I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I realised I had ‘lost’ my husband. From the birth of our daughter he changed from being a supportive caring husband to a distant and depressed human being. We had decided that he would be in charge of putting baby to bed every day. He wanted to do it as he would be at work all day and would not see her but of course with this choice came responsibilities and promises. It came schedules and routines. It came remembering endless things that baby needed. Too many things for him.
Tired from work, he would enter the house. He would greet baby and take her upstairs. No Hello, no kiss, no acknowledgement of his wife. He would come back from one job and enter another. There were no questions about my day. He did not know that baby had been sick twelve times that day. He did not know that she had not kept down a single bit of milk or that I had not brushed my teeth that day. He did not know that I had cried several times that morning and that my ‘lunch’ consisted of two pieces of toast eaten over three hours. He did not know because he did not ask. For six months he did not ask. I was not myself for the first three months of my daughter’s life.
The doctors and health visitors had insisted that I should not take baby outside for at least seven weeks (until her due date). Out of panic and fear I listened to their advice and out of panic and fear, I only left the house five times in the space of three months. I could not leave without having a panic attack.
A few years back I had worked with babies in a day nursery; a job that I enjoyed very much. I gained a lot of ‘insider’ knowledge first hand and felt prepared for the future. However having my daughter seven weeks early threw every preparation I had into chaos. I will be the first to admit it – I struggled. I really battled through the first three months. My BDD (body dysmorphic disorder) seemed to be developing into a problem again. I felt frumpy, disgusting. I was angry I was unable to lose my baby weight. My confidence dropped.
My husband must have seen a change in me although he chose to ignore it. Instead he disappeared into himself, cutting himself off from me and only thinking of his own problems. I was shocked to find my caring husband grow into such a cold and detached human being. Christmas was a very unpleasant time for us. There had been a few incidents leading up to it where my husband had chosen himself over me and his baby. He had put his selfish needs first and begun leading a very separate life to mine. I discovered some real eye openers to the man he had become – a man I could not recognise. He wasn’t ashamed of his actions either although he managed to shed a few crocodile tears. I hate seeing him cry and not because it breaks my heart but because it’s the easy way out. Tears gain sympathy. He didn’t deserve that. His behaviour didn’t justify tears.
He chose to betray me in ways I find very hard to forgive.
He became cruel and nasty. A shadow of the man I once knew. He became defensive and verbally harmful, snapping and hurting. He became angry, aggressive and frightening. There were times I was truly scared. I hadn’t felt that kind of frightened since my Dad. That was the point I knew my marriage was over. The man I had once loved so deeply had reminded me of my Dad. He reminded me of what that abuse felt like. He reminded me what it felt like to feel small, neglected, alone. I vowed never to feel that way again and this man had succeeded in making it happen at a time that should have been the happiest in my life. I will never forgive him for that. NEVER.
The culmination of his abhorrent behaviour happened on my 33rd birthday. We, at this point, had no relationship. We barely talked to each other and if we did, it mostly referred to the baby. I was dreading my birthday. In past years, D had gone out of his way to make me feel special. He didn’t have to shower me with presents or do anything romantic, I was just treated very well that day – lots of cups of tea and putting my feet up kind of thing. He was thoughtful and considerate and I appreciated that.
This birthday was different. I asked him the day before, jokingly, if he had got me a card, fearing that he may have forgotten. I was right as he suddenly began to severely berate himself (something he had been doing often for the past months). He could have lied and said yes and then sneaked out later to get one. He could have made me feel like it was all okay out of kindness, out of thoughtfulness but my husband wasn’t like that any more. He’d rather wallow in his endless mistakes than make me feel better about a situation, than make the moment pass and move on after all, there were many times I brushed over his snide comments about me for an easier life. After the casual comment about the card, my husband was in a foul mood for the rest of the day. I put it behind me not wanting to ruin my actual birthday. I had stated I wanted a simple one.
Life was not easy with the baby and my confidence hadn’t returned but that did not mean I didn’t want my husband to not go to any effort. He had taken the day off work after all. Surely he was going to do something special? How wrong was I. The next morning I went into my baby’s room as she was cooing beautifully by herself. I lifted her out the cot and gave her some mummy kisses. My husband, groggy from his slumber, followed in. He made no eye contact nor spoke. I waited for the obligatory “Happy Birthday!” to fall from his lips. Instead, he yawned and sat on the bed in baby’s room.
“Don’t say happy birthday or anything please,” I remarked disappointed I had to remind him of what day it was.
“I was just going to!” He snapped.
Plenty of time had passed from when I had entered the room, it was clear he wasn’t planning on saying anything. Immediately I felt uncomfortable. He had chosen to snap at me at six in the morning really setting me up for what was about to come. Once downstairs with baby, D barely uttered two words to me. I felt incredibly uncomfortable and when my mum came in with a card I found it hard to show her any happiness. She knew something was wrong but it had got to the point where the son in-law she was once so close to had now become a very intimidating stranger to her. She watched him disrespect her daughter but of a want not to be shouted at or spoken to sarcastically (a trait my husband excels at) she often kept quiet. Their relationship remains on the brink even now.
Due to a hectic schedule with baby, I hadn’t given my husband any idea of the kind of present I had wanted or that I had even wanted one. Really I had hoped he didn’t need telling. I had hoped the man who always used to get it spot on would come through for me again. Instead, with my own money, I ordered a bag from a shopping site I like on-line and my husband ‘refunded’ me the money. It felt like my father all over again. My father never bought me presents for my birthday or Christmas as he never bothered to find out what I liked. He just handed me money (after negotiation) and then berated me when I spent it on something like shoes or bags. At his request and demand, I often ended up having to say a detailed explanation as to why I deserved a gift in the first place. After a while I begged him NOT to give me anything as I just couldn’t hack the events and interrogations that would follow.
I didn’t say anything that day to my husband when I opened the card I had told him to buy for me. I didn’t say anything when I read his meaningless message to me inside. I was too worried that if I said something his reaction would be far worse than his intent. Sadly, the rest of the day continued on that note. My husband decided to feel sorry for himself for most of it. Knowing that nothing was special and sensing how sad I was about it all, he decided to make me feel even worse by ignoring me. He couldn’t even try to make conversation with me. He just avoided me. I was distraught. What the hell was the point in taking the day off?! I could have gone out with my mum and baby for a nice lunch and had a great time. No, my selfish husband instead made the whole day about him.
It all blew up in the afternoon when over a late lunch I voiced my disappointment. To many, I’m probably sounding like a needy drama queen but my husband had made a big deal of my birthday in the weeks leading up to it. He gave me the impression that I would have a nice day organised by him. When in fact I spent the day looking after baby (as normal), depressed because my husband was ignoring me and scared of what explosion was going to happen later. As soon as I uttered the words, D blew up. Shouting, aggressive, storming off all in front of baby. I left her with her grandma and followed him into the living room.
“What’s wrong with you? Why are you doing this?” are the types of questions I could not avoid asking.
He paced the floor furiously and I realised the day would be ruined for good. He could not break from his anger, his rage and disappointment in himself had encased him. Seeing red he tried to push past me in order to leave the house. I wouldn’t let him pass for two reasons; one, I did not want my mother and baby to see him so agitated, it really was very frightening but to me, it wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before in a man and two, I was angry at this nasty person for wanting to storm out on me on my birthday! He gets to leave but I don’t. I have responsibilities even on my birthday and no amount of rage will make me leave my child. The day dragged on as my husband remained in his solemn, distant state. We did not utter a single word to each other for the rest of the day.
Until the evening, when at dinner, I just couldn’t keep my upset inside any longer. I lost it. I cried and shouted as loud as I could without disturbing our baby. I was distraught. Never had I experienced a day like it. Even the abuser attempted to make my birthdays a little pleasant. My husband however couldn’t even do that. I knew something was wrong in him, something quite serious was happening to him. He had become a monster and I was frightened. That night he made me frightened. I never imagined my timid, sweet husband who once loved me so much would make me frightened.
How do you draw a line under that? How do you accept his promise to change?
You can’t. I live day to day now concious that he might fall back into his destructiveness, fearing that he might become distant. He had a course of CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) as communication was not something he ever did and it seems to have helped. It has taken nearly five months for me to even ‘like’ him again. He is trying, I can see that but every now and again I see glimpses of the cruelness and I begin to panic. I do not want a marriage where I fear my husband. I do not want a marriage where I am always anticipating his bad reactions, his anger, his spite. I cannot say I am hopeful. I can only say that I can see things more clearly now. I will not continue a charade of a marriage to please other people. I will not force a love that does not exist. If we are meant to be, then we’ll get through this. If he values the life we’ve built then he will change. I know I need to change too……if I can.
There’s a lot of ifs………… But no buts.