Husband and I argued this morning (a good thing for two conflict avoiders) and he said two things that gave me surprising insight into his thinking.
He was finishing cooking breakfast and I was on my computer responding to some emails for work. He asked me to go upstairs and get Son out of bed for breakfast, which I said I'd do.
The inability to get off the computer when I say I will as a character flaw of mine. I didn't get off right away as I should have, and Husband called Son downstairs. I could tell by his abrupt actions, his stomping around, and his clipped speech that he was mad. But he wasn't saying anything about it. So when we were brushing our teeth I asked him if he was mad about me not doing what I said I would do.
"Yes!" he said. "Don't sabotage me just because you're mad about something! I have to get to work on time!"
I was taken aback by the accusation that I was deliberately trying to mak him late. Simply put, I'm more mature than that.
"If you're upset about something I wish you'd say something about it," I said.
"So do I," he said. "If you're mad about something I think you should talk about it, and you know what I'm talking about."
Now I was pissed!
"If you mean that I should be talking about my angry feelings about you lying to me about drinking, I already told you I don't feel like I can talk about that without professional help!"
(Son was there, brushing his teeth with us, hearing all of this. Which I think is starting to be ok. He's old enough to see that adults in relationships have problems, and that it doesn't always have to be perfect.)
Then Husband said something that really shocked me. "I just want you to know that that promise I made about not drinking wasn't to you."
Denial? Maybe so. Last straw? Definitely.
I yelled back, "I don't care who you made that promise to! You lied to ME! When I asked you if you'd been drinking, you looked into my eyes and said no. You lied to ME!"
Two points for me! That's what progress looks like! (Arguing with a super-smart addict is definitely a workout in mental gymnastics.)
Of course he called 20 minutes later to apologize for being mad (after he'd already apologized at home, and I'd told him he didn't have to apologize for having feelings.) I told him that I don't need him to apologize for his feelings, that he's just saying what he thinks I expect to hear (I don't think anyone can be authentically sorry for having feelings. It's like being sorry for having skin.) and it just leads to resentment. I said that if he wants to apologize, he can apologize for accusing me of sabotaging him, and for trying to justify lying to me by saying that the promise he'd made hadn't been made to me. (I think I get two more points here, don't I?!) We went back and forth, and I let out a lot of my anger and held my ground. He did the things addicts do: apologies, feeling shame, saying he'd do anything to make it right, etc.
While I appreciate his desire to be contrite, and believe that he believes he's sorry, I don't value those words. Only his actions can guide me now. And that will take time. We'd built up a few years of fragile trust which he mangled with his lying about drinking 4 months ago. And, silly me, I felt we were recovering strongly from that. Now I don't know how long it will take before it feels right to trust him again. Too long to make it worth trying? I just don't know.
After all this, I still don't think it's totally hopeless. (Denial? Maybe so.) But it's going to require super-human effort on Husband's part for years to come and frankly I have my doubts. The Narcissist is strong in him, and he's terrified. I could see it in his eyes when we were arguing. Totally fight or flight. And for that, I have compassion. I really wish I could heal him. But I know I can't. He needs a power bonus to his Fortitude.
As an aside, I started listening to some Al-Anon podcasts, and I'm wondering if Husbands issues are also related to Adult Child of Alcoholics issues. He's used the phrase "walking on eggshells" many times to talk about how he felt with his mom, and feels with me. His mom is extremely mercurial, which must have been terrifying as a child. So I'll bet his anon issues are as strong as mine. In fact, the way he gives me so much power, I'm sure of it. I mentioned to him yesterday about the eggshells comments on the podcasts, and that ACA might be something he should check out. We'll see. That ball is now in his court.
In the meantime, I need to find an Al-Anon meeting for myself. I can tell from these podcasts that I have a lot of work I can do. And I need to get better at doing what I say I will do. Cleaning up my side of the street, as the wisdom goes.
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