Where I am now(22 Posts)
15 July 2015
Two and a half years ago I left my marriage because I could no longer cope. I used to post on Feminism before then and I don’t know where else to put this, as I just really want to write it down and see what people who share my ideals about partnership and equality in life think; but who maybe have done a better job at finding this in their own relationships.
So, it was never straightforward as our living situation was complicated because of work. We both had children from previous marriages/relationships and one child together. I was the primary carer, due to his work commitments although I felt, not unreasonably, he could have been here more. I was also working full-time and mainly looking after the family home. We did the same type of job so that was nice, but I was doing it in completely different circumstances to him as I was also there most of the time for the children due to location. My childhood was abusive and aspects of that continued to the extent that my mother actively tried to sabotage our relationship and behaved in a completely bizarre way (I will out myself if I go into details); whilst also cutting me out of my birth family. I had three miscarriages before our DS was born, so it was quite a lot of stress.
DS was very much wanted and loved, but he was also a high needs 24 hour care type of baby who would not leave me, and would cry if I left him. I kept asking HV for help, and indeed XH, and got none from HV and some but not enough from XH. I left because I felt like I could not be a good wife and mother any more, but mostly I felt I was turning into the kind of shouty parent I did not want to be, I was not coping and I found that XH’s expectations were too high and I found him controlling and our house had turned into a battle zone when he was here, and I didn’t want the children to grow up in that; I didn’t want DD to think that was what she should accept. He seemed to expect me to be the person I was before DS was born and not the sleep-deprived, utterly stressed out mother I became. The separation was very hostile and stressful, as he did not accept it, and lawyers got involved in very long and expensive negotiations which did help us work out the best solution for the children, particularly DS, and put us back on an even keel in terms of communicating in a manageable manner. Expensive, but I actually learned a lot from that experience, and from going through CBT myself last summer.
Over a year ago, I told him that I felt bullied by his behaviour, which seemed to come as a shock to him, and he has genuinely left me alone. Since we have been separated, a LOT of work on my part has gone into getting DS more settled, I moved him to a nursery he was more happy in, I have in-home childcare now set up for older DC, and whilst there is still a LOT to do, life has got easier. I feel like I can see more of a future in terms of what I am doing with my job and home, I have been travelling with the children and so on, which has improved my confidence.
I have also been treated over the last year for mental health conditions (anxiety/panic caused by things which went on in my childhood and adult life, including historic rape, and the experience of the breakdown of my marriage, which was very unpleasant; possibly also PND in hindsight). I suffer from dissociation which means that I detach from reality at times and have had (maybe still have?) chunks of my life I had forgotten completely. It feels like I had a mental breakdown and in getting over that, nothing really looks like it did previously because of what I know now about my life before, and I mean not only XH but my whole life.
I am now really torn because one of the things I have realised is that I did not leave the marriage for lack of love, but for lack of support and the fact that it was not a working partnership. I felt by the end that I could not breathe any more. I left because I was, in my head, literally running, running, running – and one of the things I have done as I have worked through what has gone on in my life is stopped running. I have started talking to my H again, and he has told me that he very much regrets what happened, that he realises that I couldn’t cope and that he still loves me. I have told him that I left because I couldn’t cope and it felt like a perfect storm, and I still love him. I have also said that I feel very fragile and that I am not prepared to rush into anything; and he says there is no rush – but the ground has shifted because I see the person I saw before all this happened, and I can see some things from his perspective. I am not blaming myself, but neither of us had the resources to cope.
On the other hand, his behaviour at points could be labelled abusive, and that is how I experienced it. That is how I experienced it after a life time of such treatment from my parents. But what I have never had from my parents is any words of regret or sorrow; or actions which show that they are listening to what I am saying. For about a year, he has been listening to me about DS and DS’s needs, he says lots of things about my care of DS and how I am dealing with things which I just think – why did you not notice before?? Why did you not do this before?? He has a relationship with DS and indeed his older DD, which he did not have before (and realises that it is NOT easy being a parent who has to be there and deal with it all himself).
And I utterly and absolutely miss the person who I knew before everything broke down. I want to hold onto him and not let him go – and yet, there is no way that I can go back to being his wife, at least, not as it was before. I know I did the right thing by leaving when I did, I had tried everything I could think of, I had said everything I could, and it just got worse. But I was utterly distraught at the end of the marriage and I don’t think I have got over it. I am thinking of a future where we actually sit down, in some kind of mediated setting, and talk it through and where we go from here. There are DC involved, and whilst we have done our best to handle things sensitively, of course there has been an impact on them. Older DC went from being very close to not being part of each other’s lives, which was awful in some ways, in others, it was necessary as they were suffering from the hostility. We have gradually been bringing DC together again a bit more as our communication has improved, which they absolutely enjoy, so anything we do needs to be sustainable.
I just don’t know where to go or who to talk to with this. I have no parental support; I have not got a huge social circle for childcare reasons, so not had a chance to speak properly with long term friends. My sister, who is also estranged from our parents and has worked through issues similar to me, is of the mind that there should be the possibility for people to grow and change. At the moment, I am just taking things day by day and trying to keep mindful of my own goals and where I am. But I just wanted to write this down, so it is not in my head. I feel so utterly lost. I feel like I went to a very dark and horrible place and it is almost too much that there might be a way of finding a way to what I wanted in the first place, which is a functioning relationship and a family.
I have posted this on here because I don’t want to be rained down on in relationships. I don’t hate him, I don’t feel angry with him (at least not any more). I could list all the things he should have/could have done, but I don’t see the point of that, nothing is that one-sided. It is more, what do I do now, that has all happened and can’t be undone. I just feel so so sad that all this happened because I look at him in front of me and think I don’t think this is what you meant either.
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
I second Buffy. I think that you have shown amazing strength so far.
It seems to me that neither of you knew how to deal with the situation when your son was born. Your XH may have reacted in a controlling or abusive way - you don't clarify what you mean by that, but I shall take it as read. Fast forward to now, and he has admitted that he was wrong, which, to my mind, is the first step to remorse and moving on.
This does not mean that you can simply accept it all again. I would take it very slowly and make no decisions that you are not ready for. Establish your boundaries. He may have been shocked when you called him a bully, but that does not mean that he wouldn't do it again, and you need to take steps to protect yourself from that. It will take time.
I don't have any advice or insight. But you sound strong and clear-sighted and I hope it all works out in time.
My impression from your post is that you sound utterly traumatised, from things that happened within your marriage as well before. Your strength shines through. I don't know that right now you should necessarily be thinking about doing anything, because you are where you are, and things are still settling and seem to be improving overall, and you need to be gentle with yourself
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
Feminist support is a bit quiet compared to feminist chat so you may not get much help here (people don't check it). But I just wanted to give you my support and ask if you had considered posting this in relationships?
It sounds like you have emerged from a very difficult time.
As you say, you feel fragile. I would take care of yourself (and your DC) and make sure that is the absolute priority for you. Take everything slowly. If there were even a hint of a return to the previous behaviour, then make sure you are in a position where you could step away, without any negative consequences for yourself.
Well done on surviving what sounds like a really difficult, traumatic time.
While your life has changed significantly, so has your ex-husband's. All he has to cope with now is (part time?) care of his older children. No small baby around the house full time, no balancing care for your older ones as well. I hate to say it but you took a lot of the "stress" factors with you when you left him. No wonder he's had time to calm down and reflect, and daydream (as you probably are) about how different things could have been.
You say "He seemed to expect me to be the person I was before DS was born and not the sleep-deprived, utterly stressed out mother I became." Well now, presumably, he doesn't see you being like that. Both because you are more relaxed (because you live singly, because you've worked through some issues, because you've organised your life wonderfully) but also because he's not THERE all the time, morning, noon and night. He'll just be seeing you when you're up, dressed, out and being capable.
I'm not trying to pour cold water on things, but a lot of the factors that are making you contemplate the idea of trying again, might reduce or evaporate if you DID get back together.
On the other hand, they may not, but I would give yourselves a chance to settle properly into this comfortable, steady relationship. Like someone said further up, go for dinner, chat, remember what you like about each other. But your instincts are precious here. You say "there is no way that I can go back to being his wife, at least, not as it was before", and unless you take your time, really heal, and talk things through, that is what could easily happen.
Many, many thanks for taking the time to reply, I really appreciate it. I have reflected on the points you all make and generally this is what I think:
Elephantsandmiasmas, you are not pouring cold water, what you say is true, and that for a long time was what caused me resentment (and sadness). At one point I worked out that even when we were separated (and therefore he was doing more looking after DS), the children were my primary responsibility 95% of the time. I wasn’t being petty here, I was actually trying to explain for a professional purpose what I meant when I said I was a single parent, as that could mean anything from 50/50 care to 100% lone parenting. And 95% of the time was less than when we were together… I was lucky if he would take DS for an hour or two.
As I said, DS is high needs and has anxieties around leaving me/his home situation, which mean that extending contact away from home has been a long and gradual process. It also meant that I absolutely struggled to get him settled in childcare (so could only leave him for an hour or two and the nursery would be calling me as he was so distressed). That got marginally better as he got a bit older, and then I moved him to a different setting closer to home where I luckily got a place (but this was after we had separated), where he coped much better but still did reduced hours.
So yes, what I have done is my job around these circumstances (which has resulted in long-term insomnia hence posting at this time in the morning) and looked after the DC, whilst XH has had the space to get on with his life and reflect on the absence of his family. It is not lost on me that the separation took him (XH) out of a situation he could not cope with and the discussions we are having now are coming at a point when life looks easier (when we were first together, as our DC were the same age, I also put in a lot of work getting his DC settled when they were with us). In other words, our lives now look much more like they did before DS was born.
Following on from that, I am going to pick up on the question of what I mean by abusive; and Buffy, I understood what you meant, don’t worry, and I thought it a different point from the one Alex made; nonetheless, I appreciate your clarification. I said I experienced it as abusive because I am not sure what arose out of the situation and what was actually because of him needing a high level of order in his life (will come back to that) and what was my over-accommodation to his needs because of my own childhood experiences (the idea of having boundaries was an alien concept to me, for example, I didn’t even know what they were) and what would fall into the category of abuse.
I am talking about a person who had a very ordered life (think tea towels hanging in a certain way), and a very particular way of doing things when I met him, and in many ways, thought that wife and family would fit into his ordered life. And me, with my total lack of boundaries, fitted us in – not wholly, lots of work went into creating space for the children to be themselves, around simple things like the children eating to a different schedule to him, trying to get us out of the house at a time before his morning routine was finished (though to be honest, I would just take the children out and return when I knew he would be ready); everything being done in a certain way. I have honestly wondered if he has undiagnosed ASD or something, without being flippant. It is like he has worked out, over the course of his life, what works for him, and that is what he does. Which is fine, until it becomes everyone else has to do it too.
The reason I write the last sentence is that since we split, he has more or less transferred his routines into his new life – and where DS is concerned, I have given him lots of instructions and guidance about what to do for DS, and he has built quite a fixed routine around that. So, it seems to me that he has circumstances he feels comfortable in and can cope with and that is what he does. And I think seeing what he has done since we separated has made me more able to see that it was about his need to cope with his circumstances, and not necessarily to control me. But it was almost like the more the situation became difficult to cope with, the more the control on his part would set in and it felt like it was about controlling me too.
Then I think there were things which went beyond that, for example, he would oftentimes start discussions on difficult topics late at night, when I already had stated that I needed to go to sleep (and would be woken by the baby anyway), which would result in arguments and then he would quite simply fall asleep and I would be churning all night, and then in the morning it would be like nothing had happened. He said he did not care what state the house was in, but then complained about the children making a mess or things not being cleaned properly (the worst one was just after DS was born he complained to me that I had not cleaned the toilet properly; he did apologise when I told him he could take a hike – but STUPID ME, I still went and cleaned it…I had known there was a bit under the rim I needed to clean but I had been too tired). I felt like all my time was taken up – so when he was here and I wanted to see my friends, he would come too; I wanted to do some work on the house so that I could have some office space at home to make life easier, and we ended up in a huge argument where he literally stood over me and tried to wear me down for over an hour because I was doing it in ‘family’ time, and it was that kind of relentless pressure. Ditto bodily contact where intimacy also became a battle ground; and there are things I don't want to talk about there - whilst none of it was sexual abuse, some of it went into territory I needed to stop.
I never, ever had any time to myself. If I was trying to work, he would sit and talk to me. If I wanted him to take the children somewhere so I could catch up, then he would argue that this was ‘family’ time. Separating was the only way of getting time for myself; admittedly the nuclear option.
I could have worked it through, but for the fact that I realised that I was also starting to police older DD’s behaviour so that they would not fight because then it became about me always defending her; whereas I wanted very much for her to have space to be herself (and indeed, the same for all the children). He has since said that he wishes he had been a better stepfather to her; and yes, that is a valid insight on his part. A lot of what he did with her, the efforts he made were good – but when DS was born, and things went downhill, then she became his scapegoat at certain points and I think he had unreasonable expectations of her behaviour.
My honest opinion is that he quite simply did not have the resources or the capacity to cope. Add in the way my parents were behaving (I have since gone NC with them as I realised the extent of childhood abuse and neglect – it becomes harder to ignore when your own children grow up and you realise there is not a way in hell you would do that – but it has taken a long time to get to that point) and work pressures, which were also legion – and yes, the separation gave him a way out. He did – to be fair – about a month after we had split ask me what he needed to do to change and make things better – but by that point I was beyond any kind of discussion, and my response was simply leave me alone. Which took a long time for him to accept, and what he eventually did.
I think yes, I am traumatised from what went on in my marriage and separation and life before and this causes a lot of my mental health symptoms. Things are settling and all of the advice to take things slowly and put me and DC first is exactly where I am at. He wanted to call me last night, and I said no, I am not ready for that (we communicate by email or text) and he did then quite simply agree that this might be too much, we can carry on with texting. Whereas before it would have been about what he wanted to do and I would have taken the call regardless of how I felt. That is what I mean about me not having boundaries. Putting them in place is a new experience and I am doing it in various aspects of my life and trying to think what works for me – in the recognition that this is the first step for anything else working.
This is the first time I have written all this down as it seems to me. I think the very slow approach of talking, making time and space for simple things like having a coffee is the right thing to do. I don’t want to shut him out of my life again, but anything we do needs to be manageable – and absolutely, me and DC need to be at the centre of that. I can’t undo the fact that all the work of the early years has been done by me; but I think I probably can look at the situation more dispassionately and think, okay, what strengths does he have and what can I pass onto him to do which he would thrive at? I can do that in a co-parenting relationship regardless of anything else. Whether that then leads to a more functioning couple relationship – massive open question - I really, truly don't know and maybe that needs literally a couple of years to see.
And if you read all that, for you, I really appreciate you taking the time to do so, as well as your replies yesterday. It is helping me clarify things in my own mind. Thank you.
Splitting doesn't seem to be the nuclear option at all.
From reading your two posts, you show incredible strength and clarity of thought about your situation.
The only thing I might suggest is that you keep things as they are. There is no reason
apart from financial why you need to live together, if living apart, but having a loving relationship has been working for you.
Be careful op that you don't get tempted into getting back with your ex as you feel that might somehow help heal the trauma of your time with him. You sound like you feel happy and safe now, and that is very precious, don't feel selfish about putting your needs first.
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
Firstly, let me say that the way he behaved on occasion sounds utterly horrible. ASD as an adult (even if he did have it) is not an excuse to bully others. And standing over someone berating them for an hour is bullying. Nagging your wife to go back and clean the toilet properly, especially when she's clearly busy and knackered, and you're perfectly able to do it yourself, is bullying. He is a bully, and if he wants to change that he needs to admit it and take responsibility, and do the hard graft of changing. The fact that you have had no boundaries and are as a consequence a bit of a pushover is a reason for him to be MORE protective of your freedom and independence, not less. Do you see what I mean by that?
You are clearly doing brilliantly at building up the resistance and assertiveness with which your childhood sadly didn't provide you. It must feel like a real achievement to say "no" to a phone call, for instance.
But you say yourself "Putting [boundaries] in place is a new experience and I am doing it in various aspects of my life and trying to think what works for me – in the recognition that this is the first step for anything else working." And you are right, it is a first step. Saying no to a phone call, for example, is a great thing to be able to do. But it's very easy compared to some of the things you may need to do in order for you and your children to live a happy life if you were back with your ex. Respecting your and their needs, even where these clash with his, need to become a habit not an exception. I'm not saying that isn't happening - you leaving was the ultimate example of it! - but learning something like this must be really hard, and take quite a while.
Have you asked your daughter how she feels about not living with your ex any more? It could be quite illuminating.
Hello again, and thank you again for your thoughts
Elephantsandmiasmas, I agree with what you are saying about parts of what I describe being bullying. I was careful to delineate what I think is how he copes with things and behaviour which went beyond that. It was the latter which led to me leaving, and the continuation of such behaviour which led me to name it to him as bullying.
I have spoken with DD at various times about what happened and how she feels, and she has also said things spontaneously. She is actually very perceptive in what she says - initially it was about liking the house being peaceful; but we also talked about some of his behaviour to her as I wanted her to know this was and should not be seen as acceptable. As time has passed, her comments have been more about aspects of his character and behaviour but she also locates this as one half of the marriage. To be honest, what she says is perceptive beyond her years.
There is no question of us living together; we are nowhere near that and this is not even on the agenda. He is not talking about coming 'back' but finding a way through whatever that looks like. I think the tone of what he says is very much different from what I was hearing before.
messy, stroppy teenagers, Buffy - he would need a bolthole, I think, and -as with younger DC, possibly someone to mediate when there was conflict or difficulties as he would find this situation stressful.
I am falling asleep, but finally, I don't think I am looking to heal the trauma, it has happened and it is part of who I am. I would not understand a lot of things about myself and my reactions if it had not happened. I think I am trying to look at the situation now.
Sorry if none of that makes sense
I wanted to re-visit this post. I de-registered when there was the hacking as my details where amongst those leaked. And of course I can't get the Summerflower name back.
I am glad I wrote this all down as I think, when one's life gets consumed by the needs of others, and trying to make sense of the here and now, things get forgotten - and my brain is hard-wired to forget. And I also have very little energy left. It is helpful to read back what I wrote and the advice I was given.
I started therapy in December; the therapist is kind, experienced and astute. It will be a long journey and i don't know what the end of the journey looks like. I only know that one foot needs to go in front of the other to leave the situation I am in now - professionally, and in terms of shouldering the main domestic burden - both for my own wellbeing and any kind of shared future.
Those of you who have mentioned trauma were right - I read a blog about complex PTSD, and the author used the metaphor of a beautiful glass vase being broken. And I feel broken because I can no longer hold things together in my mind; I can no longer hold everything (and my myriad responsibilities) together. She said that you could not rebuild the vase, but it could be a beautiful mosaic.
Whereas right now, I have pieces of glass and no idea how to, or even any wish or energy to, put them together in any kind of order. That is the best way I can describe it.
In practical terms, we are still separated. The DC are spending more time together, which they are clearly thriving with and that is lovely to see. That was the worst part of separating, them being apart. Living together as a family is not on the cards (although H is now offering what I would have loved four years ago in terms of commitment, both financial and domestically and in partnership). I am just not there yet and it needs to be a joint venture. If there were a beach, I would go and sit on it and feel the wind and breathe the air and just be. Maybe it is about just being gentle with myself for a while.
I know that people have their own struggles. The world is not in a good place. I wish you all peace
OP, glad you are OK. You might find this site useful:
Thanks twgrwf, I am looking at this. I think there is value in trying to look at him as the person he is. But I guess my fear is losing my self again, when I am not even sure what myself looks like. It will all take time. But I am not sure what the other options are, as it doesn't work apart really.
The light-hearted way of looking at it is not only did we fail at being married; we failed at getting divorced too. Life goes on somehow.
Sorry, I got your name wrong, I realise.
No problem, Summer. It's just a string of letters.
For completeness, I ended the path to reconciliation. I found that i had ended up back where I was mentally when I left, but with all the exhaustion of the intervening period too. He seemed content to put everything which happened down to my issues, and despite expressing regret for his part by not supporting me, he was not willing to change the details of his life which contributed to that lack of support.
If I did not trust my judgement then, I do now. Once again, and with a scary speed, there was nothing of me left. There was and is something which drains my soul in it all.
I did ask him about possible AS in a kind manner in the language of mutual support, and he deflected the issues right back at me. I am not able to carry it all.
FWIW, I also could not get over the barriers in my head to physical intimacy. It would have felt like allowing assault; and I felt like if I allowed that, there would have been truly nothing left.
Therapy continues. Life goes on. Recovery is slow, but small things make me smile. This post is a recognition of an ending and a beginning.
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