroom for two months while he works on his problem OR we continue to share the bedroom – but no benefits for him for two months – and I attend a different church.  I thought the terms were more than fair as I originally wanted to cut him off and live in the spare room for six months.  I felt I was being more than reasonable by insisting on only two months.

The first night we talked about it (Wednesday) he was all “I know I deserve this, I’m so sorry…” I felt like we both understood that I was the one wronged, therefore I made the rules and set the consequences and he didn’t fight me on that.  He didn’t like either choice but was thinking on which one to choose and I gave him until Friday night to make a decision.

Thursday night we talked again and I realized while he had truly heard my issues and was finally taking me seriously that somehow I had lost control of the consequences.  All of a sudden I’m NOT moving into the guest bedroom, I am NOT attending a different church AND benefits will be shared once a week during the two months – seriously, what just happened here?  It’s enough to make a girl want to swear… <bad words, bad words, bad words>

The good news is that for all of Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday (today) he has been treating me like a princess.  Without my asking he has been opening car and building doors for me, hugging me often while carefully avoiding touching my boobs, rubbing my back without asking for anything further, giving me compliments and being very deferential to my preferences…

It’s what I’ve always wanted, heck, I think it’s what every girl wants but I’m kind of holding my breath to see how long it lasts – bets anyone?  At least I’m pretty sure that he understands how much he will lose if he screws this up.  Also, the consequences of my moving into the guest room, attending another church and withdrawing benefits completely are still available.  I think I just have to get angry enough to enforce them.

I have found a church not too far away that has services at 5 pm on Sundays so I’m going to try it out next week and it sounds like one of my friends will go with me.  Even if I can’t go to a different church Sunday mornings I think that going to a different church for a Saturday or Sunday evening service would probably do me good.  Meet some new people, experience different worship music and see what another church’s atmosphere and leadership are like.

If he can really pull this off, if he can quit his addiction and become a nice guy… permenantly… then we have a chance.

WARNING – I’M GOING TO BE AS TACTFUL AS I CAN BUT EXTREMELY HONEST ABOUT BEING MARRIED.  STOP NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ IT.

I was trying to fix my husband’s phone last night and inadvertently saw what he had been viewing online with his phone.  We’ve been married almost 19 years and he is still addicted to this crap… I am so not happy with him right now!

When I am truly upset my face, neck and upper chest (basically all the skin you can see above a the neckline on a normal shirt) turns really bright red in a very unattractive blotchy pattern.  It even scares me when I see myself in the mirror like that and until last night I hadn’t been that angry in a long time.

And yet the anger gave me the strength I needed to be calm and still forceful.  I insisted that he goes to counseling.  I also gave him a choice.

1)  I move into the guest bedroom for 2 months to give him time to decide what’s most important to him and live accordingly.
2)  I will continue to sleep in bed with him but there will be no benefits for 2 months AND I will attend a different church, of my choosing during that time.

I also said that Valentine’s Day was postponed until after the 2 months were up.  There is no way I can stomach any kind of sappy card from him and I don’t want to go on any dates with him for a while either.  He was dumbfounded and unable to choose right away so I gave him until tomorrow (Friday) night to decide.  If my going to church with him is more important than sharing a bedroom that will tell me a lot.

This is the beginning of the end.  Only God can rescue our marriage now… I have no doubt that He can, I’m just not sure I want Him to.

“If you think your life is hard, imagine mine.”  These are the words I spoke to my teenaged daughter because my husband, her father, was upset with her and wanted her to skip a fun choir activity after their annual Christmas concert.  She stared at me, wide-eyed “Are you actually going to tell him that?”  No look of shock or surprise on her face, no flicker of “I never thought of that”, only a fascinating mix of awe and horror that I might actually say those words aloud to him.

I’m waiting until after our Christmas travels to have a very unpleasant conversation with my husband.  It may result in our separation, maybe even in divorce, who knows.  But at this point I almost don’t care.  What I do care about is spending 7 days and 1200 miles in the same car as a man who oozes hostility when he’s upset and/or frustrated.  Also, I want to have this particular conversation safely away from our teenaged children, who don’t need to see or be a part of the drama.

Things that I should not have waited 18 ½ years to say (in random order):

1.  You’re controlling.  I feel like I have to maintain constant communication with you or you get “grumpy” with me.  I call you on my way to work, at lunch and on my way home because I’d rather hold a shallow, meaningless conversation with you than have you upset with me.  I rarely have lunch with my co-workers because I feel like I have to call you every day.  I use the excuse that the bus is too loud to talk on the phone with you because it’s about the only “me” time I get anymore, 30 minutes at a time, twice a day.  When you and I talk on the phone it seems like we only talk as long as you want to talk.  The minute you want to call someone else or do another activity that you can’t talk on the phone at the same time you tell me you’re ”very  busy” and you have to go.  When I try to end our phone conversations you give me a guilt trip about not wanting to talk to you.

2.  You’re self-centered.  It feels like when you want to spend money on something not in the budget you “ask” me if it’s OK and more often than not you cajole me into go along with get what you want, or you just tell me “I need this”, regardless of whether the purchase requires a payday loan or not.  When I want to buy something that’s not in the budget it seems like you tell me “I don’t want to buy anything we have to get a loan for” and try to talk me out of it.

3.  You don’t know what love is.  It feels like the only time you tell me you love me is when you want to buy something (or when you have bought something) but rarely at any other time.  Except when I ask you directly for a compliment you never say I’m pretty even though I’ve lost 35 pounds this last year and am looking better than I have in forever.  Last month I wore a dress to work for the first time in 6 years and I thought I looked fabulous – and said so.  You never once said I looked good (or bad) and when we talked on the phone later that day you questioned my motives for wearing the dress.  I feel like you only hold my hand or put your arm around me to possess me, to show other people I belong to you.  I can’t remember you ever touching my face or my hair affectionately and you so rarely tell me that I mean anything to you that it’s easy to believe I don’t mean anything to you at all.

We have had most of this little chat before and he tried very hard to say that I looked nice and that he loved me without being prompted to and it was nice to see him make the effort.  Unfortunately, the output of words I needed to hear only lasted for about six weeks and then it dried up like a seasonal creek.

I started this blog before we left on our Christmas trip and am finishing it at halfway through our trip…  Things are actually going better than I expected and I am actually enjoying being around him 24/7, which seriously surprises me.  What changed?  I’m not sure but I certainly don’t want to rock the boat at this point.  Maybe the true Christmas Spirit has finally touched our hearts and softened us towards each other again?  Hard to say.  I just know that as far as the emotional temperature of our little family goes, it’s been pretty good!  <whew!>

But I know we’re going to have to talk and work these things out…and that it will probably get ugly…and that I’m not looking forward to it.  Wish me luck.