There really should be a protocol for spouses to send a note to the other spouse’s therapist. Seriously.
I’ve seen a therapist one or two times a month for most of the time since my husband’s affair came to light. More recently, he’s begun seeing someone too. I urged him to since I wasn’t really able to help him with his issues while I was dealing with my own, and it was too hard for me to empathize fully with his guilt and pain.
But there’s one issue in our “recovery” that I’ve been unsuccessful dealing with again and again and again. And I know he isn’t telling his therapist about it, even though it’s a root problem for him AND for us.
How do I know? Because he doesn’t do as I ask for even something as simple as ordering the right thing at the drive-through window. When he’s the driver and we’re going through Starbucks, I always have to remind him at least twice that I want a cream cheese packet with my croissant. Or at home, it took him forever to stop washing my delicate cotton blouses with blue jeans … because the zippers always tear holes, usually right over the nipple. (He stopped that instantly when I started throwing away new blouses in front of him and buying others every time they got a single hole in them. No more “Well, it’s still got some wear in it,” for me. And before you say, “At least he does laundry,” yeah, I know. For that I am grateful.) But when he opts not to follow some simple instructions or forgets over and over again, I have no confidence that he will convey a difficult message — one he actively resists — to his therapist.
Here’s what I would like to tell the therapist — although I’m conflicted because I *also* don’t want to be seen as (or to be) a controlling, bossy bitch. I’m just someone who has a strong need my husband isn’t meeting.
I’m asking my husband to change a fundamental habit of his in the wake of his affair. So far, he has only developed coping mechanisms to help him ride out the consequences of his affair, such as when I get angry or emotional or otherwise triggered. His entire strategy seems to be “endure” and “be nice.” Nothing about “Hey, maybe I should make some changes myself.”
He is not doing the ONE thing I have asked and begged him to do many times. And that is to communicate with me when he has small gripes, irritations and angry moments. He could speak at the moment (but he won’t) or later when he’s calmer and has had time to reflect (but he doesn’t).
I believe that his longtime well-intentioned marital strategy to “not sweat the small stuff” allowed him to accumulate the resentment and contempt that helped to fuel his affair. It gave him some justification. He has said as much. Over the years, he accumulated many tiny pebbles of resentment until he was sitting on a mountain of them.
And it would be one thing to not mention irritants if he could let go of them. But he does not. He just builds up anger and silently stews. One of the things he told me many times in the early days after his affair came to light was, “Do you KNOW how many times I tried to get you off the sofa to come upstairs to bed with me?” (I was clinically depressed and didn’t realize the serious extent of it at the time.) Instead of expressing his concern or anger and taking action to mediate our marriage or get personal help, he decided that his “friendship” with an old girlfriend would comfort him until I “got better,” and I never had to know. Except that I found out after all.
His angry statements about me being distant, both physically and emotionally, was a revelation to me since he hadn’t addressed it previously. It was like the raw emotional spillage he went through in the affair’s aftermath gave him the license to express his long-nurtured anger and hoarded resentment to me.
I thought you should know this, because he is only paying lip service to better communication efforts. I am bone-deep tired of having to do all the communications work. We don’t have significant conversations unless I start them. We don’t work through major or even day-to-day issues unless I recognize them and ever-so-gently bring them to light, careful not to bruise his fragile ego. I get very frustrated. And when I tell him this, he nods, agrees and then doesn’t change a thing.
Help us. Help him to understand. I really need him to learn how to disagree with or even confront me lovingly. I’ve told him time and again that I think of this as a marriage between two equal people, not between a regretful man who has to spend the rest of his life making his affair up to me. I don’t want him to always be “hat in hand” with me. I need him to be my damned husband — my partner. Not just a a guilty-feeling witness to my pain.
But I think this wouldn’t be helpful — wouldn’t be viewed as an honest communication attempt. I think it would be viewed as manipulative. So I’m at a loss.
I recognize that I’m hoping he will change when all I have control over is my own actions and decisions. And I’m not willing to leave this marriage. At least not right now. I really, sincerely, don’t want to.
I keep thinking of an abuser’s comment that was conveyed in an online forum about why narcissistic “supply” (victims) stay with the people who hurt them. The comment from the abuser’s POV was, “Hope is the last thing to die.”
My husband is not a narc, at least not that I have discerned. He’s just not hearing me. Or he’s ignoring what I’m saying. And my hope isn’t quite dead yet. (I don’t mean that “yet” as a threat of divorce – just a feeling, or a “knowing” perhaps, that something has to give in this dynamic. It has to.)