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Posts Tagged ‘blended families’

The last one was so vivid. They are always the same ~ my husband moves back into the house. This morning I woke up thinking, “Thank God it was only a dream!” I have been having these dreams almost every night since he moved out.

We went to see my therapist last week – all 7 of us. Compared to the day we told the kids that “dad” was moving out, they were very quiet. Only speaking when answering a question and volunteering no information on their own. Giving very little indication of “how they are doing”.

My husband also acted so strange during the therapy session, doing most of the talking and saying several times that despite his circumstances, he felt “so blessed”. (?!) He told us that he lived in his car for a week, (yes, you read that right, he lived in his car!) until one of his friends took pity on him and invited him to stay in a guest room. Being true to his character of always wanting “all” or “nothing” he said to me privately that we either need to divorce or he is going to come back home.

Whatever strength I lacked in enforcing boundaries in my marriage up to this point, I lack no longer. I have told my husband that our separation does not have to end in divorce, but he should use this time away from the family as an opportunity to work on his personal issues. I will not consider a reconciliation until:

1) He receives counseling – he can not change his behavior long term if he doesn’t understand what drives it.
2) He repairs his relationship with my two older children – the damage he has done to them as an emotionally abusive father can never be undone, but I pray it can be healed.
3) We attend marriage/family therapy – we are a broken family and it has been that way long before the separation

This is such a bittersweet time for me, I’m not sure how much of it I will be able to write about. I am glad my husband has moved out and I feel such a sense of peace and renewal in our home. But at the same time, the ugliness that caused the situation looms nearby and the strength required of me now is elusive. I know it can not be my own strength, it must be His. I also know myself, and know I am not always the most faithful of followers. I tend to lean on Him only when I have no other choice.

As I stand on the precipice of a new season, I acknowledge I don’t know what is next. Whether I feel ready or not, I remind myself, He is ready and I have to be clinging to Him.

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I read about the goal of a Christian is to be more “Christ-like”, but what does that look like in real life? When are we to “turn the other cheek”? . . . When is “righteous anger” appropriate? – “Do we continue in sin because grace abounds? – Certainly not!”

My husband may never change. Am I willing to continue living the way things are?

No.

But how do I stay married and find a way to live with his behavior? And how do I know the difference between God’s will and my own?

***

With my husband and 3 youngest sons gone on a vacation that was planned without me, I have been struggling with these and many other questions. I have had several e-mail conversations with my husband since they left – which is better than face to face conversations, since my anger is in a full blown rage right now.

***

Me: “I can’t believe that even after our last conversation about communication, I was still getting information about your trip from the kids, instead of from you. I can’t help but think that nothing I said got through to you.”

Him: “It seems everything I do or say makes you upset and I find it very sad. In light of that, as well as the fact that you weren’t going on the trip, I saw no reason to communicate the details to you.”

“I would have been more than happy to have you accompany us to Arizona, but I knew you were scheduled to work.”

Me: “You SAY you wanted me to come on this trip, but your actions said something completely different. I am so discouraged over the lack of change during the course of our marriage, and the bleak future ahead if the path we are on doesn’t change.”

Him: “It is just so unfortunate that this entire incident could have been prevented if you would just communicate with me in a more loving and understanding way. I am trying to not let it affect my health, but it is. I understand that you feel I don’t communicate well, but my behavior is usually a response to your behavior towards me.”

Me: I have reached a crossroad in our marriage where I no longer take responsibility for your behavior. I have done nothing to provoke or deserve your disregard for my feelings.”

Him: “It is MY feelings that are constantly being disregarded. You do not understand the daily struggles I face from financial difficulties and dealing with your children, not to mention the years I have been forced to interact with their father over his (lack of) financial responsibility. I am glad to say, that even with all of my imperfections, at least  I am not like the men from your past.”

Me: “You are out of line.”

Him: “I feel blessed and at peace to have a clear conscience in knowing that I am not ‘out of line.’ “

***
So that’s the state of things. I ended the conversation by telling my husband that I was going away for a few days to think about the future of our marriage. I need some serious quiet time to listen to what God wants from me right now.

Psalms 55:1-2, 6-8, 16, 20-22

Listen to my prayer, O God.
Do not ignore my cry for help!
Please listen and answer me,
for I am overwhelmed by my troubles . . .

Oh that I had wings like a dove;
then I would fly away and rest!
I would fly far away to the quiet of the wilderness.
How quickly I would escape – far from this wild storm of hatred . . .

But I will call on God and the Lord will rescue me . . .

And as for my companion, he betrayed his friends;
he broke his promises.
His words are as smooth as butter,
But in his heart is war.
His words are as soothing as lotion,
but underneath are daggers!

Give your burdens to the Lord,
and He will take care of you.

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Silent Treatment – Month 1. We go our own way, retire to our shared bedroom at the end of each day, turn out the light and lay side by side, all without saying barely a word to each other.

I’m sad, emotionally exhausted and lonely. My husband is angry, detached, and full of self-righteous indignation.

Each for our own reasons, we have both stopped trying. While I wish my marriage was healthy, and my family thriving, I have only enough energy to wish, and nothing more.

The energy I do have is spent on parenting the children, taking care of the household needs, and working.

My husband has become absent both physically and emotionally. His energy is now being consumed by his hobby of cycling. He rides after work and on the weekends. He rides mountain bikes and road bikes. He rides in the mornings, afternoons and evenings. His rides up to 8 hours at a time. He unashamedly admits he would much rather be bike riding than to be at home.

He abandons us all and we are expected to accept it as “ok”.

I recently spent days in the hospital and several more at home recuperating after surgery. That time was spent ALONE. My husband chose to be occupied elsewhere. While I harbor resentment towards his lack of empathy and care taking of me, when that same attitude is directed towards my children, I can not tolerate it.

My oldest son had gone out of town and needed to be picked up from the airport. Here is the conversation that took place between my husband and I regarding the logistics.

Me: “M is wondering if you can pick him up from the airport. His flight gets in at 3:40pm.”

Husband: “I am going on a bike ride, but can get him afterwards. Have him text me. I could be there at 5:30pm.”

Me: “I will give him your message, although just between us, I’m sure if it was one of your friends asking, you would not have them waiting for you at the airport for 2 hours while you go on a bike ride.”

Husband: “I am trying to do what I can to remain healthy and will do my best to pick him up by 5:30pm.”

Me: “I understand. It’s just difficult when I am reminded how you often go out of your way to show generosity and kindness to others, but not necessarily to us, your family . . .”

Husband: no response

A recurring theme in our home – everyone else gets his best, and we get nothing.

I write because I have to. I have to put our reality in written words so I remember. Otherwise, the truth becomes distorted in my mind. After listening to my husband’s accusations of my insanity and over sensitivity, I begin to believe him.

Proverbs 18:13 The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear it if the spirit is crushed?

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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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As I sit on the couch that has now become familiar to me over the last 6 months, I am aware that my therapist truly has tried his best to help me but that maybe the problem is me. Maybe I am just a hopeless patient. At our last session he asked, “Are you trying to change yourself in order to get your husband to change? Are you trying to change the way you respond to him in order to get your desired behavior from him?”

Me: “Well, yes, isn’t that how things work? If I change the way I respond to him, then won’t that change the negative dynamics between us?”

Therapist: ” Don’t you see, the ways you have changed in order to accommodate your husband’s behavior or to obtain desired behavior from him will only result in your unhappiness, because you are not being true to your feelings and because you are hoping for a change in your husband that may never come. It’s fine if you want to change yourself, but it has to be for you and without any expectations for a change in him.

(OK, even though that seems to be different from what I have been told and have read up to this point, I can wrap my head around why that way of thinking makes sense. Although it seems like this approach is just a different way to “self-protect” and it makes me angry to face the reality – once again – that I need a coping strategy to protect my heart from the man to whom I am married.)

Therapist: I don’t know why your husband behaves the way he does but always remember, don’t feed his need for drama. When he behaves in a way that leaves you hurt or frustrated, realize that this is only part of his personality.

Me: But why do me & the kids always get the bad part of his personality, while his friends & co-workers get the good?! I have come to believe that my husband is incapable of nurturing me & our relationship.

Therapist: Name some of the recurring negative feelings you have related to your marriage.

Me: Hurt, disappointment, resentment . . . I often feel like I don’t meet his standards, so I guess inferiority would also be one. Hopeless, over a lack of change. Guilt about considering divorce. Tension & anger whenever I am around him. Unimportant – I am not a priority to him. Insecure over his inability to provide financially. . .

Therapist: (heavy sigh) OK – how about you list some of the recurring themes in you marriage.

Me: Relationships with him are conditional. We got married because I was pregnant which contributes to my self-condemnation. He treats other people better than he treats me and the children. His relationship with my (2) children is terrible. Life with him is difficult because he is so inconsistent. We have a long history of disappointment in our relationship. His negative, passive aggressive behavior is draining. His convenient memory lapses are frustrating. I have little/no respect for him. No matter how bad I am feeling (physically or emotionally) or how hard my day has been, it is pointless to discuss it with him because he will usually turn it around to be about him and how much worse things are for him. . .

Therapist: There seems to be so many bad things you associate with your marriage, what would you need in order to make you feel good about the marriage?

. . . I had no answer.

Stuffing anger into some dark corner of your heart may temporarily help you skirt past a conflict but the anger doesn’t go away. If you persist in stuffing your hurt and anger, it will affect you negatively in mind, body and spirit. Your outlook on life will tarnish, your hope for deeper happiness will fade and you will be more susceptible to illness.” (Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage – Rosberg)

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I’ve been thinking it might be time to stop seeing my therapist. I know things will not get better for myself or my marriage if I stop going, but I’m beginning to think they won’t get better even if I continue. There has been no progress that I can measure since I have been going to therapy. I feel like I have nothing more to say. It has all been said (several times over) in the last 6 months with no new insight, no renewed hope , and no successful coping techniques given.

Our last few sessions have actually been more of a source of frustration than solace. My therapist doesn’t seem to understand my situation no matter how often I describe it. He frequently asks me the same questions. Does he forget I have already answered these questions? Sometimes I wonder if he confuses me with his other patients or I get the impression he is trying to over-simplify my issues so they will neatly fall under a psychological heading that offers a common sense solution.   

For example, he recently said he has realized that I “have difficulty expressing emotions.”  (even though I told him this many months ago) He says it is all connected to why I “have difficulty recognizing where to draw my boundaries,” and it all “stems from my childhood.” Baloney. I have difficulty expressing my emotions and drawing boundaries because I have been so traumatized by the abuse in my marriage. I am a shell of a person who feels invisible because over the years, my boundaries have been so disrespected time and time again. While my childhood was not perfect, the issues I am facing now, only began to arise after I got married. These issues have not been a pattern through out my life.

And while I have been attending these therapy sessions in an attempt to  understand, address and resolve the issues in my life, my husband has the audacity to say, “It takes two people to make a marriage work and I feel I am the only one willing to do the work. You have given up.” I was insulted. I was angry. 

I have been reading the books on communication, boundaries and marriage. I have been going to marriage counseling – ALONE – and he says I have given up?! All my suppressed frustration came bubbling to the surface and yet, despite feeling like I was close to my boiling point, we still fell into our usual pattern of communication. My husband began to lecture me as if I were a child and brought up every issue we have ever had in our marriage. (Correction: every issue he has had with me and my children) The room began to close in on me, I retreated into myself and tried to self-protect.

Do I have issues? Yes. Does my family/husband have issues? Most definitely. Do our dynamics need to change? Absolutely. But this is why I began therapy to begin with . . . if I stop going, then what? . . .  

Psalms 69: 1-3   Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold to stand on. I am in deep waters, and the floods overwhelm me. I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched and dry. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me.

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The absolute worst therapy session ever. My husband called me that afternoon and I was surprised when he asked if I wanted to go out to dinner with him that evening. I agreed, but also reminded him that I had my weekly therapy appointment and we would need to make it an early dinner.

We met at a restaurant near my therapist’s office and during dinner, my husband shocked me even more by suggesting we attend the appointment together. My head was spinning. Do I dare hope he was ready to start addressing our marital issues?

My therapist was just as stunned as I was that my husband had come, but was very gracious in welcoming him to our session. We had just begun with our usual, “How are you?” conversation when my husband jumped in. The following 50 minutes of the session turned into a monologue where my husband spoke without any censors or filters. His oration ranged from telling us how much he “couldn’t stand” my children (from a previous relationship) to how I had “poisoned” the children against him while he had been in Mexico City following his mother’s death. Every word coming out of his mouth was as if he was striking me with a closed fist. I had no inner strength to fight back. I took a verbal beating like never before and the therapist just sat there and listened. By the end of the session, I had retreated so far into myself, I felt I could barely get up off the couch and crawl to the car when it was over.

The following day, I received a call from my therapist. “Are you OK?” he asked. All I could do was cry.

“No, I am not OK. How could you let him say all those horrible things without stepping in?!”

“I know . . . ” he said. “I’m so sorry. . . I was so caught off guard that he had come with you and I wasn’t sure what to expect . . . I wanted him to feel comfortable, considering that he hadn’t come for so long . . . and then, once he began talking, I think I lost perspective that YOU are my client and that these sessions should be a safe place for YOU. . . again, I’m so, so sorry.”

Not that the verbal abuse wasn’t bad enough, but afterwards, my husband seemed to have no understanding or awareness as to why I was in so much pain. He reasoned, it obviously had NOTHING to do with him since, in his mind, he had not done or said anything to cause me to act as an abused spouse, flinching each time he spoke, in anticipation of the next blow.

As a matter of fact, he informed me that he would no longer be going back to my therapist, saying he felt uncomfortable around us and the “relationship” we had developed. WTH?! I am at such a low point right now . . . not that I haven’t been here before. It should be a familiar place to me now. God help me . . .

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid . . . for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”

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