I don’t want to leave my house

I’m not sad. I’m not depressed, at least not in the typical sense. I don’t feel scared or lonely. I just don’t want to leave my house.

I am comfortable. It’s blustery and cold outside. My hands lose their softness and become rough. My face turns red with each wind gust. The wet snow blows through the air and surrounds me. I’m forced to “be” in cold, snow, and wetness. I just want to sit in my favorite chair or by our fireplace or curled up with my dog.

Maybe it’s more than the elements though. Could it be the only person here to really hurt me is…well me. I’m accustomed to the people in my house. They no longer injure me or maybe I just expect very little anymore from them. I have lost my ability to hope in anything more.

But out there…I had hope. I thought I’d have a career, people who wanted to be around me, and my own talents that could take me far. But I find myself faced with the fact that even out there, people are just disappointing. There’s not much worth leaving my house for it seems.

I left my job and the beneath the rubble was the truth. Back stabbing co-workers and a job that might as well left me for dead. I just can’t fit into the corporate life. I’m not a robot or an uncaring machine. I actually want to create, to grow, to love. But I find that this is an exception. Most people don’t know how to embrace beauty or love. They just want to protect their image even if it means stomping out yours.

So I don’t want to leave my house. I can create my own things. I can hug my dog and feel loved. I don’t have to be treated like a loser because I don’t fit in. I know my house–the way it creaks and groans, it’s weird little characteristics. I have just as much of a chance of “being something” in here as I do out there. Except no one is here to stop me or tell me I’m wrong or blast my ideas up with dynamite. I don’t have to be around lazy jerks or liars or people with no moral compass. I don’t have to sacrifice my health for a job.

I don’t want to leave my house because out there, what lies in wait is condemnation, judgment, and a place where all my dreams go to die. It’s a fabricated story that we are all told from birth that growing up and getting a job “out there” will make us happy and successful. You will work hard and have so little to show for it except the physical aches and pains from being chronically stressed, which turns into anxiety and panic attacks. And out there you get fancy titles which amount to the biggest pile of bull shit I’ve ever seen.

So no, I don’t want to leave my house. It’s safe and I will find my way to doing what I love and earning my own wages and not feeling like I sold my soul to the devil to do it. I don’t want to leave my house because in here I know who I am and what I need and I don’t have to grovel and beg for human decency.

Maybe someday I’ll leave this house but it won’t be for the corporate circus.

He’s not a narcissist

Over the past month, I’ve concluded my husband is not a narcissist. He’s not healthy either. I’m guessing he’s either suffering from a depressive disorder or he’s highly autistic. So where does that leave me?

I feel like I’m a parent not a wife. And it’s extremely hard to deal with him being cold as ice one day and hot the next. Usually his cold days are more consistent. Then out of the blue, he’ll suddenly be into me or want to be intimate or appear caring. This is nothing short of emotional abuse. I’m chop liver most days until I’m not. I have no idea how to deal with that except to not trust any of it. None of it is real. If I give in to his demands on the hot days, he’ll still go back to being cold. So why exert the energy?

I told him yesterday he’s really lucky I don’t like men right now because he does everything to push me away. If I was anyone else, I might be tempted to have an affair. The biggest issue for me with that is I no longer trust myself. I attract weirdos and unhealthy people so I can’t trust myself to even cheat well, if there was ever such a thing. Plus I have more dignity than that. I don’t need a man. I will find my own way out.

He knows our marriage is shitty yet he doesn’t try very hard to fix it. He still sits on his computer for hours, ignores me, escapes his life through TV and tasks, and then expects me to feel loved. It doesn’t work.

My kids are getting older and closer to moving out and I’m holding on to the past shreds of our marriage until they all graduate. My youngest will graduate in 4.5 years. My plan is not to act happily married. It’s just to be good parents to our kids and have less and less to do with him unless he changes drastically and becomes decent somehow. I’m not holding my breath.

I don’t need much to be happy. A small place to live with an uncluttered space. Simple and minimalistic decor. My kids. My dog. And something to be passionate about. That’s all I really need. That’s enough love for me. Being surrounded by daily reminders of how unloved I am is slowly ruining me. But I plan on changing that. He treats his time like he owns it, but it’s running out. I won’t stick out more years with him once my kids are gone.

And I’m sad that my kids are flying the nest. I suppose that’s normal but it reminds me that I don’t have distractions to really see all the damage he’s caused. He’s not a narc but he is only a little less destructive than one.

The Burden Of the Survivor

If I told you I was plagued with cancer, what would you say?

  • Here are some responses I think you might share:
  • You need to fight this
  • Let’s research some highly rated cancer experts to get you support
  • How can we help? Can we offer you a meal or buy groceries?
  • What’s the prognosis? Can surgery help?

You get the idea. The main themes would be how to help get rid of the cancer and how to support me while I’m doing that.

  • Can you imagine these responses?
    • What did you do to let that happen?
    • Maybe you should just accept it for what it is and do nothing. Eventually it might change.
    • It’s not that bad. At least you have insurance.
    • You are blowing this up. Stop throwing yourself a pity party.
    • If you weren’t so bitter, you could’ve prevented this.

    These comments wouldn’t go over too well, would they? Everyone would agree it is insensitive and harsh.

    But this happens all the time. It happens to the woman who is fighting a battle for her life. She is blamed for the outcome, the results, her feelings, and for not trying enough.

    Her cancer is not living inside her but living in her home. And almost worse, he is a man that duped her into believing he was going to improve her life but instead he’s slowly killing her. Her husband is the emotionally abusive, invisible cancer that she must battle. The treatment consists of breaking free, but to do so, she is faced with insensitive comments, blame, and loss of support. It’s likely and exhausting to always be on the defensive and have to explain something that makes no sense.

    How do you explain the craziness of promises to love and honor that are broken with lies and deceit. It’s not easy to describe. If it made sense, the decision to leave or stay would be easier.

    It’s easy to want to pin all the blame on the person who walked away. The truth is, the cancer was what killed the marriage. It daily ate away at the foundations of trust, love, and loyalty. In fact, there never was the foundation to begin with. It was just a lie. While the survivor thought they had a relationship, what they really had was a house of cards. When they fell, the finger was pointed at the woman but no one wants to fault the abusive man who built it that way in the first place.

    It doesn’t matter what others say. Sometimes you just have to run while you can and let the naysayers think what they will.

    If you want to survive cancer, you have to cut it out.

    Stop Begging For a Marriage Fix

    Marriages don’t fall apart in day, a week, or even a year. It’s often “death by a thousand cuts”. If emotional, covert abuse is involved, you won’t see the damage being caused until it’s too late.

    I told a friend today that 10 years ago, I was complaining about all the same things. Every time we stepped foot into a place to get help, I’d secretly be hoping that person could save me…could save us.

    Here’s what my life has looked like:

    • This marriage book might save my marriage
    • This conference might save my marriage
    • Talking to pastors might save my marriage
    • This bible study might make me a better wife and more lovable
    • Losing weight might make him love me better
    • I’ll be a tidy housekeeper so he won’t be upset and I’ll be more acceptable
    • I’ll be a better mom and teach the kids chores and how to be disciplined so he doesn’t have to deal with their bad behaviors
    • Couples therapy might save our marriage
    • Individual counseling will help me be a better wife
    • Medication will help me because I’m reactive and too emotional
    • Writing a compassionate demand letter with boundaries will save our marriage
    • Reasoning and talking will save our marriage

    Reading through this list, it’s all about him. I got lost in the demands of the marriage, in trying to fix it, in trying to make him happy.

    No one wants the death of a relationship to come true. So we run around trying to fix it. It’s easier to avoid the conflict or pretend it’s not painful because change is scary. And sometimes it’s just plain confusing and you don’t even see the bad patterns until it’s too late.

    What to do instead

    I can’t up and move out in this instant, so somehow I have to deal with living in a toxic relationship.

    • I can’t fix my marriage
    • I can’t fix my husband
    • I can’t make everyone happy
    • I can’t change what I have no control over

    I can only change me. I can allow certain things in my life or set boundaries to not allow damaging behaviors into my life. I can improve my mental health by finding things I enjoy. I can focus on mindfulness or get physical exercise. I can eat better. I can get enough sleep. I can change jobs, learn new things, or surround myself with creativity and things that make me joyful. I don’t have to allow anything in my life that I don’t want.

    Is it easy? Hell no.

    I have to save my energy and choose when to speak. I have to make thoughtful choices. Sometimes I feel like I can’t get away from certain things because I live with him. It’s easy to get sucked into the bull shit. I have to be mindful of where I put my energy. Sometimes I’m exhausted.

    I have to learn to accept that I don’t have the marriage I want. I never will. So I have to find my own support until I can leave.

    Support looks like finding ways in my life to make myself happy.

    Ask yourself what things you enjoyed before marriage. What things make you tick? Give you joy? Motivate your passions? Start there. And start doing more fixing of yourself and stop trying to fix a marriage that you can’t fix.

    Leaving to live

    I decided in my heart that I must leave. I’m still hoping things change, but deep down I know I’ll be ok if they don’t.

    It’s hard to walk away from a 21 year marriage and just say “we are done”. So I’m working up the nerve to do a trial separation.

    A trial separation is not legal. It’s simply living apart for a short time. It might lead to divorce. It might lead to change. Really either way, I’m ok.

    Sacrifices

    I talked to my boss today about going full time. The hardest part for me about all of this is knowing I will be financially ruined. I supported him while he worked his way to the top. I raised our kids. I’m now in school trying to start over. I work part-time but my income barely would pay rent. I want my kids to be able to stay with me, so houses for rent aren’t cheap.

    I have to give up my dog. That makes me super sad because she’s my mental health support animal.

    I wish he’d just move out instead. He’s the one who neglected us and made things fall apart. I’m upset that I’m the one that has to leave when he’s ruined this thing.

    New Beginnings & Bad Memories

    On the other hand, I like the idea of a fresh start. No more cluttered house. No more undone projects. I’m tired of being in this place anyway. I open the dish rack and hear his whiny demands about how I didn’t stack the dishes properly. Or I stand by the stove and cook eggs waiting for him to come and fix the temperature. The little ways he talked down to me or treated me like a insignificant nothing is written all over these walls. I wouldn’t miss them. It’s just a house.

    Who Am I?

    So much of my life has been dictated by his wants and his complaints. If he didn’t get his way, I’d hear about it or pay through silence. I think if I separated, I’d no longer be manipulated, gas lighted, or shamed for having a say. I think I’d get my voice back. I think I’d see the light again.

    And I wonder who I am. What things do I like? What makes me tick? What brings me joy? I feel as if I can’t focus on that living with a malcontent who is a chronic complainer. The focus is always on the marriage or how he’s doing better or his fake appeals and apologies. My head can’t be in both places. It is always distracted by the elephant in the room who demands attention.

    Back to My Plan

    I could bemoan this thing forever but the point is I know what I need to do. It’s just logistically hard. I need a full time job. I need to work out the details of getting my own place. I need to figure out the kids. I need to plan for the fact that I might not come back. I need to set up ground rules. So many things…and it’s exhausting.

    I know that it’s what I need to do to find myself and get back to center but the chaos of separating scares me. I’ve settled into patterns to avoid being hurt and I know, faced with just myself, I’ll have some hard work to do to get back to knowing who I really am.

    Setting up Boundaries in Marriage

    The word “boundaries” gets thrown around a lot in some relationship circles. Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what a boundary is. Boundaries are not punishment, a tool that you use to control another person, or vindictiveness. Boundaries are to keep YOU safe.

    Boundaries Protect You

    I recently set a boundary in my marriage. After years of neglect and hurt, I laid down what I wasn’t willing to tolerate any longer because IT HURT ME. I wasn’t trying to control my husband, but was saying “if you hurt me again, this is what will happen”.  It’s important to note that I did this because all other efforts failed. Communication with him wasn’t working so I wrote a letter discussing these boundaries. If he claims he didn’t know, I refer him back to my letter. No need to argue.

    One of my boundaries is that until I see real change in him (which I listed all the things I felt were harming our marriage), that I would not be physical with him. Due to his emotional neglect, avoidance, and isolating behaviors, I put that boundary in place because I felt used when he failed to meet my needs emotionally but expected me to have a sexual relationship with him. This isn’t forever. If after several months, I see consistent, lasting change, then I’ll work back toward us holding hands, hugging, kissing, and sex. But trust has to be re-established. It cannot be quickly fixed and mended.

    brown and white bear plush toy

    Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

    Disrespecting Boundaries

    Unfortunately, my husband has tried to push my boundaries to see what he can get away with. There’s the grabbing my hand, kissing me while I’m half asleep, rubbing my back when I’m in bed. I’ve asked him to stop 2 times now and he still doesn’t listen. When I brought it up again, he walked off mad and then took a nap so he didn’t have to deal with it. (Pouting, sulking, and conflict avoidance speaks to his need to control his time and emotions. Instead of talking it out with me, he gets mad at avoids me. This further proves my point.)

    These actions show me that he doesn’t respect my boundaries, doesn’t think he’s wrong, and isn’t willing to put in the REAL work it takes to make our relationship better. Although he is coming off as loving and saying all the right things, his actions are ruining any good measures he’s attempted because he’s not treating my boundaries with respect.

    The important thing for me is to reassert those boundaries right away when he crosses them. Again, this isn’t vindictiveness. I truly want to have a loving, mutually respectful relationship with my husband, but right now I can’t jump from feeling wounded and hurting to feeling sexually attracted and loved. It doesn’t work that way. If I let him get his way without having to work towards a healthy marriage, then I’m saying “I have boundaries, but I don’t really take them seriously. Go ahead and walk all over me. It’s totally fine if you wound me again.” I’m putting up this boundary because I want a real relationship, not because I want to get pay back for him hurting me.

    The Consequences

    The initial consequences I’ve stated is that if he doesn’t respect my boundaries, he can sleep in a different bed or on the couch. I haven’t told him he’ll have to do this yet, but I probably will especially since I’ve reminded him a few times now of the boundary and he read the letter where I stated this was the consequence. Access to me is a gift. If you can’t respect what I’m asking, then you don’t get access to me. Period.

    If after several months, real change is not taking place, I will bring up the topic of divorce and we will decide to end our marriage. This process will most likely take years to sort out and I’ve felt sad at the though of it coming to that. But it’s a big possibility especially since his words aren’t lining up with his actions.

    Final Thoughts on Boundaries

    One thing I’ve grappled with is love. We’ve heard it said that “love is unconditional”.  And I think we mistake love and respect. I can love my husband, hope for him to change, but still not enable his hurtful behaviors. If there is mutual respect, then we can give ourselves to each other in many ways without limits. But since the trust has been broken over years and years–it would be foolish to allow it to continue. Even with children, we always love them and wish the best for them, but when they do hurtful and rebellious things, it would be unloving to just let them continue in that behavior. Although my husband isn’t my child, I think it’s still good to assert boundaries with consequences.

    If someone is continuing to be hurtful and you feel wounded, boundaries protect you until they can grow up and change. If that isn’t the end result, then it makes it easier to walk away knowing you tried and that they weren’t able to follow through.

     

    Learning to Accept the Loss of Your Marriage

    We try to categorize why people do what they do. We label it immaturity, abuse, low emotional IQ, or even Autism. We want to make sense of why a person can hurt us like they do.

    I am not at the point where I understand the raw emotions of how my marriage has damaged me. Some day I hope to write about how I’ve overcome it. But for now, it’s real and hurts and I can’t fathom how I’ll ever overcome the loss of my 21 years with him.

    I do feel comfortable writing about how confusing it is though. At times people have told me to step into his shoes, to consider his feelings, and to say that he simply is unable to be at the level emotionally that I need him to be. This explains, supposedly, why he ignores, retreats, rejects, and isolates me. But that has never sat well with me. My therapist even suggested he had autism. Am I supposed to feel sorry for him because he has undiagnosed autism?

    Reasons For His Behavior

    And if this sounds a lot like your relationship, I suggest research “Cassandra Phenomenon” or “Ongoing Trauma Relationship Syndrome (OTRS)”.  When I read articles about this, something clicked and I thought “OMG! This is totally him!” But I’m still left with the emotional abuse and feeling diminished as a result. So while it explains his behavior, on some levels, it adds complexity to my already weary brain. And I must conclude, it doesn’t matter how it came to be–it’s killing me slowly and I can’t stay.

    When I read about the reasons, it just added to my grief because not only have I lost 21 years of my life with someone who doesn’t know how to reciprocate, but there is no hope for that changing. To add to that, he also can’t love his own children–not really. To know someone is incapable of giving back love and affection when they have been given loads of love and energy is beyond sad. And now my kids too must suffer (and have suffered) knowing their father doesn’t know how to love them. If it isn’t OTRS, it’s just abuse. Either way, it sucks. And for a person who doesn’t think in black and white, I’m forced to accept that there is no hope here.

    No One Will Believe You

    The hardest part is that you will not be believed. No one will accept that this hard working, dutiful, even friendly man is abusive or damaging you. They’ll blame you for initiating the divorce, even though he divorced you years ago in his heart. Even though he was loving and paid all kinds of attention to you in the beginning, you know that somewhere it changed. Maybe it changed when you started challenging him or it changed right after your wedding day. You may have just chalked it up to differences, so you tried harder to love him and be supportive only to be met with further distance.

    This is the confusion that leads you to extreme thinking. He either is good or bad. To survive, you have made excuses and have run yourself ragged trying to fix it. But now you must accept that there is nothing there or you will die trying to live with someone who can’t love you back.

    I’m still here, detaching from him in a way. We can become addicted to the abuse (trauma bonding). We get stuck in patterns and when we try to get “unstuck” and stop the patterns, we feel a sense of loss. We feel lonely. At least when he was making us feel like crap, he was making us feel something. Now I have to find my own joy and love in the world without him. How do I do that when I come from a place of emptiness and loneliness?

    Ways to Detach From Your Marriage While You Are Still Married

    I can only speak of the positives that I’ve learned through this so far. I’ve not even initiated a divorce as of yet. But I am detaching, which I can speak to. It looks something like this:

    1. Find a supportive person to speak to. If you don’t have friends, seek out a therapist or someone else who will talk to you without judgment. This might be difficult as you might not know who these people are. I reached out to my sister with my hurts and she further hurt me by saying that I wasn’t looking at it from his perspective and I was probably causing him to react the way he did. Sometimes you have to test the waters. I ended up finding friendship through a co-worker and then seeking out my therapist for suggestions. Both have shown me love and support that I can’t get from my husband.
    2. Focus on your self-care. What can you do to love yourself more? What did you used to enjoy before you met him? What are some things you’d love to do now if all your energy wasn’t fixed on your marriage?  I’m learning to be in the moment–sit in the sun, read a book, enjoy my children, go out with friends. I try to get away from him as much as I possibly can. I focus on my work and how to succeed. I laugh at my co-workers. I focus on those moments in the day where I feel a sense of warmth and love and this helps me not feel like I need him to be that for me.
    3. Focus on future plans. If you plan on leaving, what are some thing that you can do to assist that goal? Open up a checking account in just your name? Get a credit card of your own? Get a new job, go to school, or find ways to make new friends? Chances are you probably lost a lot in this relationship and now you need to rebuild yourself financially and with a new support system.

    This is just a start to how I’m growing. Detaching requires to stop putting him first and to put myself first. What does (your name) want to do today? Focus on being a better mom, better friend, and loving yourself more. Read books from authors such as Shannon Thomas, Lundy Bancroft, and others who can explain how to handle psychological abuse and how to detach, even if you don’t leave the relationship.