This is a longer post, but it was one of those rare trauma times this weekend.
This sounds so crazy, so laughably irrational even in my own head, that though it’s true, it almost feels stupid to write about. We can go along with what looks and feels like almost normal for long stretches in our relationship. Like an inconsistently consistent cycle, there will come the moment when I sense it’s shifting to the unpleasant part of the cycle. Overt bad behavior is the rare part, like the small cycles occasionally lead up to the big one, or sometimes it only takes the wrong right conditions to be present.
I was feeling and seeing the subtle signs of escalation in him recently. I tried calmly to talk to him about it at least twice, asking him to please try to process it differently this time. I know from past experience that almost anything will suffice to set him off if he’s at that point, but I didn’t dream that it would be because I asked him not to work for a couple hours, but take personal time to do anything he felt like.
After reaching a horrible place financially again, I’d finally agreed last year to get involved in business/finances and try to help again,. It had been years since the last time I agreed to get involved, because I’d always been punished for successfully helping. In past years, once there was relief and things started to improve, he’d ramp up the sabotage, the resentment and withdrawal, and usually throw in some trauma so that I’d remove myself, leaving him ‘in control’.
This time, I did it with conditions that he had to agree to.
I wasn’t getting un-involved this time. I was sick of the messes he created from having it his way, and this time it had to be for good (or as long as I stayed married to him).
He had to agree that it was not only project management, but ironclad last say on dispersing finances and resources. When it came to business and money, I was in charge (and yes, that one he chokes on). He didn’t like that, but the mess was bad enough that he wanted help anyway. No sabotage tolerated.
Last, he had to agree that this time it would involve time management. His covert ways led to chaos, and so being accountable for his time, and agreeing to time management was part of the deal.
If you’re partner to a p.a., you have to know this has been almost a daily battle to hold the line on this one. I’ve wanted to throw in the towel as in past years, but there’s a change, and it’s in me. In years past, when he would do things to upset and hurt me so that I’d withdraw from what he must have viewed as an arena of control (instead of a complementary and cooperative partnership), I withdrew because I WANTED relationship with him. I still hoped for us to turn that magical corner when love and patience, forgiveness and tenderness, would win out over whatever I perceived as harming him when he was a child. I still hoped for a loving husband.
This time, it was all about survival. I want enough stability so that I can pursue some certifications. In years past, he repeatedly thwarted and sabotaged attempts to get an education, so now my dreams have gone from degrees to certifications. Survival and independence. I was honest with him about this too. I told him what I’m saying here. That it was survival, and so no matter what he said or did, I wasn’t going away until and unless it was for good. Or maybe the infinitesimal chance that we could enjoy something good together.
I knew exactly which projects and deadlines held priority, and what would be required to complete them. I knew which bills had been paid and which invoices were expected to be paid. It was Saturday, and really the only reason for him to work was because one of our sons wanted to put in some time working for him, and that would require a small degree of direction for that project. I suggested to my husband that he should work one hour on Job-X, and then after that, just stop.
He said “But what would I do?”
I replied “Anything you want!”
He asked “What do you mean? What would I do?”
I said “Anything you feel like. Call your mom, read a book, watch a movie, read your pile of newspapers or magazines, read your Bible, play a game online, whatever you feel like. Anything but work. We’re caught up enough that you don’t need to work six days this week, and it’s counter productive. Just take time for you.”
Well, that did it. It escalated so fast that my head was spinning. He was loud, angry, and accusing. Something was yelled about him rather going out to buy new tennies (which… okay… couldn’t he just talk about that?), about not having any peace of mind unless he worked more on a couple projects (totally irrational with the piddly amount left on them and when they were due), and how he was sick of ‘it’. He was yelling, he was mouthing ‘F you’ and showing me his middle finger.
At that point, I closed up the meeting notes, and said ‘Okay. Then let’s be done with it, all of it. I’d like you to leave.’
And I meant LEAVE.
He continued to mouth ‘F you’, flip the finger, and as he was storming off, he yelled ‘I will! But you better think about what you’re saying because if I do, I’m leaving for good!’
I wanted to say… Would you please?
But instead I just said ‘Okay’.
Then our youngest yelled ‘Stop it! I don’t want to live with either one of you!’
After he stormed off (and stayed back in his office for hours), I tried to calmly explain to our daughters that I couldn’t live like this. I told them that I fully anticipated he’d probably decide to apologize, but that if not, I was ready to just move forward. The youngest asked how we’d be able to afford to live, and whether or not her cat would stay with us. She said ‘Do you think I can be happy if I don’t have a Dad?’
I told her that I was sorry she had that fear, and that I understood, and that my counselor had once addressed the same kind of fear in me. That I was afraid that if I wasn’t there (in the marriage), that he might not be in their lives the same way. I said there was absolutely nothing I could do or not do to make another person be a good parent or not. If he chose to be a good Dad, she would always have a Dad in her life.
This kind of outburst was traumatic, triggering, and draining to me. Predictably, things had recently improved to where I was starting to look at a gym membership and a certification program. Change and progress for me. With a p.a. that needs the dependence from others that his chaos and instability inevitably produce, it was an established pattern. Seeing it is one thing. Getting myself the helloutofdodge is another. Working on that part.
Yes, hours later, he began to say he was sorry.
No, I don’t really believe him.
I sort of emotionally drooled through the rest of the weekend. In my pajamas.