Anonymous Stories in Motherhood: An Ultimatum in My Marriage

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It has been almost one year since my marriage changed, and I would like to tell you for the better- but it hasn’t been. I have an exceptional talent for pushing people. I’m confrontational. If there’s a problem, I’d like it solved immediately. My husband was silently stewing in his anger, and I just couldn’t let it go. He literally dropped what he was doing and walked to the door. He turned towards me and said, “whatever happens tonight- it is your fault.” And the door closed. I let my anger overflow calling him awful names in my head, wondering how the heck an adult can actually act the way he does.

I couldn’t remember if he even put shoes on. Whatever. I’d take a bath and calm down. Think through my feelings, and then we could talk about it downstairs. I have a sharp tongue sometimes, I already knew that, but around him, I tame it down because he can be sensitive. Except when I went downstairs, he wasn’t home. Not that hour. Not the next hour. I’ve had people close to me commit suicide and looking back at what he had said- the color drained from my face. I called my brother nearly hyperventilating, and he came over immediately. He went to bars, the store, drove our neighborhood- my husband was gone. I frantically called my neighbor to ask if she could stay with my sleeping babies while I searched our retention ponds and the pool. Our cars were still home; we do not own any guns.

My neighbor rubbed my back while I dry heaved: Had I pushed him so far that he was never coming home? How could I tell our kids? And then he came home. He was completely calm, barefoot, he walked over to the kitchen and didn’t say a single word. My neighbor whispered to me, asking if she should stay with me- I numbly shook my head. I walked straight upstairs and texted my brother that the search was off and sorry for ruining his date. I’d like to tell you that it was a one-time thing and we were okay. But I knew that things would never be the same. My brother tried to talk to him, he wanted to get him just to open up a little bit, and it wasn’t going to happen. He, too, offered to stay with us, but I politely declined and apologized profusely.

The trust in my marriage was shattered. The safety net completely ripped from beneath me. I did what I know best- research. I researched what to do when your spouse admits suicidal thoughts (support them, encourage them, let them speak freely without judgment). I looked up how to get him admitted to the stress center (just in case it got that bad). And I also searched how people knew their marriages were over. I suddenly could not stand how empty my bed felt, and I went to sleep in my daughter’s room with her. I barely slept but woke up to a husband who found nothing wrong with what he had done. Nothing wrong with the fact that he turned his phone off, so I would panic. Nothing wrong with the fact that he said what he did when he left. I started evaluating what my options were. As a stay at home mom, I have zero income. Sure I have family- but they aren’t close, and I couldn’t just uproot and exit in one day. So I slowly started to protect myself and my kids, BUT I also started to drop hints to my husband that he either made some changes or we left.

He refused therapy- his pride gets in the way. He refused medication- he saw how loopy and weird it had made his mother. So he faked it. Every day he faked being happy (which couldn’t have been an easy feat) but then things became cyclical: the kids got annoying- he got angry. He would yell at us, and it would scare them, I would think more about leaving, then he would apologize and do something “fun” for them. This man who had created such a good life for us was replaced by this seething, angry shell of a man. I would suggest marriage counseling, telehealth counseling, drugs, hell at one point I even suggested he start smoking weed- but he felt like he could control his feelings until he couldn’t. Out of a seven day week, we would have maybe one really good day, two okay days, and the rest were bad. You wouldn’t know it by looking at him or us. He puts on a brave front and rarely lets anyone see his anger- except us. So after nearly an entire year of this roller coaster ride- I gave him an ultimatum: Get help or get out.

I had been patient. I had been willing to do whatever it took, week in and week out, but he wasn’t ready to make a single change. Over tears from both of us one night, he finally caved and admitted he would take medication. He did not want to do talk therapy (because he’s a dude), but he would entertain medication. We normalize mental health in our house. My oldest went to therapy for several months for her behavioral issues. I went to therapy as a teenager when two people close to my life committed suicide. I took several antidepressants. Shoot, I have a prescription of Xanax in my cabinet that I treasure because sometimes my emotions cannot be reigned in. So that’s where we are. We just switched insurance carriers, and once we have our insurance cards in hand, he is making that appointment. This cycle ends now.

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