‘You had a perfectly good husband, you should have held onto him’.
An actual remark from one of my friends who didn’t want to listen to my problems.
Perfectly good husband.
Yes, true. Perfectly good husband, who was in love with someone else. And you think I should have ‘held on to’ him?
I could have. I could have made him fulfil his marriage contract. Forced him to stay with me.
But this is what our marriage looked like at the end.
He couldn’t even be bothered talking to me. Unless we were in public, or we had friends over, because he would put on a good display of being a great husband. So people could see how good he was, and how great, for him to stand by his sick wife that way. What a guy.
When we were alone, he was either in the other room, or on his computer. Chatting to his personal trainer on facebook, who, it took me waaaaay to long to figure out, was the woman he was in love with.
Do you know how much it hurts to give your life to someone, all of your healthy years, 18 years of marriage, to someone. And to have them throw them back and judge you as not good enough?
It hurts like hell.
It hurts more than RA, let me tell you.
But no one wants to hear about that, because I left him, so its all my own fault.
When I got sick our marriage was already strained because we have a child with special needs. Asperger’s syndrome. I couldn’t work, because he couldn’t be in daycare. We couldn’t go out much. We couldn’t go out to dinner. Any place where there were crowds, loud noises, strong smells…We didn’t do much but stay at home.
He blamed me, as it turns out. He probably should have said something…
So my illness didn’t cause our marriage to end. But it was the final nail.
He never came to a doctor’s appointment with me. He didn’t believe I was really sick. He never so much as googled ‘rheumatoid arthritis’ and ‘lupus’.
He didn’t want to know.
What he did do was start drinking heavily. He started spending all his time at ‘training’. Boot camp. With his trainer, ‘Jack’. Actually, it turned out that it was ‘Jac’ as in ‘Jacqui’. Oooops. Why didn’t I see that sooner?
And at this point I could focus on all the crappy things he did. And didn’t do. And how many ways he let me down. There were heaps, trust me.
Or. I could walk away. End the marriage before I started to hate him. We had ten really great years. Better years than most people EVER get. Our first ten years were like most people’s first two years. Before the cracks start to show. Ten. Great. Years.
Then about six not so good years. Then two really bad ones.
And I have to admit, by the end of those 18 years, I was a very different person to the one he married.
But I could keep those ten good years. Remember those. Respect those. End the marriage before I hated him. But use the good years and his good qualities (of which he has many) to build a friendship with him. So that my kids suffered the least damage from our break up.
From the beginning I had him over for dinner at least once a week. We talk almost daily (still). And we fight. And sometimes I really effing hate him. He makes me angry for all the reasons I left him.
But I work hard to keep the friendship real. It’s not a fake friendship. He is the father of my children, and they see that we still love and respect each other, but we are no longer in love. They have learnt that lesson young.
And I have taken a lot of crap, for them. So my kids didn’t suffer the fall out. Didn’t have to watch their parents tear each other apart, or live in silent hatred, like so many kids get to do.
That fact was, when I ended my marriage, I still loved my husband. I loved him enough to let him go. I felt that I was making him miserable. Ruining his life. Holding him back. Preventing him from doing the things he wanted to do.
I wanted him to be happy. He couldn’t be happy with me. Even though I had given him the best years of my life, and quite frankly spoiled him rotten, I was never going to get that back. I was only going to take him down with me. And my kids too.
So I let him go.
Love is like that. Love is selfless. Love puts the other person’s happiness ahead of your own.
‘Need’ is a whole other thing. ‘Need’ is holding on to him.
Needing him to be with me. To stay with me. To look after me. True, in the beginning I wondered how he could be so cold, so selfish, so ungrateful as to just walk away from the person who took good care of him for the best part of 20 years. And not feel any sense of obligation. Or duty.
But why would I even WANT that??? What good is he to me if he is there under duress? If he doesn’t really want to be there?
Need is not love. If he didn’t love me, I didn’t want him to be ‘stuck’ with me.
All that crap about if you love someone, set them free? I believe that. Not only do I believe that, but I lived that.
He was never mine to begin with. Forcing him to stay with me would only have made us both more miserable. He didn’t WANT to care for me. He didn’t want to look after me. Hell, he didn’t even know how. He just isn’t capable of it. Some people aren’t built that way.
I was an extremely independent person. I still am. I didn’t need any caring for, before I got sick. Now I do. But it wasn’t a quality I looked for in a husband. And my husband lacked it.
So I let him go. The benefit to me was that I could stop taking care of him. And stop feeling guilty about his drinking, and his depression and his misery. Stop feeling like that was my fault.
And stop trying so damn hard. Focus on myself a little. I tried everything to get him to love me again. It’s actually quite pathetic. It’s hard to admit. I can’t even list most of the things I tried…too humiliating.
So many things…I organised a surprise weekend away. Secretly organised the leave with his boss. Picked him up at lunch time. Took him to a nice hotel 30 minutes out of town. Wonderful dinner, spa suite.
After dinner we went back to our suite and he watched the cricket.
I bought him presents. Big screen TVs back when they cost $5k. I built websites in secret, while I was home with the kids, and stashed away the money to get him a great TV. Cos he’s into that stuff. He really wanted it. So I got it for him. I could have spent that money on a lot of other things.
I watched endless football games. Learned the key phrases. Pretended I gave a shit about who won. Got up in the middle of the night to watch tests. Made snacks. Kept him company. And discussed the players the refs. Knowledgably.
I never told him what he could or couldn’t do. I trusted him completely. I stayed home while he went out. I knew he would never cheat on me. He just wasn’t like that.
I’d hand him a cold beer at the door when he got home from work and ask him about his day. And listen to what he said.
All my friends couldn’t wait for their husbands to come home, so they could dump the kids on hubs and have an hour of peace. I never did that. I never got peace. My kids never slept. So I never did. Gee, I wonder why I got sick…
I signed us all up to karate. It was something my husband had always wanted to do. So I signed up the whole family. And I hated it. For the first few months, I went along, twice a week, not enjoying it at all. I pretended very well. But, over time, I started to enjoy it. If I was going to be there, I may as well do my best with it. And enjoy it. Make the most of it. My husband loved it. It was good for my ASD son. My daughter didn’t mind it either. It was good family exercise. It was good for us all. We met great people there. And it gave my husband and I something in common again. Something to talk about. Something to share. Every time we graded to a new belt I got him a present. To celebrate. Something simple, like a dinner out. Or something a bit cooler, like an iPod.
It worked for a while.
But still, bootcamp was more important. I remember he refused to drive me to a doctor’s appointment because he would miss bootcamp. Bit of a clue…
I still thought he’d just get over his little infatuation. Mid-life crisis. You know the drill. 25 year old ex night club model, personal trainer. She was gorgeous, happy, bubbly. I was 40. Overweight. Sick.
He actually said…wait for it. He actually said SHE reminded him of ME before I got sick. When I was young. And he thought that was a compliment.
But 18 years of marriage! I wasn’t going to quit that easy. And I was a good wife. I took care of everything. The kids, house, the finances, the budget, the holidays, the planning. I used to say that he mowed the lawn once a fortnight and he took the garbage to the kerb each week. Everyone told me once he was gone I’d realise he did far more than that.
He didn’t. That was all he did. He made himself redundant.
I thought I was a good wife. I took care of it all. Until I got sick. And then I couldn’t anymore.
I fell down hard. And he didn’t catch my fall.
And that is unforgivable.
But I still thought if I could just get better, I could put things back together.
How incredibly stupid. It just doesn’t work that way. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Once you get to ‘eye-roll’ stage and he no longer thinks your jokes are funny, there’s no going back. It’s humiliating to think about now.
But no one wants to get divorced. No one wants to be alone. Especially when you’re really, really sick, in pain 24/7 and none of the medications work for you.
And then one day, a man walked into a room and changed everything I thought I knew. And everything I felt. I had never felt that way before about anyone. Ever.
I fell truly, madly, deeply, all-I-want-in-the-whole-world-is-to-see-him-smile in love with this man.
And then I realised that’s what my husband felt for this other woman.
And there was no way I was ever going to win.
He was just staying in his comfy nest, with the sick wife that took care of everything, because he couldn’t have HER. No other reason.
If he could have her, he’d be gone.
And if he felt about her the way I felt about this man, there was no winning him back. No point holding on. Nothing left to fight for.
I had tried everything. I fought hard. My marriage was dead. The last year we were together he knew that he had to change or I would leave. I told him exactly what needed to change. We did counselling. He didn’t say one word in those sessions. Not one word. He didn’t change.
He wanted me to leave. He just didn’t have the nerve to do it himself.
He wanted me to be the bad guy.
So I was.
And no, the other guy didn’t fall in love with me. If it were a movie script, my husband would have gotten the girl, and I would have gotten the guy, and we’d all probably have happy family dinners together. But it’s the real world, and no one lived happily ever after.
I knew the guy wasn’t interested in me. I believe karma dumped him in the middle of my mid-life crisis to tell me it was time to quit. To show me that I was fighting a losing battle. To help me understand what my husband was going though. To understand how he felt. To teach me that you can’t help who you fall in love with.
And to allow me forgive him.
My husband and I are still friends. He’s on his way over for our weekly dinner night. We have been having dinner together at least once a week since we split. It has been well over four years. I instigated that to show the kids that we still cared about each other, and that we are still a family. That we can be a family, without their Dad living here.
We are both better off this way. But no, it has not been easy. People tell me how lucky I am that we are such good friends. LUCK had nothing to do with it. It was hard work. And it took a lot of forgiving. And a lot of forgetting. It’s also lucky I have a truly terrible memory. And I don’t believe in holding grudges.
So yes, I had a perfectly good husband. And no, I should not have held onto him. I had the strength and the dignity to let him go.
And when I get angry, and hurt and feel betrayed, I remember that I fell in love with someone else too. It keeps me honest. And it keeps me kind. And it helps me to forgive.
Because you can’t help who you fall in love with.