Yesterday, I confessed that I dealt with emotional abuse during my marriage. Today I am confessing that my marriage was never a partnership. I should have seen the signs before marriage, but I was young, stupid and in love.
No matter how well you think you know someone, you don’t really know the person until you marry them. Living together day in and day out, year after year, sharing struggles, sharing intimacies and dreaming dreams is where you really come to know someone. Before marriage, one really doesn’t know how another person will handle the shared suffering and loss that comes with marriage and family life. I honestly didn’t know how my spouse would handle suffering and loss until we experienced it firsthand together. Until I suffered 19 pregnancy losses and having two of our children diagnosed with multiple, rare life-threatening illnesses, I would never have been able to tell you that my chosen life-partner completely lacked empathy.
In 1992, I was working as a social worker in Beaumont, TX. That fall, my oldest brother died from a drug overdose out in California. My ex and I were just dating at the time. He promised to pick my car up at the airport so that I wouldn’t have to pay for long term parking, and promised that he would pick me up at the airport. I returned from my brother’s funeral, stood in the airport terminal in Houston, TX looking for my boyfriend. Nothing. This was before cell phones, but we did have telephones.I had not received a call from him in the ten days I was gone, so I couldn’t imagine that he had to shown up. I made my way to baggage claim and still couldn’t find him. I found a pay phone and called him. No answer.
“Maybe he’s on the way,” I thought. I waited over an hour to no avail. Finally, I decided to look for my car where I had left it. It was there and I was pissed. He forgot! He had broken every promise and all he could say was, “I forgot”? I forgave him. I didn’t realize what an impact his “forgetfulness” would have upon my life. Soon after we were married, I realized that his forgetfulness was, in fact, selfishness. When I related this story to my therapist, he asked, “And you still married him?” I should have said, “No!”
Throughout my 24 year marriage, I longed for a husband who anticipated my needs and the needs of our children, even in the the smallest of ways. In the beginning he would tell me, “How do I know what you need if you don’t tell me!?” which was soon replaced with, “You’re nagging me. Stop telling me what to do.” He quite literally never anticipated the needs of anyone in his life other than himself. I had to ask for hugs or to have my hand held. He wasn’t one to say goodnight or offer goodnight kisses. He didn’t call when he was out of town unless I forced him to. So may things, looking back that would be normal for a man in love to do for his wife.
I longed for a father who would place the needs of his children above his own. I longed for a father who showed up at the hospital of his own accord. Despite my placing every doctor visit, bone marrow biopsy, surgery, procedure and hospital appointment on the calendar that hung on the wall behind his chair at the dinner table, he rarely remembered even the most important surgical procedures. The only way to get him to show up at the hospital was to completely breakdown and rant. Not a healthy relationship and certainly NOT a partnership.
I was so exhausted from going it alone at the hospital, that I would finally go batshit crazy. Screaming at the top of my lungs, “I cannot do this alone! I need you to help once in a while!” In response, he would list off excuses which would cause me to ramp up my rage, “<expletive> this!” “<expletive> that!”. Spend several sleepless nights in the hospital with one child while trying to find sitters for the other two and tell me you would’t lose it once in a while. Time and again, I struggled juggling it all, all by myself. My youngest two have been under anesthesia almost 100 times between them. My husband was only there a handful of times. He once forgot what we call “bone marrow biopsy day” when we had recently moved into another new city. This left me alone with two boys under the age of 4 going under for bone marrow biopsies and one healthy 6 year old. It was an insane day at the hospital, to say the least.
As technology became available, I marked the calendar, texted and emailed the dates, only to be told later that I had not given him said information. He would tell me that bone marrow biopsies were NOT surgery, they were procedures. He would tell me that the hospital wasn’t stressful, because I wasn’t the one performing the surgery. Once he told me, “I figured you would have gotten a job if you had wanted me at the hospital with the boys!” I always understood that he couldn’t be there every single time. Sometimes, just showing that he cared enough to put the effort into simply trying to be there would have gone a long way. He refused to ask for time off. Refused to use his vacation days for hospital trips (the majority of the time). It was a joke among my SDS friends that my husband didn’t exist because most of them had never met him–
Oh, the things I yelled at him after exhausting days alone at the hospital, y’all. I am not proud of my temper, but if you have ever spent the day with three kids at the hospital alone, you’d understand. Once a month, my youngest two spent an entire day (over 8 hours) receiving infusions of a blood product. For years, I spent one day a month with all three of my boys at the hospital, not including all the other appointment and procedure days!
When my youngest had to start cathing, my husband refused to learn how to do the procedure until I had a nervous breakdown. When we switched to doing the IgG infusions at home, he refused to learn how to inject the infusion sets into the boys until I finally lost my $h*t one day. Try doing all the at home medical stuff ALONE for two chronically ill boys and see if you don’t lose your mind once in a while. Add to it a husband unwilling to help, and that’s just double the anguish! I didn’t know how to make him care enough to help his children.
Whenever my husband or my children were sick, I would bring them medications, food, and drink. I would CARE for them. Whenever I was sick, I literally had to take care of myself (when my children were younger, now that they are older, they help me!). I had to BEG my husband to help even the tiniest bit, even for a glass of water. He rarely, if ever, helped the children when they were sick. I actually thought his lack of care and concern was due to the differences between men and women and continued to believe to believe this was normal behavior for most men until a few years ago . Maybe denial was just my way of coping. I have now learned through therapy and support groups, that this is NOT normal behavior for men.
When my oldest son was almost a year old, I had surgery. We had only lived in the new house for about one year. A new friend of mine from church babysat while I had the surgery, but was unable to help post-op because she had 5 kids of her own. My husband refused to take any time off work despite the fact that I wasn’t supposed to lift my child for any reason for at least 10 days. He wouldn’t even ask if he could have a day off or use his vacation time. There I was after my surgery lifting my son to change him, lifting him to place him down for a nap and lifting him to remove him from the crib when he awoke. What else could I do? I was all alone.
I once had repeat sinus infections so bad that I was throwing up nonstop from the dizziness (due to my equilibrium being off from fluid in my ear). I had been on different antibiotics for months and was finally scheduled to have a procedure called a sinus rinse. During this procedure, the patient is awake and the area around the nose is numbed. A very large needle is stuck through the bone into the sinus cavity on each side of one’s nose. The doctor then proceeds to flush the sinuses repeatedly through this needle with saline. Sweet relief, even if a bit brutal!
My oldest was about 6 months old and I had not yet met the friend who watched him for the previously mentioned surgery above. I had asked my husband to take the afternoon off to drive me to the doctor and he refused. He refused to even ask for time off. That afternoon, feeling too sick to drive, I called him again to see if there was anyway that he could step out long enough just to drive me, then I could wait with my son at the doctor’s office until he was off in order to be picked up. He refused and I couldn’t afford a taxi. I felt horrible and needed relief SO badly. I loaded my child into the car and drove myself to the doctor’s office. I made it safely, despite having stopped to throw up in the street several times along the way. My son was young enough to sleep in the baby carrier there in the office while the doctor did the procedure!
I have many more such stories, but I think you get the point. I was married, but I was alone. When he proposed to me on the airport runway one night in Beaumont, TX, I should have said, “No!”. Of course, my saying yes brought me the 3 greatest blessings of my life–my boys. I am now blessed with one beautiful daughter-in-law and two grandchildren, too. I don’t regret my yes because of them. God always uses the bad things in our lives for good.