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Author Topic: My Story Steady as she goes...

C
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My Story Steady as she goes...
#20: April 03, 2021, 09:50:15 AM
By way of an update, W has been back in the house just over a week. Things seem to be going well - she is sleeping better for the most part, seems to have less anxiety. And I am getting used to having her in the same bed again, to having her in the house all the time. It feels like I am in a good place with all of this. I am not reading anything into her decision to come back to the house, and I’m not reading anything into her increasing comfort here. I’m not even reading anything into her continuing comments about improvements we could make to our yard to make it better for entertaining, or her completely unprompted decision to come pick me up at the car dealership yesterday when it turned out that maintenance was going to take longer than anticipated. These are all nice things, and I am expressing appreciation for nice gestures and engaging in those home-improvement conversations in an interested way without pressing her to make decisions or actual concrete changes. To me, all of these things are potential points of connection but only “potential,” until or unless she reaches a point where she is capable of making that deeper connection.

I have been thinking a lot about trust and intimacy, open communication and having the relationship and spouse be a safe place for true vulnerability. For me, it was something that I took for granted before... I didn’t like to be vulnerable, I wanted to always be strong and reliable and I never wanted to add stress to my W’s life by making her take on any of my burdens. However, I always felt like if I did need to lean on someone, she was my person. And by not going to her, I never meant to show any lack of trust or lack of faith in her. Part of it was that I didn’t want to be a source of stress for her, and part was that I didn’t want to be dependent on anyone. At the same time, though, I knew with absolute certainty (I thought) that we were a team, that she was in my corner, that it was the two of us together against anything that might arise. But I do think that in my own midlife transition, I allowed myself to fade into the woodwork. I saw myself as a support system for her to achieve her goals and dreams, but lost sight of my own dreams and the need for new goals. I prioritized her and the relationship - not just above myself, but to the exclusion of myself. I defined my needs based on the needs of her or our mutual needs. And then at some point, she stopped considering my needs too, and focused only on her own wants and needs. Hard to blame her; why would she value my wants and needs when I didn’t even do that myself? And I’m not saying that to take the blame for her crisis, but to take ownership for my part in the disconnection that had developed between us. It wasn’t obvious on the surface, but there was no true intimacy. We were coexisting comfortably, but I was mostly just existing instead of truly living, and she started living in ways that didn’t include me.

So now? I actually think of my wants and needs first - I also consider her wants and needs as well as how my wants and needs affect our relationship, but I know that we each have to see to our own happiness individually. I take care of myself because that’s what is essential. Seeing her happy, feeling connected to her - those things would add to my happiness so sure, I would like to do what I can to foster those things. But I am not responsible for her happiness, and there is nothing I can do to ensure it - and any connection between us would only happen if and when we are both open to it. Only my part of that is within my control.

Otherwise... seems like the trajectory continues in the direction of more relaxation of restrictions. Indoor dining is available in some places, there is talk of travel restrictions loosening. The numbers are still high enough that I am being cautious, but at the same time my household is fully vaccinated and my family members are also approaching that status. People I know who are on the front lines in this pandemic are sure there will be another surge as summer approaches, but I am keeping a “wait and see” attitude. I have no plans to be among the first people to test the edges of newly relaxed restrictions, but I am also eager to be out in the world again.
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Steady as she goes...
#21: April 05, 2021, 04:34:51 PM
Just a brief update (or not so brief). W has been talking about taking some time off from work later this month. Shortly before she moved back in, she mentioned it and said she might use the time to get out of town, change up the routine. No mention of going with me or asking if I was interested, though she did know I was looking at taking some days off around the same time (not purposely to coincide with hers, it’s just that that’s when I could spare the days). And that’s fine - as I said, I saw no evidence of reconnecting with me in her decision to move back home. Not to mention, we went away together for a weekend that I thought was a planned reconnection after some family stress, but which turned out to be BD1. So I’m not honestly all that eager to go away with her while we are in this weird limbo.

So she came in and told me she made plans for her vacation, got an Airbnb from Wednesday afternoon to Sunday morning. It’s a couple hours away, she’s taking her mom, a couple of friends are joining her for one night of it. And I told her that sounds nice. I said I have off the Thursday and Friday, I thought I might do some day trips around here, hang out with the kitties, relax a bit. And her face fell a bit, she was clearly feeling guilty. So I asked what was wrong and she said she felt bad because I was going to be off when she wasn’t here to hang out. So I told her to relax, I didn’t take the time off for her - I knew she was looking to get away, she knew I was taking days off, but we didn’t plan to spend them together. I said that if she wants to spend time off together, she is welcome to ask me, and if she doesn’t, that’s fine too, so don’t feel guilty and enjoy the vacation time. But yeah... she’s in this weird place of sort of detached but sort of not, I guess.

The difference between now and last summer is that I would have been upset that she didn’t want to spend the time with me before, I would have been dreading the time alone, I would have analyzed this endlessly to try to get clues about where she is emotionally and what this means for me and is. I probably would have talked at her at length about how I don’t want her to feel guilty about wanting to spend time away, or about needing some space. Now? I recognize that she is anxious and needs to escape and decompress. Home is in some ways where she wants to be, but also a reminder of the fact that she is emotionally stuck, doesn’t know what she wants her life to look like or who she really is. It’s a reminder of work since she works from home. It’s a reminder that in her mind, her indecision puts me in limbo. It’s a reminder of the guilt she feels about hurting and betraying me. So of course she wants to get away at times, she will have to do that until she forgives herself. And it isn’t for me to tell her how to feel or not feel. I don’t control that. But honestly, her time away will be good for me. I’m off work, so I can turn off my morning alarm, I can make the meals I want to make, I can write, go for a drive, walk in the park, binge television shows that only I like; read for hours on end. I don’t have to remind myself not to observe her too closely for those several days. Taking a lesson from some older threads, I can skinny dip in the pool without worrying about MIL’s presence! I honestly feel like it will be good to spend the time apart.

W is considering taking a break from her IC sessions. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad one, and again, it isn’t for me to say. I feel like maybe it means she wants to just be for a little while, to not feel like she has to be working on issues or figuring things out. Maybe it’s a way to take the pressure off. Maybe it’s an acknowledgment that she is stuck and the therapy sessions are a reminder of that, and she wants to not have to explain to anyone that she is no closer to figuring out her life as the weeks go on. Good,  bad, or neutral, though, it’s her journey and she has to do it in a way that feels authentic to her.

Still observing from as much of a distance as I can when we share a home and a room. But I am doing so without emotional dependence on her decisions (or indecision). I am doing so with love and empathy, but without a need to fix things for her or even tell her how I think she should try to fix things. It’s her life, she will and should live it the way she chooses to - that’s what I’m doing with my own life.
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Steady as she goes...
#22: April 05, 2021, 06:20:05 PM
Hey C  :D

That sounds really good...... you're letting her float, and she is having some consideration  8)
Wonderful  :)

Taking a break from IC..... that's not unusual, I wouldn't even worry about it. It's difficult to come to a place where you know you (yourself) isn't right.
It can take a long time to ponder that, especially since you know at that point that you can't trust yourself.

Look at that strength you displayed when she realized that you'd be off..... and that the world didn't come to a stop for her. Bravo!! Outstanding!!
And you did it with love, grace, patience and compassion. All these things come back to you, and they do think about these things.
Very positive all around, I'd call that a win  ;D

I hope you have a great time off, and get some needed decompression of your own (it's very healthy to get away from the MLC'er for a little time).
Beyond that, it lets her miss you. That's important too.

-SS
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C
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Steady as she goes...
#23: April 05, 2021, 07:01:19 PM
Thanks for that perspective, SS! I really appreciate the way you model loving detachment - it is a goal of mine to get to where you are. I genuinely do see the separate time as a positive thing. We were too enmeshed through most of our relationship, almost all of our friends were friends of both of ours, we rarely spent time apart except when we were at work. She's an extrovert and I'm an introvert, so she looks at my time off - solitude, quiet, activities I pursue alone - and she feels guilty because she's leaving me alone on my time off instead of hanging out with me. And I love spending time with her, anytime, I really do - but it's really good for me, healing, even, to spend time on my own. It may be that this is the first time she really gets to see that, and maybe it will finally become clear to her that she doesn't have to feel guilty. But that's her process, and she has to come to that conclusion however she can and in whatever time it takes her.

As for me... the more I think about it, the more I am looking forward to the time. I don't really need to get away for a vacation because I genuinely love home and feel at peace here - not that I'll never travel alone, but I feel like being a tourist in my town, cooking just based on my wants, reading, writing, watching guilty pleasure television, swimming, exercising... all of that sounds absolutely perfect to me.
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#24: April 06, 2021, 07:37:36 AM
really appreciate the way you model loving detachment

I am trying to work on that. I do cold detachment, which is really "more of the same" for me.  ;D
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C
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Steady as she goes...
#25: April 12, 2021, 10:16:37 AM
A bit of journaling...

Things are going pretty well. Days are getting longer, it’s (mostly) not too hot yet, I am looking forward to a couple of days off late next week. Still some restrictions in place, but I can take a day trip up the coast, perhaps check out a local museum or two (bummed that the planetarium I really want to visit is still closed)... I am considering a spa day or maybe just a leisurely swim followed by a bath and some at-home pampering. I considered a night or two away, getting a hotel room depending on what’s available - but honestly, I just love being at home.

I have been reading a lot lately about interdependence, not just in romantic relationships but with family and work and friends as well. I think that early on, I recognized that we were enmeshed but I struggled to accept the word codependent. Now, I do. I think that in most of my relationships in my life, I skew toward independent - I was emotionally avoidant earlier in my life but even being willing to be emotionally engaged with people, I have tried to maintain some level of independence. This relationship, this marriage... it’s been different. While I have maintained my independence with respect to practical matters, finances, the day to day business of running my life... emotionally and psychologically, I had become very dependent on her validation and my need to provide for her and be supportive and strong and reliable. My career had become a way to support us - to support her - as she pursued her dreams and goals and as she found her way. And I think I got to a place where subconsciously I felt like I was being taken for granted and questioned my worth, my value. I was successful but stagnant in work, circumstances prevented us from pursuing some of our favorite recreational activities that we shared, some of her meds had interfered with our physical intimacy... it all added up to a place where I was just existing; not even unhappy in a way that I could identify at the time - I wasn’t happy or sad or really much of anything. Was this my midlife transition? Maybe.

Now... I love my life. My work? It will never be my true passion, but I enjoy what I do and the challenges associated with learning to do it well. I respect and admire the people with whom I work, I learn from them often. I have found hobbies about which I am passionate, I am eager to try new things again and to visit places I love as well as those I have never seen. I eagerly await a time in which I can see friends and family who live far from me. I want to be connected to my partner, to have new experiences and romance and security and trust and growth as individuals and as a couple - but I know that I can have new experiences and and fun and growth and security in my life whether I have a partner or not.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I haven’t suddenly become exuberant and outgoing and highly demonstrative. I am still a relatively quiet and introverted person. The hobbies about which I am passionate are largely solo pursuits - cooking, reading, writing, and such - but just because my passions are quiet and understated, that doesn’t make them any less deep or valuable. I’m still me, but I value myself and I know myself better, I know that I am worth more than just existing to prop up someone else.

I am doing a little work despite having today off, but I think there will be some baking this afternoon. Perhaps some reading; I got some new recommendations last night. W has a busy work day, but I have a lot to do. W and I cooked dinner together last night, spent a little time working on a puzzle together yesterday, made plans to go to a exhibit together later in the year. We also talked about our individual vacation plans for next week, and a bit of discussion about changes to our furniture and outdoor space. No expectations, and I am in a good place of awareness that even when the moment might feel very normal, the situation as a whole is not normal. But I do appreciate the glimpses of it.

W has talked about taking a break from her therapy, but also says that break won’t be immediate, and last night she was working on homework her therapist had given her for their session this evening. So I do know she is working, processing, trying to figure herself out. I don’t know what that work looks like or in what direction they are looking for the source of W’s crisis or unhappiness or anything. And ultimately, that isn’t for me to worry about. Her crisis, her journey, if she wants to share it with me at some point, I am here to listen. I hope she figures out who she is and what she wants for her life, I really do. I even hope that part of what she wants is to continue building and sharing the life we have, rebuilding a relationship with the person I have become - but I have no expectations, and I will not be destroyed or devastated if her choice is something else.
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#26: April 26, 2021, 01:18:00 PM
Updating...

Our separate vacations happened, and overall mine was quite good. I took some scenic drives/walks around the area, I explored a couple of cool exhibits, I skipped the swim because it was a bit chilly, but I did do some self-pampering at home. I cooked things I would enjoy. I caught up with a few friends - sadly, not in person as they don’t live nearby, but it was still very nice. I did some reading, some writing, some meditating... all the things that make me feel like me.

My W and MIL left Wednesday afternoon. I got about three long goodbye hugs from my W, she said she’d keep in touch and told me I was welcome to send lots of cat pictures. She texted me to let me know they had arrived safely, the place was remote but lovely, and in a gated community for safety. The next message I got from her was Sunday afternoon, “home in about 2 ½ hours.” And I admit that my mind wandered to her and tried to analyze the lack of communication a little, and I was a little hurt by it, though I wouldn’t say I really felt anger. But I didn’t really dwell on it, and I didn’t send the requested “lots of cat pictures” not out of resentment but because it was only a few days and because she had planned this vacation to get away from home and routines and responsibilities, so I didn’t want to initiate conversation for such a small reason. Had she messaged me to ask for pictures, I would have sent them. And ultimately, I got over the hurt pretty quickly because I realized that being able to detach from each other is actually a healthy thing - ideally we would be on the same page about communication while we’re apart, but that’s in a healthy relationship with a healthy partner. Right now, she isn’t in a healthy place and the relationship is pretty nebulous and undefined - there are no rules or expectations beyond our own individual boundaries.

So when they got home, she came and found me, and she asked all about my days off. They both gave me the rundown on how they’d spent their time. She took her work laptop but didn’t do any work or reading. Sounds like they mostly just relaxed by the pool or chatted (some of W’s friends joined them late Friday and were there for the weekend). When we’d gone to bed, I asked if she had enjoyed the getaway. She said her mom had needed it, that MIL had found it relaxing, that the friends had found it relaxing and we’re sorry they’d had to leave paradise. And I asked if W had also found it relaxing. She said that she’d been pretty anxious and had taken an anti-anxiety medication each day while there. She indicated she has had a lot on her mind. I said I was sorry she’d been stressed, and that was basically the end of the conversation. Today we’ve caught up a bit more over our respective lunch breaks. She said she slept pretty well last night but, as is seemingly the case every day, she is still tired all the time. She doesn’t have the shark eyes but she is clearly depressed on top of the anxiety.

In some ways I wish we could have relationship talks because I have evolved so far from the codependency we had allowed ourselves to develop. I want a relationship where we are both safe to be our real selves, but not one where we are joined at the hip and have no lives of our own outside of our coupledom. I want her to know that I see her and know her and accept her and love her... but she seems trapped in this perception of herself, of me, and of us. As much as she says she wants to be her real self with me... I don’t think she knows what her real self looks like.

Please know that I am not actually planning to or even tempted to actually have relationship talks at this point in our lives. It is absolutely clear to me that it would feel like pressure to her and she would dissociate and shut down and run away. And honestly, even though she has seen my growth and evolution, she is going to have to see that it is real and consistent before she is able to even think about seeing me as a safe place for her to explore her true self. And I am going to have to be consistent and solid in my knowledge of my self-worth, because whatever happens with her and with us, it isn’t going to get any easier from here.

It is looking like MIL might be returning to her home sometime in the early part of summer. I think that it will be good for all of us to return to something more closely resembling normal life. I have no idea how that will change things with MLC or with us, but as grateful as I was for MIL’s company in the early days after W moved out, I think MIL would appreciate being back in her own home, W would probably appreciate not being under her mother’s gaze at all times, and I am ready to navigate life and MLC without any buffers.
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#27: April 26, 2021, 09:04:49 PM
Good to read an update C.  Your vacation sounds lovely.

I didn't realize that MIL was only staying with y'all and that she had her own place to return to eventually.  I guess I missed that.
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#28: April 27, 2021, 01:27:54 AM
Quote from: Curiousity
I don’t think she knows what her real self looks like.

And this sums up the "problem" and causes of MLC in 11 simple words....

But, unlike a teenager who is in the midst of figuring this out in Puberty, the Mid-Lifer has real life and real responsibilities to deal with (or run away from)...
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C
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Steady as she goes...
#29: April 27, 2021, 08:45:59 AM
UM, I posted a while ago about the Cat Stevens song, “Father and Son,” because we heard it and I imagined it resonated with my W - only it’s about a young man seeking his independence at the end of adolescence, not a woman in her 40s who has made a life and made commitments as an adult. But you’re absolutely right, the way you figure yourself out as a teenager is very different compared to the way you figure yourself out as an adult. I have certainly learned lessons along the way about my real self, but I have done my best to learn and grow in the framework of my existing life - evolution, not revolution. Trying to remodel rather than blowing up everything and starting over. Which is why only one of us is an MLCer.

FW, yes, MIL normally comes to stay with us for a few months in the winter. She had planned a bit of a longer stay... and then the pandemic made travel risky enough that she just didn’t go home last spring. Now that she’s vaccinated, travel is looking possible again though we are still pretty risk-averse. So I suspect she will return home (which is on the other side of the country) this summer. Will she return for the winter later I. The year? No idea....

I just wanted to add that I have learned and grown so much as a result of this forum and the thoughtful, insightful discussions here. I didn’t feel like I got a lot out of therapy, but through reading and journaling and thought and meditation... I feel like I’m a new person in many ways. I have learned to value myself for my own qualities and quirks, not just for what I can provide for others. I have learned the importance of passions, of play, of ongoing personal growth throughout life. And I have also learned that the path I have chosen along the way - marriage, house, pets, career, friends, and more - all of that is consistent with the person I am and want to be. And I had always thought of it as a foundation from which I could build, but really, the foundation isn’t all that external stuff. The foundation is in me. And I’ve learned and am continuing to learn those lessons and do that work on myself, but this community provides the syllabus.
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