Some people think that a WAW is hard, angry, cold. In a fog. There's more to her than that.
4 years ago, a woman laid in bed at night, not wanting to wake up in the morning. There was no way out. She couldn't divorce him. He would have visitation without her there to protect them. He had never hit them, but he surely didn't understand how to care for them. He didn't even know who they were.
She couldn't leave. She had no job, no way of putting food on the table for the children she loved. She had been dependent for so long, & she trusted this man to provide for her. Now she lay in bed, wondering who he was, & how she got her. These were not the choices she would have made, if she had a 2nd chance.
She couldn't talk to him. He couldn't hear her. She desperately wanted to share herself with him. He had walls up. She couldn't penetrate them. He seemed so content to work, watch TV, eat & sleep. Why didn't he want more, like she ?
She felt trapped. She resented herself for letting him treat her this way for so long. He told her often enough, he was a good husband. She needed so much more from him. She tried telling him, for years she tried, then she cried, she begged, she pleaded, but he couldn't hear.
He was cold, hard, in a fog.
She tried everything, she read every book. She prayed her heart out. She tried to be more Christ-like. Figuring if she set the example, he would follow.
She knew it came down to two choices. Her children's happiness, or hers. She would sacrifice hers. She decided to stay, & raise the children, with this man who would never know her. When they moved out, so would she. Then she would salvage what was left of her.
She put her heart in a dusty old box in the top of the closet. It was easier. She didn't hurt anymore, she was numb.
When she finally quit trying, & tried to fill her hours with distractions, he noticed. His fog was lifting. He wasn't quite so cold, so hard. She didn't care. It was too late. She was numb. Her heart was in that box. She vowed never to take it out again.
She stumbled through her days, crossing them off in the calendar. Wondering how much longer she could live this way. Did her children see her unhappiness ? She wondered, are they better off with a single happy parent, or with two parents who co-exist ? The torment was eating her alive. What to do ?
By now, she wasn't sleeping. Wasn't eating. She pulled away from all of her friends. She was dying inside. She desperately wanted, needed to be loved, appreciated, noticed, cherished. She was a beautiful fragile flower slowly dying without water, sunshine & air.
When no one was watching, she cried. She cried til she ran out of tears. She wanted it to be over, she wanted the pain to stop. Everytime she looked at her husband, it reminded her of the pain. The pain that was consuming her. She turned to alcohol to numb the pain. Anything to make the pain go away. Her friends ask her why she's losing so much weight. She wonders, why can't anyone see that I'm dying here. She doesn't try to tell the man she shares a bed with, remember, he can't hear her.
She finally writes him a letter. She says she is done. They need to raise their children, & he's the only one who can be their dad. Now he's fully awake & out of his fog. He's scared. He had no idea how bad she hurt. He thought things were good. He's been living in a separate reality from her.
He says he'll change, he'll do anything, to make her happy. He says his family is the most important thing to him. She doesn't believe him. She's numb. Her heart is safely in that box. He tries, she watches. He tries some more, she watches. He's dying now. She's numb. Now he wants the pain to stop. She's numb. She wonders why did things have to go this far before he would hear me ? Now she doesn't want to talk to him. She's numb. Talking to him reminds her how much she used to hurt, she can see it in his eyes now. Her survival instincts kick in, at least she doesn't hurt now. She's numb.
The only place to go from numb is anger. He tries some more, she can see he's making changes. Now comes the buried anger. The anger that she wanted to express to him for all the years past. The anger she was afraid to show. He doesn't realize, angry is better than numb. He takes her anger. For 12 months he takes her anger. Sometimes he fights back, & when he does she goes numb again.
She's so scared to take her heart out of that dusty box. Numb is so much safer. Angry is so much safer. Does he know how hard it is for her. She knew the day that her children were born, that she would give her life for them. She just didn't know it would be like this.
Sometimes he tries to push her to heal faster. She's doing her best. He wants more from her at times. She's doing her best.
Some nights, the pain returns, & she remembers, & she just can't sleep. She's not numb anymore, and the anger is going away. She doesn't know how or where, but it is. She's so scared. Numb is safer. Angry is safer. If she gives in to her fear, to her sometimes overwhelming fear, everyone will call her a WAW. She wanted you to know.
That sounds pretty much like my ex. [Maybe the two of you should get together.] Thank you Smart Cookie, this is what I had asked for.
In my defense, I will say that I wasn't emotionally abusive. I explored that long enough with my therapist because I had to know. Just HAD to know.
So tell me, how is it that you were so frightened to talk with him? To tell him, years earlier, that you were contemplating breaking up that beautiful family? Were you frightened of your ex? Afraid he would be angry or dismissive?
Because this is now hurting me big time. As my ex built up to her D-Day (or DB as y'all say here) she had convinced herself, and the girlfriends who were advising her, that I had anger problems. That when she served me divorce papers I would be furious. Never had she been more wrong. I was heartbroken. I was grief-stricken like never before. The night before she filed I still would have said that our wedding date was the best day of my life. And she didn't know that! All that pain (as you describe so well), accumulating over the years, had made her believe something that she ought to have known wasn't true -- perhaps because she fit me into a profile that said "of course he'll be furious."
I haven't been angry at her once. I think I have lived my Christian faith more purely since she filed than any other 12-month period of my life. Not that it's done any good, at least from the perspective of holding my marriage together.
It's so fascinating. Michele said in her first WAW article that the basically decent men who endure a WAW actually do truly change. They hit rock bottom and that change is possible only then. She also said that those men make great second husbands, because they are determined to not let it happen again. So for me at least, there is hope.
And lest you think there is no chance that we men can change, I saw an interesting example. The book "The Great Santini" by Robert Conroy is autobiographical about the author and his absolutely horrid father, a Marine Corps officer. Conroy wrote the book almost as payback for a dictatorial upbringing. But his father, when he saw the depicting of himself in the book, actually hit rock bottom and changed. Became a friend to his son. Conroy admits this.