Waiting for Tuesday

Tuesday is the day my divorce will be final ( I hope). I say I hope, because I am so accustomed to preparing myself for disappointment.

Earlier this month I took the kids on a vacation that has been planned for 6 months. He did not go, but likely would have despite the pending divorce, had I not drawn a hard line and said he could not. He was supposed to move out when the kids and I returned. That was 13 days ago. Again, he did not move out when he said he would.

Not to be outdone, last week, he took the kids on his own vacation. On Saturday the 7th, when he disclosed that he had not, and would not be moving out yet, he told me in no uncertain terms that when he left with them on Monday (the 17th), he would not be returning to this house to live. He packed and took only the things he needed for vacation. The lawyer said I should not change the locks yet.

He returned with the kids today. He came into the house, and picked up right where he left off. He plopped on the couch and diddled with his phone or the television as if it were perfectly natural… as if there was never any promise to leave. He’s been setting and blowing through his promised move out date since May 22… for two months. He’s been stringing me along with similar promises and failures to follow through for years. Why would I expect anything different?

I prepared the meal I planned for me and the kids. I asked him to clear and set the table as I was managing the items on the grill. He delayed to the point that I effectively cleared the table, set the table and filled it with food. He sat and ate. I stewed, and tried to manage a cordial demeanor, focusing almost exclusively on the kids. “Is it reasonable for me to expect that you will do the dishes?” I asked. Long pause. “I’ll do the dishes,” he said.

After dinner, while the kids were attending to other things I had a first opportunity to ask:

“Shall I take your presence here to mean that you intend to sleep here tonight?”

“I’m waiting for _____ to call me back,” he said.

“Hmmm.” I said, and walked away.

I’m struggling hard not to hate him for it. It’s only two nights. But it’s so hard with a narcissist and/or abusive man. I have not had a valid (albeit different) perspective in his reality for years. He has no empathy to offer me and therefore could not possibly imagine my experience of his presence. So, there is no talking about it. Nothing. Stalemate. Officially, I find his presence oppressive.

I drew a bath, and before getting in, I told of my anger that he returned. He looked at me and said, as if it were a fact, “I told you I’d be out this week.” This is a blatant, outright lie. I have in writing that eh agreed to leave by the 15th.

…But now you have told me this. “When this week, are you going to be gone?”

“Tuesday. I’ll be gone Tuesday.”

“Last Tuesday, maybe.”

“I don’t care. I never would have kicked you out onto the street, no matter what.”

This is probably true. He didn’t want the divorce. He was comfortable.

“Let me remind you,…”

He interrupts, “You’re a different person, and you would do that. To your husband.”

“That’s not what I was going to say. Let’s remember that you’ve been on this path, and known you would be leaving for 60 days, now. You had an available apartment. You very well could have found and moved into an apartment by now. You had an apartment in June….”

“No I didn’t.” (Denial, Lying, Invalidation)

“Yes. You did. And you didn’t move in because you chose to wait until they built a new apartment building and you could have a second floor apartment overlooking the pool.” Please note, this new build apartment is NEXT DOOR to my workplace. (Continued invasion of my personal space.)

“You’re getting the house, I should be able to look at something other than a parking lot.” (Entitlement)

“That was your decision. It is not my fault you don’t have an address to move to yet. That was your decision.”

And here is where I will pause. I did not lose my cool. I walked away knowing he really believes that I am choosing to make him homeless, without the least bit of insight to his role in this.

I think that lack of insight is pervasive. I believe that if someone asked him the reason for the divorced, he would say he didn’t know, or blame PTSD. But this little piece excerpt of our story highlights so many of the reasons we are divorcing.

He set and agreed to move out several times prior to last Monday. He independently defaults on his commitment, then acts (and sometimes says) that he never made such a commitment. This is standard. It is not partnership. It is not loving, kind, respectful. In fact, it is abusive, and a good example of gas-lighting behavior. It is an utter failure of love, and it is the norm in this relationship.

Absurdly, he is trying to get me to agree to receiving a personal and direct payment of child support, rather than having the State garnish his wages. In the last 3 weeks, our mailbox has yielded at least two checks he has sent to me, neither of which had sufficient funds in the account to clear. I did not cash them, but checked to see if he was writing me hot checks while trying to convince me that he would pay child support faithfully and without the accountability of the state’s involvement.

When accountability comes, “Shall I take your presence here to mean that you intend to sleep here tonight?” He deflects. There is no accountability with a narcissist. They cannot bear the vulnerability required.

I will be the evil, conniving bitch that is blamed for all.

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The end days…

Not a day goes by that I don’t hear the F bomb out of him. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to live with him. But he won’t leave. He has an oppressive presence in my space. He is verbally and emotionally abusive.

He seems to live in a completely different reality than I do; one where he is the martyr, and entitled to so much more than he’s receiving.

I took the kids on a vacation funded almost exclusively by my parents. We left 16 days ago, and have been back for 7.

Not to be outdone, he has a vacation planned with the kids: a tour of amusement parks. He has asked me (and I agreed) for $500 in cash from the emergency fund for furniture for the kids when he moves. I have since purchased for him an entire bedroom suite, but he still needs mattresses and a bedroom set for the oldest. He has now demanded that money, so he can take them on vacation. But he has refused to move out, and continues to threaten to stay until legally required to leave.

In the last 7 days:

    Four have included me being called a bitch at least once.
    He drops the f-bomb daily.

Today: I mowed the lawn, picked up fecal matter from the yard, took the kids to a birthday party, unloaded and loaded the dishwasher, and worked for about 5 hours on work. Yet, when I returned from the birthday party, he acted put out that I didn’t start cooking dinner right away.

He grudgingly edged the yard, cooked the meat of the meal I planned for dinner, and did the laundry (for later reference, here’s a picture of how much of my laundry he did:

As I continued to work (11pm) he indicates he expects me to help pack the kids for his vacation. I told him no, that I did not intend to do that tomorrow for him. He then got offended: “so, I do all this work around the house… all your laundry, and you won’t even help the kids pack for vacation?” I gently and carefully reminded him that I spent 2 days packing for my vacation, without expecting or asking him to help. As it turns out, I am staying home with them because we didn’t sign them up for camp, and he couldn’t get the whole week off. Nevermind that I am taking one to the dentist and working from home all day, while feeding and loving on two kiddos before they leave.

He complained to me that he “was doing everything he could to make things better” after our initial separation in March. I confirmed Friday that he had allowed an insurance policy to lapse, but lied to me about it for months.

I pray that in the days to come, he will be honest with himself and me. I pray that I will see clearly the truth as God sees it, including where I’m wrong.

Today’s prayers, via the Book of Common Prayer included this passage from Benedict of Nursia:

“The Lord himself in the gospel teaches us the same when he says: I shall liken anyone who hears my words and carries them out in deed to one who is wise enough to build on a rock; then the floods came and the winds blew and struck that house, but it did not fall because it was built on a rock. It is in the light of that teaching that the Lord waits for us every day to see if we will respond by our deeds, as we should, to his holy guidance. For that very reason also, so that we may mend our evil ways, the days of our mortal lives are allowed us as a sort of truce for improvement. So St Paul says: Do you not know that God is patient with us so as to lead us to repentance? The Lord himself says in his gentle care for us: I do not want the death of a sinner; let all sinners rather turn away from sin and live.”

Waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I told a support person and kind soul who I know has put in a ton of hours praying for my marriage and family, that at this time I feel both thankful and amazed that my husband and I seem to have bucked the trend and amicably negotiated the terms of our divorce. I also reported that I felt anxious, like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I told him I was waiting for him to turn, to decide he didn’t like the terms of the agreement we previously reached. This was Wednesday. 

Now it is Friday. 

On Thursday, my husband asked me to allow him to see my budget, so we could renegotiate the child support payments prior to our planned meeting at the Attorney General’s office next week. 

Ive been waiting for this moment. He first proposed paying $—— per month. This is way above the state minimum. Three-four weeks ago we agreed to $——(71% of that). Last night, he asked me to accept agreed to receive $—— per month in child support. this is 1% above the state standard minimum, and 60% of what he first offered, when he was trying to get me to commit to keeping the children at our current address.

THEN he began tryin to negotiate for additional time for visitation. I’m already giving him more than the Standard Possession Order terms. That escalated into an argument, one ending with him calling me a bitch, as I let him know that the way he was speaking to me was unacceptable and not peaceful, per the terms for him staying here. He threatened to get a lawyer. 

I cautioned him that he had until this morning to decide how he would proceed, but if he continued on this path or ever spoke to me in that way, I would hire the lawyer I’ve spoken with, and would no longer negotiate with him. He pivoted quickly.

He apologized. I told him, “Your apologies are paper. They’re empty and worthless, unless accompanied by a change in behavior that means this won’t happen again.”

He cooled down and asked me for a hug before I went to bed! Ugh! I’m mad at myself for giving him one. 

I learned today that he apparently allowed my (our) car insurance to lapse this year…. which will cause my rates to be much higher than they would have been if I had a responsible human as a husband! To add insult to injury, he knew I was getting quotes last night, and I asked him how long we were covered by (company name here) before he switched us 2 weeks ago to another company without discussing with me. He had an opportunity to come clean. He chose not to. 

His deception, lies, failures to be responsible, failures to treat me as a partner, and failures to come clean before I catch him in a lie persist!

Who does that? 

I’m aware that I’m hurt and angry. 

I’m aware that if I hire a lawyer now, I will not likely be divorced next month. He’ll drag it out. But I don’t trust a bone in his body. 

I want to hire a lawyer, because I know I’m right. I know he’s not entitled to what he believes he is. But I’m afraid to drag this out. Ugh. I want to just be done with him. 

I welcome suggestions.

New Beginnings in Dead Ends

I’ve been thinking a lot about church culture lately, as I do periodically. I think it’s fair to say the dynamics of what is normal and acceptable within the context of churches and religious communities is changing. The Southern Baptist Commission is voting this week for a new President, subsequent to the departure of the former president under the cloud of protest… protest stemming from the resurfacing of an old video of him discussing his thoughts and counsel for women who have been victims of domestic violence.

I’m sure this is connected to and a response to the Me Too movement, and the larger cultural transition that is questioning rape culture and narratives of gender and power.
Church, we are late to the table here. We have neglected and shushed and avoided this conversation for too long! And we’re at risk of losing our voice, failing to be the hands, heart, face, feet and voice of Jesus in this place where I’m sure God has something to say!

We need to acknowledge that we failed our people. We failed your mother, when we told her God would want her to stay with that man who doesn’t know the Lord, in the hope that she will lead him to Christ.

We need to tell you we were wrong when we suggested you watch the movie “The War Room,” and take heed.

We need to acknowledge that prayer is powerful and humble and trusts that God is aware of our struggles and our needs, and willing to intervene. While those things are true about prayer, it cannot be the sole call to action in response to narratives of harm, domestic violence, and spousal abuse. We perpetuate and are complicit in the abuse, if this is our only response. Yes, Church, intercede on her and/or his behalf! You can do that! But tell her to get out. Make a way for her to get out. Put together a plan, and quit hiding from these conversations.

Ask questions.
“Are you scared?”
“What are you afraid of?”
“What would make you feel safe?”
“How can I/we support you?”
“Does this change or make you question your understanding of God?”
“What parts of you need healing?”

Church, these things are tricky. These are tough conversations and hard topics to engage. But we have failed. We have failed to acknowledge that even in a very small church, it is likely that several households are contexts where abuse is very present and very hidden.

We have spent too long refusing to publish the complicated stories that leave us with questions or let us wrestle with the assumptions we’ve taken for gospel.

We must pivot. We must repent. We must listen and learn from the social supports that are decades ahead of us in this. Pastors, invite a director of a women’s shelter to share your pulpit, and to teach your people.

We must acknowledge we don’t have all the answers. We don’t. If you balked at the last 2 sentences, you are part of the problem. We must realign ourselves and our communities with the love of Christ. The LOVE of God.

Is it possible that God blesses the dissolution of a marriage in which one partner presents a threat to the life of another? Because intimate partners are the #1 perpetrators of homicide among female victims.

Is it possible that God blesses the dissolution of a marriage in which one partner physically harms or beats another?

Is it possible that God blesses the dissolution of a marriage in which one partner holds the other captive?

Is it possible that God blesses the dissolution of a marriage in which one partner causes the other to become depressed to the point of suicide?

Is it possible that God blesses the dissolution of a marriage in which one partner withholds food from the other causing starvation?

Is it possible that God blesses the dissolution of a marriage in which one partner leaves the other’s body bruised, cut, tattered?
What if the body part is the soul/mind/heart/spirit?
Why do some of us hesitate there? Why would these invisible but often equally devastating and pernicious wounds be tolerated in God’s household?

This should not be.

I was that wife. I was that wife 7 years ago. And I named the abuse. In one-on-one conversations, I named the hurt, the emotional neglect, the deprivation of love. Well meaning Christians counseled me to pray more, to “respect him more.” And I believe that they did not intend or even know that these responses subtly placed the blame for my hurt back on me. Is it possible that I’m not praying enough or in the right way? Is there something about my view of gender and equity and partnership that is not aligned with God’s love and God’s desires? Am I corrupting this relationship because I expect to be treated as an equal?

Two years ago, I told my therapist that I didn’t think I’d need to be taking a daily antidepressant, if not for the continued presence of a spouse who questioned me, second guessed me, contradicted me, lied to me, and neglected my heart. I was suffocating in loneliness.

And over the last year, I have learned just how deeply I had lost sight of love. The experience of being loved was so foreign to me that for a short season, I confused simple human kindness, professional partnership, and platonic mutual respect for love. Oh how devastatingly small my portion of love had become, that kindness felt like a feast. I hadn’t even noticed. I was living, just barely, on the crumbs that fell through the cracks of the narcissist’s table above me.

Divorce didn’t feel like an option, and I can’t clearly explain why even now. I considered having an affair, just to sabotage my marriage, but what if he wanted to work through it? Also, I just couldn’t. In my despair and in my hopelessness, suicide seemed a better option that either affair or divorce. Seriously. And as I thought through the plan that came to me gently and softly, I had sudden clarity. What power I had given to the church! What power had I placed in what others might think of me! What power I had placed in my dogged determination not to follow the path of generations of my family before me! And how warped my view of God! God is LIFE, and this marriage had driven me to the door of death.

I did not kill myself. I got help. I let the blinders fall. I let those who had loved me and known me through the years of abuse name their grief, their fears, and what they’ve witnessed. I filed for divorce. And I have found support in such lovely ways with lovely folks.

There have also been criticisms and cautions and rumors leaking out of my church. Ugh! A church leader vented about me to a friend, “these people think they can just start over with a new family, and don’t realize their problems will just follow them into that new family.” This is not loving kindness. This is wrong and harmful on so many levels.

No, I’m not having an affair. I just decided after years of consideration that I’d be better off if I were single for the rest of my life than if I continue in this way.
No! I haven’t turned from the Way.
Yes, I’ve considered how it will impact my kids, and what is best for them. Having a living and whole mother is what’s best for them.

Church, we must learn better ways of responding. We are missing an opportunity to be a force of healing and relevance in these broken places.

And over the months and weeks, I’ve come to understand (remember) God is loving and life giving. And in the ways that my marriage depleted my heart, God grieved, and grieves, and witnesses… and I believe He intends to bring those bent and broken places to light and redress with love and healing.

September: Small Surprises.

I began seeing a counselor in August. My goal for therapy was to process and work through my feelings of ambivalence about continuing in marriage. I wrote about his response to this in the last post.

Shortly thereafter, he began to complain that I had not put enough effort into marriage counseling for the two of us. I reminded him that 5 months before that had been tasked to him. This upset him. He excused his failure to do so with claims that he tried but was not able to find anyone who could see us. :-/ Then he accused me of not helping him find a marriage counselor, and told me that “if it was so easy, you do it.”

“No.” I replied. “That was something I said I needed you to do in April to demonstrate that our marriage is important to you. You telling me or challenging me to do it does not show me that you care about our marriage. Therefore, I will go on my own.” This triggered a retort related to the absurdity of going to marriage counseling alone. I let him know that he was welcome to go see someone, if he wanted to work on his marriage.

Within a couple of weeks, he began to see a counselor who had previously provided marriage counseling for us. I was surprised and delighted. I also wondered what they would talk about. I shared this with my therapist, and have worked to release my husband’s emotional development to his counselor. Other than this, September brought no significant notable changes.

I had an unplanned conversation with a realtor-friend in September. Somehow, the conversation landed in theorizing how much equity I have in our home. We had been talking about getting a home equity loan to do some long-discussed, but never yet possible improvements. Hmmm….

 

I’m still alive. Updates to come.

I am way overdue for an update. This tends to be my blogging downfall. I get engaged in life and fail to regularly update. Then the prospect of the work required to catch up seems too daunting for the small periods of time I spend before the computer outside of my regular work.

So here’s my plan to update: I am setting aside some time for writing. I will catch up by writing one-post synopses of the months I have not blogged.

Perhaps at a later date, I may flesh out these narratives and decision points more thoroughly. You’re welcome to ask specific questions in comments.

Timeline for this story thus far:

April, 2016: 10.5 years into marriage, this blog was birthed as I cried in a bathtub. I realized that I didn’t know how this story will end. Honestly, I still don’t.

May-August, 2016: I blogged somewhat regularly. The act of blogging proved cathartic, and perhaps delayed my entrance into individual therapy while I waited to see if my husband followed through with arranging couple’s counseling.

This brings us to August, 2016.

August, 2016: This month, I began to see a counselor for myself. I did not invite my husband. This was not marriage counseling. This was for me, and me alone. I did not discuss this with him, until I had located a counselor and scheduled an appointment.

We were in the car with the kids in the back seat when I did tell him of my plans to begin individual counseling. He asked, “So we’re not going to do marriage counseling?”

“I have waited for months for you to make that happen. Since that has not come to pass, I must assume that our marriage is not important to you. I will be seeing someone on my own,” I replied.

“So you’re going to do marriage counseling alone? Let me know how that works out.”

“Do you have any curiosity why I’m going? Why now?”

“I’m sure you’ll tell me when you’re ready.”

I took a deep breath, prayerfully pausing to decide whether and how to tell him my “why.”

“My primary goal is to process and explore my ambivalence about remaining married to you.” <Mic drop.>

At the time of writing this post, I can remember almost verbatim the dialogue up to this point. I can not for the life of me remember his response to this statement. I know that a long period of silence followed, but I cannot say that it was or was not preceded by an angry, hostile, accusatory, or abusive reaction.

——-

As I worked with my therapist, the need to blog regularly decreased. I had a kind ear, and a safe, supportive space to process my often conflicted thoughts and feelings.

My counselor is a Christian. I did not set out to have a ‘Christian Counselor’ for fear that he/she would come to the therapeutic relationship with an agenda or intended end of this story. I am confident that God, or the Universe, knows what we need and works a way to get us there. My strained relationship with my husband bled over into stress in my relationship with the church. It was a blessing to not have to consider whether my therapist would wonder if I was psychotic when I spoke of prayer or a sense that God speaks to me.

I identified in my first appointment my suspicion that I take anti-depressant prescription medication to cope with my marriage. I believe(d) that if I were not in relationship with this particular man, I would not be taking or feel a need to continue taking anti-depressants.

I’m pretty sure that my therapist was waiting patiently for me to give up.

When I Don’t Like You, I Choose to Love You

Draft written, but not posted in May, 2016:

I recently had a friend interrupt polite but candid conversation with a surprised question: “Wait! You don’t like your husband?!?” To which I had answered, “Not always, no. But at that point, love is a choice. I may not always like him. But in that moment, I choose to continue to love him.”

This led to an interesting  and surprising conversation about the nature of love. You see, I believe that even when I do not feel affection or warmth toward my husband, I can still love him. It boils down to choice. Today, I choose to love him.

I meant it when I said ‘I do.’ But sometimes I wonder if he did.

Last night, I yielded to my muse. My story is not known, because I have chosen not to tell it. No longer will I hold my story alone. Here, I bring the truth of my not-known story to the light of day.

I bought and set up a website at the kitchen table, while he played a video game in the next room. A million and a half thoughts went through my head — thoughts about things I wish he would ask me… about things I want to say to him if we ever get to marriage counseling. I am pretty sure he is totally unaware, and would never ask about my mental wanderings. He is perfectly content to play a video game 15 feet away.