The relationship with my husband although good and solid on many levels, was after 20 years starting to show the signs of cracks in our otherwise stable marriage. It is since I finished many years of personal therapy and completed my training in therapeutic counselling and psychology that I started to look back and see where and why the cracks appeared in the first place.
Love and relationships are complicated to say the least, why are we attracted to another? What is it that drives us to form bonds and unions with that person? For me, I saw my dad in my husband, and a lot of my mother it was this combination along with him mirroring my opposite wounds from childhood that was the draw. Yes he was attractive, very driven, intelligent, confident, practical and I can go on and on. But most of all I felt safe and content with him, and I still do. We have managed to stay together for 30 years, but this has not been without our issues along the way.
The cracks started to open the year before my father became ill, my husband had already by this time been going through his own inner crisis for some years. I had run out of sympathy for him, my attention being taken up by raising our two daughters and keeping’ everything together’, after all if I went down who would steer the ship? My inner martyr flying the flag for stiff upper lip and best foot forward. Yet inside I was drowning in a sea of resentment and anger towards my husband. His lack of help with the house, children, and his emotional absence had caused a steady rise in these feelings over the years. Feelings i choose to stuff down and ignore in favour of supporting everyone else around me.
So who was there for me? I relied on my parents to provide the emotional and soothing support that I couldn’t or wouldn’t take to my husband and when my dad became ill it caused the perfect storm.
The pillar of strength and unconditional love that always came from my dad was slowing crumbling in front of my eyes. Even now 5 years after his passing writing this I can feel the painful emotions of grief and loss welling in my soul.
You see I am on the avoidant scale in personality, not wanting to be contained or hemmed in by others due to my own smothering as a child by both my parents. I enjoy intimacy but not to the point at which I feel smothered and engulfed. As the youngest of three, I was the baby and kept as the baby for a long time, learning to let others take care of me rather than take care of myself. My husband came from an opposite family, emotionally abandoned and at times physically abusive. He learnt to fend for himself from very young and thus became co-dependent, fearing abandonment and rejection. Hence the unconscious attraction that brought us together in a fleeting moment that if 5 seconds later we would never of met.
So two opposites mirroring what each other didn’t have growing up from our parents. We looked to each other to give us what we needed not looking internally to heal ourselves. John Lee in his book ‘ Growing yourself back up’, explains really well how as adults we carry the unconscious baggage of our inner child and that we take this into our primary relationships. In learning to truly become adults there is a requirement to understand our inner child and what makes him or her tick. Only with this insight can we learn what our triggers are and quell the impulsion to act out or return to our childlike self in times of stress and confrontation.
Only too often can I now see how both my husband and myself became adult children at times in our marriage. Me wanting him to take care of me, yet not engulf me, and him seeking reassurance and craving attention. As you can see these two really don’t mix thus causing the underlying friction in our relationship.
As the years went on, children came and distractions were plenty, a lot of what I felt went underground. Me ignoring the warning signs preferring to blame my husbands upbringing and lack of emotional intelligence rather than admit my part, such as being avoidant and pushing him away when he became to ‘needy’. Both of us acting out old wounds from childhood, and repeating patterns learnt from our parents.
With the sudden illness and death of my dad which coincided with my mother-in-laws diagnosis of advanced dementia both of us had significant personal trauma to deal with and we didn’t deal with this well. I went into emotional shut down, couldn’t function, couldn’t talk to anyone, my inner child bereft and abandoned, I was inconsolable.
This was a shock to my husband, I was the strong stoic one who always supported everyone else and he didn’t know how to deal with me. When he tried I pushed him away, I needed to lick my wounds in private. He felt shut out, rejected and abandoned which fed his triggers, I knew this but was beyond caring. Part of me wanted him to be strong and man up and comfort me, yet this had never been part of our relationship. I had never let him do that, so in reality how did he know what to do?
This is where I’ve learnt that communication is key in any partnership, we are not as yet mind readers and I’ve too often heard the saying, “Well he/she should know what I’m thinking and feeling”. Really, why? Just because you have been living with someone for many years doesn’t give them the knowledge and insight into the complex workings of your mind. I too fell into this trap, blaming my husband for not understanding me, how could he when I didn’t open up to him and explain how I was feeling! My resentment and anger at his lack of understanding pushed him away even further.
Having just started his own training in Transpersonal Psychotherapy the week before my dads funeral, mainly in order to learn and understand himself, he became entranced and limmerent over another female student, after meeting her twice! Three days after burying my father he couldn’t contain his feelings and it all spilled out one evening in an horrendous row. I was utterly shocked and rage full at his complete lack of support for me at a time when I so desperately wanted it. Again, I didn’t accept responsibility for my part in pushing him away and not communicating my feelings. Even now writing this I still feel he was a shit in what he did, I can forgive but forgetting is another thing.
The next 6 months went in a blur, I was all over the place completely untethered and for the first time in my life felt utterly abandoned, by my dad for leaving me and my husband for his emotional betrayal when I was at my most vulnerable.
It took a lot of therapy both as a couple and individually for me to separate the feeling of grief and loss over my dad and the fallout from my husbands Limerence. In a way we were both lucky in that we still liked each other, yes I hated him and wanted to kill him, however I have always liked him, he has a good heart and I struggled with this dilemma.
My personal therapy led me to my own training in Psychosynthesis Psychotherapy not too long after my fathers death. Still feeling raw and very vulnerable this led to a difficult few training years. I realise now I was terrified of being let down and hurt by anyone else that my defences went up much stronger than I had known. My inner child needing to be protected from the pain of loss and abandonment that my fathers death and husbands distance had caused. This combined with the fact that I had been a mother for 20 years and doing the training was way out of my comfort zone didn’t make for comfortable group work as I was seen as distant and cold. It was only with continuing personal therapy and confronting my inner demons and my avoidant personality that I began to thaw in my third year of training.
With both my husband and I training to be therapists at the same time we were able to talk through some difficult issues and begin to understand our own selfs in relation to how we react and behave in certain situations. What our triggers and patterns were in times of stress or just feeling tied or having a bad day. Without a doubt communicating what we feel to each other has been a significant key in healing the cracks in our marriage. I no longer look to him to take care of me and be a mind reader, he no longer smothers and engulfs me. Yes we fall into bad habits at times, we are only human, yet we are able to stop and realise what we are doing and readdress our actions or words.
One thing I have learnt is the power of the apology and accepting responsibility when I have done something and to verbalise this to my husband. This hasn’t been easy for me as part of me still wants to believe that it’s his problem and I’m perfect!!! I have to pull myself up and remember it take two to tango and there is no fire with out the fuel. Being humble and stopping my super ego from running riot in my psyche is also another thing I’ve learnt to do, I’m not perfect and I’m no martyr, I’m just me.
So the cracks came in our marriage and more than once these were huge gaping holes. It takes time, patience, love and forgiveness to heal any major rift in a relationship, most importantly it takes the commitment of both partners in wanting to heal and mend the cracks that form.
If that can be done then the road ahead, although never smooth, can be navigated with a little more understanding and compassion for each other. Ultimately communication is key, talk and say how you feel to each other. Its amazing how liberating this can be and how that can bring you much closer and create a far more intimate and stronger bond.
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