It has been a year since my marital breakdown and reconstruction. I wanted to post this and link it in my signature. I'm not expecting any responses or anything.
One Day in October 2006 while I was deployed to Iraq my wife told me over the phone that we needed to talk about something. I could tell by her voice that it was serious but I had no idea what it could be about. The conversation that followed was the most frightening thing that has ever happened to me. Though I didn’t understand everything she was saying I did understand one thing very clearly - our marriage of then 11 years was in dire trouble. Though she couldn’t really explain why, she did make it clear that she felt we were likely headed for divorce. This was totally out of the blue. I had absolutely no idea what was going on and I was rocked. Up until that day I had thought we had if not a great marriage at least one that was way above average in terms of lack of conflict and general contentment. She was totally unable to tell me why or what she felt the problem was but her conviction was unmistakable – our marriage was on it’s death bed. Though I had no clue what was going on, my one thought was to love her and hold on.
The unexpected nature of this startling revelation and the communication difficulties of being half a world apart colored everything that happened afterwards. For the next two months we danced around the brink of marital disaster. My wife tried to explain that my absence from our home had triggered a surprising amount of relief for her as she no longer had me in the house and no longer had to live up to what she felt were my expectations of her, especially when it came to maintaining our household. I never recalled making any demands on her though I began to realize that I indeed did occasionally express criticism of her choices and behavior. Sometimes I communicated my dissatisfaction with a lot of emotion but I certainly never thought I was overly critical of her. But for her it seemed she never knew when I was going to be moody or upset or otherwise disapprove of her as a wife and a mother. Having me gone and the relief she felt really shocked her. At the same time a man from our church began showing a great deal of interest in her and made some inappropriate advances. Though she had no interest in an affair, the unconditional acceptance and appreciation without any expectation shown by him had a very serious impact on her. The combination of my wife’s overactive giver and desire to not disappoint others and her underlying a sense of inadequacy in our marriage created a very dangerous situation for her. Their EA was brief and limited but its effect was dramatic for both of us.
I quickly recommended we get some marriage counseling but my wife was panicked at the thought of me coming home and the return of this press of responsibility. She felt our relationship was so skewed that she would never be able to be healthy unless she broke all ties with me and started over. She wanted to approach any future relationship with me with no strings or obligations and see what happened. Such an approach sounded like a recipe for disaster to me. My suggestion that we slow down and try counseling or some other arrangement first was met with extreme emotion and resistance from her. I felt like I had no other choice than to comply. I felt like we were in a minefield and doomed no matter what we did. I reluctantly agreed to sign divorce papers and she had them notarized and sent to my base. What else could I do? I felt resisting her would be the final act of invalidation and she would leave me forever. As crazy as it felt I believed going along with her desire to end our marriage was the only hope I had to ever be her husband again. I knew I wanted her back. Under the conditions, I felt agreeing to whatever she asked was my only hope of preserving our relationship.
The emotional fallout from this inexplicable situation took a deep toll on me. I began having panic attacks. I’d never felt so close to a nervous breakdown. I can’t count how many total strangers saw me crying around the base. For her part I know she was just as distraught. Though I know she still loved me she was petrified to go back to what she had felt in our marriage.
One day in January 2006 while desperately searching the web I came across Harley’s website. As I started reading about LoveBusters and withdrawal and emotional affairs, the reality of our situation hit me like a ton of bricks. All at once I saw our entire situation and how it could be fixed. My attitude about our conflict changed radically. I realized how the combination of my wife’s overactive giver and my occasional angry outbursts over my unmet needs created a slow growing cancer in our marriage. As to my lovebusting, I never imagined our negative interactions to be anything out of the ordinary. I thought our arguments were just the way married people resolve conflicts. But for her they were toxic. Now I saw my behavior for what it was – a dysfunctional and stupid attempt to get what I wanted/needed in my marriage. Not only did it not work, it created fear, resentment and emotional detachment in my wife. Those were the last things I ever wanted her to feel.
Once my attitude towards our conflict changed, once I saw and appreciated my contributions to our breakdown, my wife could feel the difference. She could tell I was finally ‘getting’ it – though she didn’t even know herself what ‘it’ was. She too began reading Harley’s site and contributing to the forums a bit. Once we understood what was happening to our marriage and why and how to fix it, things turned around very quickly. I listed quite easily my LoveBusters and committed to do my best to completely avoid them. I kept track on a daily basis. We went through Harley’s Radical Honesty worksheet which was a great relief for my wife. She had never felt she could be herself. After that our RH session she felt that I finally knew and understood her and loved her all the same. The level of intimacy between us reached a level we’d probably never known before.
I came home the end of January and we began the difficult job of putting our new understanding and behaviors to the test. With only a few set backs, we have been slowly increasing our expertise in meeting each others’ needs and avoiding behaviors that deplete our love banks. At this point, about a year later we are still fine tuning. The big things were relatively easy to fix. But it is surprising how stubborn some long standing habits can be. In some ways we’ve had to learn completely new ways of talking about and resolving our conflicts. She tells me I’m a better husband and father than ever and hopefully I have eliminated my lovebusters. She also has changed in amazing and surprising ways with very little direction from me. She understand and loves me in ways that I never imagined she would do. I’m so grateful for this site. I don’t know what would have happened to our family if we hadn’t found it. I wish we could have understood these things sooner and avoided all the crud we went through.
Last edited by BWS71; 01/31/08 08:53 PM.