I read your advice daily, and often find myself feeling not quite as bad off as some of your readers, but today feels a little different.
So, my husband and I have been married for 2 years. Before that, we were a wild blur of on/off or fighting or engaged for 6 years. When we first met he was 27-years old, shorter than me but fine and fit, and with a 3-year old estranged child, but saw her weekly. He was very well-traveled as a child musician, articulate, working double time as a longshoreman assistant and had his own place with a band mate. I was 22-years old, nerdy, but tried to be trendy, working 2 jobs and going to school with my own apartment. However, I was also mourning the death of my father. I was also much more overweight than I am today. My low self-esteem led me to naive choices of men.
When I met him it seemed like a breath of fresh air. There was a “life flashed before my eyes” type of kiss after 3 weeks of dating. We made love for days. Fell in love. And, he moved in 2 months later.
To make a long story short, presently, he is 35-years old and I am 30 years old, both of us are unemployed or barely employed, no degrees, living with his elderly grandmother and 3 relatives in a very dangerous neighborhood, and driving my mother’s car when needed. We are fighting daily. There’s violence at least monthly, and drug use daily. We are both isolated from old friends and peers. And, my health is now suffering.
Within the first year he became a drunk and a recluse abandoning me for weeks at a time right before we got married. This happened because I lost his child and I lost my apartment. He kept playing video games, and I kept hanging with frenemies. We both kept getting fired, and he wouldn’t go to school. He got caught cheating with girls on the hoe stroll. I maintained a booty call like friendship for revenge.
He stole from me, and I’d go crazy and we’d fight. He left to be a tweaker with his father, and I cheated and ended up in an abusive situation and running for my life. We got back together to reinforce each other’s dumb choices.
After all these years it’s been a blur. Yet, we decided to get married at my lowest point and he bought me a ring for Christmas. By new years day we were married. I put a freeze on my life to be a homemaker, and 6 months later I caught him again on the internet this time with 38 different women. A fight ensued and he ended up in jail.
I guess, in between, we convinced ourselves that the longer we stayed the loyalty will strengthen us, but to no avail. My mother says I can come home and start over, but only if I divorce him. She also is the same one who said I’ll put him in jail and me in the streets if I have his baby. So, I aborted it 5 years ago and have been emotionally traumatized ever since. Hence, I’m not too keen on taking her advice anymore.
My question is: Where did I, or we, fail or turn left in this relationship. We have been told by pastors or counselors that it’s not us, and that we are in love and black marriage is dying, so, stick it out. Or, that it’s us allowing baggage from friends and family into our relationship, so, that screwed us up.
Now, things have since settled down. We realize we are grown now. We talk much more instead of fighting. We are now saving money to buy a home and fixing our credit. Grandma got a nurse so I’m taking classes, and he’s working again. We’re looking to moving away to the suburbs to start a family and business.
However, he’s colder and I’m less tolerant. But, we are still affectionate. As a grown woman now I feel like I was just young and dumb so screw him. I find myself resenting him and being very critical and now he is hurting like I was.
Am I damaged goods now? I’ve lost my trust and therefore attraction to him. I’m scared of building a future because I have been so unstable and he has been so unreliable. But, I’m also scared to leave because I feel like after all these years will be thrown away for nothing. And, that I’m partly to blame and I feel guilty, and I don’t want to end up angry and alone like so many other women. I’m scared to date again, too. As I feel lost and have nothing to offer. I feel trapped instead of optimistic and I don’t know what to do. Please HELP! Thank you for your honest and compassionate advice. – Where To Begin Again
Dear Ms. Where To Begin Again,
You have been through a lot in your marriage, and from what you have written I suspect that you and your husband both suffer from anxiety, stress, and depression. And, though I commend you in speaking with counselors and pastors about your situation, problems, and issues, however, you both need therapy and a professional psychiatrist.
Look, you both came into your situation with issues, and undiagnosed mental issues. You already mentioned that when you were younger you were suffering from low self-esteem due to being overweight, and you had lost your father. Thus, it led you to make bad decisions in dating men, and being promiscuous. And, you were doing all of this in the midst of working two jobs while you were going to school. That is a lot of stress to take on and to deal with at such a young age. So, like your husband, you began sleeping around, looking for love and attention. And, you found it in who men who preyed on your vulnerability, and your weakness.
And, because your husband appeared to be stable, working, maintaining his own home, and emotionally and mentally stable you found solace in him. But, let’s not forget that he was a well-traveled child musician, so while as an adult he was working a full-time job and in a band, hoping to make his dreams come true. I can only imagine being a well-traveled child musician, with everyone, including himself, feeling he was going to be an amazing rock star by now. Yet, here is he, and years have gone by, and he has not accomplished his goals of leading a band, or being a celebrated notorious rock star. He tells himself that he is a failure. He hasn’t accomplished anything, especially musically, and he’s barely making ends meet. He hates himself, and what he’s become. Now, cue in the depression, drinking, drugs, and sleeping around.
So, now we couple you and he together, and the fights begin. You both have the “woe-is-me” complex. You’re both hating life, and can’t understand why it’s not working out. And, because you’re both hurting, and you’re relying on the other to “fix” the problem, you continue to hurt each other in the process. He does something to you, and you respond. You do something to him, and he responds. It’s a back and forth tit for tat, and who can hurt the other more than the other. Pain fighting pain. Anger fighting anger. Hurt fighting hurt. This tumultuous relationship of drama, anger, hurt, pain, and envy mixed with the stress, anxiety, and depression makes this a volatile marriage.
Years go by, because they often do when you’re caught in a rut, and you’re just living life daily with no ambition, goals, or dreams. You wish, hope and pray for something to happen, but you don’t make the change, and each day just slips by. And, the next thing you know, it’s ten years later and you reflect back wondering what happened. Where did the time go, and what have I accomplished or done in that time.
Your relationship took a turn when you and he both decided to get married, yet, neither of you had received any type of therapy or treatment for your issues and problems. You were not seeing a therapist to deal with your father’s death, and your poor decision making due to being overweight, and, as much, why you suffered from low self-esteem. You were not in therapy to help you heal, recover, and get a handle on your life. And, neither was he.
You and your husband were two miserable, unhappy, and desperate people looking for love, and hoping the other would love them out of the stupor. Just like so many other people who are in broken, unhappy, and miserable relationships, and who refuse to get into therapy, you seek out relationships with someone else to make you happy. Someone else to love you. Someone else to make you feel good. Someone else to “fix” you, and to make you whole.
Here’s what I suggest:
1.) You get back in school. It’s never too late to start over. Realize and remember what your dreams were, and accomplish them. You wanted to be something, or do something. So, get back in school, and work toward your goals.
2.) You and your husband get into therapy with a licensed and professional therapist. You need couples therapy, but, more importantly, you both need individual therapy. You have to work on you first, then you can work on your marriage. Heal you. Rebuild you. And, Reclaim your own life, first. You and he need to undo the damage that you’ve caused yourselves because of your failures, your low self-esteem, and how you feel about yourselves.
3.) Your husband should pursue working as a musical teacher, and helping other musically gifted children. Hell, he can still moonlight as a musician playing at various clubs, charities, weddings, or corporate events where he gets payed for his services. He has to put himself out there, network, and revision his dream. It may not be in front of millions of people in a stadium, but it’s important that he keeps his dream going. He should share his gifts with others. I’m sure he can teach at a local community center, or offer classes, or even volunteer at the elementary, middle, or high school.
4.) Both you and he have to let go of the outside influences, especially, the sexual partners or vices and aversions that keep you from each other. He’s looking for women to affirm him, make him feel good, make him feel as if he still has it. And, you are doing the same thing, including, once you learn he is cheating, then you resort to your booty calls. Why have them on reserve? Why maintain the relationships? You’re both wrong. So, work on your marriage, and focus on each other. Work on how you both can be better as a husband and as a wife. What is he looking for? What are you looking for? What does he want? What do you want? This leads to my next piece of advice.
5.) You have to communicate with one another. Your husband should be your best friend. And, he should be your best friend. You should be able to tell each other everything, and be able to go to one another and share what you’re feeling, how you’re feeling, and what’s going on with you. You don’t talk with one another, therefore, you don’t trust one another. You have to trust each other, and be honest with one another. This takes time, and it takes work. But, you’ve got to work on it, and begin the process. If you don’t, then, you and he will live another 10 years hurting, in pain, angry, mad, and pointing the finger at each other.
Look, the end is not here. There is lots of work to do, but there is lots to undo. I strongly suggest therapy, individually, and, then together in the future. If you want to save your marriage, then you’ve got to be willing to save yourself first. You’ve made some changes, and you’re moving in the right direction. That is good. Stay focused. Stay goal-oriented. Keep creating dreams, and don’t give up on them. It will take time, and just as these years flew by, just know that the next time you look back you will be reflecting on your accomplishments, your successes, your joys, and your happiness. – Terrance Dean
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