I’m not sure if it is this way in every abusive marriage, but as I attributed so many of the bad moments to his Bipolar Disorder, it made sense to me (in my attempts at coping) that we would have periods of good times and periods of bad times. Sometimes it was difficult to enjoy the peaks, as a part of me was always wary of the sharp cliff that could drop off into the valleys of anger and depression.
I watched for his triggers. Some weeks, everything seemed to rub him raw:
- When our bank account got low.
- Issues at work.
- Not progressing at work.
- Being disagreed with.
- People with slightly abrasive personalities who challenged him.
- Gloomy days.
- Not sleeping.
- Being frustrated with his weight (but doing nothing to improve it).
- Not accomplish something easily (feeling like a failure).
Sometimes, however, he would veer hard away from those dark places. As if, it felt, to try and make up for the horrible moments. Looking back, I shake my head at how eager I was to grasp for anything loving, or anything that he showed a glimmer of responsibility.
- There was the time and forethought be put into getting heart-shaped egg cooking/holders, and I woke up to breakfast that morning. (This meant a lot to me at the time, because he’d thrown a handful of temper tantrums when he couldn’t cook eggs right in the months before. He’d ask me if I wanted scrambled eggs, and my answer was always no thanks, that’s fine. Then he would get grumpy because the only eggs I wanted were over-easy (and he didn’t know how to cook them right). I wouldn’t ask for them, but he would get pre-emptively frustrated, because I didn’t want what he was willing to make. Then came that one time this past year he made me a full, really fantastic breakfast. Taking the time and effort to push through quite a few failures until he finally made me THE perfect eggs.
- The first year of our marriage, he made me a guacamole making basket – complete with avocados, special wine, special chips, special mix, and special tools to make it all. I loved it, as it was unique and thoughtful.
You know, since leaving, I’ve had a lot of the people close to me say, ‘And do you remember when [your Ex] said/did this?’ only for me to stare at them blankly. The negatives became so routine, sometimes, that my memory just glosses over them. And now, as I was trying to write this, I find I’m struggling to place good moments too. I know there were some. I worked so hard for some of them. I grasped for the moments of shared laughter and pleasant things. A part of me felt as if I could just love HARD enough that everything would get better. But it never did. Or at least, not for long. The other shoe always found a way to drop.
Now I struggle. Because it is hard for me to work out how much is learned behavior from how he grew up, how much is anger, how much is the illness, and how much was conscious manipulation. I think there was rather more of the latter than I am willing to acknowledge, even now. It’s a lot harder to accept that I could have fallen for that for so long, than to think he wasn’t able to control himself.
Regardless of why, it’s clear to me now that he is a very troubled man, and even if he succeeds in getting help and improving, our time together is absolutely done. If he really wanted to change, I believe he could. But I don’t think I can risk myself again, not with him. Right now I can’t imagine ever putting myself in that kind of relationship willingly again.
One thing at a time. It’s nice to be in a place where people are taking care of me. It’s been such a long time since I could rely on that, without fearing when I would pay the price for it.