Posted by fxckfeelings on December 1, 2015Share This Post
Regardless of whether a marriage is happy or not, it takes work to maintain your own priorities and point of view. In a happy marriage, pleasing your partner may interfere with your agenda as an individual. In a less happy marriage, feelings of failure may deprive you of energy and confidence, but it’s all the more important for you to remember who you are and what you value. As long as you do, an unhappy marriage need never prevent you from being successful as a person.
I have a chronic illness that may or may not go away. For now I am disabled to the point that I cannot take care of myself and I have to depend on my husband. We have been married for over 20 years, the first decades of which were spent raising two children who now live away from home. It seems the children were and are all we had in common, because as soon as child #2 left home, all hell broke loose and it’s been pretty bad since then. I know he will never change and become the person I want him to be, and why should he? He should be with someone who appreciates him just as he is, but I am the one stuck with him and I need to have a better attitude towards living with him because I have no choice. He still drives me crazy, even if It’s a little better since I figured out he cannot change. I am as kind and nice as I can be and I don’t think he really knows that I am staying with him because I have to. My goal is to find a better attitude for myself to make this unavoidable situation less unbearable.
When you live, eat, sleep, share a small bathroom, get lost when you’re already running late, etc., with one person, day in and day out, for over twenty years, it’s hard not to have your interactions define the state of your union. If they’re hostile or dismissive, it feels like your relationship is a painful prison worth dismissing altogether.
Luckily, you’ve done a great deal to protect yourself from those feelings; you’ve learned to regard your husband’s negative feelings as an uncontrollable result of who he is, rather than who you are as a couple. Your acceptance allows you to avoid retaliation and confrontation and keep your own behavior kind and positive. You might share a life together, but his feelings have a life of their own.
You’ve come to terms with the sad fact that you can never be happy living with your husband, but you’re keeping the lid on what would otherwise be a true shit-show of misery. That’s an Olympics-grade accomplishment when you’re stripped of choices by illness and poverty, and one that protects you from a lot of pain, mental and otherwise.
You can reinforce that protective wall by keeping busy and engaging your eyes, ears and heart in other relationships. If you can’t get out of the house, use your computer to Skype, chat, and generally connect remotely with positive people. If you can get out of the house but can’t work, volunteer. Every time you talk to other people, your response to your husband will lose some of its overwhelming, this-is-my-life feeling.
In spite of a long, unhappy marriage and restrictive circumstances, you’ve gone a long way towards defining your own point of view, accepting your husband’s faults, and living up to your own ideals, all of which is hard to do, even for the healthiest of people.
If, within the limits of your restrictions, you can find good ways to fill your time and connect to others, you may come to see yourself as stuck with a bad roommate, not stuck in a bad marriage, and anything but a failure.
“I sometimes feel like my life is a loveless, medically crippled dead end, but I have kids I love, a measure of security, and strong personal interests. Now that the kids are gone, I will find ways to construct a life of my own.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname