You would not want to visit my house. There are a lot of unspoken words in the air. Tensions are high. My husband and I are not talking to one another.
Last Thursday at our marriage counseling session we dug into a specific situation that triggered strong feelings of inadequacy for me. I expressed as much to my husband in therapy and his reaction was defensive. “I was just stating a fact and if she wants to think I was saying she was doing something wrong, that’s her problem.”
I sat quietly and allowed the therapist to tell my husband how the interaction made me feel. The therapist pointed out that I’m sensitive and it’s neither right nor wrong, it just is. Conversely, the therapist said my husband is fact-based and that’s not wrong either. But when two people interact the most important thing to remember is how we make each other feel.
The therapist continued to talk directly to my husband about the specific situation and how his initial tone was strong and opinionated followed by a defensiveness to avoid being blamed.
I observed our communication problems from the viewpoint of the therapist. And I realize that I have a basis for not feeling understood. My husband did not acknowledge his part because he didn’t see that he had done anything hurtful. It’s as if he just sees his side and it’s perfectly fine to state his opinion regardless of how others will feel.
I became sad and frustrated during therapy and hid my face in my hands, crying softly, and saying, “Never-mind, he just doesn’t get it. What’s the point?”
The therapist persisted in trying to break down the problem in a way my husband would understand. I could tell my husband felt in the hot seat because he became flushed and looked intense.
Eventually my husband agreed he could have used a softer tone with the initial interaction; but he still held on to the belief that he hadn’t intentionally done anything wrong. I took that to mean, I’m too sensitive and it’s my fault which is quite common for me to feel. My husband sees the issue as I blame him for things that he didn’t do.
We’ve been tiptoeing around each other for 10 days now. After therapy I tried numerous times to talk about the session because I felt we had touched on the real issue between us, which is a misunderstanding with our communication. My husband didn’t want to go back to the discussion in therapy. At one point he said, “We are not going to be in therapy forever so let’s focus on today not therapy.” That comment hurt because what he didn’t want to discuss is the exact thing I crave.
The issue is about believing that I’m significant enough for another person to think about how their words affect me. Right now I’m feeling disregarded, unimportant, unworthy, and viewed as too emotionally sensitive. It’s not a good spot to be in when the person triggering these feelings is someone I’ve been married to for 25 years.
The length of our relationship certainly adds a deep layer of difficulty to solving our communication issues. Recovery has given me the strength to speak up and not hide behind the secret life I created while drinking. I’m learning to be honest with myself and express what I need.
I’m finding a lot of support from open-minded people in AA meetings. This has been a real gift for me. We don’t crosstalk during meetings; instead we listen and have an opportunity to share. I’m learning to know myself through listening to others and having them listen to me without judgment. It’s so refreshing!
Unfortunately, my husband continues to hold resentment that I’m choosing AA over him. But, I’m not. I’m just finding a broader support system. He frequently doesn’t want me to go to meetings. This morning I went to my Saturday meeting and when I said goodbye he didn’t answer.
I feel like I can’t please him while pleasing myself because becoming more independent is what I desire and it is counter to what he wants. This makes my life very uncomfortable.
My husband has spent the last few months trying to fix his resentment. He has gone to great lengths to make me happy so I don’t need AA. Flowers, cards, lingerie, massages, dinners out, movies, just about everything, including long lovemaking sessions where he can feel victorious if I finish satisfied. All his efforts have confused the hell out of me and caused a sense of guilt and shame. Each time I fall into the traps of seduction I lose the person I’m finding in recovery.
I want to be supported in my quest for emotional health. I need my husband to love the person I’m becoming. I’ve not been good at sticking to my guns about what that is because I’m not completely sure. I have played the victim and damsel in distress far too long and I unknowingly fall back into that role. But I see more clearly that each time I do so, I distance myself from the supportive people in AA who are supporting me in my desire to uncover my true self.
I don’t want to be disregarded or blamed or made to feel unworthy. I won’t accept gifts that come with a price because I want to be free from external enticements. Those gifts are a means of luring me into submission or at least a state of dependence. I want my husband to encourage the progress I’m making with building my self-worth. I think a loving partner should want that for me.
I love my husband and I’ve got to ask him to support me in healthier ways. I cannot allow his needs stop me from evolving. This will not be easy. He will be hurt and elicit guilt in order to break me of AA and cease enlarging my circle of friends. I must be prepared to not cave in because I have a strong desire to please him. I’ve focused my life on being the person to make him happy but I cannot do that when it comes to my emotional and spiritually progress. Only I know what is best for me and I will stay the course to discover what my inner wisdom reveals.
Grant me courage.