End of Our Ropes

If I compiled every letter I’ve written my husband over the years, I’d have at least a short novel.  It wouldn’t get published, though, because it’s fairly repetitive.  I think this is a sign to me that I’m asking for things I’m never going to get.

Two friends of mine recently severed ties with their boyfriends.  They are both in their 30s like me.  I have many different kinds of friends, like we all do.  Some of them are supportive and have been for years (and patient, might I add) and some of them, not so much.  Earlier this year one of them essentially told me that I should just “get over it” or “leave.”  Easy for someone to say who is not standing in my place.  I believe that she meant well and tried not to take it too personally, but it stuck with me and stumped me for a few months.

I really do try and remain positive.  I’ve been through a lot and rising above my natural gift for negativity is not easy, but I’m better at it now than I always have been.  I didn’t want to write about this constant marital turmoil for many months after my friend gave me her very blunt opinion about what she thinks I should do with my life.  Obviously, she isn’t the person I confide in anymore.  Nor do I rely on her support.  I still love her as my friend and she is supportive of me in other very important ways.  But it changed the dynamics of our friendship in a small way, forever.

It’s a fairly simple equation there… I realized that I could not get that kind of support from her anymore, and I decided after a few weeks of wondering what to do – to just accept it for what it is.  Love her anyway, set some new expectations, and move on and continue enjoying her as she is – no more, no less.

So why can’t it be like that with my husband?  Why isn’t it that simple?  I look at my friends who have just embarked on new chapters in their lives… they have decided “This is where you stop and I start.”  They have drawn a line in the sand and kept it there.  This is not without struggle and strife, mind you.  Both of them worked as hard as one can work to “fix” what was broken.  They both sacrificed, examined, and changed things about themselves along the way.  They both grew from their relationships… and they grew so much that they realized individually that their growth simply could not continue if they remained in their relationships.

So, this is not the first time I’ve lived vicariously through my friends who are seemingly much stronger and braver than I am.  I can’t draw that line in the sand, and although I’ve said in many ways, nicely and not so nicely, “This is where you stop and I start,” it hasn’t exactly held much weight because I’ve essentially “stopped” as well.  Only I haven’t.  I’ve kept growing, and the more I’ve grown the clearer things have become, and the clearer things have come and the less he moves with me, the more angry I get.  The point that now, the anger is almost crippling.  I am starting to believe that even at this point if he agreed to counseling or showed me any kind of valiant effort, it is already too late.  And, as is evident by the fact that I’m even writing all of this down, I am only getting stronger and braver by the day.

For years, I internalized everything and the only thing any kind of dynamical dysfunction in our (or any other) relationship crippled, was me.  After years of therapy and epiphany, I’ve stopped doing that.  It’s improved my relationship with my entire family… I’ve forgiven my dad for so many things and accepted him as the human being that he is, imperfect like the rest of us.  As I realized in all this therapy, however, just because it’s “easier” now and I’ve learned to cope with our dysfunction – it is still very present.  That is why the holidays bring stress and too much family time sends me over the plank a bit.  But I have medication for that… ;).  I think in all of this self-analysis, one major realization I had was how comfortable I was with all that dysfunction when I met my husband.  If I met him today, and the series of events that occurred even within the first 3 months of our relationship happened again, I’d have no trouble laughing that off as a “good try.”  I’d laugh with my girlfriends about how this guy thought I’d be his princess, when I’m actually a QUEEN.  I’d joke about his utter lack of selflessness, and about how pompous and proud he was.  I’d have been sad because his good qualities are so immensely good –  he has a good heart, he’s adorably attractive, he has an amazing perspective on life and the world, and his dreams are admirable.  But it would be a brief sadness… and I’d move on to someone who was a bit more aware of themselves and of what it takes to please and love and show care for another human being.

So is it really fair of me to stop the relationship in its tracks and expect him to be different, when he’s really the same person he always was?  This thought has kept me around as well. I’ve realized that it isn’t his fault.  I understand that I’m the one who has changed.  I understand that it’s not fair for me to expect him to just magically know what to do.  So, gently (and not so gently) over the last couple of years, I’ve introduced him to the new me, told him what I need to feel loved, and waited and hoped that it would sink in and that he’d want to grow and learn these things.  I believe that he can.  And the hurt that I feel at the true, emotionally raw moments when I am able to feel the immense sadness that is the death of our connection and thereby our love, stems from the realization that he is not interested in changing because he doesn’t think he needs to.  He thinks love is or isn’t, he doesn’t think it is something that you have to work on.  I’ve tried explaining it all to him, so many times, in so many ways, and I am just tired now and tired to the point hopelessness.  And the anger that turns to anxiety that turns me into a person and a mother that I don’t want to be… is becoming my line in the sand.  And it’s getting easier and easier to imagine walking away from that line and leaving him behind.  And he’s just letting it happen, and that breaks my heart.

I realized after our most recent, and most honest talk that we’ve ever had, that we are both at the end of our ropes.  I guess, I thought we were hanging on to the same one – but I don’t think we are.  We’re hanging on to two different ropes and swinging in two different directions.  We’re both physically and mentally exhausted, and we’re miserable.  And as he pointed out, there’s a little bit of hate in our arguments now.  And somehow we magically agree, now, that neither one of us is prepared to remain in a space where hatred exists.

Every time I look at my son, I see my husband’s good qualities… and I start to imagine what life would be like for him if we were apart.  It’s not a fairy tale… it’s not something I ever wanted to imagine would happen, but if we keep up the stress level that our relationship is creating in both of us 80% of the time now, he will learn the wrong things about love, just like I did.  And neither one of us wants that to happen.

I hope that I can keep writing like this.  I feel better every time I do, regardless of how scary the words are when I read them later.  Truth isn’t always comfortable, though, is it?

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About Ellie

Everybody needs his memories. They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door. ~Saul Bellow To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward. ~Margaret Fairless Barber, The Roadmender View all posts by Ellie

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