Print Story the diary i've been unable to write, part I
By aphrael (Tue Dec 01, 2015 at 07:06:13 PM EST) (all tags)
I have failed as a husband.

Jared and I were divorced, for 24 hours or so, in March. We got back together; I moved across the country for him. The marriage remains deeply, deeply troubled, and I am half expecting it to be over tonight.

Whether that expectation is right or not, I have failed, either way. That can be inferred from the fact that it got to this point.

And it's tearing me apart.

My birthday weekend was spent surrounded by Jared's family, who all were kind and supportive and loving, but I didn't feel like I deserved it, and it was surreal knowing that it can just cease to exist and go away forever if my marriage ends.

I have friends who love me, and I don't feel like I deserve that, either.

I have failed as a husband, and, I believe, as a person.

It's unclear to me where to start. They say that victory has a thousand fathers and defeat none; but this story has many threads tied together, and they are all so intertwined and interdependent that it's hard to thread things out into an orderly narrative.

I've been seeing a therapist since March of 2014. I started doing this because my marriage was extremely rocky; Jared and I were fighting almost weekly. Conflict is hard for me, it scares me to death and makes me miserable, and I don't engage in conflict well. Those months were hell.

Therapy appears to be helping me, but it appears to be making my marriage worse. I'm told that happens, sometimes, and yet knowing that it's a thing doesn't make it any better a thing to experience.

In the early weeks, my therapist gave me a consistent message: you are too concerned with what Jared thinks, feels, and wants. You never talk about what you want. You are seriously codependent and are trying to take responsibility for Jared's emotional state rather than figuring out what you want and asking for it (and then you are resenting Jared for the situation).

Jared's emotional state in those days was bad. My emotional state was bad. It's been almost two years and things still suck shit.


Moving to New York hurt Jared, badly. He was immediately uncomfortable in the environment of our apartment but shut down any attempt to improve it. The school we were renting from should already have taken care of screens, so we shouldn't have to provide them, etc.

He hated New York; the noise, the business, the expense.

His program was a massive stressful clusterfuck.

He was far from his friends and family and not living near home for the first time ever.

All of this would be hard for most people, but for Jared, who eventually got diagnosed with high functioning asperger's? The disruption of the routine and the discomfort of the immediate environs made him borderline nonfunctional, and the stress of the program and the loneliness caused him to more or less shut down.

So for the first 6-9 months we were there, I picked up the slack. Not 100%, but most logistical things, most planning, most getting things done, I had to initiate and drive. He was miserable, and he was leaning on me - which was perfectly reasonable.

Me? I loved New York, almost from the moment we got there. But I felt guilty for loving it. How can I love a place that is making my husband miserable? How can I enjoy being here when that enjoyment basically comes at his expense?

At some point I started to blame him, and resent him. That was fundamentally wrong; it was a betrayal, of sorts. An understandable one, perhaps, but still one.

What made it worse was that Jared has always viewed conflict as clarifying and beneficial, and I have always been afraid of it. Historically conflict has made me shut down and disengage. For that matter, people being angry at me can cause me to shut down and disengage, or it can cause me to flare in defensive anger - I do not have good tools for dealing with it, because it terrifies me.


I had a fucked up childhood.

My mother was married four times, as far as I can tell to absolute assholes every time. One of them left a hole in our kitchen wall because my mom had only brought home a six pack of beer, not a twelve pack, from the grocery store. One of them had the emotional sensitivity of a doornail (and is, I'm reasonably certain, loathed by my brother to this day). She also had a string of short-term boyfriends; lack of constancy was a major issue in my childhood, and it feeds into this incredibly strong fear of loss.

One of her husbands was described, when a distant relative reached out to my brother a few years ago, as the most argumentative, unpleassant man the relative had ever met.

He and my mother were married for two years.

I have virtually no memory of those two years. What I do know of most of it was that it was constant fighting. Every night, after I went to bed, until I fell asleep. Loud, emotionally charged, hostile arguing. I was convinced that it was my fault.

I was between the ages of 7 and 9. My mother was married to an emotionally abusive jackass and fought with him constantly, and the lesson I internalized was: this is my fault. I am supposed to keep the peace and have failed, and that has destroyed their marriage.

Writing it down it sounds irrational and crazy.

That doesn't make me believe it any less.

I do not like conflict. I do not like arguments. I do not like anger. They scare me, and they make me think I've done something wrong and I have an overriding responsibility to fix it - no matter what the actual cause is.


Jared can be very particular, and he can be very critical. He's gotten better over the years, AND in my experience he has an idealized view of how things should be and when things don't match that impression, he is easily upset. I don't remember what kinds of things would upset him in 2012; it's too long ago, and too much has burned through. But I know we had conflict, here and there, about things - and I know that when that conflict arose, my responses were almost always to (a) shut down in fear (CONFLICT CONFLICT SCARY SCARY) or (b) simply agree to whatever Jared was saying or wanting, even if I didn't agree with it, even if I didn't want to do it, just to keep the peace by ending the fight, rather than standing up for what I thought and wanted and risk prolonging the fight.

This is a terribly destructive habit. It undermined his trust in me. It undermined my sense of emotional security. It left him feeling like I was breaking promises, it left me feeling like I was being bullied into doing things I didn't want to do and that my emotional safety didn't matter.

I wish I'd worked on this issue a decade ago, to be honest.

But I didn't.

And so that interaction pattern sat on top of the "I shouldn't be happy when my husband is unhappy / why is he refusing to be happy and hurting me" resentment pattern.

They meshed really well together, you know? Unfortunately really, really well.


Things started coming to a head in the spring of 2013, when two things happened.

[a] Jared was considering dropping out of his graduate program

[b] we were starting to develop friendships with a local social circle.

Jared's program had gotten bettter in many ways, but it still wasn't quite what he wanted, and he still hated New York. So he seriously considered dropping out, which - given that I was still working for a company in California and had no strong ties in NY - would have meant moving back to CA at the end of the spring.

This was hard for me. I loved NY. I loved the fact that I was developing friendships in NY. (My family, later on, when I did move back to NY, almost unanimously expressed disappointment that I was doing that - because NY had really caused me to blossom and come into my own, in their view, and they were sad that I was losing that). I did not want to go.

But I wanted Jared to make the choice that was right for him academically and professionally, NOT to choose to stay in his program because I wanted to stay in NY. So I gave him the space to make the choice on his own ... leaving me spending 6 weeks or so in limbo: am i going to stay or am i going to go? do i invest in these nascent friendships or let them wither (because they'll just wither in the summer anyhow if we move)? do i look for a local job or do i keep treading water at this job?

It's a great kind of uncertainty when you have no idea at all what your life will look like in five months and the decision is entirely out of your hands.

I wanted to let Jared make the decision for himself, because I believed that was the right thing, and it was one of the most difficult things I've ever done.

One of the side effects was that I decided that I would not let the friendships wither. I was going to do what I could to strengthen and deepen them, even knowing that they might be taken away from me, because that way I would get the joy of having them now. And that happened - the core of my cadre of friends in NY dates to that time, when I was uncertain if the friendships could survive but wanted to pursue them anyway.

Jared decided to stay in his program, but because he'd been caught on that for a while, he was way behind in work, and then when he wasn't behind in work he travelled to visit his family and then to do his summer job in NOLA, so he was largely emotionally and physically unavailable from when he decided in mid-March until mid-June.

But that was (mostly) ok: i had these cool exciting new friendships that were developing. All of them were with people we'd met jointly; all of them were with people he knew and nominally was friends with too - but he wasn't available and I was, and so my friendships with them were deeper, and more intimate, than his friendships with them were.


There was precedent for this. In the four years immediately before moving to NY, I was working full time and going to school 2/3 time. I had no time for anything, really - one day a week for social stuff, one day a week for homework, nothing else. My relationships with most people atrophied; the ones I kept were kept alive on limited time slices and massive advance planning. (Meanwhile, my classmates, who were not working and were around each other all the time, developed friendships that I was almost entirely outside of - inevitable! understandable! logical! and yet still painful). In this time, Jared's friendship with his best friend deepened; they hung out 2-3x/wee and talked to each other all the time. Jared on multiple occasions would be upset about something that happened during his day, tell his best friend, and then decline to tell me because he'd already told the story and didn't want to get into it again.

I was glad he had someone there for him to support him when I couldn't be around. I felt left out, sometimes, and yet at the same time, I believe in strong friendships and I was happy that Jared had that strong friendship.

So as I developed closer friendships in the context of a social circle Jared was nominally part of and he didn't, I was sympathetic; I'd watch my law school classmates do that and it sucked. And yet: I couldn't find Jared's friends for him, right? And this was really the first time in my life I'd ever been able to form a strong circle of friends - in the past it had always been small handfuls, or a bunch of acquaintances I couldn't actually be emotionally open with. And just as I wanted to support Jared's close friendship with his best friend, Jared (while sad) wanted to support these.



And yet.

Jared said he wanted to support them. But I was afraid. All of February-March I'd been afraid that his decision could take this away. That his choice might end this development before it really took off - just like every time I got close to a stepfather, my mother's decision took it away.

Of course I didn't have the skills to see the connection, then, or even to identify the fear and assess it rationally. I was just afraid. Afraid of loss. Afraid of being forced to give up something important to me. Afraid that my husband - who I was already unhappy and resentful towards, for reasons that were not his fault - would take them away.

So I started to become very defensive of, and protective of, the relationships, and hostile in my discussions around scheduling and such. That was a mistake. That was a failure. That lack of trust in my husband's intentions was a betrayal. A much less understandable one, and one that I deeply regret; it wasn't based on him, it was based on my own unexamined and ununderstood fears which really had nothing to do with him.

He detected the defensiveness and protectiveness, of course. How could he not?

[to be continued]

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the diary i've been unable to write, part I | 22 comments (22 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
(Comment Deleted) by debacle (2.00 / 0) #1 Tue Dec 01, 2015 at 07:24:32 PM EST

This comment has been deleted by debacle

i'm sure you meant that to be supportive by aphrael (2.00 / 0) #2 Tue Dec 01, 2015 at 07:27:43 PM EST
and it's a prime example of why i have been unable to write this diary, or constituent predecessors of it, for three years.

If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.
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(Comment Deleted) by debacle (2.00 / 0) #5 Tue Dec 01, 2015 at 07:31:00 PM EST

This comment has been deleted by debacle

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(Comment Deleted) by debacle (2.00 / 0) #3 Tue Dec 01, 2015 at 07:28:37 PM EST

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there must be some difference by aphrael (2.00 / 0) #6 Tue Dec 01, 2015 at 07:31:06 PM EST
as you're offering me sympathy but threatening to break up with her.

also, you are aware this isn't in the hole or the cellar, right?
If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.

[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by debacle (2.00 / 0) #8 Tue Dec 01, 2015 at 07:32:23 PM EST

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(Comment Deleted) by debacle (2.00 / 0) #9 Tue Dec 01, 2015 at 07:33:08 PM EST

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Hmm by Herring (4.00 / 6) #4 Tue Dec 01, 2015 at 07:30:55 PM EST
I have failed as a husband, and, I believe, as a person.

Have you? Totally? All the time? From where I'm sitting, you might not have got 100% but a passing mark is way lower than that. Nobody gets 100%.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky
wait for part II by aphrael (2.00 / 0) #7 Tue Dec 01, 2015 at 07:31:42 PM EST
OK, but by Herring (4.00 / 2) #11 Tue Dec 01, 2015 at 07:57:22 PM EST
I wonder what you've done to class yourself as a failure.

And maybe I'm trying to justify myself. I'm an unemployed, depressive drunk and my marriage is ending/has ended. We had some laughs and the boy seems bright, studious, well-adjusted.

I know I've fucked up a lot but I also got some things right along the way. I'm not beating myself up about it ... OK I am a bit but these are very strong meds.

There - that wasn't very helpful.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

[ Parent ]
We're listening. by ana (4.00 / 3) #10 Tue Dec 01, 2015 at 07:36:00 PM EST
It's what we do. Maybe not very well, but it's important to speak your truth and have it believed.


This is really hard stuff. It makes me sad you have to go through it.

Or get rabies. Also don't do that. --scrymarch

Personing by MostlyHarmless (4.00 / 5) #12 Wed Dec 02, 2015 at 04:41:53 AM EST
The fact you are scared you may have failed at being a person is the biggest sign you have not failed as a person.

No matter what you have done, as long as you continue to care about how your actions have affected others, you are still successfully being a person.

We all do the best we can with the tools we have at the time, and we all have things that are sabotaged by poltergeists from our past.

Your value as a human being is intrinsic. It just is. You are worthy of the love of your friends and family. Whether or not you are a good husband or a good person is unrelated, you still deserve and are worthy of it. I'm still not convinced I have my head entirely around this fact, but even understanding it a little bit helped me immensely.

However this ends up, and however much agonizing suck you go through in the process, you will end up smarter, wiser and better.

You will get through this.

[Mostly Harmless]

Marriage by lb008d (4.00 / 1) #13 Wed Dec 02, 2015 at 11:27:39 AM EST
Marriage is not a contest so, in my opinion, it's impossible to "fail" at it. Also, there is no prize for staying in an unhappy marriage. You have to do what you want to do.

of course it's possible to fail by aphrael (2.00 / 0) #16 Wed Dec 02, 2015 at 07:01:25 PM EST
Hindsight by anonimouse (2.00 / 0) #14 Wed Dec 02, 2015 at 12:03:39 PM EST
 With only part of the story posted, it's probably impossible to know, but it sounds like Jared should perhaps have gone to your therapy sessions to help both of you understand each  other better

Girls come and go but a mortgage is for 25 years -- JtL
maybe. by aphrael (2.00 / 0) #15 Wed Dec 02, 2015 at 07:00:47 PM EST
although the thing is i really needed space. i was not able to be myself because i was so busy being what i thought he needed me to be.

this is getting ahead of it, but when i finally started looking at what i needed and who i need to be, i did it in a way which seriously hurt him, and we're still dealing with the consequences.
If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.

[ Parent ]
Hugs by R343L (4.00 / 2) #17 Thu Dec 03, 2015 at 08:40:51 PM EST
You're not a failure. Period.

That's all.

"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot

I agree by tierrasimbolica (2.00 / 0) #22 Thu Dec 10, 2015 at 12:28:12 PM EST
Failure is an event, not a person.

I've been through 2 divorces and am in the middle of another rocky relationship as we speak, as I mentioned on Saturday.  So I sympathize & send you warm hugs & sympathy & best wishes.

Awaiting part 2.

[ Parent ]
Listening by LoppEar (2.00 / 0) #18 Fri Dec 04, 2015 at 10:36:03 AM EST
and sending hugs.

We all fail from time to time by lm (4.00 / 1) #19 Sat Dec 05, 2015 at 06:40:52 AM EST
Aome of those failures are large. Some have horrific consequences.

That doesn't make us failures as human beings. That is part of what it means to be human. If we didn't fail, we'd be gods.

And yet it hurts. The fact that it hurts is a also a reminder of who we are.

It's a tough place to be in. And it sounds like the particular tough place to be that you find yourself in is tougher than most.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
No, you haven't failed. by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #20 Sun Dec 06, 2015 at 07:51:40 PM EST
Like so many things on here, I read them and I spend a lot of time thinking of the best thing to say, and then I think of too much and I don't write anything. So I thought I'd point out you're doing pretty well. Humaning is hard. I got assigned (fate does this, I guess) a special humaning project earlier this year and boy has it burned me out.

So yeah, take courage. You're doing the hardest thing there is.

hugs by misslake (4.00 / 1) #21 Wed Dec 09, 2015 at 05:11:22 PM EST
and I'll pour you a pint.

the diary i've been unable to write, part I | 22 comments (22 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback