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I did a Bad Bad Thing
In search of happiness.....
I did a bad, bad thing, and learned a lot – about myself and about others who suffer in silence because they are afraid.
On the surface it appears we had a happy marriage – and for much of the time it was bearable with whispers of happiness from time to time, but right from the beginning there were some challenges. After over 40 years of marriage I escaped. I packed up, and left, never to return.
As I have come to learn, often the husband is happy – he has someone to take out occasionally, someone to cook, clean and do the washing, and bring up the children, and whatever else he wants from the marriage. “All” he has to do is go to work and earn the money, mow the lawn occasionally and change the high light globes. I know I have oversimplified the reality of a marriage, and I know that life is seldom perfect, and I have heard the stories of others like me, who are ‘stuck’ with nowhere to go.
Let’s start at the beginning. In the 1960’s when I was a young girl, we were expected to get married, have children and live happily ever after. I was 23 when I married, albeit rather in a rush for already our first child was on the way. I did have fear and trepidation, and my parents did offer me an ‘out’ in that I was told I didn’t have to marry him, if I chose not to. I know many brides have that fear of the unknown on the eve of marriage and I was no different, but I thought my love was strong, and I could not contemplate not going ahead. In many respects I do not regret what I did.
Early on in the marriage I learned that there were going to be two major obstacles to my happiness. There were other minor ones, but the two big ones were to cause the biggest heartache for me. MM was irresponsible with money, and he drank too much. He was also always overweight, but he was a good looking, well respected, and it appeared successful business man.
Money was always an issue. He never learned to save, was always playing catch up and all my endeavours to change this were fruitless. In fact, it often resulted in the rare arguments that we had, and more often it ended in one or both of us in tears. It was the same with the drinking. Luckily he was a pleasant drunk, and I never suffered physical abuse.
I was a nurse, so between moves around the country as he followed his work transfers and we followed him, I worked part time. During one period when he was out of work for a long period I was a full-time night duty nurse in a psychiatric hospital. I learned very early on that a joint bank account was disastrous for me, as whenever I wanted money the bank account was empty.
As I became disenchanted with nursing, I had other careers and in the end became a teacher/trainer in the vocational education field, subsequently became a ‘mature age student’ and completed a university degree in teaching.
I went on to further study, more qualifications and an opportunity to work overseas for short periods, which I did. It was during this period that I learned to live independently, and I learned that I could not go back to sharing my life with my husband. I’d return home for short periods, determined to one day find my own life.
Some years ago, my husband was retrenched, and suffered depression as he tried to return to the workforce or find a meaningful career for him. He has been ‘semi-retired’ – but trying to build a home based business.
It was difficult to make the break. I was visiting a psychologist, who saw the stress I was enduring, and when I told her the whole story – for there is much more than I can submit to ‘paper’ - she helped me decide that I needed my independence.
It took a long, long time, until the right opportunity arose. Our lives together over 40 years are so entwined – with two adult married children, and four grand children, and our social life together, it was hard. Our financial situation was dire – he had borrowed against our house, and there are negligible assets from our years together, and I knew I had to be in his company often with family and social activities as I did not intend to lose friends and I was sensitive to family. We have been able to meet socially without great difficult and many of our friends are confused. I don’t make much of it though they know I live elsewhere, and he tells them we are still married (for legally we still are.)
One day last year, I packed what I needed short term, and left. I had little in my bank account, and my only income is a pension, but I found low cost accommodation, have the use of a friend’s car, and have started a new life.
I went back to university too – and am completing a Masters. I’m content. Not deliriously happy – as I still have some demons to destroy. I don’t have enough money, I don’t have accommodation or car long term, and financially I struggle, but I am in charge of my own money now, and in charge of my own life, and I can tell you it is rather exhilarating, despite my concern for the long term.
However, in my journey I have made some amazing discoveries! I have been overwhelmed by the women who have come to me and told me their stories. I have been congratulated by them for having the strength to move on, something that they would love to do, but find the obstacles too difficult to contemplate. I am hoping to work with a psychologist to do some research on the number of senior women enduring very difficult home lives, due in part because of their now retired (through age, ill health or lack of employment), ‘rules the roost’ at home.
Let me tell you some of the stories. One, a lady close to her 80th birthday has endured much over the 15 years since her husband retired. He tried to make all the decisions, as if she is either incapable of making decisions, or her ideas are worthless. If she disagrees there is an altercation. He decided she no longer need a car 15 years ago, and has been her “chauffeur” ever since. If she wants to go somewhere he drives her, and she must return when he is ready. She’s lost the ability to drive, and she feels frustrated and trapped. She has told me that she envies me in some ways, but to her (and many of us) it is just too hard to leave.
Another lady who is not yet 60 is ruled by a demanding physically and verbally abusive husband, but manages to find some space for herself as he is still in business and works long hours. She will not leave, as she endured a marriage break up years ago, and fears being alone again. I wonder if she can manage living this life much longer.
Other ladies whose husbands have become homebodies have told me their stories too. They have decided that they have no choice but to endure whatever life brings them, as leaving may well be more stressful than staying. I might add that most of these men are not unfaithful, and believe with all their hearts that they are doing the right thing by their wife, (though I suspect the very abusive man has other issues!)
My husband cannot see what he has done wrong. He has acknowledged the money issues but makes excuses. He has given up drinking apparently, though I see signs that he may well be not telling the whole truth, but after cardiac bypass surgery, and major liver damage, he has ordered to take a new direction by his myriad of medical advisors.
At times he is ‘nice’ to me – especially in public where his public profile is important, but I wonder if he realises that most of the women I know well, know that I am no longer with him. Other times he continues his verbal abuse. It is not yelling at me, but it is the strange accusations he levels at me. Some of them are quite bizarre. I’ll explain one.
Not long before I left, (for this event was one of the ‘last straws’), I put a load of washing into the washing machine in the laundry which is in the lower level of the house. Shortly after, he discovered that the machine had malfunctioned. He yelled at me. “What have you done to the washing machine?” I told him politely without raised voice that I had done nothing, but switched it on as usual. Easy, turn power on, turn water on, put washing in, press go button. He insisted that I had interfered with the settings, which I had not. He set it going again and the machine completed the cycle. Several days later, a similar event occurred. Again I was abused loudly for doing something to the machine. So he decided to do the washing and it malfunction for him. He called the repairman who replaced a faulty part. Never, ever, will I receive an apology for what was a long abusive accusation for something that I was, as he knows now, innocent of doing. Recently I have been accused of strange things. He never apologies or acknowledges that his behaviour is offensive, even when others point out that he was wrong.
In the end, it was simply that I was so distressed by having to endure the daily abuse, the controlling behaviour and as I held no hope that, despite marriage guidance counselling and his promises, my life would not be happy if I continued to live with him, I left.
I am happy – and far more relaxed, as well as being a little fearful of the future. Some ‘friends’ I have not heard from since, and some family members are not happy with my decision, but I could not continue to endure the unhappiness. I am the ‘envy’ of those women, for whatever reason are unable or unwilling to change their circumstances, and I do accept the ‘congratulations’ for being brave enough to do it.
Still in the eyes of some, I did a bad, bad thing.