Am I just “settling”?

Is my marriage healthy for me? Is it allowing me to be the best that I can be?

Huge questions.

Life changing answers that I admit I’m dreadfully scared of.

There’s so much buried anger and resentment in my marriage of 23 years. If I were to complain to my husband, he would respond “How do you think I feel?” He would go on to list things I don’t do for him, ways in which I don’t show love, behaviors of mine that make him feel isolated from me.

I have the same feelings of resentment for how he talks to me and how he responds to simple requests. I can list numerous ways in which he sounds bitter, angry and hateful toward me. It seems he always answers me by being snotty and angry.

He could say the same about me. We both feel unloved and unsupported.

It’s a vicious cycle of our emotional needs not getting met.

Did I marry someone with the exact likeness to my parents? I feel constantly criticized just as I did as a child. Brief interactions cut me down everyday – it’s no wonder I continue to have a low sense of myself. My husband treats me like I’m stupid. The same way I felt growing up.

Why have I been in a marriage to someone who can’t offer empathy for my emotions unless they are spilling out with sobbing tears?

I know why – because when I make a commitment, I stay with it. I tell myself I must endure, regardless of whether the relationship supports me or not.

The following are deep-rooted excuses that I believe down to my core, ways to justify staying in my marriage:

I would still be stuck with myself, no matter who I was married to.

That’s one of my classics. But doesn’t that thought hurt me? It takes the blame off my husband and puts it all on me. I recognize self-blame as my lifelong pattern, learned in childhood, as a way to avoid abandonment. If I entertain thoughts that others are not good for me and I, God forbid, voice those feelings – I could very well be left alone and abandoned.

Children cannot survive on their own so the thoughts were justifiable when my parents divorced and I feared being alone.  But, I’m an adult now and I could survive. Why do I blame myself instead of my husband who hurts me constantly with his tough, hardened exterior?

My husband doesn’t physically abuse me nor intentionally hurt my feelings. He is a good man and I am just sensitive to how others speak because I live with a sense of unworthiness.

Which is it? I’m too sensitive or my husband is an egotistical hard-ass who doesn’t think before he speaks? My perspective is so distorted that I just do not know the answer. My dad was the same way and my brother’s grew up strong, ambitious and competent. They didn’t feel the criticism that I did. I truly could be over-sensitive.

I hope my two boys don’t feel their father’s judgmental attitude and turn it against themselves. Perhaps that is how men raise children and as a girl I am overly sensitive in close relationships with men.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

I try to follow the word of the Lord and not be selfish. I have intentionally never written down the numerous ways my husband’s words have hurt me because that would be keeping a record of wrongs.

In my childhood, as a survivor of sexual abuse, I learned to rise each morning and shut out how I felt about my brother molesting me each night.

In my marriage, comparably speaking, I do the same thing and block the painful interactions and have learned not to remember.

My childhood patterns helped me master the ability to separate from painful emotions – to the extent of not being able to retain information that caused emotional pain only moments before. In my current life, this allows me to go to work, raise the children, do the household chores and stay married.

No marriage is perfect because no person is infallible. Any marriage has times of neglect because humans are not faultless creatures.

I must stay in my marriage and accept culpability for my part.  I can grow from this relationship.

That is true but I can only grow so far and no further — if my partner chooses to not see the part he plays in the relationship. Each person comes to a marriage with a past wrought with baggage. I’ve gone through a lot of therapy and I’ve been working hard to release my past baggage and learn to live in the present. Can I say that is so about my husband? Would my husband admit to his faults and accept he is not blameless?

That’s the question I’m dreadfully afraid of.  He most likely would blame me, depression, my history of sexual abuse, my inability to let go of feelings, my sensitivity and my self-imposed isolation.

The answer I would most like to hear from him is, “We both play a part in this marriage and we are equally at fault for the anger, resentment and lack of intimacy.”

This ideal is not far-fetched because my husband does care about me. He tries so hard to give me the love I need but over the years I have been unpredictable and he has rightfully used caution.

Where does all this lead me? At this moment, as I look truthfully at my marriage, I feel beat down. I don’t honestly know how much more I can improve in terms of building up my sense of worthiness and ceasing my behavior of drinking to numb my feelings, while I’m in this marriage with a guy that when I pull away the blinds, I see as playing a part in me continually feeling a sense of shame and guilt. I am perpetuating my past and something has to change. I can not continue to disengage from my emotions and think I will develop self-love and the ability to stop the negative thought patterns from my past.

If every relationship is wrought with fault and built-up resentments then I seriously wonder if I would be better off alone? At least until I could work out my own issues within a healthy atmosphere that doesn’t continually replay past patterns.

But, I must ask myself, why would I bail on a good man who has gone with me this far in my journey of self-discovery? He is painfully aware of my past and my present. Am I hiding from my own issues and wishing I could be alone so I don’t need to make those final steps to finding intimacy and real love?

Seriously, why would I want to start over after 20+ years?

I must talk to my therapist about this revelation and eventually discuss it with my husband.

Really big questions with no clear answers.


4 responses to “Am I just “settling”?

  1. Woah. exactly where I’m at. Maybe a step closer than you though to trying life on my own, want to see if the patterns of shame and guilt stop if I’m not in a relationship, trying to love, trying so hard. I could have written this post, and have written similar ones. I have also stayed because of the commitment, because no love is perfect, because of the guilt. I have also been unpredictable and heartwrenching for him to love, and drinking too much lately, yet he clings to me tighter as I push him away. I am resolved this time to try life on my own,. at least for a while. I can’t stand the thought of the rest of my life in the same cycles, patterns.

    • I know — we totally relate to each other’s situation. Of course, no one is the same and we can’t make decisions for each other. But, I get you. I understand what is driving you right now. Stay strong and true to yourself.

      As for me, I tend to shy away from drastic moves. Today I watched a talk show with Lisa Whelchel -a child tv star back in the 80’s from a show called The Facts of Life. She is 49 (same age as me) and talked about her recent divorce. From her, yours and other bloggers I have this sense that I may be settling. Lisa said she moved at glacial speed before she divorced. I am similar because I don’t want to do anything too radical but I connected to her honest reasons for divorcing. I feel as if I could take a long time to decide what is really right for me. Life is complicated.

      But, for others, such as yourself, the answer is right there and you don’t need time to rethink, you know you need to make a change. I don’t judge where you are — it is our own journey in life. I commend you for your strength to do what is right for you. In many ways, I feel weak…but I accept this is me and what I am capable of. — Sending strength your way — Daylily

  2. Your past is similar to mine. When I read ‘sexual abuse’ it felt like my heart stopped for a bit. You’re brave for writing about these things. As for marriage, I always wondered whether married couples who are distant and speak without love to each other really loved each other when they got married and where it all went wrong. I don’t remember my parents during ‘happy’ years but I’m sure once upon a time they must have loved each other. Were things vastly different when you got married compared to now? I feel like, my husband won’t be able to understand my past, but he’s there for me in the ways that he can be concerning the pain and memories that come up like bile every now and then.

    • My husband and I were madly in love and we connected on a very deep emotional level. Life throws curves and after each one he and I learned to depend less on each other. Mostly because of jobs, children and other responsibilities. We couldn’t take a weekend and just lay around in each other’s arms and support one another. Distance grew due to our neglect of the relationship. But, we still have love; however it is buried under resentment and hurt. Last night we shared mutually satisfying sex and it’s times like that when I know the marriage is not dead. It’s complicated and I will try to write more about it in my blog.

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