So – a year and a half ago, my husband had a mid-life crisis brought on by so many factors that I am surprised he didn’t have a stress induced stroke instead. He chose to have an affair, and while I do not view his affair as a positive event, I prefer it to a stroke.
As I have made my writings from the last 1 1/2 years public, I have spent some time re-reading things I have not looked at in a year. At times I have been overwhelmed with disbelief that we are still “in recovery” and still dealing with the same things AGAIN. At others, I am amazed at how much we have accomplished and how beautiful the future we are constructing looks. M has expressed over and over since the disaster occurred that he felt isolated and distant from me, and we have looked at actions on both of our parts that contributed to our distance. It has always seemed so weird to me that I didn’t notice, that I didn’t feel it, that I didn’t make some effort to get us back on track. I realize that I was stressed and depressed, but the most important part of my life has always been my relationship with M – why didn’t I make an effort to pull us back together?
Until just now, rereading some of what I wrote that fall, and summer, and spring, I had not realized that I had given up hope on us. I didn’t recognize it or acknowledge it – if anyone had asked me yesterday or last year or in November 2009, I would have insisted that I was perfectly happily married when the disaster happened. When I look at snippets from that time, I realize it isn’t true and the common thread that runs through the narrative – the epiphany that came today – is that we should have stayed away from Austin.
It sounds like the title of a Willie Nelson song, but it’s actually just a fact. Throughout 2009, we kept going to Austin to spend time together and reconnect romantically – we actually talked about it in advance clearly in just that way – and every time was an unmitigated disaster. We went to Austin for our honeymoon, it is one of my favorite cities and I know it really well, and I have introduced friends and workmates to an Austin they didn’t know existed…what exactly was wrong in 2009?
First, in April ’09, he was going to a friend’s wedding and he talked me in to going too – even though I wasn’t going to the wedding. We arrived, checked into our hotel, and I dropped him off at the wedding at 6:00. I sort of milled around downtown, went to Whole Foods and got some chocolate covered strawberries and other food for a romantic picnic, and then browsed at Book People for a while waiting for him to call, since he thought the wedding ceremony would be over around 7:00. I finally went back to the hotel around 8:00 because he hadn’t called. By 9:00 my feelings were hurt, and I ate without him. By 10:00 I was seriously angry, called and finally got a hold of him….it turned out that he only stayed for the ceremony and then decided to go out to dinner with friends. Not even friends from the wedding who I did not know, but I was so angry, but forced myself to calm down, went and picked him up and we just came home the next day. No romantic reconnection for us. I let it go and rationalized away my hurt feelings since I know how chaotic interaction with these friends can be, but I think it really chipped away at my self confidence. After all, why had he called friends instead of me?
The next visit was never intended to be romantic, but it was supposed to be an opportunity for us to relax and reconnect as a whole family. This time I was the one with a reason to be in Austin – a week long meeting at the end of July to work on curriculum. We had arranged for M and C to join me on Friday, and the weekend should have been a bright spot in a fairly sucky summer. Unfortunately, even though they joined me on my trip, I still ended up at the bottom of the priority list and was basically abandoned at the hotel – again. After lunch, we were supposed to do a little shopping, go to dinner, and then to the movies. I finished my meeting, and they were nowhere to be found. As 1 became 2 and 2 became 3, I finally called. and they were eating a very late lunch with friends – the same friends from the last fiasco. So, I was abandoned in a hotel in Austin again, only this time with no car. I spent the rest of the afternoon planting fruit on Farmville. We barely made it to the movie on time, and I ended up eating left over chicken salad with a spork in the car on the way to the movies. I was so NOT a happy camper! I let it go again, since there seemed to be no point in throwing a fit and ruining the rest of the weekend. It just seemed so weird.
Believe it or not, we tried it again. I had another meeting in Austin in the middle of September, and M decided to go with me so that we could spend time together. It was a debacle – AGAIN – and only made the situation worse. He planned to kayak while I was working, and then pick me up for a romantic dinner at 5:00. My meeting ran late, and I called, left voice mail, and sent several texts to let him know. When I finished, he was not waiting and had made no attempt to contact me. He had spent the day with the same friend and was tired and wet, and most importantly, he was still in south Austin.He suggested that I just walk back to the hotel and order room service. I didn’t actually have much choice since I was starving and in the middle of downtown Austin without a car, so I walked back to the hotel in heels and a skirt, changed into PJs, and ordered room service – so much for romance.
After this disaster, our relationship stopped drifting and went straight down hill. M was not often home, and when he was, he was incredibly moody and unpredictable – occasionally loving, mostly stressed, emotional, and sometimes actively hostile. I spent a lot of time at home playing Farmville on Facebook and working puzzles. We were still communicating about home, work, and C, still following normal routines when he was home, but there was no real affection exchanged, and his actions showed frustration and dissatisfaction, although reasons were not clearly expressed. I chalked this up to work stress and tried to ignore it. He did occasionally make a sexual overture, but put no effort or affection into it, and in fact was more than a little hostile about the whole subject. I told him more that once that I didn’t want to have sex with an angry person, but this only provoked more hostility. While he still kissed me hello and goodbye, he wasn’t interested in hugs or longer kisses, or any other type of affection that didn’t lead to sex.
After re-reading my writings from the past, my own feelings and the time line of their change shows up clearly in a way that I really had not realized before. Every incident caused me to feel less valued, less loved, and therefore less interested in being loving. By the middle of October, it wasn’t so much that I was not pursuing opportunities to have sex, I was changing long established habits in an attempt to avoid situations where it might be an issue. I stopped showering with him. I started staying up until I knew he was asleep. I started sleeping in until after he left in the morning. I stopped making any effort to make sure I was home when he was, and I made a tremendous effort to make sure he only saw me fully clothed. I stopped listening to his work frustration. I was disengaging from him for the first time in 30 years.
And yet – we were going to try again. I had another four day curriculum meeting in the middle of October, and he had a one day meeting farther south, and he persuaded me that we should go together. That he would go early and stay with me, drive down for his meeting, and then come back so that we could spend the weekend together in Austin relaxing and having fun. We put a lot of work into finding a nice hotel and making plans. And then I couldn’t go……