Monday, August 1, 2011


For a few days there, I thought we were headed in a positive direction. I suppose I want so badly to believe that the strife is over and we have begun to put real distance between ourselves and this rough spot in our road (rough spot? How about bottomless pot-hole?) that I get overly optimistic when I see any glimmer of hope.

Evidently the habit of attacking each other whenever we are under stress has become too ingrained. It is our knee-jerk reaction whenever we encounter anything other than glass-smooth sailing. One theory that has been whirling around is that, faced with a situation that makes us need to yell at someone or something, the only “safe,” or acceptable place to direct that negative emotion is at each other. You can’t go around screaming at strangers, or dressing down your in-laws, employer, employees, or co-workers. So all that garbage gets dumped on the person who is supposed to love you enough to take it.

Problem is, I really can’t. Take any more. After five years of processing more garbage than the local landfill, I’m buried. I suspect he is, too.

One bad thing is, with this lingering heel problem—the final fillip from that rathole cafĂ©—I haven’t been able to do much walking. And walking helps me work through what I need to process. Ignoring my throbbing foot, I took a long walk yesterday morning; I did some productive ruminating.

I realized, for like the umpteenth time in my life, that you can’t change anyone but yourself. I can talk, leave, threaten, cajole, stand on my head, but there’s no guarantee the husband is ever going to change the way he treats me. He could…but I can’t count on that. I have a couple of choices here, but one of them is NOT getting him to act differently. It is I who has to make changes.

I have to accept that who he is now and how he relates to me now are facts. He is what he is. And then I have to decide whether to stay in the relationship based on that information. If I choose to stay, my job is to figure out how to forge an acceptable, peaceful relationship with the man I’m married to NOW…not the one I thought I married, nor the one to whom I would like to be married.

Yes, I am going to have to make changes. Rough times ahead, to be sure. Because another thing I’ve learned over the years, as a corollary to “You can’t change anyone but yourself,” is that changing yourself is about as easy as getting toothpaste back into the tube.

Oh, I don’t dispute that I have changed over the course of our married life. In fact, these last five years have been extremely formative. And not in a good way, I’m afraid. Which is, I’m sure, a large part of why the husband’s attitude toward me has shifted so drastically. I am a very different person than the one who stepped off into the unknown territory of entrepreneurship. So the husband either does not know how to, or has chosen not to, relate positively or lovingly to the person I am now.

So now, for the sake of peace in the household and sanity for both of us, I have some work to do. There are coping skills I need to master; I need to learn the art of negotiating—or not, as the situation demands. And I—who have freely admitted all my life that patience is not my virtue—have to divine a hidden well of that commodity and immerse myself in it. Somewhere, I have to find patience with the husband, and patience with myself. Without it, I’m afraid all my ruminating and planning and clarity will get me nowhere.


  1. Good luck on your path.

    I am not wise enough to give advice on this, but you seem to see clearly.


  2. I can fully relate to this situation. It's a difficult one that I find leads to a certain sense of paralysis, given the choice between reluctant resignation and walking away to to an unknown future. I know of many women who are facing midlife in very unhappy marriages where there is little love, affection or respect left. Homes where they simply have learned to co-exist.... to settle for the 2nd income and someone to mow the lawn... never happy with the situation.. but not unhappy enough to pursue the complete dismantling of a life that has been years in the making.

  3. Stacy--I don't know that I would describe my marriage as "very unhappy." For the most part, we've done okay. Sometimes it's marvelous, sometimes we are just making it through the days. How could it be otherwise, given the 35 years we've been together?

    Still, right now, my marriage doesn't resemble anything I ever wanted it to be or expected it to be...but I'm pretty sure this is a combination of my expectations being a tad unrealistic, and the fact that we're just going through a really rough time right now.

    I expect things to get better; but I'm beginning to realize this is going to take more than whining and wishful thinking on my part...

  4. Lisa, I feel so much connection to what you are saying here. If I start "talking" about it...I could probably go on for hours. What I want to do is try and comment without making it all about me.

    You and I have both been through a lot in the last five years and neither of us are sitting where we thought (or hoped) we'd be today. We both are in long term marriages that could be better but also could be much much worse. Life, by our own choices, has put us through a wringer.

    I think a big part of this is dealing with disillusionment. We're solidly in midlife and things just haven't worked out as we'd expected...and it's not for lack of hard work and planning. It's hard to know which path to take and where to put the emotion and energy now.

    If you're feeling like I am you have a general vision of where you'd like to be in the next five years. But the disillusionment clouds the path. Personally, I have not felt this hopeless about my future EVER in my life. I think we're grabbing at straws to ensure things are good from here on out. But we've learned, it's oh so easy to grab the wrong one.

    You're inspiring me to attempt a blog post.


  5. Hi Lisa, I was speaking in general terms about "unhappy marriages" having had a recent conversation with a friend about midlife marriage in general and how many people we know who are truly unhappy in them. It's hard to determine the difference between unrealistic expectations and selling yourself short in terms of love and intimacy.

  6. You're right, is hard to say whether we are getting reality checks or just accepting less than we deserve/need.

    Twenty years ago, I would probably have been ready to upsticks and get out of my marriage if it looked like it does now. But with a few more years and life lessons under my belt, I've determined that my best chance for happiness lies with this man with whom I have shared almost two-thirds of my years on the planet. I certainly would not choose to go looking for another partner, and I don't think I would be happier alone.

  7. And neither of you really has a family safety net in the neighborhood do you?

    And having spent five years pushing the cafe uphill I'm betting that your friends on the net are the closest shoulders to lean on. There's not a lot I can say except that I'm a really good listener even if I'm a lousy letter writer. Just sent some candles up your way and there's always one in the window.