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Posts Tagged ‘emotional scars’

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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On this journey, there is nothing quite like meeting someone on the road whose experiences have resembled my own. Whether we cross paths in person, through a computer or a book, the result is the same when their words resonate with my own feelings.

The affirmation that I am not alone in my situation, that my story is understood by another and to be able to relate to someone else’s story, is like balm to my hurting and confused soul.

The following statements came from a couple as they shared how their marriage has been (and continues to be) affected by ADD.

He Said:

“I felt that no matter how hard I tried I could never do well enough for my spouse, even when I was successful elsewhere, such as at work. It didn’t matter – I still felt like a failure at home.”

“I often responded with anger and defensiveness, when it was shame that I was really feeling.”

“I had to anticipate my wife’s response to every single thing I did. I lived my life trying to second guess her because I really did want to please her, but most of the time she was still mad.”

“I sometimes felt that the easiest way to deal with my spouse was to simply leave her alone.”

“Our marital issues left me feeling unloved.”

“Even if my ADD made me see or remember something ‘not right’, it still was my reality, and that was not respected.”

“I learned to lie to cover for mistakes. I learned to deflect criticism, to shift the blame to anything or anyone other than myself to protect my ego. I avoided being decisive, because in deferring the decisions to someone else, I could also defer the blame.”

“I have trouble planning ahead. I am notoriously late because I easily lose track of time and I’m often terrible at judging how long it will take to complete a task. I know this bothers my wife, but I don’t understand why it bothers her so much.”

“I felt the only reason my wife was insisting on treatment was so she could change me. I didn’t realize that what she wanted was the real me – without so much of the ADD baggage.”

“I don’t understand why we still have problems, even though I am now receiving treatment for my ADD . . “

“I don’t believe all of our problems are my fault . . . or the result of my ADD.”

She Said:

“There has been so much inconsistency living with my husband. I have usually been the one left to “clean up” from what was forgotten or not finished by my spouse.”

“I get so frustrated that my husband never seems to follow through on what he has agreed to do. He focuses intently on things that interest him, but never on me. I feel lonely and ignored in our relationship.”

“I am scared for myself . . .that my life will continue along it’s current path. I think about leaving my husband because the current path feels unsustainable.”

“The effects that my husband’s behavior have had on our marriage and family are much more than can be imagined.”

“At times, I become overwhelmed by sadness. And I mourn for the relationship I could have with my spouse, if not for ADD.”

“Life often seems depressingly up and down and out of control. I can not believe how many years we have dealt with the same issues over and over again.”

“I don’t understand my husband’s anger, stonewalling and defensiveness. If he is not responding angrily towards me or the kids, then he is ignoring us. I am constantly seeking any scraps of attention, respect, help and support I can get from him”

“He can be convinced that he is upset because of something I have just said, but he doesn’t recall that he was upset long before.”

“Understanding my husband’s quite different reality can be so challenging. I am exhausted and depleted. No amount of effort seems to fix the relationship.”

“I want to be able to love my husband unreservedly, without having to make as many of the horrific trade offs in my own life that responding to his symptoms has required.”

“He doesn’t see that deciding to get treatment is not the same as pursuing effective treatment that gives both of us relief from his
symptoms.”


“By the time we finally find solutions for our issues, I feel my life will be shredded beyond recognition – I have already been scarred forever.”

They Said:

Our marriage has been a progression from happy to confused to angry to hopeless.

There is more sadness than hope in their story, but it was good for me to hear the husband’s perspective. You see, although ADD is a topic I now know much about, this is probably the closest I will ever come to knowing what life is like for my own husband . . .

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My heart has been broken. It happened a long time ago. And I’ve never healed. Or maybe I have, since the wound no longer bleeds. But instead of the scars making me stronger in those broken places, my heart has become harder.

Cautious.

Calloused.

Self protective.

I’ve been told love is dangerous. I think I’ve subconsciously believed it to be true. That would explain why I keep those I love at a distance. After all, what we believe determines how we live . . .

Was it the loss of my mother at such a young age that taught me to not hold on too tightly? Or was it the rejection I felt from my father and the family that raised me (after my mother’s death) that has allowed me to easily detach? Maybe it was the trampling my self-worth endured from the betrayal of my first love that has kept me suspicious in the existence of life enduring, whole-hearted love . . .

Its only been recently that I’ve become conscious of the long-lasting effects the broken heart of a life time ago has had.

As much as I’d like to ignore it – I can’t.

I see the repercussions in all my closest relationships.

How could I be living this way for so long and not realize it till now?

But it’s not enough just to know . . . to be aware.

I have to fix

Change.

Amend.

My future and the well-being of my self, my children, my marriage, my life depends on it.

I once wrote, “there is healing and humility in authenticity”

(wordpress.com/2012/01/04/the-real-thing-is-always-better-than-a-good-knock-off/)

At the time, I was referring to my fear of letting others see what dysfunction was going on in our home as the result of my husband’s behavior. Now I am seeing those words and realize they apply to so much more.

To love authentically can bring healing.
To love vulnerably can bring humility.

Asking God to help me do both as I continue to identify and tear down all the walls surrounding my heart.

Heal my heart and make it clean. Open up my eyes to the things unseen. Show me how to love like You have loved me.”

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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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I’ve been taught there are two ways through life – the way of nature and the way of grace.
You have to choose which one you’ll follow.
Grace doesn’t try to please itself.
Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked.
Accepts insults and injuries.
Nature only wants to please itself.
Get others to please it too.
Likes to lord it over them.
To have its own way.
It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it.
Even when love is smiling through all things.
I’ve been taught that no one who loves the way of Grace ever comes to a bad end.
I will be true to You.
Whatever comes.
(taken from the movie, Tree of Life)

My husband has stopped speaking to me. He is angry. Feels disrespected that I would question him. Believes he is completely justified in ignoring me and giving me the “cold shoulder”. But who should really be indignant, here? . . . Me or him? . . . I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

***

Tax time. I wasn’t completely clueless. I knew our refund was usually a big one, but that was about all I knew. In the past, I would usually drop by the local H&R Block office just to sign our tax forms after my husband had spent the hour with our tax preparer pouring over W-2’s, bank statements, and 1099’s. We usually filed early, so the refund could be used to pay the property taxes . . . and the remainder of the refund went directly into my husband’s bank account. My requests for a portion of the refund to be spent on helping pay school tuition or to lower credit card balances were either ignored or not deemed “do-able”.

This year, I decided to join my husband at the appointment. As the tax preparer began filling in the form with numbers from our W-2’s, a sick feeling swept over me.

The total amount of our income was more than I imagined.

Much more.

I was aware that we received a large refund check every spring, but never realized how much we earned throughout the year.

“How could this be,” I wondered. “Where was the money going?”

Our lifestyle, in no way, reflected an income of that amount. Working part time, my salary paid the monthly bills and the kid’s expenses. My husband paid the mortgage and the groceries.

It didn’t add up.

Our combined salaries minus our expenses left sooooo much money unaccounted for . . . so much of my husband’s money.

I questioned him. Was there a secret savings account? An addictive or spending compulsion? Did he even know where the money was going? He had no reasonable answer, became defensive . . . evasive, and has not spoken to me since.

He has added this incident to his list of the ways I have “wronged” him, and yet seems incapable of acknowledging any of the ways he has done wrong to others.

Whether due to his personality, ADD, or childhood scars, life for him is viewed as a victim. He needs someone to blame in order to justify his behavior; because to accept responsibility would also mean admitting he is wrong and unreasonable for reasons having to do with his own character.

He has a fragile ego . . . I get that, but demanding authority without taking responsibility is a warped way of fulfilling Christ’s command for his role as head of our family.

Ephesians 5:1-2 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

5:22-24 Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

5:25-28 Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. (the Message)

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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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