Thursday, 4 December 2014
Another time around the Mountain...
And so began another circles conversation. I tried very hard to stay on point, but we were swept away many times and just wandered through the familiar and unpleasant territory of our usual fighting landscape. SO blaming. SO missing each other. SO not hearing or acknowledging pain.
I told him I cannot continue to live in an atmosphere of constant rejection and abuse. He says he cannot even fathom what I mean by that. I used the example of him going off on a motorbike eco-tour for 4 days exactly 3 days after we moved house which was 5 days after I had been discharged from hospital. I told him, and I heard that also one of my best friends told him, that I was unable to be left alone and couldn't care for myself or my children. He went anyway. Then, instead of coming straight back after the trip, he instead went to spend another day at his girlfriend's house before he came home.
His response to that was that he had decided that I was OK. He had planned and supervised the move (and worked his ass off), and moved me and the kids into my father's house. As far as he was concerned, that was sufficient care, and he was free to go away on holiday for 4 days because he had done what was needed. When I said again that I had told him I wasn't OK, and I couldn't cope with him leaving, his response was that he had made a judgement call that I (and my friend) were wrong, and that I was perfectly capable of coping. So he went.
I started to sob. It was so sore to hear him say how very irrelevant my feelings and opinions are still to him. How totally invisible my needs become to him the moment I am weak. How my weakness seems to propel him away from me. And the sense of abandonment I feel at that time is almost debilitating. It's so counter to how I would behave - I am drawn to people who need care. I give it in buckets. I know....it's almost pathological in me - that I need to care to the complete obliteration of my own needs. So even more so - when I eventually find the very small voice that has words enough to say "I can't cope. Please help me", only to find those words disregarded and abandoned....ugh.
I have been a terrible life partner in that regard. I have found it extraordinarily hard to voice my needs. I am much more likely to be bright and cheerful when people are ignoring my needs - facilitating their process instead and ignoring my own. Then much later, my own resentment bubbles up, and I'll lash out at them weeks or even months later for abandoning me at that time. They are usually completely gob-smacked as they had had no idea they were hurting me at the time. And in my husband's case, the punishment I deal out in harsh words and judgmental lashings is hectic. He has also felt very abused during those times and leaves those conversations feeling shame - that he is wrong and bad and needs to change to be a better person.
So my husband also faced a life-threatening illness some years ago. For a few months we were severely worried that he would die from his pheochromocytoma tumour (really cool medical entertainment - 'House' and other doctor series have episodes about this rare disease every now and then). I dropped my post grad studies the moment we realised he was seriously ill. I knew my family would need my wholehearted attention during that time and I was prepared to sacrifice everything to keep us stable. I cared for him. Read up on his disease, supported him, supported his family, ran our business, tried to cope financially as he became less and less able to earn an income. We started a family gratefulness journal at that time in case we lost him. Every morning at breakfast we would each have to contribute something to the journal. I did many things like that to make our family life then rich and loving and memorable - both for him and the kids, in case we lost him.
We didn't lose him. He survived the surgery (only just), and I nursed him back to health. I cannot tell you how joyful I was that he survived. Every time I looked at him, my heart sang with joy and love. I kept telling him. He would smile. But not really respond. Once he said "I'm so lucky, to be loved so much by you". In all that time he never told me he loved me back. That he was thrilled to have survived, and that he now had more time with me and our children. He probably felt it. Never said it.
Then his sister who lives in the USA invited him to come to a family gathering in Ireland. A kind of 'celebration' that he was still with us (they lost their father young - this was very very hard for them, watching their brother and son fade away like he was). I was hurt: I was the one who had carried us all through this. Now they were planning a family gathering and I wasn't even invited. It was like their primary family had the right to do this, but not us, his 'secondary' family. I was mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted: the illness had taken a huge toll on me. Our family finances were struggling as he hadn't been able to earn much of an income while he was ill. And in our company, I was trying to run it without his key input - he is one of our top consultants. We didn't have the money to send him. And we couldn't afford him losing more billable time.
But I did what I do. I swallowed all this pain of abandonment by him. Rejection by him and his family. His sister offered him frequent flier miles for his flight, and my financial concerns were closed down. I cheerfully set about getting him ready to go and sent him off without sharing my pain with him - because in my mind, that would just ruin his holiday. He went off to spend a happy couple of weeks with his 'primary family' and left me and our children behind. There was to be no 'he lived' celebration holiday in my little family. We couldn't afford the holiday he went on, let alone another for us. Who were with him every day through it. Who suffered along with him through it all. Who watched him dying before our very eyes.
You can hear the bitterness in my writing. I know it's there. I can feel it now as I type: a welling up of unshed tears in my throat. I know that if he ever read this he would just be angry. He says I'm reading things into this - it wasn't about leaving me behind or being left out and rejected. And that I should have told him how I felt and given him the chance to make different decisions. The bitter backlash that he has had to face since that, and many other 'Peter Pan' holidays has been very hard for him to bear. And me.
So all my therapy has been about changing some of these unhelpful behaviours in me. It is important that I learn to communicate my feelings up front, and not expect my partner to know how I'm feeling and anticipate my every need. I need to find that very small voice inside me that can say "I'm really not OK with this" to give my partner the opportunity to modify his behaviour, if he sees fit. And to allow more of my own real needs to be understood and met, rather than ignored now, and denied later when the punishment spills out of me.
So imagine my pain when, after getting out of hospital, feeling terrified about how I was going to survive and care for my children, I finally found my voice to say "I'm not OK with this. I cant cope". It took huge amounts of courage to say that. And it came from a place of incredibly deep need. To have him then, as usual, just ignore my need and head off anyway to have a nice little holiday, was just devastating to me. I feel like I can't forgive him for that. It hurts so so much still, so raw and fresh is that wound.
So it makes me wonder. If I had told him I wasn't OK with him leaving me behind for Ireland? Or the Thailand prostitute? Or the Malawi motorbike trip while I was pregnant? Or any of the other things he hopped off to do? What would he have done? Stayed? Happily or resentfully? Or just done what he did now - go anyway? Would me approaching expressing my own needs differently have made any impact at all on his behaviour? Or is it not about me at all?
I told him I'm moving back in with the kids after Christmas. He didn't reply.