Friday, October 20, 2006

Part II: W Became an Angry Old Man

The longer W and I stayed together the more we grew apart. We both changed.

As W aged, he grew more and more bitter, and more and more angry. He has gotten to the point where he approaches every situation with a chip on his shoulder, sure that whoever he is dealing with and whatever they are dealing with, the other party is going to try to screw him over. So rather than observing the old adage of getting more with honey than vinegar, he spews vinegary comments at customer service reps and the like from the start and then wonders why the service he always gets is so bad. For years I have cringed when he opens his mouth in public feeling that it reflects badly not only on him but on me too. Even if people realize that husbands and wives don’t always agree on things, they clearly can see that I am with him and must be aware of his behavior and tolerate it.

As I aged, I matured some. I no longer thought of it as being very cool to always get my way, but wanted to work out solutions to certain disagreements we had. That was not to be. With W, it’s all or nothing, I win and you lose, or you win and I lose. If I prefer the temperature in the house set to 78, and he prefers 70, then he sets it at 78, or at 70. He does not want to compromise and set it somewhere around 73 or 74. And that’s just one very minor example of many conflicts handled the same way. I also started to see some of those character flaws we had as bad things, things that for myself I wanted to change and wished he felt the same about changing some of his. Of course, he doesn’t feel that way, won’t even acknowledge that they are flaws.

Whenever I have felt that there were problems in our relationship, he disagreed and said that he was perfectly happy. If there’s a problem it is my problem, and I have to work through getting over my problems. Well, hell yes, I’m not perfect and I do need help working through some issues, but then again if one party involved in a relationship feels there is a problem in the relationship and the other thinks the relationship is just fine, who is right?

So instead of splitting up years ago as I probably should have, I stayed. I stayed out of fear, fear of being alone, fear of having to take care of myself, fear of the unknown. Not only that, I made things worse by wanting and, after considerable time, getting a baby. Of course, W acquiesced on this like so many other things. I thought he wanted a baby too. He said he did. Turns out, I found out from him a few months ago, this was one of those times he let me “win.” He feels I deceived him when we were first together because when he told me he could father no more children I told him that I was okay with that. What I meant was we’d find a way around it via donor insemination or adoption or something. Turns out he thought I meant I was okay never having children. Okay, I’ll take the blame on that one. I should have made my point more clearly. However, we never should have had N without both of us being 100% behind the decision, and I had no idea we weren’t because he never told me.

Turns out W and I have completely different ideas on childrearing. If I think a situation should be handled one way W will inevitably think it should be handled some other way. We simply disagree. Many times I just keep my mouth shut and suck it up. However, there are times when he is so mean to N that I can’t. I have to defend my boy and not make him endure the verbal abuse that gets heaped upon him. I have struggled to find a way to provide N with an intact two parent home. W went to counseling with me for a while 2-3 years ago specifically to deal with the childrearing issues. We tried to make things better. We would agree on positions that we would take on issues, and then he would renege and do it his way anyway. He did back off a bit on N for a while and did seem to make some real efforts for a while to fix their relationship. Then he slipped back into old ways and wouldn’t admit that he had nor would he return to counseling.

Shortly after this we found out W was sick, very sick, not-sure-if-he’d-make-it sick. He did make it, and we all hoped that once he was feeling better W would mellow out some and get back to a less grumpy and angry state. Hopes for that were soon dashed after he came home from the hospital. I then hoped that things would get better once he was “fully recovered” and finished with outpatient treatments. No such luck, and things continue to get worse to this day.

For far too long I put on the happy face and tried to make it seem like all was well. I tried to stand beside W and be there for him. I tried to do what I had to do to make it seem like we were the perfect little family. W didn’t and doesn’t. He barks orders at N in front of other people. I’ve seen the looks that people give us. They know W doesn’t treat N well. They know that I don’t stop him so surely I must think what he does is okay. But I don’t. I don’t think it is okay to pummel your son’s self-esteem into the ground. I don’t think it is okay to demand “please” and “thank you” and not use them yourself. I don’t think it is okay to demand to be referred to as “sir” and then refer to your son as “ma’am.” It is demeaning, and it is wrong, and I have stood by quietly and watched for far too long. But no more. I will no longer stand by and let my little boy be crushed under the oppressive weight of this man’s words.

This is what I meant when I said I no longer like W. I really no longer like the angry old man that he has become, and if I’m really deep down honest I haven’t liked him for a very long time.


Emily said...

To be honest, Trueself, there is probably nothing you could have said to make me more open to changing my mind about what you are doing than this post.

This kind of chronic anger is very, very hard to live with. And I believe the effect on children can be disastrous.

I was in a sort of Vietnam veteran's wives group a year or so ago, and this issue of rage was a huge problem for many.

PTSD leads many of these veterans to be quite unable to control behaviour like unreasonable anger, inflexibility, sarcasm, etc, and the impact on the children was huge. Vietnam veterans' children have three times the suicide rate of other kids, and a lot of people think that the impact of this kind of behaviour on the children's self esteem is a big part of it. One woman said that, of her two children, one had committed suicide and the other was on anti-depressants, and she seemed quite sure it was linked with this chronic rage and verbal abuse from their father, despite the fact that there was no physical abuse. And when I looked at that woman, I thought "Leave him, leave him, leave him. Just take the kid you've got left and run."

Do I think that about you? I'm not sure. Sometimes when people want to cheat or to leave, they start seeing all sorts of things in their partners that would justify their cheating and their leaving. And I only know what you blog here.

But I have to tell you that this post has really affected me and my attitude towards what you are doing (not that any of my attitudes or thoughts about what you are doing are your problem!).

Rob said...

"and if I’m really deep down honest I haven’t liked him for a very long time."

So why do you stay with him? You do no one any good by doing that, N especially. Sure it's very tempting not to risk change and the unknown but, having gone ahead and taken the risk and succeeded, such that you are a much happier alive person, well you'll be kicking yourself to the moon and back for having delayed all these years. If all honest attempts at improving your lot with W have failed then it's best to move on and leave him. When you get to the point where you hate someone like that then you need to face the inevitable - it's finished between you two.

trueself said...

Not my intention at all to change your, or anyone else's, mind about my situation. I wrote this to finally say (to myself more than anyone else) all the things that we, as a family, have tried to keep hidden for oh so very long. This is one of the hardest posts I've written. I started and stopped several times. I got angry every time I got to a certain point in it. I cried. Posting this I think has been something of a breakthrough for me because it has made me look at things that I've tried to hide and push aside for too long.
Yes, maybe part of it is looking for justification for the actions that I'm taking, and maybe I am being overly harsh about W. But then again, maybe I'm still not being harsh enough. I see the effects on N's psyche, and yet I've let it go on for eight years. Eight years that I will spend the rest of his youth trying to undo the damage of. All because over and over I would doubt myself and my own judgment because I looked to W as being older and wiser. I would question who was reasonable and who was unreasonable and due to my very low self-esteem concluded that I was wrong and he was right. Yet the facade really all started to crumble when a couple of years ago we tried to adopt another child, and the social worker assigned to us refused to approve us for adoption unless we went to counseling due to problems she picked up from her interviews with us and N. She was, rightfully so, concerned that W was too harsh with N. At this point, I am so grateful that she slowed us down in that process, that she prevented us from bringing one more child into this mess. It was thanks to her, and the counsellor that we saw, that I started to believe that maybe, just maybe, I wasn't wrong. That just maybe W was wrong in how he treated N, and that instead of N needing to "toughen up" as W often said, that maybe W really did need to back off.
Sorry, I know I've made this way too long a comment here. I'm rambling, and dumping mental garbage all over the place. I'll shut up now, for now anyway.

trueself said...

I have no intention of staying at this point any longer than it takes for me to get the information together that the lawyer needs to file the papers. Once the filing is done, it's over. No more pretending, no more status quo. Until then, to prevent him from possibly hiding assets, I have to continue with the status quo at home.

Karin's Korner said...

Please, please get away from W just as quickly as you can. He is slowly killing N's self esteem and as N gets older it will be harder and harder for him to get it back. He will give in to peer pressure and do things that he would not normally do just because he will want kids to like him. He will think that everyone sees him the way his father (and I say that lightly) sees him. Please, I know from experience, RUN do not walk away from this man. Get out just as soon as you can, he is a jerk and you and your son will have a much better life. Email me if you want or need to talk about it, I have soooo gone through exactly what you are going through now.