Our first child was born seventeen months after we got married, though perhaps we should have waited until we had our bearings as a couple. When our son was nine months old, I quit my job to be a stay-at-home parent. This was unwise – my plan was to live off my 401K as my husband was still in grad school – but it happened and there’s nothing I can do to change it. Along the way, I completed my graduate school degree, racking up $50,000 in student loans to add to my husband’s eventual $30,000. I cringe when I think about my contribution to our financial issues, especially since it has been a huge part of the wedge that continued to grow between us.
Mind you, we had good times, but they were outweighed by the slog of day-to-day life with young children. Two years after our son was born, our first daughter joined us; three years after that, our caboose was born. They were good babies and sweet kids, but we were struggling with the challenge of not knowing how to be healthy spouses. We disagreed on many parenting issues, which surprised me because I was sure we’d discussed them. As it turned out, again, my husband’s propensity for avoiding conflict meant that he’d simply agreed with me when we’d talked about all of this pre-children, but in reality, he seemed most inclined to model his own parents’ “do as I say, or else…” approach, which wasn’t at all similar to my own. So, whenever we disagreed, which was often, he complained to his parents, who of course assured him that I was wrong. It was the three of them vs. me, except I didn’t know it, officially. I suspected, but did not get confirmation of this until after DDay. I would tell him that it felt like we weren’t a team, and like I was an interloper in his (IMHO, unhealthy) relationship with his parents, and he would usually say nothing unless it was to tell me he didn’t know what I was talking about.
It was after our third child was born that I first saw a therapist. I didn’t go for long, though – we couldn’t really afford it – but I was so unhappy. I suspect that I was already experiencing depression, but it would remain untreated for several more years. When my husband was offered a position with a significant leap in salary, in 2007, we jumped at the chance to move our family from the east coast to the west; for myself, I was glad that we’d be on the opposite coast from his family and I hoped that the additional distance would help our marriage somehow. He believes that that move was mistake, but I think we’d have continued to unravel no matter where we were.
A couple years later, I saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with severe ADD and mild to moderate depression. He prescribed medication for both, with a warning that I might feel better but that it wouldn’t fix my marriage. The approximately six months I took the antidepressants were actually fairly good months for us, though; my husband still had considerable anger issues, but they seemed to lessen in response to my own improved attitude…or maybe I could just handle him better.
Ultimately, our challenges were that he was incredibly unhappy in his job, but then, he’d never really been happy at any job since I’d known him, either. There were always people who didn’t like him, who were out to get him, who were stealing his projects, or who were the beautiful, “golden” men and women who were favorites of someone higher up, and he was almost always the victim. We also still disagreed strongly over how to parent our three kids; he would sometimes spank our son (which we had agreed not to do to our children) and then taunt him, “Are you going to tell your mommy?” And finally, I still didn’t work, and we had mounting credit card debt, largely from my own poor financial mismanagement.
I stopped taking my antidepressants about six to eight months after I started them because I was embarrassed. I also believed that my primary issue was the ADD, but I was very wrong. At around the same time, my husband’s anger became a huge concern. He’d call on his way home from work most days, and my kids would ask if daddy was in a good mood or a bad mood. He told our son that he wished his car would wreck or that the plane he was on would crash so that he wouldn’t have to come home. We rarely had sex; to me, it felt like he only wanted the sex and didn’t care that it was with me – it was all about his pleasure. He watched porn often, even though I was not comfortable with it. I would tell him again that I didn’t feel like we were a team, that I didn’t feel like he even “saw” me, but he’d shrug as if those words meant nothing to him.
In our own ways, I do think we tried to ask for help from each other, but to say that we didn’t communicate very effectively is putting it mildly. Nor were we receptive to what the other one was going through – we were each flooded by our own issues which drowned out any chance that we might connect with each other.
About nine months before we moved back east, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer; she died seven months after her diagnosis, and in that year, 2012, the unraveling of our world began to accelerate. We were about to reach free fall.