Posted by: Hannah | 11/16/2010

spikes in the house of love

A week ago hubby and I had Tarot readings done.

(This will not be a discussion about whether or not Tarot readings are bunk.  I happen to believe that they can be very useful.  That is all.)

Hubby had never had one before, claiming vast skepticism about everything.  In the past few months – since starting his new job – he’s starting to unbend.  He now self-identifies as “agnostic” rather than “atheist”.  He’s not giving me hell about telling the kids Santa is real.  He doesn’t laugh at me when I talk to my Nanny, dead almost six years now, as if she’s floating just above my head.

It’s weird, not always needing to defend my admittedly loose belief structure.  So weird that I catch myself doing it anyway even if he hasn’t said anything at all against it.

So, the readings.  Interesting, enjoyable.  In his house of love, there I was, Queen of Wands, surrounded by other happy and auspicious cards.  Very nice.  In my house of love?  Spikes.  Flames.  Pointy bits.  The key card was the Five of Swords (sometimes known as The Lord of Defeat).  Of all the five houses aspected in my reading, the house of love was the one with the most challenges.

He was disappointed and a little worried – kind of funny for someone who’d spent our entire 12 year relationship making fun of the whole process.

I covered it up by explaining that the love house covers all relationships, not just the one with your spouse.  That I’ve been having some conflict with my brother lately and it’s been on my mind.  That everything was fine.

I lied.

And this is going to sound really, really strange, so bear with me.

***

For most of those 12 years, hubby has been depressed.  He has been on and off antidepressants.  He has been through therapy.  He has wallowed, and withdrawn, and eaten his feelings, and denied there was a problem.

It was at its worst when he was at his last job.  He got laid off almost exactly a year ago.  One month later, his father died.  It’s been rough.

He started a new job in May of this year.  It’s a great place to work.  He lost 35 pounds, so he’s feeling better.  He’s type 2 diabetic but his sugars are well-controlled now.  He’s feeling good.

He’s taking more of an interest in the kids.  He spends time with them.  He still gets lost in computer games, but it’s once or twice a week instead of every single night.  He likes to go on family adventures every weekend.  He suggests the kinds of activities (hiking, road trips, craft projects) that I and the boys love.  He helps me with the grocery shopping every week.

He’s becoming a much better husband, a far better father, and generally just a more pleasant person all around.

And inside, I’m seething.

I feel such resentment, it’s actually a little scary.  While on the one hand I’m thrilled and happy and enjoying this transformation, on the other hand this bitter little voice is muttering “where were you?  where were you before?  where were you when the kids were young – or before we even had kids?  where were you all those nights I sat watching TV alone because you couldn’t close the fucking laptop and engage?  all those gorgeous sunny weekends I spent cleaning the house to pass the time because you couldn’t be arsed to get up and do anything fun?  all those bedtimes when I read the stories while you were reading your own books to yourself and ignoring everyone?”

The voice mutters.  All day long.  I keep telling it to shut up.  But it’s persistent, that voice.

I talked to my mom about it, because 1) I have the world’s best mom and 2) she went through this with my dad.  He was miserably depressed for 20 years.  He’s not anymore, he’s fun to have around, but she told me candidly that during that first six months when he finally got out of his own way and started enjoying life were the closest she ever came to leaving him.

“What stopped you?” I asked.

“The thought of some other woman meeting him, and getting the benefit of me spending half my life fixing him, and wondering what I was on about when I said he was a depressive, no-fun crank” she replied, without missing a beat.

***

I’m not saying it’s that bad – it isn’t.  I’m certainly not contemplating leaving, good lord, if I didn’t all those other times then I won’t now.  But it’s odd.  I’m not sure what I’d like from him to help shush the mutterer.  Flowers?  An apology?  A trip to Disneyworld?

I wonder how many couples who do counseling end up divorced anyway, because the resentment is just too much.

How about you – anyone out there have the vaguest notion of what I’m getting at here?  What did you do?  Is this one of those cases where you just have to be willing to take the time to heal?

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Responses

  1. During highschool, my brothers moved away leaving me an only child for the first time in my life, then my mother got sick and fell into a deep depression. My father, I don’t know where he went, probably to the same place I did, a place he could survive.
    Mom’s depression was so bad she couldn’t even move. She was gone, lost to us. To herself. During a time I needed her most, she was gone.
    When she got better it was the same for me. By that point she was meeting my now sister in law and was fun to be around. I was jealous and resentful to say the least.
    One teary conversation opened up my process of healing though. I told her, and she apologized for something she had no control over. It was that she was sorry I had to go through that, that meant so much. Her acknowledgment of what happened that helped me. She had no idea what it was like for me and Dad when she was sick. How could she?

  2. this post…sent a chill….

    I wonder the same thing. I wonder if all the work we are doing right now is ever going to fix things in a way that works not only for him but also for me.

    Frankly, right now…..it feels like almost every choice we’ve taken has been to get HIM better…and at some point…the choices have to become more balanced. I’m not sure they ever will…and I’m not sure I can live that way forever.

    I’m just not sure about alot of things these days. I am taking time…trying to see/feel/wade my way out of this…trying to remind myself that successful marriage is a long and sometimes difficult road to navigate. I remind myself of this daily….but I wonder…should I have to?

  3. A friend of mine has been separated for three years from her husband, mostly because he was not able to silence (or disguise) that mutterer. She had various mental health issues that are now mostly under control, and had been for about a year before they split up, but he was never able to get past all the stuff that happened before that – and as I was reading this post, I wondered if the same thing had happened to him: that all the resentment he’d been suppressing during the years when she was sick came to the surface after she had made all the changes. She ended up being the one to leave him – she couldn’t live with the constant, uninterrupted anger and contempt. And now he’s suing for full custody of their son, and the court documents he’s submitted focus almost obsessively on all the thing she did wrong when their son was an infant, even though he’s now six and most of that is irrelevant from the court’s point of view.

    I don’t know how you get rid of the mutterer. But I wonder if keeping it a secret just helps sustain it – because it provides constant new sources of resentment (resentment over the mental energy it takes to conceal the resentment).

  4. i don’t have any answers, but…it kinda makes sense to me, for what that’s worth.

    healing hurt doesn’t seem to come from changed behaviours, in my own experience. just owning them, owning the hurt it caused, owning all that was lost.

    i can see you might not want to lay all this on him, for fear he just goes “why bother?” and reverts. but if he’s actually in a better, healthier frame of mind, maybe it’s worth extending the trust to say “this is what it was like for me.” maybe write it? i dunno.

    i think it’s good you’re exploring it though. when resentment gets stuffed down so long that change in a partner CAN’T be rewarded and appreciated, the next step beyond that, emotionally, is contempt. and contempt is hard to come back from where. i hope where you are isn’t.

    xo

  5. Thanks, everyone. I’m surprised that so many of you had personal (or second-hand) stories to tell about this particular phenomenon… but I’m glad you did. I talked to him about it and he acknowledged how difficult it’s been for me as well – and that did help.

    I’m sure this is an on-going process but I’m working hard on it. November coming to an end will help, too. Bloody stupid November. 😉

  6. I can’t answer this until I see the sadness lift. Right now? Oy.


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