Did Rheumatoid Arthritis end my marriage? Nope…I did.

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‘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.

Silence.

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.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Your post made me really think. I’ve been married 30 years. What’s sad is that we never in a million years think we could get sick like this. I have RA. I was a stay at home mom. My spouse didn’t like it but I just had to be my kids mom. I always thought I’d go back to work later when my kids got older. It didn’t happen. I developed endometriosis and my insides were glued together causing indescribable pain. I kept forcing myself to do things. Even after surgeries because I was afraid he’d be angry with me. I didn’t want to fail at being a good wife and mother. Instead I fell further. I ruptured a disk in my back severely. I kept going though. My disabilities seemed to just pile up. My husband and I fought. I tried harder. Verbal abuse led to physical altercations. He brought home drugs and alcohol and in my stupidity and desperation felt I had to go along with it to make him happy. It was just ridiculous. I filed for divorce and obtained a protective order. A while later we reconciled. He stopped the drugs and the physical abuse however, there was still verbal abuse as time went on. There were and are still good times. He started to see my value I suppose once he found a great job and didn’t have the financial pressure on him so much. When RA hit me it was a shock. A hospital stay later I realized he would never change. He wouldn’t even pick me up at the hospital. Later a cancer scare and another surgery caused him to reevaluate his love for me I suppose but it seems my lack of financial contribution still seems to be what keeps him from being happy with me. He doesn’t want to have sex with me but maybe once a month. It was heartbreaking at first but my hormones have fallen away so now it’s not so devastating for me. It’s so strange to hear from others all the nice things he says about me. I get the silent treatment and tons of disrespect when he’s home so his words just don’t match his behavior. He’s not happy at his current position so he’s doubled down on his complaints. He’s just an unpleasant person. My generally sunny disposition has a cloud over it as of late. Both of us fear our future. Medical bills pile up. No savings so what will happen as we age? I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. I keep thinking I need to let him go. He makes comments like social security won’t be enough for two of us to live on. I take it as a sign. There’s more but I doubt you’d want to know anymore. I wonder if maybe the stress makes my flares worse and worse. Then I realize I’m screwed because how will I get and keep a job that might not even support me. What would that stress be like? My future doesn’t look very good. I pray all the time. I do have faith in the Lord. I guess I’ve seen enough in my life to realize happiness isn’t going to fall from the sky. This isn’t living. It’s dying a slow death and I’m bring him down too. I doubt he’s even googled rheumatoid arthritis. I’m so tired. I’m sick of being sick. Pain is my partner. It’s cruel and mean and forever. I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through what you did. Can you tell me how you’ve supported yourself? I’d like to get some ideas. I’m sorry for the long complaint but thanks for hearing me.

    • Mrs Stress, I am so sorry. for my slow reply and for all that you are going through. It’s too much. I don’t know how old you are, but its never too late to start afresh…without this man. I know it will be hard, but he will never be there for you. I fear for what he is capable of. Do you have family, or a close friend you can stay with for a while? The stress must be making your disease worse. Its honestly far better to be alone than to be with someone who is only interested in bleeding you dry. I’m sorry this sounds harsh. I’m worried for you, in this situation with someone so cruel. Please message me, I have faith too, but we have to help eachother. As for my finances, I live on the poverty line, but I;m on disablity. Im also in australia, I believe disability here is more than there, but its not much, honestly. I live very frugally. I never go out. Its cheap to live when yo unever leave the house…lol. Sorry, not funny. Please write back and tell me how you’re going? huge hugs xx

  2. Chick,
    Thank you for your reply. I am in my 50’s. I’m in the US and I cannot get disability insurance here as my spouse makes enough money. When I reach 65 or so I can get half of the amount Social Security will pay him. That is not enough for rent anywhere here. My mother died last year of an autoimmune disease so I have no parents. I would never ask my sister who is struggling herself as well as just getting back on her feet after flooding took her home last year. Bankruptcy might be a thing in our future but who wants that? Our worthiness is a number in society. Our college educated daughter is unemployed and needs a masters degree in her field to succeed and my son just dropped out of university due to depression. There is no way I could leave while they are here. I protect them you might say. At least buffer. My prayers are heard I believe because recently my husband has softened. Maybe because Christmas time? I don’t expect it to last though. History has taught me to be fully aware. I finally came out of a flare that lasted about 3 months. RA seems to be working it’s way into my hips and sacrum. I feel terrible to even discuss my fears. I am not a pitiful person by any means. The “why me” attitude isn’t even a part of my thinking. This could happen to anyone. You would never look at me and think I have so much trouble. RA is truly an invisible illness. I would not let on to anyone about my home troubles either. You now know and I’m keeping it on the low down to anyone else. Being married as long as I have is a monumental feat in itself. I only know one other couple who’s marriage has lasted longer. It seems to be very rare indeed. I really do love my husband. I see him as a person with great potential if he could only dampen his anger issues. With that said, this anger is so detrimental to me. It could also be troublesome in his career as well. One thing I continue to do is forgive him. Some may think I’m foolish but I feel it’s necessary. It doesn’t mean I forget (I’m positive he’ll remind me again very soon). He has insurance through the company and I depend on it continuing for my treatment. I see no way out of this unless I win the cure or the lottery. I don’t believe I’m the only women out there who’s going through similar trials either. My advice to anyone out there who reads this is to pray. Believe with all you have that God hears you because he does. This is why I’m holding on. My faith has given me wisdom and though I cannot change the person I’m with I’m certain God can. If he chooses. Today I’m ok. None of us know what tomorrow brings. The unhealthy pattern will likely continue especially when he realizes the money situation hasn’t changed. I still do my part physically as much as I can. I will never quit. On the same note I have been saving a little to the side in case I have no choice but to run. I am doing to best I can under the circumstances. I’m hoping a new biologic will come out like Rituxan. (it was the only one that really helped me). Side effects were severe and I cannot take it again. One more thing. If anyone of you are physically abused please remember it’s not ok. No person deserves it. Verbal abuse is very much the same and as damaging but it may offer time for you to save some money and prepare for tomorrow. Start saving now. Pray, pray and pray more. If ever the time comes that I’m forced to leave it is highly unlikely that I will ever look to another mans affection. I don’t think I could after everything. I’ve only seen worse happen to others. The saying goes “jump out of the frying pan into the fire”. Who would want that. So my faith is to our Father in Heaven and to our only redeemer Jesus Christ. My love is forever safe with Him.
    Thank you for the opportunity to have my voice heard here. My hope is that your pain relents and you find beauty in the ashes of this devastation befallen you Arthrichick. All we can do is take one day at a time. Maybe take a Xanax sometime.
    Mrs. Stress

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