(Acappella here - announcing up front here in case I am timed out or in case you don't read this whole thing and see my name there a million miles down at the end of this emabarrassing long post.
I so relate to what I feel in your writing…your earnest caring about the man you are living with. And knowing you cannot stay. In addition, you have children looking to you for protection and care...you have a lot of responsibility and you clearly express care and strength in handling that.
In addition to being sure to employ kind tenderness and understanding to yourself and to your children I believe empathy can be used to help leave your husband and avoid guilt. It isn't your job to care for others etc. etc. I've heard it many times and it is true. AND caring for others is a truth too as Jaded pointed out...you have a heart so expect to hurt, it is the price we humans pay; A part of life not a way of life - your leaving indicates that you clearly have some true understanding of that.
Caring for yourself is your and your children's number one priority of course. I get that you get that. Congradulations on the apartment and the job.
(You asked in a prior post how I was going with my job hunt. I am making very slow progress but I'll save that for another post. Thought I had answered your Sponsor post but I looked back and saw I didn't. Woops. )
Have you considered writing him a letter rather than telling him? It may be best for both of you. He can have time to adjust and react. (include rubber knives to throw?
Ok, not funny.) You will be clear about what you said, compassion and all. You will have time to consider what you want to say and reconsider etc. Afterwards, you could still then meet in a public place WITH people you know. Like Rojo suggested a couple perhaps? He of course could be jealous of anyone. Do you know under what conditions he feels safest? With whom and/or where besides with you? He is the expert on what works for him or doesn't and if he isn't gong to get real with himself then you are operating on very limited information about what helps for him anyway. For example he said he'd go to therapy to MAKE you happy. He doesn't sound clear on what HE needs for support for himself...requiring
your happiness doesn't count.
I am spending a lot of time here defending empathy so perhaps I digress and yet I couldn't bring myself to delete it all.
This post is crazy long. Thank goodness for scroll bars! If you are in a hurry there are six clearly numbered points further along in this post.
You have made some solid steps towards leaving, ones I haven’t made yet. As a means of leaving obviously then my strategy hasn’t been fully been tested yet in my own case even. However, while I believe in some other cases where I was treated worse and had more to give up physically by leaving (a lot more money, a home in the forest, a garden etc.) - anger helped me go. Because this relationship is the deepest ever for me I am begining to see that it will therefore require empathy for me to leave it. Empathy ironically has helped me really feel the difference between them and me -their pain is theirs and mine is mine. Without empathy I can focus too much on wanting him which is not the same as loving him as an individual. Parents can relate to the letting go for the sake of love. Understanding his pain helps me get past my focus on my love for him in a love = staying with sorta way.
I’ll get specific in a minute but first there is something I have to get off of my chest….
Rationally, I know I shouldn't.
Rationally? Frankly, I feel there is little in life that is rationally pure or purely rational. If you try to hold yourself to some standard of rationality then my guess is you’ll be pulled from the heart of the matter, which is what drives us humans. What I am about to rant on for a paragraph about may seem obvious and yet I so often read and hear and have caught in myself a tendency to believe that reason is stronger, the mind more powerful than the heart etc., and that we should look to intellect and reason for sanity that I feel compelled to say the following…(I deleted a paragraph here that I offered as proof that feelings rule reason even among geniuses. Clearly not a first hand account
Suffice it to say I believe Einstein and others use their minds in service of their hearts. Sometimes to their own dismay too.) Do you ever feel empathy is weakness or gets a bad rap? I am begining to realize perhaps you are reading this and going "Duh! Of course empathy is a source strength." Ok, perhaps I am too sensitive to the rambo macho attitudes in the world. Do you ever feel empathy is too often associated, by reputation rather than reality, with weakness?
I read on either this or another board I posted on a statement from a woman about herself, the self she used to be when she was in an unhealthy relationship….something like she was
all empathy and no power
. She may not have meant that it is an either or option though I read it that way.
For a very long time I have either hidden or resented my ability to empathize as I felt it was what made me a sucker…an doormat etc. etc. I have edited out much of my response here as it was even longer than this as I tried to articulate this succinctly ...I'll just say I believe now that in fact empathy is extraordinarily powerful. I believe that empathy can be something I/we get strength from, including the strength to leave.
In terms of empathy as being a means of finding the power, the strength, and the heart to leave this is what I am discovering about my relationship with my husband. Six reasons my leaving might be darned good for him too:
1. Inherent in trying to be intimate with someone who puts up a mask is a message that although I’d like more I will, I am settling for the mask and in so doing I am likely reinforcing the message he got as a child – the image will do. That is not an invitation for his real self to show up.
2. He will inevitably fail (be at best indifferent and at worst cruel) more often than not until he feels his own spectrum of feelings more and meanwhile I will inevitably express my pain. In this way he is intimately punished. That it is not my intent he feels punished doesn't matter other than what it says about me. The result is, regardless of intent, he is in a state of frequent failure. He does care. I believe your husband does too. It may be what they do with their feelings and not a lack of them (as with sociopaths I understand) that is the problem. The more they care the more they hide.
3. A little pressure is good and too much is paralizing. At work or in more emotionally distant situations he is freer to come and go as he pleases. While working on his issues pacing himself is important. Living apart and going to therapy seems to me a more likely condition under which he can (not saying will) learn to be who he is…have space and manage it vs. getting it through falseness and anger.
4. I am setting him up for failure. My husband doesn’t openly say he’ll do anything
but he does throw an emotional bone or two my way after a big fight. Ok, he can be down right kind even. When I take it, accept his offerings at this point it is more a symptom of my desperation than love for him. I don’t like admitting that to myself yet it is true. How can he not sense that at some level? Anyway, I know I need more from a partner than he gives. He knows I know.
5. If it aint broke don’t fix it…we are all motivated by pain in many ways and staying gives him an artificial barrier from his fear of loosing his image support. By staying, I am facilitating a useless pain and helping to defer a pain that has a lesson in it. Al recommended an NPR program in which a therapist states that people with strong N characteristics have to loose a lot before really desiring to change. If you are interested and can't find the link email me and I'll find it.
6. They were punished for being real as children..it was seen as mutinous by their parents and likewise they see our realness as a disloyalty to family. I believe my husband does anyway. Real pain = threat of abandonment. If you feel this is true with your husband..then offering (perhaps at a safer phone distance) an invitation to get to know who he is when he is real and in touch and as he is learning is the greatest gift you could give him. Also, his ego maybe invested in his job and in providing. By working and having your own place you are in a sense letting him know he is more than a financial provider. Perhaps framing it in that light when communicating with him could help. So much depends on the particulars.
A longer version (eeegads! I know.
)of what I mean by understanding through empathy in my case…..
This is all about my husband and how Nism has roots and so I believe can be tended too and isn't about monsters and still caring can mean leaving or at least distancing.....
I am certain my husband’s parents would have preferred a real child rather than an image, the lie they required, if they had just known what they were missing. Instead they both demanded tacitly that he lie by not ever admitting to fear or sadness and by being a good student only and for them exclusively. (I am just realizing while writing this that he was their cute wooden puppet!) They didn’t’ t have the luxury of intimacy and dealing with real feelings. They grew up in a country infested with horrendous poverty with bombs dropping from the sky. No family has to go very far back to find similar roots of mandated insensitivity. For some it is closer and more obvious than others. They came to this country so everything should have been better then, right? Oh, except that the pain of what they had to cut themselves off from is still buried in the genes of their souls and in their behavior – and inherited in an unintended and mutated version by their children. And they picked up some interesting layers of insensitivity here too. So, my husband’s parents asked him to lie (actually to make omissions) to be perfect to justify all that they had to do to leave their country, their families and start fresh here. I believe a survivor’s guilt was layered onto my husband. “We were the chosen ones, the lucky, the guilty. We abandoned our home and family and people and we did so for you so you must be as perfect as possible or else our reasons for what we did will be found unworthy, our festering guilt justified." In the trial of their goodness he has been exhibit #1. Like Pandora’s box my husband learned no good would come from peeking beneath appearance in search of truths, instead only danger and pain. None of this was ever stated out right and in fact his father got furious when the children lied. I don’t even know if my husband would agree with this tracing of the crumbs through the forest of his childhood. It is my estimation from asking questions and listening closely to what very little is said and how it is said. I too have learned to keep my distance, not let on overtly or at least be very careful about revealing what I am curious about with him. If only his parents could have admitted that there is a truth in every lie then their son wouldn’t have had to have grown up with the message “you must lie to save your life, to save our lives and you must never get caught doing so.” Add on to that there was a sense that my husband was expected to be a poster child for “his people” yet he didn’t belong really to any one group. Who does? Once in this country his father also left his US family supposedly for financial reasons to go elsewhere to work. He visited yet the message was in his absence my husband was supposed to be the surrogate father. At 10 years old he buried himself in a closet and cried his heart out because he had fallen for a scam subscription sales offer thinking he would sell stuff and earn enough money for his father to come home again. He showed little emotion when he talked about that. He was laughing about how silly he was ...falling for a scam..and didn't even see the connection that he might have been so despirate because he missed his dad and fallen for the family story that dad was gone because of money. My husband teared up immediately and was stunned for a while after getting in touch with that. He was in therapy at the time. I wish he'd go back again. I had asked him to that time. I won't ask or insist again. I am glad I did the first two times though. Despite improvement, my husband is not often in touch with his feelings nor mine and yet he lies and hides because he so desperately wants to be connected
. He does both less than ever and yet until he can be more real, integrated, kind and consistent I am, by staying and accepting less from him, suggesting his duplicity is sufficient and being another prop in the theater of his false self.
No wonder he throws duplicity back in my face, projects it like superman unloading kryptonite. [/u]