Friday, September 2, 2011

Investment, Marriage, and Emptiness

This isn't going to be a particularly clever post. It's not funny, or sweet, or happy. It's about some very personal things. You're gonna learn a lot about me today.. If you don't already know it.

I’ve come to realize recently that the effort you put into your marriage is an investment. If you want your spouse to be there for you, you have to be there for him/her.

I struggled for a long time trying to figure out why I didn’t have that sticking power when the chips were down for my (now)ex-husband. I see so many other couples where this happens- one of them develops a serious health problem- mental, emotional, physical- and their spouse finds it within him/herself to be the rock, to be there, to stay. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t. Why was I so weak that I couldn’t stay? I knew he needed me, but I just couldn’t do it… why?

Recently I was talking with a dear friend whose husband developed debilitating emotional issues during the course of their marriage. She stayed. I asked her these same questions- what gave her the strength to stay when I couldn’t? She shared with me some things that happened when she had her own health crisis. He stayed, he learned, he cared for her. He invested in their relationship. Then, when he needed help, she had the strength within to step up and learn the patience needed to be what he needed his wife to be.

In my own marriage, his struggles weren’t the only problem. There were other issues. I am unable to bare children, and have wanted to be a mom for forever, since I was probably about two. He knew this when we married, and said that he wanted children, too. This journey toward parenthood was going to be a team effort, and we WERE gonna get there!

But then, over the course of the first 5 or 6 years of our marriage, he made choices that made things difficult financially for us. I won’t say I was perfect. I could have been wiser in some of my own choices. I could have been tougher, meaner about his choices. I could have pursued a career to support us (even though I actually wanted to be a stay-at-home mother). I could have demanded greater adherence to the budget. He chose to put his own instant gratification ahead of (what I thought were) our goals. I know now that his mindset and behavior pattern were due to circumstances in his childhood, but it still hurt. Every time evidence came before me of our divergent priorities, it cut a little deeper.

After about 7 years of marriage, I realized that I was dying inside. I began to resign myself to a fate of childlessness. I became resentful, angry, and bitter. I looked for ways to rid our home of the baby-preparations- the stroller/car seat we bought with the tax return, the clothes given to us by a friend, and the blankets I’d been given as hand-me-downs. I intentionally avoided the baby section of the grocery and department stores. I couldn’t even look down those aisles without this big gaping hole opening in my chest. I was hollow inside. My dream was dead.

Then he broke. His depression flared up because of some issues with work, and he needed me- desperately! He needed me to be strong, to be there, to love him, to show confidence and faith in him, to be his cheerleader. But I was empty. I did what I could, I tried, but it was an act. There wasn’t much depth to it, and I see that now. It didn’t even last very long- a couple months, at best. I had nothing inside to give him.

I left for a time. I came back on the condition that he get help. I knew I couldn’t do it- I couldn’t handle the unmanaged problem, and I couldn’t manage it for him. He had to take care of it or I couldn’t stay. We tried a couple options, but because of various reasons, those solutions didn’t pan out… and we were back where we started. His depression wasn’t being managed and I couldn’t hack it. I was still too weak, dead, and empty to endure.

Have you ever been at the end of your rope, had nothing left to give? How did you handle it? Were you able to dig a little deeper and find a reason to hang on? Or were you empty, with nothing left to give?


  1. Here's the problem, it's not that you were weak, it's that there needs to be some commitment from your partner. You know that I had many of the same issues in my marriage, and for the longest time I DID stick it out. But there has to come a point at which you say, "enough is enough," and I finally reached that point. It's only possible for a person to handle so much before the stronger partner cracks, too. If there is no willingness from your spouse to seek the help he/she needs to at least manage their issues, then it's unhealthy for you to remain in that relationship.

  2. Thank you, Jane. That's essentially what I was getting at. I was empty. I had reached the end of my rope, tied a knot.. and didn't have anymore strength to hang on. If there's no reprieve, that will happen to the best and strongest of us. It's just taken me a while to realize that it wasn't b/c I was weak that my marriage ended. It lasted so long b/c I was too strong (stubborn?) to let go when all the signs said I should have.

  3. I finally heard the words I think I've needed to hear for over a year and a half.

    "Well, it takes two."

    I heard recently that he is in the same place/situation he was when we first met. He hasn't changed or grown any in the 10 years we were together. It makes me sad that in the time we spent together, it seems he didn't progress at all! :(

  4. "It takes two to make it work, but only one to destroy it."