So we quit therapy.
I finally got to the point where I couldn’t lay my heart bare week after week in session, receive a stammered apology and then be ignored for the rest of the week.
So I called it quits. I told the therapist and my husband that I was no longer willing to rip the scab off my still-healing wound week after week. I told them that the marriage-therapy that was being offered had helped, but wasn’t the answer to the problem.
Because the problem isn’t a marriage problem per se. It’s a problem my husband has with honesty, bonding, giving and vulnerabilitity. Or lack thereof.
And it’s a problem I have of not speaking up for myself and smoothing over things in order to avoid conflict. So it’s two individual problems and dealing with them in tandem wasn’t working. We had stalled and were going nowhere, so it wasn’t worth the pain.
My husband was perfectly happy to accept this idea. Okay, to be fair, I chose less evocative adjectives when I talked to him about it. But he was SO ready to give up on it. He was so relieved. He has been, as far as I can see, blissfully happy since we quit.
I wouldn’t know this for sure, of course, because he doesn’t actually TALK to me about anything. But this appears to be the relationship that he is comfortable with. He is perfectly happy to let it continue like this, and while he sometimes looks at me quizzically, he skirts widely around the topic of our relationship, his feelings. He won’t even voice disappointment – he seems determined to be, above all else, agreeable.
So on the surface, things are fine. On the surface, in fact, he’s probably feeling a little triumphant, because he has won. He has the relationship he wants. It requires very little of him other than cordiality and a working on projects and other items of family business. We even watch TV together most nights, binge-watching our way through a new favorite on Netflix. Life is good.
On the other hand, I’m going through the grieving process, because I’m aware of what we’re missing. I know what a relationship should be.
My therapist frowns when I say should, but seriously. There are certain hallmarks of a marriage relationship. Things that set it apart from a friendship. We don’t have those any more. We don’t have that deeper relationship because I can’t trust him. He has systematically dismantled my self-esteem and my identity and sabotaged anything I want to do as a parent or a woman that doesn’t line up with what he is comfortable with. He is polite and kind and tells Dad-jokes and fixes the cars, but he no longer has my heart.
So I’m grieving. Some days, the pain wells up and overwhelms me and I can’t breathe. Other days I’m so busy I don’t notice it. I’m focusing on building a new career and reclaiming my identity.
I’m slowly coming to accept it, however. Not without a fight, but accepting it is really my only option at this point. Eighteen months of counseling – it’s not like I didn’t try.
The other day I said to a friend that I feel like my marriage is a wasteland. A cordial, polite wasteland, but a wasteland nonetheless.
A couple of days later I was speaking at a seminar at a church that was located next to a river. It was very hot and dry there, but the city had built a beautiful walkway along the river – it looked like it had been done fairly recently. It caught my eye, so the last day I was there, I took a photo of it before I drove home.
The next morning I was praying and the image of that walkway sprung into my mind, along with the question, “What do you see?”
“Well,” I replied, “You know, desert plants, walkways, the river, dirt…”
“What else?” the question continued.
“Well….” I thought hard. “I guess it’s fairly new. It probably used to just be dirt at the side of the road with weeds. You know, like a wasteland… oh.”
I heard myself echoing that word. That word that I had just used a few days before to illustrate my marriage. And here it was again.
This city had had a wasteland. There wasn’t much they could do with this strip of land between the road and the river. It wasn’t big enough to build on. But they made it beautiful by planting a desert garden.
It was then that it hit me where the source of some of my grief is. You see, I’m more of an English Country Garden kind of gal. I like lots of green and tiers of flowers and lawn and different things blooming at different times of the year. And I’m pretty sure that, barring a miracle, my marriage is never going to be that.
But it might be a desert garden. It might be the kind of garden where I can only plant drought-resistant plants and succulents and cacti. But it can still be pleasant. It can still be nice to look at. As long as I don’t look for climbing roses and wisteria and delphinia and lavender, I can appreciate it for what it is.
This could sound like I’m settling, but I’m not. I mean, I settled years ago when I said “I do.” I put this poor man in a situation he had no business taking on, thinking that I could make up the difference. So this – this isn’t settling. This is simply a way to live with the choices I made.
So I will dwell in the desert, plant only drought-resistant plants and walk in it only in the cool of the evening.
And I’m going to need to find a way to be a desert rose instead of a Sterling Silver.