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Posts Tagged ‘boundaries’

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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“We write to taste life twice . . .” ~ Anais Nin

I write so I will not forget. But some days, I just don’t want to remember. Sometimes I just don’t want to “taste life twice”. This is one of those times. So for anyone who follows my blog, I hope you forgive me, but today I am posting only a song. Like most of the songs I post, this one speaks for me.

Where I am today.

Right now.

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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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Wishing this couch wasn’t so familiar to me as I settle in with a box of Kleenex, anticipating an emotional hour spent sharing the events of my week.

“I just want you to sit and listen while I read something to you“, my therapist announced unexpectedly. With no preface, she began reading:

Narcissistic wounding starts early in life to children whose parents are insecure, abusive, addictive, or have narcissistic patterns themselves . . . People with narcissistic traits process information, emotions and unresolved pain to make up for what they did not have in childhood.”

“Narcissistic injury happens to the child when his emotional needs are not  met . . . They learn how manipulation and using guilt gets what they want.”

They cannot tolerate negative emotional distress and turn it on others in blame, rather than looking within to see their own part of the problem . . . They deny and rationalize their own contribution to the problems to preserve their own internal fantasy of being good and right.”

“They are super sensitive to criticism and either attack the other person or leave the scene. This blaming the person who gives criticism helps the person with narcissistic defenses avoid feeling guilt, shame and depression, but it also keeps them from taking responsibility for learning from their mistakes and ultimately from growing up.”

“They seek refuge in being seen as the good guy and try to gain approval and recognition from others . . . Constantly seeking attention and approval puts them in the precarious position of always needing something from yet someone else.”

“As they believe they are right and others are wrong, they rarely admit faults in themselves . . . They believe they have the right to do whatever it takes to get short term gratification without suffering any consequences . . .They have little or no remorse for the pain they caused the other person, only anger that they did to get away with their behavior.”

“Family members learn to back off from confronting their bad behavior in attempt to not ‘hurt their feelings’ . . . Criticism of their behavior or trying to get them to see what they are doing only causes them to entrench further into defensiveness.”

“When found out in wrong doing, they get evasive, lie or get angry . . . They would rather threaten their relationship than face humiliation, embarrassment or injury to their self esteem.”

“The narcissism defenses of becoming angry, shutting down, minimizing and distancing keep them feeling safe in the moment . . . People with severe narcissistic traits do not change because they do not believe that they have a problem . . . They CAN NOT see the damage that they inflict on others.”

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE NARCISSIST

* Uses emotional blackmail to get what he wants
* Has poor insight and can not see the impact his selfish behavior has on others
* Wants to control what you do and say – tries to micromanage
* Is unable to see things from any point of view other than his own
* Ignores your feelings and calls you overly sensitive if you express feelings
* Does not expect to be penalized for failure to follow directions or conform to guidelines
* Neglects the family to impress others
* Is overly involved with his own hobbies

She looked up from the screen of the tablet from which she was reading and asked, “Does this sound like anyone you know?” I nodded, speechless.

“I’ve always doubted the diagnosis of ADD for your husband, and even though it might be accurate, this sure seems to describe him as well, doesn’t it?” Again I could only nod, dumbfounded.

But what does this mean? Then I realized . . . my husband may have multiple issues which could explain his behavior, and that are blindingly evident to those closest to him, but it really is quite irrelevant until he sees that he has issues which need to be addressed and until he wants to resolve them.

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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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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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Every second Tuesday of the month,” I read. “OK, I can do this”, I thought . . . “I need to do this.”

I have been receiving prayer and amazing support from my Christian friends for two months now, but in dealing with the ADD behaviors of my husband, their empathy came with no personal experience of how difficult it can be. Even my therapist had not encountered patients with adult ADD. It was time for me to attend a support group.

I walked into the meeting on the second Tuesday of the month and listened as the handful of people went around the table introducing themselves and talking about the challenges they faced, living with a loved one who has adult ADD.

The moderator, a well-known author on the subject, interjected a comment occasionally and answered questions. When it was my turn, after introducing myself and giving a brief history of my situation, I asked her this question, “How much of a person’s behavior is rooted in their character, how much can be attributed to their ADD . . . and how do I separate the two?”

Her answer: It is difficult to separate the two because they are tightly intertwined. When a person has been living with ADD all their life, at some point, their ADD-driven tendencies become part of their character. There is hope, however, for the person who acknowledges their ADD and pursues effective treatment. Only then will you be able to know what behaviors are the result of ADD . . . and which are not.”

Since my husband was far from even considering adult ADD to be contributing to the problems in our relationship, was there any hope for a better future? I needed more time with this “expert” (G.P) than the evening’s forum provided. She spoke from her own personal experience as well as from years of researching adult ADD and counseling those affected by it.

When we met for lunch the following week, this is what I shared and learned:

Me: “I am suffering from a chronic, toxic case of anger.”

G.P: “Most of the anger and problems in the non-ADD spouse are really and truly a reflection of dealing with ADD symptoms.”

“It’s easy to be angry that life has been so much harder than you had expected it to be because ADD is present. “

“Anger is a warning sign that things are not going as they should. The anger itself is not the issue, it’s how you act on your anger that’s important.”

Me: “My anger is what he blames as one of the real roots of our problems.”

G.P: “It’s not uncommon for an ADD spouse to convince himself that his wife’s anger is the real cause of their problems. (instead of his behavior) Yes, it is a factor that needs to be addressed, but it’s also a response to specific ADD symptoms.”

Me: “There are definitely times when the last thing I want to do is spend time with my husband, but for the sake of the marriage, I make an effort anyways. When he does not respond, I inevitably feel hurt and disappointment.”

G.P: “It can be much easier to blame or withdraw rather than take the difficult step of trying to connect when anger is present. But when the response of an ADD spouse is unpredictable, the non-ADD spouse will likely experience disappointment or lose faith in a positive or consistent outcome.

Me: “I often feel my reactions and expectations are considered unreasonable. It takes time for me to put words to my feelings and to identify the actions that caused them. When I do, my husband does not acknowledge his behavior, comprehend the effects of it, or even remember the event long enough to not do again.”

G.P: “A person with ADD may have trouble remembering what you recently talked about. It may seem like you have the same arguments over and over, because you do.”

“People with ADD lack a hierarchy filter in relation to ideas, memories . . . there is difficulty prioritizing . . . Because they don’t receive and process information in a hierarchical way, your suffering enters his mind at about the same level as everything else he perceives.”

Me: “I take his behavior personally and think, if he loved me, respected me, valued me & our relationship, these things wouldn’t happen. But he says none of what I consider ‘bad behavior’ is done with the intent to hurt me.”

G.P: “A non-ADD spouse doesn’t understand why her ADD spouse is so unwilling to consistently be responsible or responsive. She personalizes his behavior, figuring it is rooted in a basic lack of respect for her, her needs, and their relationship. (rather than from fear, shame, or hopelessness)”

“It’s important that the ADD spouse consider impulsiveness as a symptom that needs treatment. ‘Not meaning’ to hurt someone is not enough.”

“An ADD spouse should not equate good intentions with good outcomes. Actions are important and if one spouse says the other’s actions are inadequate, they likely are, regardless of the intent.”

“A non-ADD spouse must understand that it is not spitefulness, laziness, meanness, or lack of desire that keeps her husband from doing what she requested . . . but at the same time, ADD is not an excuse for continued incompetence.”

Her advice? In my next post . . .

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