Friday, June 20, 2008

back again

For days I'd been walking around on the brink of tears, and then on Wednesday morning I suddenly perked up. It began to feel like a holiday, being without the Sober Husband. It was like being a teenager again, momentarily freed of the always critical and stern parental gaze. Iris and Lucy were being well-behaved, and we went to lunch with friends, visited the grizzlies at the zoo, picked up a new Spongebob DVD, had one of Iris's friends over, planned an art project (I'm going to make a fairy tree for Lucy's room), and inquired about getting more foster kittens (six little babies are here right now; sadly four of them are entirely black, poor things. Not enough people love black cats).

Then on Thursday came our first marriage counseling session. I felt empty and weak going in. I thought that I should have prepared a list of demands/requests which, if met, would pave the way for the Sober Husband to come home. I couldn't really articulate what I wanted in a meaningful way, other than "attend dance class regularly", which seemed kind of, well, frivolous under the circumstances, so I didn't mention it. We basically spent the session providing our sides of the current impasse. Maddeningly the Sober Husband trotted out once again his line that he has problems with me he is unable or unwilling to voice. The counselor and I expressed the view that he was going to need to put those out on the table. Unfortunately the end of the hour came too soon, and our therapist will be away for the next three weeks (we both expressed the wish to work with her despite that unlucky delay).

Afterwards the Sober Husband asked me to go out for a drink with him. It was a rare hot day in San Francisco, and we had a beer at a sidewalk cafe (he drank two; I had an abstemious one). I felt remote. The Sober Husband expressed his deep unhappiness at being kept out of the home. After our drink, I walked to the library, and he came along. Like in the days when we were dating, he was attentive and full of praise, and also he was full of regret for the mistakes of the recent past. I had no intention or desire to invite him back home, but I don't enjoy seeing him suffer. Finally, I said, "You can sleep on the couch. Don't make me regret this." (Such grace and romance!)

So, we'll see what happens. He came home while I was sauteing onions and garlic for dinner, bringing the children some candy. I'm finding the contrast between how he is right now, so attentive and affectionate, and how he was on our vacation (remote and irritable) to be incomprehensible.


Anonymous said...

So the question, about his remoteness while on vacation, is: did he start this due to the U-Haul irritation, or by your insistence that he fix the original issue ... or was he remote even before all that? Did he not really want to go on vacation, and therefore "blamed" his absence from Doggy-o on you? Or, was the remoteness prior to all that, and has been around for a while? You alluded since he started at Doggy-o ... if you can pinpoint a time when the remoteness started ... (then again I'm probably grasping at straws). Overall it really doesn't matter, other than I'd focus on when the remoteness started and why the hell he was so engaged and animated in the other person whilst you were on vacation. Then the sheer evilness in me wants to question if his wanting to come home is because it is "easier", or does he really desire to be with YOU. You being the key! Does he want to come home so he avoids the D word, and is he attentive to the kids and therefore that is easier ... or does he really desire to remain married and remain married witn you!? Sorry for my questions and butskinsy-ness ... but I'd want those questions answered, along with what the hell he can't address or discuss with you, before I felt comfortable allowing him to even sleep on the couch. After all ... he had you before everything. Before the kids, before Doggy-o, before even moving to San Francisco ... so why can't he talk to you? That comment would be driving me insane.

I wish you all the best. Get a little pissed, not remote. When pissed, I think with lightning speed and amazing accuracy (and yes, fall apart afterwards). Get tough -- get in lawyer clothes if need be -- but start asking questions. If he cannot handle the questions, then he cannot handle the long haul.

My 2 cents, for what they're worth!

All the best, and remember in all this, take care of YOU!

/dawn (dfratzke)

hughman said...

i'm confused. he complains about your drinking then takes you out for a drink?

Leslie said...

It seems that the same comments applies to all blogs I read today. It even applies to my texts to my daughter and her friend: Boys are stoopid.

(So are girls sometimes. But today, it's boys.)

Carol Ann said...

Dawn totally rocks, and I agree with everything she said.


Missy said...

Dawn said it all so well (Although I scrolled to see which one of the old gang was talking--the voice and wisdom were familiar!)

I'm not so sure the couch should be open. There's work to be done here, and the reluctant need motivation. Whatever he can't talk about must be talked about. Or else, it's time to take other steps. Marriage is not a cafeteria option, "I'll have that but not this."

As Dawn said, there's "home" and there's "being with you."

Also, you felt better with him gone than he seemed to feel being gone. An interesting fact.

Nothing is ever too small to bring up at counseling. Everything goes on the table. Don't belittle what's important to you.

Hugs ((())) Missy

joyous melancholy said...

Some of the best therapy sessions I've had have been the ones I've gone to completely unprepared, not having a clue as to what I was going to say. And I agree with Melissa - nothing is too small to bring up. Perhaps his reluctance to go to dance class, and your strong desire to go, will give the counselor one more key to helping you guys figure this out. After all, with all you do for him, why can't he do this for you? Don't minimize your needs OR your wants.

Good for you for standing your ground, and enjoying your "time off" as it were, and even for letting him back on the couch. You have been at his whim for far too long - I would have started getting concerned when he completely dismissed your troubles with the Evil Contractor next door. The man needs to be engaged in your family life, involved in your life, and concerned with the things that concern you.

As for your all-black kitties... I've been wracking my brain to figure out a way to get them some good homes. I *love* my all-black kitty, and won't ever be without one again. Maybe there are local message boards or groups where you can advertise their availability when they're ready? My heart just hurts for them.

Not as much as it does for you - hang in there and know that you're being thought of and routed for.

hughman said...

JM, i don't get the black kitty thing either. when i lived in NYC and had kitties i specifically LOOKED for an all black kitty!

also, if the SH sleeps on the couch, hide catnip in the cushions so the cats jump on him all night.

Jake said...

I've been reading your blog a lot and noticed that it is very popular. I am trying to start off this new blog, The Muter. I thought if you joined it would help me get a lot more members. It's basically a blog that gives random missions every week. Please just look at it and let me know what you think. It would mean a lot to me. -Jake

2amsomewhere said...

Recalling my own experiences a year ago, it's probably better that you don't come in with the long list of demands and requirements. I tried that, having notes ready for my joint counseling sessions.

It was information overload for my wife, who went totally on the defensive soon thereafter, which then led to her therapist running through the standard listening/mirroring/better communication exercises, which were not equipped to handle someone who refused to participate in the process in good faith.

My take on SH's attentiveness probably is akin to a driver whose car is skidding off to the shoulder and overcompensates in the other direction to avoid a collision. From the driver's viewpoint and instinct, the maneuver makes sense, but it winds up doing damage, too.

If you're feeling this alienated, angry, and alone, he's will need to realize that intense, short term tactics aren't going to sustain the relationship. Until the core of his distance is brought into plain view, this will continue to be a Twilight Zone experience.

My thoughts are with you, DH. Stay strong! Do what you can to heal, but remember it's never too late to sell yourself out. Don't let it happen. :-)


Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like he's kissing your ass. I hate that. He needs to be showing you that he wants to be in the marriage in ways that will speak to YOU. Like telling his boss NO once in awhile and being home early (or arranging a sitter) to care for the kids so you can go to that class. Fuck candy and drinks and feigning interest in what book you're checking out.

I realize that sounds extremely anit-SH, and I'm not at all. But I've done the "should we divorce or go to therapy?" thing and playing nicey-nice isn't going to get you anywhere.

Why am I suspicious that he doesn't have any truly major issues with you, he was just embarrassed about being caught flirting and he went full-on offense instead of dealing with it? This all smacks of "I'm going to divert your attention away from MY issues by stomping my feet about yours" and then "Uh oh. That didn't work. I'll kiss her ass and hope she swoons".

For what it's worth my hub and I have had some very rough roads and therapy saved us. That was about 12 years ago and these days I can honestly say I'm in the strongest, most healthy marriage I've ever personally seen. So it DOES work if you both want it to work. Best of luck, whatever you want to do!!

Oldsoul_NotQuite said...

Where has he been staying when not in the house or on the couch? Kicking him out seems a bit mean, its his house too right?

Dread Pirate Davi said...

Perhaps this has all truly been a wake up call for him. I would not presume to give someone such as you, who has experienced so much more of life than I have, advice, but I would like to say that you should keep an eye on the sincerity level. Other than that, I'm happy for you and the girls that he's coming back , and hopefully everything will work out for the best. Good luck.

Our Crooked Tree said...

The only thing I can offer is support as I don't think I really have any good advice. I wish your family the best and most healthy outcome for all! Keep us posted.

Amy said...

I've been thinking this over for a few days.

The "issues he can't talk to you about" jumped out at me right away. I have heard this before, maybe even said it. Usually the speaker is the partner or companion to a strong personality and has a complaint that they're afraid to voice. The stronger partner may have even said (or demonstrated) that such comments or topics are off-limits. This becomes a big problem when there's a real issue in the forbidden domain that needs addressing.

I've lost two good friends in the past year this way. Both were the "overbearing" type and completely dominant in their existing intimate relationships. After knowing them casually for many years, we became close. Then we had an argument where I insisted my POV be given equal weight, and the relationship ended. Ironically I heard later that these women felt "victimized" by my refusal to be a doormat. In a way they were right: by demanding that they give up some of their unequal share of power, I *was* causing them to experience a loss and it probably really did feel like victimization.

I'm not saying this is the same situation, or that you are unreasonable like my two ex-friends (both who are known to be a bit crazy). But I can't help but think that if I were the SH it would be very difficult to me to say something I knew you weren't going to like. If I had been married to either friend, I probably wouldn't have been as assertive (spouses are more difficult to replace than friends), but since I had a legitimate grief, I wouldn't have been able to just ignore it either. To protect my selfhood, I probably would have handled the situation by withdrawing.

Obviously I have only your blog and a single visit to base my knowledge of your situation on. But all any of us has to offer is our own experience and you sound sad and baffled. My heart breaks for your family, and I hope that sharing my story helps a little bit.

Anonymous said...

SH has clearly not been attentive to you in the way that you expect. Perhaps not attentive at all, in your book. But he has still been giving attention to family issues - like dealing with the UHaul arrangement to get the bikes to camp.

Attention is a two-way street. In a relationship, we all want attention from the other person. But one person's perception of being attentive is not always the other person's. I'll give you an example. My wife will page through a sales catalog and hold a conversation with me at the same time. She feels that she is being attentive to me during the conversation. However, I do not feel as if she is being attentive to me during this conversation. I've learned to shrug this (and other lack-of-attention issues) off and no longer expect to get attention from her in certain ways. But she is attentive to me in other ways that I do appreciate.

Are there ways in which you have not been attentive to him, giving your attention to him in the way that he prefers/needs/wants?

And listen closely to what Amy said about free and open discussions. Particularly for Aspergian types, who are deficient in developing a "theory of mind" about other people, there is a difficulty in opening up about particular topics, particularly in verbal conversation. Maybe SH could express his thoughts on these topics using written words? Or maybe a couple of diagrams/equations?

the Drunken Housewife said...

I'm digesting this all, and I appreciate every comment (even the ones which are not favorable to me).

I think Amy has a big point about my having a large personality, and I need to ponder that. I think both of us have large personalities, but maybe mine is fiercer. Six Degrees also has a very good point about articulation. Writing it down would definitely be harder than speaking it, though (although perhaps equations or computer code would work for him, but would I follow it? I actually do know a bit of Java, but not much else).

JKG said...


I was going to start by saying, "I'm having a hard time..." but quickly realized that it isn't my hard time at all. So I'll try a different way:

I met you and SH once--you were, sadly, quite sick (though soldierly). I liked SH. But he's a very different cat from you. I suspect you would have dramatically different personality profiles from Myers-Briggs, e.g. (It wouldn't surprise me if your therapist had you take these tests as a means toward helping you understand each other).

I also suspect that he "can't or won't articulate" these things because they'd really hurt your feelings and he isn't interested in doing that, but can't get past them one way or another.

But these are just guesses. I don't know you, really. I certainly don't know Anton. I know it's common for friends to simply commiserate with each other; to reflect emotion back and validate worries, etc. Somehow, however, I feel uncomfortable doing that in this setting about this issue (your marriage and family).

I love what I know about you and them through your blog and my brief visit to your home. But while I'll continue to read these posts with interest, I think I'm going to stop commenting on them--at least publicly. There's a significant presence missing in the conversation (SH) and I just don't know enough to feel like I might be helpful.

I'm writing this because I read the certainty with which some of our blog-friends comment on this matter. I know you to be circumspect and in some degree self-reflective. But I hesitate to add my voice.

The analogy that comes to mind is that of a counselor whose client is coping with a problem in the next room. The door opens, client comes through and reports. Advice is given, client leaves. Repeat. The advisor relies on the advisee to report, but the problem is complex and the solution demands access to the mind of her client's co-campaigner. In such a circumstance, any advice is just as likely to be dangerous as it is to be helpful.

Good luck to you both.

jane said...

love your blog. heaven knows how i found it, but i've been reading it and totally loving you for months. have no advice, just good thoughts for you and also want to thank you for your unflinching honesty. it rocks.

Silliyak said...

Damn, Jim beat me to it. That's JUST what I was going to say.
So I'll say something else which won't be nearly as good. From my advanced years, I see the comments as "We care/love you" If you find nuggets in there that ring really true "Take what you can use and leave the rest".

Anonymous said...

Hard times, DH. I've been reading and wondering what I might usefully offer to you. From my perspective as perhaps an older reader, I would say that we all tend to lose the plot from time to time. Relationships are bloody hard to maintain and I think the pressure on us to be brilliant at relationships is enormous - while jen in or's comments are perfectly valid, they are a little unrealistic because they imply the ability of each of us always to know what to do and how to behave regardless of enviromental influences and internal responses. We get sidetracked, head down blind alleys, get into unhelpful thought/emotional patterns very easily and we're being bombarded all the time with messages from society/media/friends about how things 'should' be.

You may know that I've worked in the therapy field and one of the most interesting pieces of research to come out of family therapy is that what seems to work is when couples stop wanting each other to be perfect and start to accept each other's imperfections and the relationship's imperfections - basically developing tolerance.

The most useful thing you could probably do in therapy is to find out what you both want - do you want to stay together? (he seems to be indicating that he does even if he doesn't know how to do it). What would an acceptable relationship look like? What would you each be doing (and check out what difference it would make if you were doing those things - we often speak in code - for example, you could ask SH what difference it would make if you drank less - the fact that he didn't notice that you have been would suggest that he's using that as 'code' for something else he wants). What are the core elements of your relationship that *must* be in place? What (behaviours, forgettings, stupidities) could you let pass/tolerate? Rate yourselves on a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 is you're definitely going for divorce and 10 is marriage made in heaven - where are you now? How do you know? What's going well/working right now? Then what's the next step - something you can do in the next few days to start inching back up the scale?

This is a lot more useful and practical than spending time in therapy talking about what each has done and how you 'feel' - those sorts of conversations tend to go round in circles and reinforce bad feelings.

hugs to you both