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Hello everyone

I lost my old thread for a while. But here it is

https://www.divorcebusting.com/foru...ain=62982&Number=2904934#Post2904934

I've been here a while - since just after my H moved out for what turned out to be an eight month separation. He's been back in the family home now for just over a year. I won't recap our entire history, only to say there were long standing issues going back to a period of extremely severe PND I had well over a decade ago. We both have stressful jobs. He was a SAHD for a while and it never suited him. We were stuck, hopelessly, in a SSM and a pursuer-distancer dynamic that affected every aspect of our lives together. There was an intense, short lived EA on his part, some bullying and verbal abusive behaviours, conflicts in parenting styles, and a lot of resentment, bitterness, emotional manipulation and controlling behaviour on my part.

Where we are now is firmly in piecing. He is transparent on his devises and whereabouts and I don't worry that he is unfaithful. He has a tendency to resort to distancing when stressed or anxious, and I have a tendency to resort to pursuit-type behaviours in the face of that, and sometimes it still escalates into nastiness and verbal abuse from him, though I am 100% better at not taking that nonsense personally. The SSM is a work in progress, we're still very vulnerable in that area but the conversations are happening and I do see some changes.

I think I have noticed that i use my thread to moan about things he does that I don't like, and not to reflect properly on my own goals. I have a tendency to concentrate on the negative, play the victim a bit - even still - and I am getting lazy with my GAL. I do have a tendency to get in a low mood and expect too much of H to snap me out of it. I have huge huge huge problems with trust, which means I am hyper-vigilant about the flaws in our marriage, and don't let myself enjoy the good parts.

So I want to work on all these things, and want to concentrate my thread on me rather than him. He's a good man with some very very irritating flaws, and we're built differently, and we have a dynamic that doesn't work for either of us that is being changed, but is still in progress. He is committed and so am I.

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Originally Posted by AlisonUK
Where we are now is firmly in piecing.....and want to concentrate my thread on me rather than him. ....He is committed and so am I.
Glad to hear.


"What is best for my kids is best for me"
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Hi Alison,

I feel we've been doing all our conversation on my thread and I wanted to concentrate on you for a bit, you've been so generous with me. I think this is all really, really positive and hopeful. There really has been such a shift in your tone in your postings, how you talk about your H and how you feel about your M. smile

A couple of thoughts for you. From my thread you'd posted this:
Quote
When we get into that cycle now, it is much much less intense and we're a little bit better and just backing off and putting some air into the situation. He needs space, I need connection, and I still get a bit annoyed that we have to do SPACE (what he wants = space to be alone and safe from my feelings) before CONNECTION (what I want - evidence that he cares, that he understands, that he feels empathic towards me).

Sometimes I think - okay, I respect that you can't do connection right now, but why can't you understand that I can't do space right now? But that is the way that it is - that's how boundaries work - when he needs space there's not a thing I can or should do about it other than respect that, and he does make efforts to show empathy these days, which is new, and which I need to work on trusting and accepting.

I wonder if you two can devise some little code he can give you when he's feeling that he needs space, to communicate to you he loves you and give you that little dose of connection? Like, he could just touch your arm in the moment, and you'll have agreed that that touch means I love you, I know you need connection and I'm here, but I can't do more at the moment. Something small that he can handle even when he's overwhelmed. I feel that might help you both, if you can make it work.

And on the 'why do I have to be the one to go first but if it isn't me we might be here forever' front, do I remember correctly that acts of service is his primary LL? To the extent you feel like it... I wonder, if in these moments when he's needing space and having a difficult time, if you feel empathy for him maybe you could show it with a small act of service, like making him a cup of tea and then leaving it by his side without saying anything, and going about your business. A small gesture of communication and love in the way that he hears, without overwhelming him on the connection/PT side.

And a small challenge for you given the title of your thread... maybe on this thread, if you do a weekly update post like you have in the past-- can you begin each one with something positive? Something you're grateful for in your R with your H, something he did that made you happy? It really is all too easy here to focus on the negative, because that is part of why we're here, and (at least for me) I feel sometimes like if I come across as interpreting my H's behavior too positively, I'll get jumped on by the vets. It definitely isn't en vogue around here to linger on the positive, unless you're 5 years into piecing and even then the focus is more on the hard work than the fruits of the labor. But I think it is good and healthy to celebrate the positives. It doesn't mean you're ignoring the negatives. But that you can take the good for what it is, enjoy it and bask in it and be glad for the love and positive things this person has brought into your life.

xx M


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Those are good suggestions, May - thank you. And I am glad me posting on my thread is helpful. Sometimes I feel like I'm just banging on about myself the whole time, but I don't mean it selfishly - it's just my experience is really the only thing I can offer you as I don't have any specialist knowledge - not marriage therapist or a counsellor or anything like that, just someone who has walked a similar path and has thought about it a lot. You must always feel free to take what is useful to you (if anything) and totally ignore the rest as not relevant.

I think the way this forum is set up is that we are all going to focus on the negatives: in the early days we're advised (rightly, I think) not to say much to the spouse, and not to go into too much detail with friends. But we're also angry and hurt and that needs to go somewhere. And then as things progress (for some of us) then there's the feeling that we need to keep an eye on things, to watch out that things don't go back to the way they were. I do think that's understandable, and even healthy in some ways, but for me - well, I need to work on trusting my H's changes and not reading the worst possible motivation into everything he does. That's really, really difficult for me, and right now, with things slowly getting better, I don't need someone else telling me he's probably just manipulating me, he can't be trusted, I should be protecting myself further. I think those things already, all the time, and they cause problems in my marriage, and I am perfectly capable of leaving and divorcing him if I need to. I want it to work, and that means concentrating on my own changes and trusting his, and part of the change I need to make is to stop relentlessly concentrating on his flaws (which will always exist, as will mine) and the difficult parts of our relationship.

So, here is the weekly update. We have had a really nice week. He's been working hard, but also really present in the house when he is here, having fun with the kids - there has been laughter, and when I think of how poor the relationship between him and Eldest has been, I'd never imagine I'd see them sharing a joke together or Eldest just going to where his father is and spontaneously hugging him - and there's been a lot of that this week. He's also been texting me during the day, just to see how I am and if there's anything I can do for him. He is tired but he looks happy and that's lovely to see. He wants to come to bed at the same time as me, and he isn't drinking. He applied for a change in his working hours to make things a bit easier on himself and all of us, and he was so nervous about that. He was pretty irritable in the days before he found out (he was successful!) but not in a way that was abusive or upsetting - just grumpy - and what was different was that afterwards he said, without any prompting from me, that the stress of not knowing and waiting for the answer had been really getting to him. All good things. I can also see that he is involved and regularly planning for our future: we're hoping to move house soon. We are both quite well paid, and we've always lived in tiny, cheap places. Mainly because of me: I wanted always to be able to afford all the costs on my single salary (you see how deeply ingrained my trust issues are...) just in case anything happened and he left. But now this house is clearly too small for us, and we're facing another lock down and me working at home long term, and it feels like a good time to invest some of our savings and upsize a little. And he's really excited about that. And not just about the material aspect of getting a bigger and nicer place to life - though that is part of it for both of us - but also he's telling me the things he's imagining us doing together, and how it will be to live there once the kids are older or gone, and that's new and I like it.

Last night was difficult. He'd been working all day, and had texted me a few times flirtatiously to let me know he was looking forward to getting in bed that night. I cooked something light and nice for him to have when he got home, and we got to bed and he was hugging and holding me and being very affectionate. He kept asking me if I was all right, and what I wanted, and I said I was fine, and I just wanted this, what we were doing, and he kept asking me, so I said I was confused about what he was asking - could he be more specific about what was worrying him or what he wanted - and he got really frustrated with me. So he got up and went downstairs, and came up half an hour later and said I was totally messed up, and there was nothing he could do right. It didn't really escalate, we went to sleep. I guess at the time I was feeling, before he got frustrated, that there was clearly something he wanted me to do or not do and I had no idea what it was, and I wish he'd ask me, and when he got frustrated and started speaking a bit unkindly to me, I thought - ah, so you're nice to me when you're getting what you want, but when you don't get what you want (and I have no idea what that is) then the real self comes through - this sulky, mean, arsehole. He got up early this morning and went to work without saying goodbye - which is extremely unusual these days.

So I would like to understand what was going on there, but there's no point asking him. When I asked last night, he started telling me what I was thinking and feeling, and how messed up I was. I understand that's what his opinion is or what he imagines, but I was really wanting to know what was going on in his head, and he won't say that. I did say 'you seemed to be worried or unhappy about something, because you kept repeatedly asking me the same question, even though I answered it, and I didn't understand what was happening and that made me feel very anxious' and he said, 'well, that's not my problem' so I don't think he's that interested in understanding what was going on with me either. I am sure in a couple of days it will have blown over, but it is a bit of a pattern in bed.

The bedroom is still very very difficult. If I initiate, everything goes fine, except he's more likely than not to turn me down. If he initiates (and I don't really know if that's what was even actually happening last night) then he seems to very quickly get annoyed if I am not immediately responsive, but also is totally reluctant to communicate about what it is that he wants. It makes no sense to me. My own feelings don't really make sense to me either - I have missed that type of closeness between us for years and years and I do see he is trying to make the effort. But that effort is pretty mechanical - he's not demonstrating any desire for anything in particular, it just appears that he's doing what he needs to do to keep me happy. Last night he was holding me and stroking my back and I was reciprocating, but he didn't seem to want anything else, or at least, he was expecting me to move things along - I don't know what was happening. I do know I felt a sense of dread. That there was something he was expecting or wanting, and I didn't know what it was, and if I didn't work it out and provide it, there would be trouble. And that is pretty much what happened.

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Because I have read so much about sex and desire and SSMs, I have no idea where this idea comes from but I know I read it somewhere. Because your H is so uncomfortable communicating about sex -- I read of a situation where the therapist recommended having some code for being interested in sex that might feel more comfortable to him than actually spitting it out verbally. One couple had two small figurines on their dresser, and if one partner was interested in sex that night he/she did something to theirs (stood it up or laid it down, I can't remember) and the other partner could see that and do the same, or not. That way they didn't have to actually talk about it but made their interests known. I also read where one partner would put a tie on the doorknob a la college dorm days.

That probably seems beyond ridiculous and cheesy to you, but as someone who has had a difficult time talking about sex, and it seems like your H has a harder time even than me, some slightly playful and non-verbal communication ritual could really help.

Another thought that i might have shared earlier but I think could be really beneficial to you both is to take a break from expecting sex for awhile. I remember Pommy and her H were doing the sensate focus program and I know there are others out there that mostly are around taking a break from actual sex for a bit and then starting very slow with non-sexual touch only. If I put myself in your H's shoes-- or where I was in the depths of the SSM-- I would have been so happy to do something like this I would have cried (once I got past my immediate feelings of defensiveness). Removing the pressure to have sex or to figure out what the other person wants, and just relax? Enjoying physical touch again without being scared of what it might lead to? It seems like something like that, going back to the basics of just enjoying being together and then slowly ramping back up, working on the communication at each small step rather than throwing him in the deep end, could also be helpful and remove a lot of the hurt and confusion and missing each other's cues that it sounds like dominate right now.

One last thing I've read in a number of places-- they recommend talking about sex on a long car drive, where you don't need to look at each other and you are stuck in one place. Again that might sound crazy to you, but apparently it really helps some people who have a lot of discomfort in talking about sex to share with their partners when they don't need to look directly at them.


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Hi Alison! What a positive start to your new thread. Reading your posts from start to finish and it is so clear that you are a completely different woman from the one who joined here. You should be proud of your growth, it has been inspiring to read.

But oh, the SSM.

Originally Posted by AlisonUK
Last night was difficult. He'd been working all day, and had texted me a few times flirtatiously to let me know he was looking forward to getting in bed that night. I cooked something light and nice for him to have when he got home, and we got to bed and he was hugging and holding me and being very affectionate. He kept asking me if I was all right, and what I wanted, and I said I was fine, and I just wanted this, what we were doing, and he kept asking me, so I said I was confused about what he was asking - could he be more specific about what was worrying him or what he wanted - and he got really frustrated with me. So he got up and went downstairs, and came up half an hour later and said I was totally messed up, and there was nothing he could do right. It didn't really escalate, we went to sleep. I guess at the time I was feeling, before he got frustrated, that there was clearly something he wanted me to do or not do and I had no idea what it was, and I wish he'd ask me, and when he got frustrated and started speaking a bit unkindly to me, I thought - ah, so you're nice to me when you're getting what you want, but when you don't get what you want (and I have no idea what that is) then the real self comes through - this sulky, mean, arsehole. He got up early this morning and went to work without saying goodbye - which is extremely unusual these days.

So I would like to understand what was going on there, but there's no point asking him. When I asked last night, he started telling me what I was thinking and feeling, and how messed up I was. I understand that's what his opinion is or what he imagines, but I was really wanting to know what was going on in his head, and he won't say that. I did say 'you seemed to be worried or unhappy about something, because you kept repeatedly asking me the same question, even though I answered it, and I didn't understand what was happening and that made me feel very anxious' and he said, 'well, that's not my problem' so I don't think he's that interested in understanding what was going on with me either. I am sure in a couple of days it will have blown over, but it is a bit of a pattern in bed.


This resonated with me in my own experience as the LD partner. It could have been my H writing what you just wrote. And of course I am not your H, but here is 'my side' to the story:

Some innocent flirting on my part is reciprocated and I can tell that made H happy. And I want him to be happy, it makes me feel good about myself to make him react like that. So I keep it up. And because it is morning time/early afternoon, my energy levels are high and I feel frisky. I know it would just make his day if I made some little comment about us being intimate later. So I do, with every intention of fulfilling it. At that moment, I wanted it too.

But then the day progresses and my energy wanes and all the elements that made me feel frisky are gone and I realize I am actually one tired heap of a human. But I promised H, and he is so excited about it, so now I feel guilty. But his sensitivity to my moods make me feel like I am under a microscope (= buzzkill, if there was any buzz left). And I know he wants me to initiate and be the dominate lover, but I just don't have it in me. I also don't have it in me to reject him outright either because I hate disappointing him and I know I am a disappointment in this department right now. So I go along with it, but with so much less enthusiasm than H was expecting (disappointing him) and what I really wanted him to do was just initiate and take charge as usual. But I couldn't say any of this because it all is such a huge, freighted, elephant in the bed between us.

In some less evolved moments, I would pre-empt H's frustration at me by blaming my loss of appetite on something H did (or didn't do) between that sexy text message and the bed in the evening. Just so I wouldn't be 100% to blame.

It is hard for me to write all of this. Seeing it through your eyes has helped me understand how H felt in all of this. On my side, I was struggling with PND (PPD we call it over here), so many pregnancies and births back-to-back and a spouse who traveled a lot for work, leaving me feeling stressed and overworked. I didn't feel sexy. I felt low. And disappointing H made me feel worse, which perpetuated the cycle. After a while, H stopped trying (he later told me he was testing me to see if I would even ever ask for it again... I failed that test).

In the months leading up to BD, I was able to do some work on myself, took some time to examine my mental health and started to work out a lot more, which all increased my libido and for the first time in ages, I felt the stirrings of my sexuality returning. Probably too little too late.

For me, getting sleep and getting out of the routine of babies, house-holding and work always made me feel more sexually alive. If we went away, the first night were always hit or miss (I needed sleep), but the subsequent nights always got better in that department. I know you just went under lockdown, but is there any chance you could schedule a weekend away with H? Just to reconnect (on any level, not just sexually) and give you both a break from daily monotony?

xx

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Hello everyone - this is my weekly update.

So, it's been a tough week in life, and that has had a knock-on effect in the marriage. We've both been working really hard at work, and with the kids, and to prepare the house. It's tiring. The weather is awful. We're in lockdown again, without sunshine to get out in, so that's been depressing too. I think we've both been doing our bit, but I know what H needs to replenish himself is solitude, and what I need is connection. Each night this week he's gone to bed early, on his own, often after us making a plan that I was going to give him a massage, or he'd give me one. I didn't grumble, and I tried my best to assume he was just exhausted, rather than being dishonest or withdrawing from me. This weekend we'd decided to take the kids out to the countryside for the day, but he was exhausted and critical and grumpy - everything from parking the car to the mud on the pathway. I did towards the end of the day gently say something along the lines of 'you've only spoken in the last four hours to criticise and complain, can you just let up a bit?' and he gave me a catty response, which I ignored. He did start up when we got home - lots of moaning about how much laundry and cooking he has to do (about half of the work, I'd say, and I work full time too, though my job is less physically demanding) and there's little point in engaging with him when he's like this - so I just avoided him.

Later on he was in a better temper, and we got to bed. He was awkward and reluctant and I never know in these circumstances if I should just accept this is his best and get on with it, or have a bit of self respect and not allow myself to go along with it when he's clearly not really into it. I think this is why I feel dread: there does not seem to be a way I can respond to his advances, such as they are, without getting at least one of us into a bad situation. He also has a very very very long history of being dishonest about what he wants or needs (in bed and out of it) then getting angry and resentful when I haven't been able to understand that 'no, you go to the office and catch up on work and I will take care of the cooking' actually means 'I'd rather be on my own playing video games this afternoon and I want you to take care of the cooking so I can do that'. That's on him, but it does mean that it is difficult for me to feel safe taking his initiation at face value, when often it turns out he's just been reluctantly doing his duty. Then if I accept his advance or decline, it causes bad feeling, and if i initiate he most often turns me down, which causes more bad feeling.

I am not sure that finding a code to indicate that he or I am interested in sex is going to work - he does indicate an interest and gets flirty with me sometimes. But if I take him at face value he often gets irritated at feeling pressure to 'follow through' and if I just smile and let it go over my head, he tells me I am rejecting his initiations and that I am impossible. The whole thing feels so tangled and tense that maybe taking it off the table entirely for a while is a better technique, but I am not sure how that moves us forward to where I want to be, and where he says - honestly or not, I don't know - that he wants to be. I do know in our most honest conversations that both of us has said the way it is causes us a lot of sadness, and we both feel very criticised and like the other feels like there's something wrong with them. So that's a sad thing that is difficult. I know that he often assumes that I am angry with him when I am not, and reacts accordingly - and there's nothing much I can do about that but it is very wearing to live with. He seems to consider me saying, quietly (and not in ear shot of the kids), 'can you let up on the criticism and complaining a bit?' confrontational and aggressive. I don't accept that - and I do think he's so incredibly sensitive that he considers, at times, anything but utter approval and praise a personal attack - and that's on him too.

But I did say that I would concentrate on the positive. So - he did calm down and get himself out of his bad mood this weekend pretty quickly, and it didn't escalate to either an argument or days and days of silence and sniping. I was better than I normally am at not getting needy and anxious and fearful in the face of his bad temper, which helped de-escalate everything. He's working today and went off in pretty good temper, and most days this week when he's been at work he's been texting me to check in on me and hoping that things are going okay. I've been doing the bulk of admin and dealing with tradespeople and estate agents and stuff regarding the house sale, and that's been hard on me, but he's also been really careful to acknowledge it, and the stress it puts me under, and how grateful he is for me doing it. I'm a bit anxious about where we will be with house sales, and lockdown, and everything like that - the future feels very hard to see at the moment - and most of the time he's been very calm and patient and reassuring. I've seen his fun side a bit more, especially with the kids, which is so attractive to me and which wasn't a part of our daily lives for years.

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In the spirit of updating on the positive I had a difficult interaction with H that I think I handled well.

He was very sad this evening. One of his colleagues is sick. I could tell he was sad, but when I asked him if he was okay, he got a bit defensive. So I backed off, took the dog out for a walk, then did a couple of hours work in another room. As I was getting ready for bed, I went to look in on him. He talked about the situation for a while and I listened, validating, then asked him if there was anything I could do to comfort him. He said he wanted to stay up late. He'd already been drinking a bit and I could see he was settling in for the night. I said something like, don't stay up too late because it will make you feel even more blue tomorrow if you're tired or hungover' and he said, in a horrible tone, 'right, I'll come to bed then, so you won't be angry with me.' It's his usual thing - he has a bad feeling, I try to get close, he reacts with a bit of venom to get me to go away - extra points for telling me what I feel or am about to feel, then punishing me for it. None of that requires my presence, so I just wished him goodnight in a nice tone and backed away. I wish he knew a better way to deal with his feelings, but there he is, and I don't care to be an audience to it so I've given him his space. I know even a few months ago I'd feel very anxious and distressed right now, or very angry and contemptuous about his behaviour, but now all I feel is 'ah, he's upset and wants to be on his own and is being crabby for no reason again,' and am getting on with the evening. It's progress.

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Originally Posted by AlisonUK
I know even a few months ago I'd feel very anxious and distressed right now, or very angry and contemptuous about his behaviour, but now all I feel is 'ah, he's upset and wants to be on his own and is being crabby for no reason again,' and am getting on with the evening. It's progress.

this is real progress, Alison. Congratulations. I so know that feeling of steaming or anxiety stemming from something my H did, when in reality it has zero to do with you and all to do with him. Not only is this great for your own mental health, it probably also really helps him by taking away his favorite scapegoat in these situations. He can no longer take his bad mood and place the responsibility for it squarely on you, and spend the next hour or whatever stewing about how you are controlling or whatever he decides is the problem. Instead, he has the space to figure out what is going on inside him. Hopefully he can.

I love that you're seeing his fun side and he's been better and better and pulling himself out of these bad moods. And the fact that you're navigating as giant a project as selling your home in the midst of COVID together and it seems like it is bringing you together rather than pulling you apart-- that is a really positive thing too, in my book. I have been reading lately about all the couples that are splitting because of COVID. Months ago, our MC told my H that he's completely booked with all his new clients having severe issues with lockdown, and my IC has said the same thing. There have been a few articles in US papers about this phenomenon too, all the COVID divorces.

When we get through on the other side of this... assuming we all make it... imagine how freeing it will be to have options to get out of the house, see a friend, go to a movie, go to the gym. It feels like you'll both have so many more outlets to deal with issues as they come up and if you can make it through this without any of those options available to you, it will be a breeze in the future. It is great that you're pulling together as a team and he's being so supportive about the stress and the work you're taking on with the house sale. I know there are still lots of tough things but it seems like to me you have just made so much progress.


Me (46) H (42)
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Not only is this great for your own mental health, it probably also really helps him by taking away his favorite scapegoat in these situations. He can no longer take his bad mood and place the responsibility for it squarely on you, and spend the next hour or whatever stewing about how you are controlling or whatever he decides is the problem. Instead, he has the space to figure out what is going on inside him. Hopefully he can.


You're so right, May. He slept elsewhere last night, which I normally take as a sign he is angry with me, but he came up this morning early, before the kids got up. He was wary - probably expecting me to be angry with him, but just said 'I think you're right, I think I was really upset about my colleague' and I said, 'well, you've every right to be, it sounds really worrying' and that was that. I do wish he'd come to me for comfort when he was feeling upset, but I think if I a examine that honestly that is more about my need than his. So it all worked out really well, and taught me a lot about not taking things personally, giving space, keeping to my own side of the street, and getting out of the way when he's being crabby so he can focus on his own feelings.

I can't wait until the end of lockdown! I am sure I'd be less interested in the contents of his emotional life if he wasn't the only adult I saw...

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