A Reader Writes…
My husband left me two weeks ago after 18 months of marriage and five years together. He is a manual worker and I am a graduate professional. We are quite imbalanced intellectually too. For the first three years we were besotted. It was the fairy tale romance. Against all odds we were blissfully in love. Gradually things changed.
I’ve had a lot of financial stress recently and serious illness and some trouble with my nearly adult children. I have been very upset and in pain and sad. My husband has become more and more impatient and angry as the year has worn on and has at times been aggressive and violent towards my boys and verbally aggressive towards myself. He is oppositional to everything I suggest and disagrees with most things I say. He says I don’t give him enough attention and seems jealous of my children (who actually get very little attention being mostly self sufficient). He calls them mollycoddled mothers boys and says they should get out and earn a wage (they are in school, and uni).
He used to be so gentle and kind but we can’t even talk for five minutes now without it spiralling upwards. I feel I can’t say anything if its going if hes going to dislike it. I can’t be angry about anything or dislike anyone he likes or any of his actions without him feeling hugely upset and rejected which leads to him being angry. He doesn’t listen at all when I am speaking and responds either aggressively by immediately disagreeing or by giving up e.g. ‘well what’s the point then, we’re never going to work’. He is sometimes more responsive to texts, but then seems to have forgotten what he’s said in a text when we’re face to face.
He was abandoned by his mother as a child, and had a pretty awful time after that, but is now living with her and won’t hear a word against her. He has left me to live with her several times before for a few days, but has always come back. This time, it seems irreparable as the loss of trust and pain is so bad on both sides. We have seen one counsellor recently, but he doesn’t like her and we are due to go to another one soon that we saw earlier in the year.
I had an abusive childhood too with an alcoholic, but loving father and a horrible mother who seemed to despise me. So we are both super sensitive creatures. I have had a fair bit of counselling and feel like I’ve dealt with this. I don’t want to sound conceited, but I am good at communication and have been in a caring job all my life where I seem to get along we’ll with people. I also have a few hobbies and some good friends. My husband does nothing but work and has no friends. He does not read and will not do self help things.
I am at a loss as to whether to give up. Each time I see him I cry so much I’m exhausted and I just don’t know whether it can ever work. I have just ordered your book about resolving conflict so I hope it will help, but would be very grateful for your thoughts.
At the beginning of a new relationship something called limerence is at its height. This is the force that poets talk about where we become everything to each other. Just thinking of our beloved makes us feel like we’re walking on air. Neuroscientists have also scanned our brains and discovered chemicals that bind us very closely to our new partner. Unfortunately, limerence doesn’t last forever, normally about 18 months to 3 years. I explain more about this phenomenon in my book I Love You but I’m Not in Love With You. When you’ve had a very difficult childhood, the power of limerence can be very healing and a complete shock when it wears off.
So what’s going on, why have things turned so nasty? Well, first and foremost lots of people think at this three year point that their partner doesn’t love them any more. If you were abandoned as a child it will feel like your partner has abandoned you. Furthermore, from your husband’s point of view, it really might seem that you don’t give him enough attention. He is going to feel really neglected because it fits into his pattern from the past. Unfortunately, you have had a really tough childhood too. An alcoholic father and a rejecting mother is probably one of the worst combinations possible. So although you’ve had a fair bit of counselling, my guess is, it’s a long road back. So I’m not surprised that you’re exhausted by all of this at the moment.
I think you need some help for yourself again so that you can off-load some of this pain and not feel so overwhelmed. When you are feeling stronger you will be able to listen to him, understand where he’s coming from and stand in his shoes. So instead of getting defensive, you can ask questions and begin to draw him out. It could be at that point the two of you go to counselling together and become a support for each other – rather than pushing each other further into depression and anger.