Saturday, June 14, 2008

the vacation is over

I'm home again, away from the hot sun, biting bugs, and delightful peace of the mountains, back in the fog. I took a last bike ride with Iris this morning before we left. We rode down to the pond (this is called "Birch Lake" officially, but it is no lake. It is a modest-sized pond) and listened to the bullfrogs, and then it was time to pack up and go. Five year-old Lucy was the very last one to leave the dining hall at breakfast, and I apologized to the very polite teenaged staff for being so tardy. At home the pets are all fine, Lucy is watching "Spongebob," and I've already put in some quality time playing Warcraft.

For the last couple of years our annual week at Camp Mather was a chance for the Sober Husband and I to reconnect. We were a team, managing our headstrong offspring, navigating the hordes of middle class San Franciscans, and enduring bear-related mishaps. This year, though, things were off. Everyone expected me to be miserable without any internet in general and the World of Warcraft in particular, but I was fine. Indeed, this was the first time I really personally enjoyed Camp Mather: I found the woods beautiful, I loved going an entire week without getting into a car, and I felt like a little kid tearing around on my beautiful new bicycle. Lucy and Iris were happy, of course, in little kid heaven. Who wasn't into it? The Sober Husband.

For days, he was distracted, uncommunicative, and apathetic. Our friends noticed his lack of participation or interest. He wouldn't have a glass of wine while waiting in the dining hall line or over dinner (it's traditional for families to bring wine to dinner). Usually we play lots of badminton, but this year, it was like pulling teeth to get him to consent to one game (I'm not much for sports-like games, but I do love me some badminton. Playing badminton is one of the few times my mind switches off, and when a good volley is on, all I am aware of is the shuttlecock). He read the history of solid waste I'd given him instead of watching Lucy and Iris at the pool. When I was tired of his obvious desire not to be there, I encouraged him to go off to check his email, drive until he got a signal on his iPhone (note to San Franciscans: the closest iPhone coverage to Camp Mather is waaay off in Groveland, and there it exists only on the back porch of Al's Cafe). He complained that I asked him to upload an entry to my blog. The only time he seemed happy was during the Cowboy Breakfast Ride I made him take Thursday morning with Iris Uber Alles (Iris moaned at length about having to set an alarm and rise early, but evidently the trip was magical. They rode down a canyon, stopped for a hearty outdoor breakfast cooked by actual cowboys, and then rode back through meadows filled with wildflowers, arriving at camp three hours after leaving).

On Thursday evening Iris was very hungry, so I walked with her to the dining hall early. Lucy was still playing with a little friend from a nearby cabin, and we expected the Sober Husband to join us when Lucy was ready for dinner. Indeed he stopped by our table to tell us that he and Lucy were in line, but that Lucy had been invited to eat with her friend's family. Iris and I had eaten all of our oddly magnificent zucchini saute and asked him to get us more. Later he stopped by and scraped the zucchini off his plate for us, but then vanished. We were puzzled, as we'd expected him to join us after carrying Lucy's tray for her, and after we finished eating, we went looking for him. I found him talking animatedly to Lucy's friend's mother, gazing deeply into her eyes and bending forwards close to her. The two of them were oblivious to anyone else, particularly Iris and I, and they made it clear they didn't want Iris and me to join them. I gave the husband a glare of death and informed him that we were going back to our cabin.

Later we saw the husband of that family stride past to his cabin. After that, we saw Lucy and her little friend run by, giggling. It was another half hour after that before the Sober Husband showed up, smiling. I am not normally one to be insecure or jealous, but I was outright livid. While he was being so distant and joyless all week, I could excuse it on the grounds that he was distracted, thinking of work, etc... But to see him so happy and animated, flirting with another woman was a slap in the face for me. It made his lack of enjoyment personal. What was the husband's excuse for this? He said that he has "problems" with me that he feels "unable to articulate." This discussion deteriorated.

After a night's sleep, I told him first thing in the morning to clear out and leave us alone for the day. I wanted to spend the last day of the trip with people who considered me witty and intelligent, not someone who disagreed with everything I said when he deigned to pay any attention to me. When he came back at dinner time, I told him that I would like to discuss financial arrangements for a trial separation.

Ever since he started his job at Doggyo, he's been abstracted and distant. Unlike the children, I've been genuinely happy for him that he has such a fulfilling job, but it's taken a toll on our family life. The children miss spending lots of time with him. He and I have grown apart; once Lucy remarked, "Daddy doesn't kiss Mommy any more. He is only for Doggyo." We used to periodically call or email each other throughout the workday; now I feel that any contact from me is an imposition, and so I try to limit that contact. He's no longer interested in doing things with me; I asked him in particular to go to a play I'm dying to see, and he put it off and put it off (in the past, we often went to the theatre together and even donated to various smaller theatre groups). On the rare occasions we go somewhere together, he doesn't want to hold my hand, whereas he used to be very affectionate.

On top of that distance, the Sober Husband has taken to doing things which he knows I don't want him to do, in a sort of "screw you" manner. For example, last year he promised me that he "couldn't possibly ask" me to commit to going to Martha's Frigging Vineyard at his mother's command for a family reunion; this year, he used emotional blackmail and all sorts of pressure. I asked him not to go to Chicago for his friend's funeral, as he'd been out of town several times, including to keep vigil at the friend's deathbed, and he had already attended a wake, AND the trip meant his being away on Mother's Day, surely the one day of the year a Drunken Housewife should be allowed to sleep in and not have to drag around making breakfast for whiny, father-missing children. He ignored me and booked the trip. Maybe the most maddening was the weekend he spent Sunday playing golf with coworkers after I asked him to do something with the children and requested that he PLEASE not play golf that day (he'd had many, many work obligations that week, including after hours mandatory team-building exercises which had led to his having virtually no time with the children that week and me having no break, either). The only bright side of that was that one of the golfing party uploaded a video to the web of the Sober Husband repeatedly windmilling and whiffing (oh, how the children howled with merry laughter).

The Sober Husband was completely gobsmacked by my request for a separation. "I would have said I was happily married." That line brought forth a bitter response, indeed. It doesn't feel like a marriage of equals; it feels more as though he treats me like a rather idiotic au pair. This really is like a horrendous illustration of the feminist party line that a woman makes a horrible, horrible mistake for which she must atone drastically when she decides to stay home with her children (somehow I never hear stories of how stay-at-home fathers ruin their lives).

So what next? I haven't felt able to carry through with my demand because it's stupid fucking Father's Day. What kind of a woman throws her husband out of the house on Father's Day? Sigh. And do I need to rush out and get some form of job now, right when the children are out of school and needing to be watched all day? Dammit.


hughman said...

this is pretty much what every relationship goes through.

my advice -

ask him what he can promise to you and the girls.

tell him what you can promise in return.

stick to these boundaries.

ressurect what had you attracted to him in your mind.

ressurect what attracted him to you.

if all else fails, give him am ultimatum. you and the girls or his sorry ass on the street,

start hoarding money.

get a gay husband.

the Drunken Housewife said...

You know the worst part is that I still AM as attracted to him. I don't have a problem with that. Pathetically enough the problem is with him losing interest in me (and yes, I am very bitter about the stay-at-home parent thing right now, particularly as it was the husband's dearest wish for me to stay home with the children he talked me into having).

I myself would really, really like to have an affair now, and not for the sex: for the conversation.

hughman said...

maybe you just need a prominent friend to distract you as well? (like a gay husband). they would take care of your emotional needs as well as your time. like Doggyo. you rarely write about friends who you spend time with. you just might need to expand your boundaries. make HIM jealous.

btw, i don't think he was flirting with the woman at the camp. i mean, come on. it was probably some nerd thing about the new iphone.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Oh, it was flirting, all right.

hughman said...

also, "have an affair now, and not for the sex: for the conversation." = GAY FRIEND!!! HELLO!!

you live on the gayest place on the planet! get with the plan!

plus you have ME!

hughman said...

i dunno. flirting and nerding out are very similar.

both involve an extreme ignorance of the external world. nerds tend to ignore all non technological language. anything not involving BACIC is just white noise.

hacking is also key. hacking is like a little O to these people. not the real thing, but something like masturbation you accept as a standby.

it ain't you honey. tie him up and strap one on. he'll remember why he came to that restaurant.

Missy said...

My heart breaks for you right now. And all the reasons you listed were really, really big ones--any one of which would have provoked a serious come to Jesus meeting for me.

At first I didn't agree with Hughman but I thought about it and maybe I half agree. We went through this spell when older DD was a baby, when DH was depressed about a job situation, and the ILs were yanking our strings. But I have to say the depression was the biggest factor, and that doesn't seem to be the situation here.

I know what you mean about the conversation. The lack of interest would hurt like hell. It's not a small thing.

You're a strong, smart, beautiful and talented woman(Hughman, cue the music, please.) I think you did the right thing in saying "enough" til it gets better. And if it doesn't...well, then, take that when it comes.

(((())))) Missy (who's here for you along with all your friends.

2amsomewhere said...


You know, things aren't exactly warm and fuzzy here. And, yes, I probably immerse myself in my work to forget about the limbo I live in, but I still try to treat my estranged spouse with some degree of kindness, getting up with the kids on the weekend, making an occasional run to the DQ when the PMS monster visits, etc. Why he can't treat you with more consideration is beyond me.

I'm not exactly one to be giving out sage advice, given that I'm dealing with a collapsed marriage, and I'm not exactly what you'd call "bullish" on the effectiveness of the institution these days, so I'll let someone else do the talking...

Self-proclaimed "divorce buster" Weiner-Davis would say "go make yourself happy and have fun without him (within the scope of fidelity)." Of course, when you've got to manage the kids and the cast of animals, it's hard to get a moment free.

I hope things improve for you.

(raises a sangria in commiseration)


P.S. -- The Mrs. found herself an apartment and is moving out at the beginning of August. There are glimmers of light at the end of that long tunnel.

hughman said...

melissa -

thanks ( i think) for your support.

the bottom line is i support whatever the DH decides. she is, as you noted, a smart independant woman and anything she chooses is not for me to judge.

i have been in many a similar situation and wish i had such a caring output to give me different perspectives.

hughman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hughman said...

fyi, the deleted post was me. nothing mean, just that i am retarded and was possibly drunk. oops!

the Drunken Housewife said...

Hugh, you really did strike a strong point: I've let my friendships and social life atrophy. Some of my favorite friends have moved away; I've had fallings-out with others (in particular I have not succeeded well at keeping up friendships with childless people). Also, I've let the children & their schedules & the husband & his schedule pre-empt me and anything I feel like doing. It's completely asinine. I do have friends I adore, but spending time with them is always problematic (juggling their work & children & spouses along with my children & spouse seems so crazy).

I used to take dance classes on a regular basis, and I cut it out largely a financial basis. Adding it back in would require getting the husband to be home on time for me to get there, something which seems impossible. I had a lot of anger in the past when he was late and I couldn't get to dance class, so it seems easier just to not go.

hughman said...

see! you need to reassert yourself! dance classes are a great thing! they couldn't cost more than the cost of a stupid iPhone!

jeez louise, you need to take care of yourself. please. call me everyday if you need to. you have resigned yourself to a small circle of interest you hadn't before. therefore, you've turned your interest inwards where it just bounces off the walls you've invisioned.

spread out!! there is so much more for a vibrant, smart woman like you.

i love you and only want you to be happy.

Anonymous said...

Oh, DH, I'm so sorry you guys are going through this.

Have you considered counseling? I think couple's counseling can be useful because you guys will be "on the same team" when you are writing the check each week. And it can really help you to HEAR each other when a third person says, "Sober Husband, what I hear DH saying is, 'when you never come home from work she feels like shit'."

If you do have to rush out and find a job at least you know you are wildly employable (unlike me, who likely couldn't get a job at burger king)

I consider you my friend, even though we live so far apart. Will you still be taking your "back east" trip in July? Because I will be there from the 11th through the 27th.

I would immediately start making a regular schedule of outings, even if you don't feel like it now. The SH will be required to come home and do his job as parent, and it won't take long for the curative effect of being with others to take hold.

email me if you want to chat.

Kim Porter

Missy said...

Hughman, I definitely agree. (And I think you're brilliant with the relationship advice.) But most importantly DH you're been giving up and giving for everyone else. Being able to count on some time for yourself on Sunday afternoon shouldn't require an act of Congress or United Nations level negotiations.

My DH had some thoughts, being ten years older than SH. Death of friend/fun new company full of 20/30 year olds/40 something SH equals classic midlife crisis. The whole Doggyo experience is a big part of this, but you knew that already, and the girls knew it first. It's just the convenient excuse right now.

Hugs (())) and no you don't have to do anything for Father's Day.


hokgardner said...

I am so sorry your week away ended on such a low note. I wish I had some sage advice, but I'm not sure I do. I will restate what others have said: take care of yourself.

I'll be thinking of you and the girls.


Anonymous said...

Hey DH!!

I'm sorry about this development. A question -- are you still going to the Vineyard?

Some thoughts on the situation:

Counseling -- find a good one. It can work wonders. It can also suck, so find a good one.

Computer -- get away from the computer and get back to the real world. Find some birds of a feather, not fellow moms, etc. -- people who are into vegetarian cooking, reading, gardening, stuff you like -- They could be 20, 40, 60 years old -- dust yourself off and get yourself out.

Resentment -- as I read today, that old saying, resentment is a poison you drink to make someone else sick -- Start putting yourself on the to do list -- Get a haircut, take that dance class, start devoting some time to what brings you joy.

I hope things improve -- it is worth putting in the effort to get back on track.


Anonymous said...

holy crap, i was so not expecting a post like this. i am sorry that your week at camp mather turned into this.

i really wish i were in SF now so i could drown your sorrows in a big cocktail.

i should send my lonely gay friend over to keep you company - he lives near bi-rite market.

still in shock.

Anonymous said...

When I acted like the Sober Husband, it was because I'd already decided that I was done with my relationship - but hadn't gotten around to telling her. Ended up moving out for six months. Somewhere in there, we found a new path that worked for us.

Good luck to you.

Dread Pirate Davi said...

I have become a HUGE fan of your blog in the past week, week-and-a-half. I honestly thought you and the SH had a great dynamic going on. I'm truly sorry for you. I've known the sorrow of one divorce, I can't imagine a second one. Hopefully this will be a wake up call for him, and things will slowly start to go uphill for you. However, if he ignores the signs, well...lucky for you, you're a lawyer. I'm sure you know what to do.

I've got my fingers crossed for the best.

Missy said...

I read your blog entry aloud tonight to my husband. He said the biggest thing that bothered him was the SH comment that he couldn't talk to you about certain things. He said, "You and I argue like crazy but there isn't anything I don't want to talk to you about even to the point of talking to much about it." (22 years of marriage now.)

I hope you had a peaceful day, dear DH. And FWIW I think you did the right thing in what you said.

I'm thinking of you.

((())) Missy

Joyce said...

Honey, I really think this is just a bump on the path of true love. You guys have so many good years together! Don't throw it all away because of one crappy year (or how long has it been? Not nearly as long as the long years of happiness)! I don't think you'll be happier without him, or he without you. I know he really loves you. I have seen it demonstrated MANY times. It does sound like he's been neglectful...I have to kind of agree with Melissa here, sounds like ML crisis to me. He needs to wise up. I hope you asking for a separation shocks him into working on it.

When Phil and I were getting married, I talked to a lot of couples who had been married a long time, and almost all of them said there were times when they HATED their spouse. Many actually broke up for a time. But they recognized they had a good thing, and how rare it is, and they worked it out and things got better. I hope the Mather trip is a turning point for you and A, because you guys really do have a great marriage, even if it's in a bit of a crap period.

I do admire your honesty. This is why I have been reading your blog for so many years, you are always honest with us. Thank you.

Silliyak said...

A gambling man would take out a life insurance policy on the contractor next door.

JKG said...

When I was young, between the ages of 10 and 13, my parents went through a very difficult time. It was also a difficult time for me and middle sister, who were old enough to recognize that all was not well on the home front.

They seriously entertained divorce. They worked through 3 different marriage councilors before finding one that they both had trust in. This was particularly difficult for my father, I think, who was not naturally conditioned to either 1)explore and express his emotions, particularly ones which may imply some weakness, or 2) then disclose those very private and difficult things to a paid third party for "facilitation" (which can sometimes feel like evaluation and therefore judgment).

It was not an easy process. And it was a process--one which continued for years as they strove to both reconnect and to negotiate new terms. People change, I guess, and the person who you first met and fell in love with (of a kind) is very likely not the same person years later--even if you believe yourself to be.

This kind of work can be successful. I know because my parents are still married and have independently confessed to being happier in the marriage now (in their early 60s) than they ever were before. They are dedicated to each other in a way only companions of full long lives can be.

The one thing that they gleaned from this journey and struggle that I think might be of some use to you, my lovely DH, is this:

Both individuals must be devoted not to the other, but to the marriage--a virtual third. The negotiation of new terms and connections has as its first goal the creation of a third entity: the marriage. An edifice whose architecture and purpose the two of you collaborate on and devote yourselves to.

If you can enlist SH in that work, you may find that the two of you can succeed. I think you can. I also think SH is going to need some help in first identifying the reality of the problem and committing himself to helping you to address it.

I offer this humbly, as one without almost all of the responsibilities and obligations that make up the substance of your life.

Good luck.

JKG said...

PS: I might post another cautionary note based on the reports of my parents:

No matter how blameless you may be (and you may be), it is very likely that you will have to stretch in some painful ways as well. It might feel unfair. It might also be necessary.

Amy said...

I am so sorry to read this. I hope that you are feeling better by the time I write this. I sent you a gchat earlier.

I think Jim and Joyce both gave excellent advice. Divorce is painful and expensive. I really hope this works out for you.

hughman said...

jim, joyce and janet (all Js!!) gave excellent advice.

i've been through couple therapy myself. granted it was unsuccessful because my evil ex lied through the whole thing but it definately gave some insight as to what i wanted from a relationship.

get an impartial counseler. make sure you express yourself fully. don't touch the SH during the session. express your desires clearly.

if the SH doesn't want to go, take that as a sign. both of his emotional state and his willingness to solve the issue. confont him on this. after all, he's a grown man who should be ready to confront his relationship issues. he's a father, for christ's sake, and these issues will therefore haunt him all his life.

you can not have a lack of communication or an unwlillingness to do in any relationship. friend, lover, BF, GF or spouse.

my ex and i would get into fights and he'd say "Whatever". i told him it was basically a FU and i was NOT willing to hear that.

you shouldn't either. i'm like you, i want to talk out things even if they end shady. at least they are out. being out is a great relief and freedom you get to experience even if he robs himself of the freedom it affords.

i told my 72 year old aunt about this today, who's been married to her high school sweetheart for over 59 years. she's also always been a stay at home mom raising 4 kids. she told me to tell you you need to get a life of your own as well. men, she told me, tend to be old roots that refuse to move their ground. like you, she's a traveling flower and has managed to grow a bush around his grumpy. stiad root and is happy to reveal her flowers to those who can see them,


Carol Ann said...

As you know, Mark and I went through a really bad patch a few years ago, and counseling really helped us. So, I second janababy's suggestion to find a good counselor. The only other thing I can say is that you have my complete support in whatever you decided to do. I'm just so sorry that you're going through this.


Joyce said...

And you know, I truly love you and would marry you in a second. Maybe your SH and mine can get married! And then we can raise all the kids in a groovy lesbian household.

I know you're sad right now. It's going to work out. HE LOVES YOU. It is as clear as the nose on your face. He has been a poop lately, but he loves you. I wouldn't say it if it weren't true. Phil says so too, and you know he's not blowing smoke. Don't read these messages and think he's done with the marriage, it's just not so. He was just taking you for granted, which is lame, but does not indicate that he's over you, or moving on.

Marriage is so fucking hard. You really do have to work on stuff. I hate that. I'm so lazy, I just want to cook and sew and read, not do any more goddamn work when the kid is finally in bed.

Feel free to phone me anytime to whine, ok? I promise not to "should" you all over the place.

Captain Steve said...

I am so sorry, DH! It makes me so sad that you have to go through this. For the record, I think that you are witty and fantastic, and I would totally having fabulous caffeine and alcohol fueled conversations with you and beg you to tell me about the Burning Man. I have no marriage advice to offer, having never been married, so I apologize for my ignorance.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone else's comments, and am sorry you're going through this. One thing I'd like to point out about DH needing to be home for you to take dance class, and you being afraid you can't rely on him ... remind his sorry ass if he continues to be an ass and you do kick him out, he'll need to be home with the young 'uns he requested you to have when he has visitation with same young 'uns!

Hopefully it doesn't get that far. All the best to you, and do know that we all care!

/dawn (dfratzke)

Freewheel said...

DH, I wish you the best. I think Hughman has some good advice. No, not "tie him up and strap one on."

I'm referring to the gay friend. My wife is always venting to her gay friend. I say, better him than me. It's like free therapy. Not sure what's in it for him.

Anonymous said...

I have nothing to add wisdom wise that hasn't already been said, but I sure was bummed to read this entry. My best wishes to you though.

I had finally thought of what I wanted you to write as my photo prize, but it seems trivial and silly now, so I will wait.

My thoughts are with you.


Caroline said...

Wow ... didn't see THAT coming.

I agree with much of this advice, esp. that about counseling, etc., to try to save the marriage. On the other hand, having witnessed a friend's recent divorce, I also suggest you lawyer up - at least by putting one on retainer or whatever the term is (Of course, you're a lawyer! So you'd know!). Get a mean sumbitch, too, so you can get a nice chunk of those Doggyo dollars if need be. Plus! If you get the best lawyer in town on YOUR side, HE can't get 'em! Ha!

Leslie said...

I read this post and left. Then I came back.

You've gotten great advice.

Having little kids was the toughest time of my life. While I don't love teendom, it leaves me much more able to be ME and to focus on Car-man (my husband). When they are little, kids just suck everything out of you. I know that I wouldn't change that for anything (and I bet that's true for you too). But it's still a problem. It needs recognition, acceptance and problem solving. This coordinates with all the advice you're getting--find YOU and work on coupledom.

Keeping my fingers crossed for you.

Silliyak said...

Lots of good advice for a sad, but very common situation.
Depending on your level of communication, you may tell him that "I" said "a job is a poor mistress" and that, by example, he is teaching his daughters how they should expect their future spouses to treat them.
Phases don't end when we become "adults"
Please do not use the above as ammunition, but just outside perspective.

Alison said...

Oh crap. That sounds like a very sucky situation.

There's been some good advice from others here - definitely better than anything I can offer. Just deep, deep commiseration from me & I hope everything works out for the best.

Vodalus said...

I agree about counseling, especially since he thought everything was fine. That indicates he assumes the marriage will last through this period. And it will give you both a safe-space to air your grievances. A blog is of limited catharsis and we aren't exactly an unbiased audience.

(I live way out in Berkeley, but I could do some free baby-sitting. Or take over some foster kittens if needed.)

hughman said...

ok so i've checked this blog hourly, worried and anxious. i've read all the graceful comments and noted all the well wishes.

however, i think for all of us i can say, WHAT THE FUCK HAS HAPPENED?? are you ok? what have you done? what has the SH done? how are lucy and iris???

ok... deep breaths... i don't mean to put you under any pressure. i'm sure you have a lot on your plate right now.

but STILL!?! please, in even the smallest way, take us out of this torment.

cause we love you and need to know. for the children. any and all children. even the ones in India want to know how you are. sally struthers wants to know.

that is all.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Oh, damn, I feel so sorry for not posting. I intended to today, but it's been a bit crazy. I'll put up a short update.

Thank you, everyone, for the advice and feedback. It is all immensely appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Mostly good stuff. Except the lawyering up stuff. That's the dumbest goddamn thing I've seen in a while. And I say that as a lawyer. You're nowhere close to needing that.

Trouble said...

I'm so sorry to hear this. I was divorced three years ago, and while it was necessary for me, I still hate to see other people go through it. I don't have any advice, but I'm thinking of you.