Hope for my ailing marriage?
December 27, 2011 1:27 PM   Subscribe

After nearly 11 yrs of marriage my husband is talking of possibly finding his own place and at the very least separating for awhile to see if he can "get himself together". We have been a couple nearly 15 yrs. I am looking for experiences, resources, advice...

The reason is not because we have "grown apart" or "because we got married too young" or "now that I nearly died I have realized I didn't do a lot of things I wanted to experience" but because he does not feel emotion for me currently and has not for about 2 yrs (possibly more) since he was involved in a severe motorcycle accident. A week after he went into the hospital his best male friend died of cancer despite seeming like he was on the road to recovery. A month later his grandmother passed as well as our neighbor who we were close with. Prior to this my mother passed away. Additionally my husband was a first responder (Firefighter/Medic) and had some pretty traumatic calls he worked on during that time period such as a girl that looked similar to myself/my sister dying in his arms as he tried to save her. His stepfather who raised him was murdered (and the family member that killed him never charged) when we were both 18. There was childhood abuse back there as well...
I knew something was increasingly wrong, he was more and more distant post-accident recovery, and the break finally came when I found photos of him out with another woman on a social media site. Phone records and text messages also indicated that he was carrying on a secret relationship. I confronted him, he admitted he'd slept with her a few times, and after a week or so he broke off the relationship with her. He admitted at this point his lack of emotional connection to me, to his family, and to his beloved pets. He said he had thought he was able to feel something again with this woman but had realized that there wasn't really anything there when he stopped contacting her.

Fast forward a few months, he claimed to feel love for me again and that he was still struggling but knew he would be able to recover eventually with me by his side as best friend and wife. Things seemed like they were going really well. He gave me compliments again on my appearance, he bought me flowers and little gifts here and there. For our 10th wedding anniversary he bought me a "past-present-future" type ring and declared he felt it appropriate because he wanted to grow old with me and was so grateful that I was by his side through everything.

Slowly but surely he started to become more distant. I had some struggles I now felt comfortable sharing in regards to the affair and did talk them over with them. I initially was given reassurance. Then it started again - changing of the passwords for email accounts etc (we have always known each other's passwords, everything was open-book), asking to go out without me there, if I was out on the town with mutual friends I would be pretty much ignored. He began drinking a lot while out and occasionally didn't come home til the next afternoon. When I asked how things went while out I received "good" and no stories of fun that was had. Last week I reached my limit and asked if another affair was being had, but this time to my friend who had introduced him to all these new people he was spending time with. She was horrified - her husband had asked the same thing and she had said no. It was then she realized he'd formed an emotional connection to her of some sort. She didn't feel the same toward him, she thought she was helping him to meet new people and have a balanced social life of his own like I had with my friends. She didn't realize on the nights she thought hubby and I were spending quality time with each other that he was actually out with other people or just sitting silently near me at home. She decided not to have any more contact with my husband without her husband or myself present, if at all.

I tried taking advice from friends - if he was going to repeatedly do this to me I should be strong and tell him I was leaving if he didn't go to counseling with me. So I confronted him ...I tried this... he told me he was in a terrible dark place and very confused with what he wanted. He said a part of him wants me to be in his life and a part (that was him pushing me away to try to see if he could find emotional connection elsewhere) was telling him he needed to be on his own. He said he felt like he wasn't himself anymore and he wanted to be himself again. He wanted to feel something again, anything positive, and didn't know how or where or when or if he could do that again. His business partner basically had told me the same thing I'd felt that day...that hubby wasn't himself anymore and he wanted his fun loving, caring, close friend and business partner back. I relayed this to my husband and he said he wanted to seek help... we have now been to two counseling sessions with the initial marriage/individual therapist that we saw last year at the discovery of the affair. Hubby had not attended sessions after the first few because he had delved deeply into the business and seemed to be doing so well.

For some reason the therapist though she has always seemed very insightful, has been saying that she doesn't feel my husband is a candidate for anti-depressants or that he has any sort of trauma disorder. I am confused as to whether he has her "snowed" or whether we just haven't gotten far enough into therapy. We meet again with her in a couple of days...both me individually and then a couple of hours later both of us.

I am looking for input, similar experiences, resources if you feel this may be something like PTSD, and suggestions...I feel that I married my husband for the long haul. I knew to a degree marrying a first responder with a troubled past that I'd be dealing with emotional trauma at some point. We've been through A LOT together and have always been there for each other. I do not think he'd simply leave me if it were the other way around. However I wonder if I'm being unrealistic that there is hope for him to heal, and for us. He wants so desperately to know he says, whether we he can be "repaired" and whether we as a couple can be "repaired" or rather, that he can again be a dedicated business partner with his good friend and a loving caring husband to me.

Right now we still have a very active sexual relationship and are talking more about serious subjects...but the day to day interaction is really tough and much of the time just "are you hungry" type stuff. So I guess that is all I can think to explain..I know it's a lot. Thank you for those that have read this and are willing to offer help of some sort.
posted by snuffyrat to Human Relations (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Speaking from personal experience, this sounds like a combination of PTSD and depression. I would try and find a therapist who specializes in PTSD. There's a therapy for PTSD called Somatic Processing and you can look for a therapist who practices it here. If they can't do it themselves, one of their therapists could help you find someone who could do an evaluation.
posted by orsonet at 1:39 PM on December 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

Sounds like a lot for one dude to endure without help.
posted by rhizome at 1:46 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Get a new therapist.

Personally, I'm against meds, so I can maybe agree with her there, BUT, your husband is the poster child for PTSD and my understanding is that a good couples counselor sees you together and doesn't treat one-on-one. Seeing you for a session, and then your husband and you together later that day, sounds like a set-up to make him into the bad guy or something (which it probably isn't, but structuring it this way seems unhelpful and disrespectful towards your husband somehow) But really, the problem with this therapist is the very very bad advice to discount the PTSD

Your husband is numb because he's got a lot to process. There are HEAPS of new modalities that help heal physical and psychological trauma (and yes, even after wounds from an accident heal, there's the emotional fallout to process...) You need to research these and try some. It's best if he researches on his own or with you. But were I you, this is where I would start.

Dump this therapist. Start over. Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 1:48 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

In this severe motorcycle accident that coincides with "loss of emotion", did your husband suffer head injuries (open or closed)? Has he had a head CAT or MRI lately? I would put that really way high up on your list of priorities, because an abrupt change in emotional state coinciding with a bad motorcycle accident would (and should have) certainly make a neurologist sit up and take notice, as his behavior could be symptomatic of brain damage.

A therapist who hears that kind of history and isn't concerned with having a proper PTSD assessment done is maybe not...very good. Is this someone associated with the city/county/Police-Fire-EMT-Etc who might be under pressure not to pursue or issue that diagnosis?
posted by Lyn Never at 2:21 PM on December 27, 2011 [16 favorites]

...he told me he was in a terrible dark place and very confused with what he wanted... He wanted to feel something again, anything positive, and didn't know how or where or when or if he could do that again. His business partner basically had told me the same thing I'd felt that day...that hubby wasn't himself anymore and he wanted his fun loving, caring, close friend and business partner back.

It sounds like your husband is exhibiting some classic signs of depression including helplessness and hopelessness, anhedonia (inability to enjoy things that once were enjoyed). Check the link and I'd be surprised if you don't see your husband in the description there of the diagnosis of depression.

I'm uncertain as to how people are diagnosing your husband with PTSD based on your description here, although he certainly has had traumatic experiences that could trigger PTSD, the diagnosis is impossible without more information, as you can see from this link which describes the DSM-IV diagnosis of PTSD. I see criterion A and probably E and F, but very little about B, C, or D.

Based on these facts, I would get an opinion from either a primary care physician or a psychiatrist on these issues separately, while continuing to pursue therapy.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:24 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

To be specific, the not being able to feel stuff, the numbness -- that sounds dissociative, which is something I've dealt with in PTSD but also a symptom that can occur independently of trauma as a manifestation of depression. (IANA professional of any kind, unless you can be a professional mental patient.)

Regardless, what your husband needs is to be seeing an individual therapist of his own choosing. You can help by, say, finding the numbers of five different therapists, possibly with different modalities, all of whom are covered by your insurance or who use a sliding scale.

MeFites often recommend CBT -- it is so helpful with dissociation and feelings of numbness. As is DBT, a subset of CBT that is particularly helpful with things like impulsivity, which the affairs could be a sign of.

I have encountered a number of therapists who were not trauma specialists who did not know all this stuff. If you can, find your husband someone who has worked with trauma patients in the past, even if he doesn't feel at the moment that his issues are trauma-related. At the end of the day, a person who is better-educated on those issues will be better equipped to help him if his depression does turn out to be trauma-related.

I would encourage you to read more about the sorts of difficulties a person may develop as a result of trauma -- I'm sure you've already read the Wikipedia entry on PTSD, but also be sure to read the one on C-PTSD. Judith Herman's Trauma and Recovery is the gold standard for books on PTSD.

But obviously, you can't diagnose your own husband, and strangers on the internet can't diagnose him, either. Get him to a better therapist, and diagnoses (and coping strategies!) will be forthcoming.

Feel free to contact me if you're in the NY area and need referrals, or if you just want to chat. Best of luck.
posted by brina at 2:33 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to chime in to say that I do not believe that it is true that "a good couples counselor sees you together and doesn't treat one-on-one." In fact, I believe it is common for couples counselors to see the individuals separately at least once so that each can fully voice issues that may be more difficult to bring up in the dual session. That way the counselor can get a good idea of each person's take on the relationship, and find ways of easing into discussing touchy subjects.
posted by parrot_person at 2:37 PM on December 27, 2011

I'm no expert, but if your husband had head trauma, he may have Traumatic Brain Injury, which often results in personality changes. I'd look into that. A friend used to provide therapy to patients who had TBI--more along the occupational line. She told me that a lot of people do suffer from a lot of personality changes after TBI.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:40 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

You opened by talking about your SO moving out. I do not think that will fulfill your needs, do you? It is hard to tell because your entire post is about HIS needs, HIS trauma (even your own mother's death is framed as something that happen to him).[1] He seems to want to avoid responsibility, not getting therapy when he needed it, pursuing a career where therapy is a must (often mandated by the employer), riding motorcycles knowing the elevated risks, only breaking off the affair because you discovered it, not continuing the therapy you arranged (did he think two sessions after his affair was enough to make you shut up about it? - I noticed it you didn't mention your struggles about the affair to him until HE was feeling better), staying out all night, ignoring you both at home and when out with friends... The only positive things you are getting from him are compliments, flowers, small gifts and a ring. Moving out will allow him to avoid the responsibilities of being a partner (like looking after YOUR needs) while keeping you on your best behaviour with deminished expectations so you remain as one of his options.

You sound so small in this relationship, like you feel don't deserve a good partner and should be grateful for the scraps he throws at you. He has kept you in a holding pattern for years, keeping you on edge so you are always putting your needs after his. If he decides to leave I hope you have the strength the finally end it instead of dragging this on for years as he looks for something/someone external to fix what is broken inside him.

[1] That may sound like a lot to go through in fifteen years but realistically, most adults in their thirties have been through a similiar amount/scale of traumas (six deaths, one car accident) without acting out the way he has. If there is no head injury than you should accept that this is who he has choosen to be.
posted by saucysault at 2:45 PM on December 27, 2011 [7 favorites]

I don't agree with Saucysault at all. This is not a normal quantity of TRAUMATIC stuff. On top of his job!!! He has not chosen this, it is consuming him. Support him but also look after yourself.
posted by taff at 2:58 PM on December 27, 2011

For some reason the therapist though she has always seemed very insightful, has been saying that she doesn't feel my husband is a candidate for anti-depressants or that he has any sort of trauma disorder. I am confused as to whether he has her "snowed" or whether we just haven't gotten far enough into therapy.

I think both of you might be better off with your own therapists. You're putting your therapist in a really tough position of weighing your needs against your husbands needs, and I don't think that's fair to any of you.

I also kind of think that giving him some space might be a good idea. None of this sounds like 'it's over for good' to me. But it does sound like your husband needs some time to figure his life out.
posted by empath at 3:05 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

You've lost your mother, been ignored repeatedly, cheated on (twice--one physical affair plus a one-sided emotional affair or effort to cheat), and told you weren't cared for any longer, and you're the one trying to fix this? If the man has PTSD/depression and wants your help with it, great, but it only explains his behavior--it doesn't absolve him here. I'm thinking maybe this separation isn't such a bad deal for you.

Both partners in a relationship generally need to meet each other's basic needs, which may include any of the following (weighted differently by different people): a need to be admired, a desire to see their partner trying to be attractive, a need for simple affection, a need for conversation, a need for help taking care of household responsibilities, a need for financial security, a need for a partner who respects familial obligations, a need for honesty, a need for a partner to do hobbies / fun stuff with, and a need for sex. There are doubtless others, but that's a pretty good start.

If you've been slacking on some of those things, OK, that's good to know for next time. You're supposed to give them all in good faith, consistently, even if your partner makes some mistakes, as long as they're still trying. But it's plain to see he's been neglecting quite a few of them and may not truly be interested in trying anymore. I suspect he's just saying whatever it takes not to burn bridges with you in case his latest effort toward getting a new situation fails. The one positive thing you mention is continuing to have an active sex life with him, but I'm afraid that sounds suspiciously like a booty call opportunity he wouldn't want to give up as he moves out.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:10 PM on December 27, 2011 [7 favorites]

Yes, yes, yes. The change in his personality--one that everyone seems to be noticing--really does sound like the result of a brain injury. And I've heard that even bad whiplash can bruise the brain. Please get in to see a brain injury specialist. And if it is a neurological problem, it's probably too much for an ordinary therapist to handle.

Good luck. I'm sorry you're going through this right now. It sounds as though he needs more, not less support from and interaction from you, no matter what he says or thinks. IANAD, but I'm guessing this isn't just a loss of feeling or affection for you--he seems to be different to everyone you know. There is something more wrong, definitely.
posted by tully_monster at 3:16 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

There is something about your post that is really really bothering me... actually, a few things, but this is sticking out to me like a sore thumb:
He wants so desperately to know he says, whether we he can be "repaired" and whether we as a couple can be "repaired" or rather, that he can again be a dedicated business partner with his good friend and a loving caring husband to me.

I am not going to try to diagnose your husband over the internet, but I can say that I find it troublesome that he is seeking some sort of outside validation over whether he can be "repaired"... the language alone is troubling (is it yours, or his?) but the pattern of avoidance and kind of... out-sourcing his emotions and connectivity to others is something that really should be addressed in individual therapy in addition to the marital therapy. It sounds like you are in individual therapy (good) and couples therapy (also good) but he has to start working on himself - the marriage is not the only component that needs repair here - and that is not easily resolved by him just moving out and "finding himself."
posted by sm1tten at 5:31 PM on December 27, 2011

Response by poster: sm1tten, the wording is his. It was more "I feel broken and I need to know whether I can somehow be fixed, and whether we can fix us" followed by "I am not myself anymore I feel lost, down, and confused as to why I am not able to be myself again".

The reason I am reaching out, is because if I hadn't known him before...if I didn't know his past experiences to every last detail, if we hadn't been "besties" that told each other every last detail of our lives down to noticing a new freckle or something as silly as that... I would think what Monsieur Caution has said. For a little while, I did think that. Some of his male friends suggested it initially. They were not terribly close to him though, had just heard of what was going on and checked in with me to see how I was faring. What stands out in a HUGE way for me, is that I'm not the only one that has noticed it. For the last several months his business partner (who is the next closest person to him in his life, and is male) has seen changes happening too. He told him last week "I just want the happy fun 'normal' guy back that I consider my best friend in the world. Whoever you are now is not that person and it kinda scares me".

We meet with the therapist on Thursday and at that point I will make my assessment of how she's trying to take this. She asked to see me privately to discuss my own issues/ feelings of the situation. Then she wants to see us both. My husband said he felt most comfortable with me there, or I think it would have been two individual sessions.

I too have noticed there are hallmarks of TBI, PTSD, and Depression (which I realize is a part of PTSD as well)...there are things missing from the PTSD diagnosis...which is maybe what makes the therapist hesitant to say it is that?
posted by snuffyrat at 9:37 PM on December 27, 2011

I'm just worried your therapist has baggage, thinks your husband is a "dirty cheater" with a character flaw in this area that you were previously blind to, and... it's all about her biases.

A diagnosis of PTSD doesn't really matter given the history you describe, IMHO. At 41 years old, it's amazing what I notice has stuck with me when I start unpacking my own baggage. Some of the events you describe are pretty severe, and I favorited Lyn Never about why this therapist was so hesitant to give your husband's history any weight. Again, maybe it's her own issues. I'm worried she's out to convince you to DTMFA because of her experience with other clients or her own shit, and she's really not open minded enough to see the full picture here.

Everyone who cited head trauma is spot on and I thought of that too when I read your question, but I was too disturbed by your therapist's dismissal to remember to mention that initially.


IME, the trauma happens, then PTSD, then Depression. With every trauma, the PTSD and the Depression worsens. These things are linked together inextricably. Treatment for trauma helped me lick the depression - which I no longer suffer from after almost a lifetime of it. Periodically treating the depression with meds and a good attitude, or some lucky breaks in life, never cured the depression. Dealing with the PTSD cured my depression.

posted by jbenben at 10:04 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

If I'm reading you correctly, then as recently as last week, you believed your husband might be having another affair, and indeed, it turned out that he thought he was on the way to one. Stroll over to SurvivingInfidelity.com, and you'll find that dramatic behavioral / attitudinal changes are an extremely common side-effect of rationalizing an affair (even one that hasn't come to fruition). They call it The Fog. And they say it's one of the scariest, spookiest, strangest things you've ever seen a loved one, whom you ordinarily know so well, go through.

You really don't need to reach back two years to a hypothetical brain injury to explain this. This isn't House, and there's a better than even chance your therapist is a trained, experienced professional with reasonable judgment. She's telling you that your husband probably isn't suffering from depression or PTSD. By all means get another therapist if she's not working for you or him (it does sound like the guy has had it bad), but there's a proximal explanation for your husband acting weird as hell: he's powerfully confused by his own impulse to cheat, very angry at being caught (again), incredibly embarrassed the other woman wasn't into it, tragically disappointed that it didn't work out, flailing around for opportunities to try again with someone else, and saying anything he can to keep you dancing for him too. His business partner sees something wrong in his behavior? Of course he does. Your husband is very far from happy, but it's likely just a result of the dilemmas his impulses to cheat have created in him.

Maybe that's wrong--one or more therapists will help you figure that out--but if it's anywhere near correct, then rationalizing your husband's behavior away isn't what's going to fix this. What the folks on SurvivingInfidelity.com typically recommend instead is the 180, though there are a lot of particulars there to disagree with. What I recommend is simply letting this separation happen while focusing on yourself: figure out how to be a strong partner to anyone, not just this guy; let him go through what he needs to go through; help him if he asks for it and it's in your best interests; and maybe he figures out you're a rock, which he really needs. That's actually not far from the 180's core point, which is that you should respond to your wayward spouse's attempted infidelity by adopting the strongest, most reasonable position you can, not by pleading with him or being somehow blamed and made responsible for "fixing" everything.

Incidentally, victims of infidelity are often the ones who get PTSD symptoms. It sounds like you're already very strong to have escaped that fate, but to my mind, it's still you for whom I see the least sympathy in your own post, when the opposite should be true.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:47 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm not sure how many times I have to say that I've considered that possibility. And no it wasn't last week something was still potentially happening. The behaviour changes happened BEFORE the affair happened. They started around the time of the accident. Considering he was present on a daily basis with me after my mother's death supporting me/keeping me company until the accident itself, which was most of 2009, I hardly think he had time to do that. The affair started spontaneously the first time he went out alone post-hospital, and he was still on serious antibiotics/pain killers for a still healing wound from the accident. Do I think that completely absolves him? No. But I do know how the medications affected him from the several months he was hospitalized/undergoing outpatient care. He had multiple spinal fractures, each limb fractured, and almost lost his right foot. I witnessed the weirdness of the meds daily.

Not a single person who has known him as long as I have feels he is trying to make excuses for what happened. His family members (who only I am in contact with at this point) and longtime friends see a difference. Most of us feel like we saw signs, but dismissed them as medication side effect or coping with the loss of loved ones. We expected him to slowly recover emotionally but he did not.

At this point I am so exhausted by what is going on in my life I am not feeling defensive... just sharing what "in my gut" I am feeling. Something is wrong in my spouse's head, and I'm pretty darned sure it's not a symptom of the affairs. I feel like they are just one symptom of something else as do others in my husband's life. I wouldn't have bothered posting here otherwise!!! Goodness knows I've read many many affair recovery websites including the one you keep suggesting.

Please just stop.
posted by snuffyrat at 3:03 AM on December 28, 2011

I have been dealing with my husband's severe mental illnesses for several years now, so I do have a great deal of sympathy for you. However, regardless of whatever formal diagnosis your husband ends up with he is still responsible for his behaviour. He is responsible for the good and the bad. You can't acknowledge his agency in complimenting you while excusing hurtful behaviour as the result of PTSD or a brain injury.

When he realised something was wrong with his thinking he should have been thinking about consequences and taking responsibility and reached out for professional help then; instead he acted out and lied to you and neglected your needs. As long as you both put your valid needs as his partner on the back burner his behaviour will continue to deteriorate and he will exhaust you more and more. This is his relationship too; he should be working just as hard at making it work. But he isn't the one arranging therapy, meeting alone with the therapist, posting to AskMe or focusing most of his energy on his partner.

You are taking on his responsibilities and teaching him that disrespecting you has no consequences and is not serious behaviour that needs to change. You've tried the compassionate route and it lead to him nearly having a second affair; you need to change your own behaviour to get a different result this time. I know it is hard to be passive when the consequences of his behaviour are so obvious to you as an outsider but this is a lesson he needs to learn and decide if the negative repercussions of continuing to act the way he has make the behaviour worthwhile.

My husband also spent several years threatening to leave me when his depression got really bad. He usually coached it as a "trial separation" or "needing space to think about our relationship." I was firm in stating that if he walked out the door our relationship was over and I would file for divorce. I wouldn't stop him from walking out the door, but he needed to know there were real consequences to the choices he made about his behaviour and he needed to respect that I needed commitment and stability in a partner. I am positive that had I not been firm in stating my needs I would have spent the past two years with a yo-yo husband who choose his living arrangements based on what caused him the least amount of friction. I also am also pretty sure that him leaving would have meant he would become homeless and suicidal pretty quickly; obviously something I would love to rescue him from but I had to respect his agency even when he made bad choices. I am his partner, not his parent. And I expect him to be a good partner too.

I think a healthy relationship with someone ill requires both of you to acknowledge firm boundaries - and that the ill person is responsible for their illness (including taking positive steps towards resolving it) AND their half of the relationship with the well partner being supportive without taking away the ill partner's agency.
posted by saucysault at 5:51 AM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: saucysault - Thankyou for your insight in this. Previously he did not think he could handle reliving everything in therapy, and that was one of the major challenges. So for him to ask for help from someone other than myself and friends, at least in my mind, was a major thing.

I have told him what you said, last week in fact...the therapist's advice and that of a couple of friends was that perhaps he did need time as an individual to heal and relationships can often come back stronger when a troubled individual has time in their own "cocoon" of sorts. I can understand it to a degree, but I guess the concern on my part is that he could start to view it as another way to avoid dealing with what is going on in his own mind, and what is going on with us.

This last session yesterday brought new issues/further explanations to the table. The therapist went into depth with how he thought he got to this point, and if it did indeed extend to others besides me. He said yes, it extended to everybody. She asked him to trace it back, and he did say the start of it was probably the passing of his stepfather so many years ago...but there was a point where my own issues with my self esteem during a massive weight gain were starting to bring him down too. I dealt with my own set of childhood abuses which did indeed hurt my confidence levels up until last year (unfortunately) and when a combination of medicines I was taking caused a weight gain of over 130lb, I had a hard time handling it. I was to the point of not wanting to be seen with him in front of the new friends he was making and refused to attend events/go to friend's houses with him. I did indeed go through a point where I thought so poorly of myself that I even argued when he told me I was beautiful no matter what extra weight I carried because I carried it so well and was *me*. He said that he just kept feeling more and more down about every effort made being refused, and with feeling so down already began to detach emotionally as a self protection measure of sorts as he had started to do with others in his life he worried about losing. The therapist asked if he had ever spoken with me about it (he hadn't) and he said he figured he could just work it out on his own eventually and that I'd come out of the "fog". He was adamant that I was not to blame because of the fact he didn't discuss it with me, and that most of the relationship problems we'd had in the past (far more minor) were mostly due to him thinking he didn't need to talk about it just act like everything would be fine and it'd go away, because there were worse things that could be happening in life. Like someone close to him dying.

Directly after the accident I quickly got to know his friends I'd been avoiding the last year or so because I had no choice - and learned I wasn't the only heavier gal involved in his interests and hobbies, and his friends didn't judge me by my exterior at all. They were in fact very kind and I've since spent alot of time with him/the friends together especially during the initial affair recovery. I have also during that time and becoming healthier myself lost close to 90lbs of that extra weight and counting, and even if it may not seem like it I truly do value myself regardless at this point. I no longer have that fear of being seen with him in public and being an embarassment. That I guess is the sad part, that it took him nearly dying for me to get over my own self image/depression issues.

He explained again though that the main reason and real beginning of the bad times for him/us was the accident/losing his close friend during his hospital stay who was a father figure of sorts.

By this time our session was over and when the therapist asked if he felt he would benefit from an individual appointment so he could focus solely on himself, he said yes. So we now each have an individual session + a session together a week from today.

He has been very quiet and distant. The therapist explained after all he'd been through he should write a book...well it was taken to heart and he began writing starting with young childhood and the abuses there. He asked me not to read it until he was done. He got about 20 pages in until he felt burned out and went to the lake to go and just think away from home...he told me today in what little communication we had that he wasn't expecting bringing up a lot of what he'd been through to hit him so hard.

I am troubled by less and less communication yet feel concerned as to how to present the firm boundaries. Sorry for all the rambling...just didn't know if it might provide additional insight. I worry about sending "pushing away" signals, not exactly sure how to be firm but supportive and caring/genuine at the same time.
posted by snuffyrat at 6:45 PM on December 30, 2011

Congrats on becoming healthier and improving you self esteem! That is wonderful he is confronting his problems and journalling them sounds really helpful - that he is overwhelmed by the newly surfaced emotions lets you know he is taking this very seriously. I am so glad he is seeing the therapist himself; clearly he is committed to your relationship instead of walking out and avoiding his problems.

I understand the lack of communication is hard; as mentioned upthread you need to be a rock - stable and secure so he feels safe with you. Personally, I believe in trusting that him but letting him know consequences of the minimum behaviour you expect. You are right it is a very difficult tightrope but unfortunately you (with your therapist's help) are the only one who can set up boundaries that are comfortable to you.

As to time apart, it is so individual, so hard to judge what is best. My husband was in a mental health hospital for six weeks; although he was really bad when he went in I think the experience was not good for either of us and made things worse, not just in terms of his health but also our relationship. This however is my own baggage and your situation may be entirely different.

I guess my main problem with him leaving is how it unbalances your relationship - you are left with all the regular responsibilities of being a grown up and remain committed to him while he has unlimited freedom, new experiences, and may avoid actually working on himself. After fifteen years you are pretty enmeshed but it doesn't sound like you have major problems with your dynamic or unhealthy communication that would benefit from a reset by being apart. : /

Keep up your work but make sure to continue to have a life outside your relationship and not let his problems consume all your energy. Be strong, be smart and be loving.
posted by saucysault at 9:17 AM on December 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

« Older How do I take a compliment?   |   List of BBC Christmas Specials? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.