On knowing when to go

Last night I had that conversation. The one all unhappy couples avoid.

I’m going to have to go back and re-read some of my previous posts.  I took a brief look at my most recent (from May this year) and I can see how stuck I’ve been for a long time.

I’ve read and re-read piles of separation and marriage and divorce help books.  I’ve been through that horrible cycle of ambivalence over and over.  I’ve chided myself for being immature and told myself that this is what relationships are all about. Enduring shit, you know?  I’ve told myself I’m being selfish, that I need to put my kids first. I’ve wallowed in guilt for even thinking of putting them through the crap we would no doubt have to go through.

I’ve smothered those screaming voices in my head and my heart as much as I can, stomped them down into the pit of my soul and convinced myself that it’s okay. We can make this work.

And it works for a little while. Until the cycle begins again. Anyone who’s been through it knows what I’m talking about.  All the articles and books and blog posts you read about the whole relationship ambivalence cycle liken it to a rollercoaster ride, but I beg to differ.  It’s more like the Rotor. That cylindrical ride which spins around so fast that you find yourself pinned to the wall and completely without any control.

After going through this cycle numerous times this year (and it gets longer and longer each time, I’ve noticed), I finally took myself off to a relationship counsellor. I had a couple of sessions with him, and he suggested bringing in my partner for joint counselling. And while at the time I started seeing the counsellor I was feeling quite strongly that I should end our relationship, I agreed, as I figured it couldn’t hurt.  My counsellor had suggested a particular program that he runs, where we both complete an online questionnaire about the relationship which he then assesses, and then we come into counselling and work on the issues that have been highlighted.

So I suggested to my partner that we either need to do something about the relationship or end it (he agreed and said that he’d considered a separation himself). So we agreed to do this questionnaire. The counsellor sent it to us both and told us that when we’d both completed it, he’d be in touch to arrange our first session.

I completed my questionnaire within the first couple of days.  As we were told, it only takes about half an hour to complete.  But a week went by and then a few more days and I still hadn’t been contacted by the counsellor regarding the joint counselling session.  And I started to think to myself how bloody typical this was; my partner obviously hadn’t prioritised the issue of counselling, instead preferring to sit in front of the tv rather than take action.

And then after that initial reaction, I started to feel a huge sense of relief.  I started to feel thankful that he hadn’t done the questionnaire, and feel hopeful that he would just forget all about it entirely. I felt absolved and that all my doubts about our relationship were correct.  And I knew then, without a doubt, that I didn’t want to work on this relationship.  Emotionally speaking, I have left it a long time ago.  The reason that we never seem to make any progress on reconciling and building a happier relationship is because in my heart of hearts, I don’t want to.

And I don’t know when this occurred, but it just did, somewhere along the line.  All the times I’ve convinced myself that it could work and I’ve still stopped trying is because I didn’t really want to.  I’ve been fighting against myself.

So last night, I sat down with my partner and I told him how I’d realised I didn’t want to go through with the counselling.  I told him that I don’t believe I am prepared to work at fixing things.  I told him that I think we need to separate.  He asked why and I told him I didn’t really have the answer, but that I’ve been fighting against that feeling for a long, long time and I finally need to trust myself.  I apologised for being a crappy partner and for putting our family through the crap that we are about to go through.

It went better than I expected.  I anticipated yelling and disdain and harsh, angry words. But he wasn’t. He was cold and angry, which he has every right to be, and I expect that he will be for a long time yet. But he didn’t rant, he didn’t rave.

And he didn’t protest that he loved me. I think if he had, I might not feel so confident this morning that I am absolutely doing the right thing, or I might at least feel a little guilty.  As it is, I feel bad for the pain he and I and the kids will probably go through over the next couple of years, but I don’t feel guilty.  I went to bed before him last night (we’re still in the same room) and he came in and slammed things about a bit (which is what he does when he’s cranky), but I was awake from around 3-ish for a couple of hours and he seemed to be sleeping peacefully. At least, he was snoring away like he normally does, so I figure he’s not too disturbed.

So I don’t feel guilty. I know that I am making the right decision here, as horrible as it is all going to be.  I believe that ultimately we are all going to be happier.

That said, I know that the worst is yet to come.  I’m not congratulating myself just yet; there is a long, long way to go.

Faith

I’m not a religious person.  I was raised Catholic, but stopped believing in a higher entity a long, long time ago.  There are times I wish it wasn’t true; that I could lay my problems at the feet of some deity and have them figure it all out, but alas, it is not the case.

So, I have to sort my problems out myself. With the help of some experts; I’m a big fan of self-help books.

I’ve read books — recently and not-so-recently — about divorce, separation, marriage and what-have-you, to try and help me sort through my feelings.   They all talk about this cyclical emotional state I’ve been going through, and the descriptions are dead on. The mental tension builds up until you reach this crisis  point. You feel like you can see the way ahead.  Then the guilt and bargaining starts — maybe I should try X, or maybe I didn’t do Y well/hard enough. Then the tension eases and you are back to where you started until discontent sets in again and the tension starts to build.

And it’s exhausting.  It really is.

Today I have been ruminating on the guilt that hit me yesterday. I have a habit of looking outside myself for the answers; to see if someone else knows.  So I read stuff on the internet about people who have divorced or separated, and the reasons they did it.  And when I read around, it seems some people have really chosen some arseholes to be married to. And that makes me feel guilty because, honestly, my situation is not as bad as theirs.  I’m not being beaten, or raped, or verbally or mentally abused. He’s not a lazy bum who sits around all day drinking beer. He’s not cheating.

And I feel guilty because there seems to be an unwritten rule somewhere that unless it’s, like, really bad, you should keep on trying.  And I’m not.  And I don’t want to. Which makes me feel even guiltier.

So usually when I get to the bargaining stage of this cycle, the guilt wins.  I tell myself that I’m crazy. There’s no problem, it’s all in my head. I even started on that argument again yesterday, but then I forced myself to examine my reality as objectively as I could.

There is one, key, core issue at stake here. I no longer want a relationship with my partner.  I’m happy to co-parent. I’m happy to let him have the house (for a small price).  But I no longer want him. And it’s not because he’s bad or I’m an unappreciative bitch or anything like that; it’s just that we have, rather boringly, grown apart. Both of us could probably point to a hundred little indicators along the way here, but honestly it doesn’t matter. There were choices we made and here we are.  Honestly, we didn’t too bad a job, and if we both liked one another enough to share a companionable relationship, we could probably keep going for another twenty years. But we don’t.  We just don’t. We’re not only not in each other’s orbits; we’re not even in the same solar system any more.

And that makes me feel sad.  I’m sad that he will be hurt.  I’m sad that he will feel rejected.  I’m sad that I am closing the door on this era of my life.  It’s going to be a huge wrench, and a huge adjustment for us all, but I firmly believe that ultimately it is the best decision for all of us.

Because I might not have faith in a god, and I might not have faith in the internet, and I don’t always have faith in the self-help books, but for the first time in my life, I need to have faith in myself.

 

Guilt

Every time I voice my feelings about my relationship (even if it’s just on an anonymous post on the internet), I’m immediately overcome with guilt. This is happening this morning so I really desperately need to sit down and capture it, so I can process it and help myself understand better.

This post is not going to make sense so if you make it through, I commend you!

There’s a part of me that starts talking me down off the ledge. The relationship is workable. He’s a decent guy. You can get along if you try.

And all these things are true. So I start to wonder if this is all in my head.  Because the fact is that I am *not* trying at the moment. I haven’t been for some time. And even when I’ve tried, it has been kind of half-hearted. So when my efforts to salvage the relationship stop for whatever reason – I got distracted, I thought I’d wait and see what he’d do, we had an argument, whatever – and we fall back into our usual unloving status quo, while it’s upsetting, I think I am secretly relieved.

Because it feels like vindication.

This morning the guilt has me asking why. Why do I think this relationship is at its end? What is it I am not happy about? Why am I not happy? Why do you think there should be more than this anyway?

I can come up with every justification in the book, but that that’s because I think I am always looking for signs that the relationship is doomed. He does something annoying/stupid/selfish, and it’s like “See?? I told you so!!”

So why?  Why???  I need to list this, for my own sanity.

  1. Because we live completely separate lives.  He does his thing, I do mine.
  2. We don’t communicate.
  3. I am not a priority for him. He makes arrangements (financial, social, etc) first, consults me second.
  4. There is no affection.
  5. There is no sex. I can’t remember the last time we had sex. Maybe a year ago?
  6. He has given me exactly 1 compliment in the past 15 years.
  7. Our political leanings are very different, and when I hear him voice his, I actually hate him.
  8. I find him uncaring.
  9. There is no companionship. There is no companionable sitting on the lounge together watching tv or a movie.
  10. We spend no time together. No dates, nights out, weekends away, holidays together that don’t involve the kids.
  11. I don’t think either of us enjoys each other’s company (see 8 and 9 above).
  12. I don’t think he likes me all that much. Which may be a projection, because I’m not sure I like him all that much.

Now, I’m aware that all of the above don’t necessarily spell the end of a relationship. but there’s one key item that overrides all the others.

13. I no longer want to try and fix it.

Which leads to:

14. I don’t think I love him.

 

The struggle

I have found myself reasoning that I am the only one hurting from my unhappy relationship, so it’s better for all concerned if I stay.  I have been willing myself to accept the relationship for what it is; to accept that a marriage (or marriage-like relationship) cannot possibly meet all the demands we make of it these days.

And then the rebel within me screams that, no actually, everyone is hurting.  My children are being hurt by seeing this held up as an example.  They are hurt by the snide comments from both of us.  They are hurt by having a mother with a dark and angry core that is capable of erupting from time to time.  My partner is hurt by having a spouse who doesn’t love him.

And the rebel screams that I shouldn’t accept this relationship for what it is.  It’s not love, it’s not friendship, it’s not companionship, it’s not respect, it’s not affection, it’s not intimacy.  And if it’s none of these things, then what is it?

So I start to believe her, but then the coward chimes in with what sounds like common sense.  Have you really done all you can to save this relationship, the way the books say you should?  And then I have to stop and ask myself if what I have done is enough.

The efforts to make this relationship something better stopped when I stopped.  I stopped asking for my needs to be met and they weren’t. Any improvements continue only as long as I am the one who makes the effort. When I don’t, we revert to the seriously sub-par status quo. Is it enough? Is it enough of an effort? Is it okay if I stop? Is it okay for me to give up when I am the only one who cares?

Somehow I can’t quite give myself permission.

I want one of those people that you see in death scenes in movies where the person has been in a coma for a while and their loved one is sitting next to them crying and saying, “It’s okay. It’s okay to let go. You can leave now.”

And I know that the only person who can give permission is me, but if it came from someone else it would be a huge help.

One step forward, two steps back: the great tango of life

So, since I last wrote here, much has happened, while at the same time it didn’t.

I am still with my partner. I hopped back in that pendulum as it came swinging past me and retreated into the fear of the unknown. As is goes with the whole swinging back and forth, I suddenly became panicked that I hadn’t been trying enough; hadn’t given it my all yet.

I wrote him a letter, telling him my fears about our relationship; that we needed to take action orseparate. I told him what I needed from him, and that I needed to know what he needed from me. I put it inside his closed laptop so that he would see it the next time he sat down for one of his evening web-browsing-whilst-watching-tv sessions.

We agreed to take a proper holiday – something we’ve never really done. I thought maybe planning this together would be something that would bring us closer.

I had to cancel my next session with my counsellor (in about October, I think). And then I never went back.

My prescription for my antidepressants ran out and I was too busy to get to the doctor fora new script. So I cold turkeyed it. Which was partly responsible, I think, for the next point…

I went on a bender for a couple of weeks. I got to a point where everything seemed just so much of “same shit, different day”, that I ended up tninking why the fuck not. I’ve stopped now, because drinking doesn’t help me get my shit together.

Anyway, coming of the medication has been both a boon and a curse. You know how some people say how their antidepressants make them feel nothing? Well, that’s kind of true. After I finished with the headspins and crying jags, I sat down and realised all my shit was still there, not dealt with. I just didn’t care while I was medicated.

Including my relationship.

That letter I wrote him? He didn’t mention it. I asked him if he’d read it. He said he had but needed some time to process the things I’d said, which was good with me. He never brought it up again. A few days later, I was tidying the loungeroom and found it discarded on the side table where he keeps his laptop. Any of the kids could have found it. Somehow I don’t think he gave it much consideration at all.

The holiday? I’ve planned and organised the whole thing. I’ve tried to get him interested but … I dunno. I guess he has better things to worry about. So he’ll just be coming along for the ride.

So we continue on with our usual routine. He watches tv while cruising the internet, I sit in my room reading or seeking relationship advice on the internet.

I’m wondering now if he’s just waiting for me to make the first move. Maybe when I started drinking again I crossed the line for him. I occasionally contemplate ways to drive him away, such as becoming religious or spiritual – maybe drinking was an unconscious attempt to do that. His lack of action is pretty typical of him thouh. I mean, I’ve asked many times over the years for some kind of skerrick of affection, the way I need it and he hasn’t done it. Too distracted with other things.

This post is so rambling I can hardly make sense of it.

Long story short: I’m unhappy and this relationship’s days are numbered.