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Archive for the ‘boundaries in marriage’ Category

To say the last week has been difficult would be a great understatement.

He had been caught. He just didn’t know to what extent when I confronted him. And so he lied. Had he told the truth, would the outcome have been different? No point in wondering that now. Once I began reading out loud to him, the e-mails they had exchanged that were in my possession, my husband realized he could lie no longer and the ugly details were revealed.

He met her 18 months ago . . . It became “inappropriate” early on. I told him he needed to leave. Move out. And he needed to tell the kids why or else I would. I gave him 1 week. He refused. By mid-week he even began to deny everything he had admitted just a few days before. Why wouldn’t he? I’m sure he was thinking that we would fall back into our usual pattern by telling me,

~ “You are blowing things out of proportion”
~ “You are being over sensitive”
~ “It wasn’t what you think”

It didn’t matter. Nothing he could say at this point was going to weaken my resolve.

Despite my husband’s juvenile and desperate protests, (“I’m not going to tell the kids and you can’t make me!) we had a “family meeting” exactly 1 week after the thing that changed everything happened. My younger ones cried. My older ones were angry and demanded him to explain. He couldn’t. And then the dam burst. Every crazy, dysfunctional, hurtful, narcissistic behavior of my husband was confronted . . . By the kids. There was no blatant disrespect, but they held nothing back.

His response? He took off his wedding ring, set it on the table, packed a bag, and left the house. He was gone and I could finally breathe. We all could finally breathe. The toxic energy was gone and now our healing could begin.

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Spending time with an adult ADD “expert” gave me more insight to my husband’s behavior than weeks spent reading books on marriage & ADD, months on the couch of my therapist, and years of unproductive conversations with my husband. Here is the advice she gave me over lunch:

ANGER

“Even though you may feel justified in being angry at your husband for the suffering he has caused you, the inevitable result is that both of you are hurt deeply and your indignation does nothing to help you deal with your anger.”

“You can address the root causes of anger in your relationship by giving back the responsibility for fixing ADD to the partner who has it. While at the same time, taking charge of your own happiness again.”

FORGIVENESS

“The cure for anger? – Forgiveness”

“Blame diminishes each partners ability to be empathetic – it impairs the ability to forgive – it sets up two people as adversaries rather than partners – it provides an excuse to not keep trying.”

“Forgiveness can only occur after anger and sadness have been exposed, expressed and validated.”

MOVING FORWARD

“You should allow yourself to experience sadness, because grieving for what you have not had in your marriage, up to this point, is one of the first steps toward building a new life together.”

“Both partners should grieve over what could have been, but wasn’t because of the unrecognized effects of ADD on your lives. You can’t resolve someone’s grief. Just acknowledge and empathize; don’t dismiss. Over time, grief that is acknowledged and validated will heal.”

“Seek help! A good counselor will help you focus on today’s issues rather than the past.”

HOPE

“When couples learn about ADD and work together to address problematic symptoms, life can improve dramatically.”

TREATMENT

“Deciding whether to treat ADD is the sole responsibility of the person who has it. How to respond to your husband’s decision about treatment is up to you.”

“If the your husband decides against treatment, you will be left with only unpleasant choices:”

1) force treatment
2) force change without treatment
3) give up on change but stay in the relationship                                                (which often results in depression and anger)
4) leave the relationship

MOVING ON

“Your husband might refuse treatment for ADD symptoms, essentially forcing you to “take it or leave it”

“At some point, the situation may become untenable for you and if your husband remains uninterested in treatment, expressing your own needs very clearly in the form of an ultimatum is all that will be left.”

. . . There may be an ultimatum in my future.

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My therapist warned me there’d be days like this. “As you grow stronger,” she cautioned, “the enemy will attack harder. He will use your husband, your children, your circumstances . . . Be ready.”

Another busy day. I had worked an evening shift and after the 45 minute commute, I was ready to crawl into bed once I got home.

My husband was still up, which should have been an indication that something was different. He usually never waited up for me when I worked late.

I had barely shut the bedroom door when he said, “I can not live under the same roof with your daughter another day. Either she moves out or I will. You choose.”

I listened to his version of how the evening unfolded without saying much. The next day, I then asked my children, who had witnessed the blow out, for their perspective.

The kids: Sissy went to the supermarket that afternoon to buy all the ingredients she needed to bake apple pies for us and 2 friends she had invited over to watch the season finale of her favorite show.

My husband: S. made a complete mess of the kitchen using our food to make a complete dinner for her friends, without even asking if it was OK with me.

The kids: When her friends arrived, Dad answered the door and told them that they couldn’t come in.

My husband: I told S. that I was not expecting company and suggested she make a different plan with her friends for the evening.

The kids: Dad told S. that he couldn’t afford to feed her friends and he couldn’t wait for her to move out.

My husband: I want her to be happy, and I told her that maybe she would be happier if she got her own place, where she wouldn’t have to follow my rules. She then starting screaming at me, saying that I’m wrong if I think my marriage and relationship with my sons will improve if she moves out. What was she talking about? What have you told her about our marriage?

She also seemed to know a lot about our finances, saying that you are the one who pays the bills around here. Basically telling me that I have no authority in my own home since I don’t contribute financially as much as she thinks I should. Is this what you are telling the kids? With you influencing them like this, no wonder they show no respect towards me.

(I felt from the beginning of this conversation that my husband had been trying to involve me in the drama of the evening, which is why I chose to just listen. But when he tried to insinuate that I was somehow responsible for it, I had to speak.)

Me: I don’t have to say a word about our marital difficulties for her to be aware that we have issues. Everyone who lives in this house KNOWS what dysfunction goes on here. As for who pays the bills, that’s no secret, either. We have all heard your endless tales of woe as to how broke you always are and can never seem to make ends meet without “help”.

The kids: The situation got out of control, and both dad & S. were yelling at each other.

Me: How did that make you feel?

Kid #5: I made myself as small as I could, so I could be invisible . . .

Kid #3: It made me feel like I want to be NOTHING like my dad when I grow up . . .

“Being a child of a “broken” home is not a label just for kids whose parents are divorced. It’s about not having two parents around that you can look up to and model your life after. It’s about not having someone see the potential in you and speak to it.”

“It’s not just about just having two parents that are still married to each other. We need more than the acknowledgement that we are the children of our parents. We need endorsement, love, and support. And most important, we need to be taught how to use the gifts we have been given.”

“Making a son tough is not a parent’s responsibility. Never telling your daughter that she’s beautiful is not protecting her. Being a parent is about being someone to show your child their place in this world then releasing them into it.”

“A father’s job is to teach his daughter what to expect from a man, and to his son, to exemplify what it takes to be a man. Otherwise, not only will our homes be broken . . . So will we.(Max – Making it MAD)

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Today I am pushing the reset button. Even though the story of my life has not unfolded in the way I thought it would, it is MY story. Time to own it, rather than protest, question, or feel victimized by it. I am still learning how to take responsibility for my responses, so I’ve tapped into the wisdom of others to help me. With every situation I face, when I don’t know what to do, I will read this list.

When I do not feel nurtured or cherished by my husband, I will turn to the Lover of my soul.

I will find a balance between dealing with my own issues, while still being able to help and bless others.

I will stop waiting for my husband to encourage and support me. I will find the consolation, support and encouragement I need from friends who are emotionally able to give it.

I will start asking myself, “How can I use the issues I am trying to run from, and instead, respond in a way that pleases God and grows my holiness?”

While I would love to have a husband on whom I can depend, I will depend on God instead.

I will choose hurt and grief over anger and detachment.

I will no longer be in bondage to the belief that my husband will hurt me, for if (when) he does, I KNOW that “the Lord is close to the broken-hearted (and) He rescues those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps 34:18)

I will hold myself to high standards, regardless of my spouse’s behavior.

I will remind myself frequently that I am not the only Witness to my husband’s behavior. And just because he may act as if nothing is wrong with his behavior, that does not make it true.

I will stop comparing my sin to the sins of others but against the holiness of God.

I will practice powerlessness by letting go of losses, mourning the things I wish were different and try not to live life in a constant state of protest.

I will breathe in the air that heals me and breathe out the air that poisons me.

Psalms 142:1 I (will) pour out my complaints before (You) and tell (You) all my troubles, for (when) I am overwhelmed, You alone know the way I should turn.

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As I have been considering the boundaries (values, characteristics, behaviors) I want to have in my life, I am compelled to look in the mirror with honesty, and face the person I have become over the course of my marriage.

Angry – Pain and anger abound. Even when my husband has done nothing (recently) wrong, my anger is still there. Just below the surface. Anger over every unresolved conflict, every hurt feeling, every bad behavior, and every time I’ve felt disrespected and disappointed.

Disconnected – “Anger and disconnection permeate many interactions with the ADD spouse. Sometimes the anger is expressed as disconnection . . . Some claim that disconnection is the only way to bear the pain, the downside is, the pain is still there . . .” (author unknown)

Discontented – Not being satisfied with what God has already provided. Looking for people or circumstances to bring me happiness. Forgetting that He is more interested in my holiness than my immediate, temporal happiness.

Conscious Blindness – During those times when things are going “well” in my marriage, it is usually because I have chosen not to “see the elephants in the room”. I ignore all the issues that need to be addressed for the sake of momentary peace. A fragile harmony that gives the false perception that we are OK, when in reality, I deem him unsafe, unworthy of reckless abandon of my heart, my trust . .

Manipulative – Instead of being assertive and emotionally mature, I have resorted to manipulation. “As frustration and anger build, the non-ADD spouse may start making less empathetic decisions, sometimes abdicating responsibility. This serves the dual purpose of punishing the ADD spouse and proving the non-ADD spouse correct. The non-ADD spouse is subtly and unknowingly sabotaging the relationship by doing this. And at the same time, complaining that the ADD spouse cannot change.” (G. Pera)

Frustrated – That we’ve gotten to this point and incredulous that we haven’t been able to make things better. The same issues come up over and over again and I am convinced that every bad behavior my spouse has done only proves his incompetence, inconsistency or inconsiderateness.

Hopeless – While anger, disconnection, and manipulation have been a result of my frustration, at times, I am just hopeless. My dreams have been put aside and profound grief pervades the daily difficulties of my life.

There it is. The person I have become after all these years of marriage. It’s an ugly list. I say this not with judgement or self-condemnation, but with resolve. Resolve that the boundaries I will now establish will not depend on the behavior or needs of others. They will be values, characteristics, and behaviors that I must absolutely have in my life as the person I wish to be. And I can think of no better list than the one already written in Galations . . .

Love          Joy          Peace          Patience          Kindness          Goodness              Faithfulness              Gentleness              Self-Control

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Boundaries have always been an elusive concept for me to grasp. In raising my children, it came as a natural part of parenting. But in my marriage, I have never understood the purpose or proper maintenance of them. As a result, they have proved useless to me.

My husband and I recently had a few “good” weeks. But because of our history, I’ve been forced to finally acknowledge that “today’s” behavior will not predict future behavior – despite any “boundaries” I’ve put in place. While I’ve been thankful and appreciative for his thoughtful attention, I no longer have any reason to hope for long-lasting change.

And even with the psychological self-protection this acknowledgment brings to my mind, it provides no protection for my heart. I have come to doubt whether there really is any way to truly guard one’s heart from a spouse, and I rebel at the reality that I need protection from him.

Then, as I was reading about ADD, I came across this chapter written by Melissa Orlov:

Autonomy – a way of setting and respecting personal boundaries.”

“A personal boundary is a VALUE, CHARACTERISTIC, or BEHAVIOR that we absolutely must have in order to live our life as the person we wish to be, in any situation.”

“Boundaries protect who you are.”

Finally, the lightbulb came on. Boundaries were so foreign to me because after many years of being married to a man who showed no respect for my boundaries, they eventually became pointless. But without boundaries, there was nothing protecting who I was. Consequently, I lost my identity and felt invisible, believing it was only his approval that validated my existence. I was no longer the PERSON I once was before this relationship.

With this concept now being illuminated, I went on to read,

Boundaries should be enduring and effective rules that will lead you back to the person you want to be and how you want to live your life in the future.”

“The best boundaries protect and respect. Less effective boundaries are created in response to an argument, or are intended to hurt or punish.”

“In identifying your most important boundaries: “

1) “Think about where your personal boundaries or rules used to be when you were happiest. What was important to you? How did you behave?”

2) “Think about where your boundaries or personal rules are today. What has changed? What boundaries do you wish you had in place, but are currently missing or being ignored by others?”

3) “Where do you want to be in the future?”

“Once you have defined your personal boundaries, create a plan for change and act on it. Begin behaving in ways that are consistent with the person you wish to be.”

“. . . the person I wish to be . . .” Ahhh, another reason why boundaries may have been so baffling to me. So much of my behavior has become based on what I thought was expected of me . . . But now I understand that boundaries have nothing to do with my spouse, my family or my friends. They are completely about ME and MY behavior. This realization demanded I answer the question, “What kind of person do I wish to be? . . .”

Change only happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.

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For my own mental health, I have decided to “unfriend” my husband on Facebook.

Here is the latest post on his wall from a new “friend”:

Hey there!
I would love to catch up with you over lunch, but my schedule has been hectic. Hope you are doing well. Let’s go out sometime soon. We could take a long hike or spend some quiet time together over coffee. I can lend you my ears. Sending you peaceful thoughts.
Until then,
Trista

When I brought it up to my husband, he denied the message even existed. He was offended that I challenged him to open his Facebook to prove me wrong, then his fingers suddenly became clumsy as they hit the computer keyboard and it took him several attempts to type the right password. When he finally did, of course the message was there. He claimed to have no idea why this “acquaintance” would have asked him out since he had absolutely no relationship with her other than being co-workers. Eventually, he said it was possible that the message came after she saw him “looking down” over his marital problems, but that they had never gone on a hike or out to coffee . . .

A few days later, he sent me this e-mail:

“I am sorry for what you are going through based on what you feel is due to my behavior. I never responded to Trista’ s invitation and that is the truth. Even if I was on Facebook and I had seen the message before you brought it to my attention, I am not the type of man who would engage in such behavior, but obviously you think I am, and seem to have made up your mind already. I am sorry that you are in pain because of me, when all I want is to be the husband who desires to love you.”

“I am not sure what it is that I can say to you because anything I say will be misconstrued. I have already told you that I was not on Facebook and that even if I had read this message, I have no intention of having any kind of relationship with anyone outside of my marriage. Not once have I ever struggled with the temptation of infidelity. I am not the type of man that you make me out to be, and while you are entitled to your opinion, I find it unjust to question my integrity – not when it comes to my faithfulness. I am only sorry that after all these years, you would put me in such a category of men. I know that I have many faults, but you should know that I will never be unfaithful to you. If you are done with me, please find a different reason. My OCD, my lack of ability to make you happy and communicate, my inability to meet your expectations as a husband and father, but not as a cheater.”

“I feel blessed and at peace to have a clear conscience.”

My husband is adamant about not having a struggle with infidelity, but there is definitely some type of struggle going on with him.

I suspect the truth is being manipulated because he’s afraid. Because he keeps what he’s done wrong in the dark. And in the dark, everything seems worse than what it is. Sometimes being married to my husband can be like navigating a minefield when all I’ve ever wanted it to be is a place of comfort; a place to step without having to look first.

“Our love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah

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