Treading gently with STBXH's feelings...? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 05-13-2010, 01:12 PM - Thread Starter
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I feel like the most horrible person. In a effort to be honest and forthcoming, I told H last night (again) that I did not have the energy (emotionally, physically, mentally) to work on our marriage anymore. (We've been separated for 6 weeks, but he constantly asks me to "try" one more time, and I've truly been trying to convince myself that it is the best thing to do.)

I told him I wanted to either move forward with a divorce, or to put everything on hold for 4-6 months...we wouldn't divorce, but we wouldn't actively work on our relationship either. Basically, it would give me some much-needed space, even though I feel like it would be prolonging the inevitable.

Anyway, for some reason, it really seemed to sink in this time that I was serious, and he broke down in tears, and it just ripped my heart out to see him that way. He said he just can't believe that I don't think our marriage, that he, and our family, isn't worth saving. Logically, I know that statement is false because I know very well the effort I've put into our relationship. You would have had to actively strap on blinders and stick your fingers in your ears (and I think he did) to NOT notice the months I spent in counseling, the many times I tried to talk to him about various issues, and the fact that I left for a week last fall over the very same issues should have been a huge wake-up call.

Still, though...this is the man I married, had a child with, and have a lot of love (maybe tenderness or affection would be better terms?) left for. I would do anything to not hurt him, but in this situation, how do you avoid it? Someone's going to get hurt. It was so hard to stop myself from hugging him and telling him it's going to be okay, that he will get through this, and then give him a detailed list with suggestions on how to accomplish that. I feel like a cold-hearted b*tch, and am so, so guilt-ridden, but the best way I've found so far to protect myself is to 1) be very honest with H about my feelings (which I admit should have happened more often in our marriage) and 2) distance myself, emotionally, as best as I can.

Do you think there is there anything specific I can do to make things easier for him? I don't want to be a doormat, of course, but ideally, we could remain friendly (yeah, I know that could take awhile). How do you stand firm on the things you need, and yet remain considerate of what your spouse/former spouse is going through? I know I'm light years ahead of him in this process.

Bleh...I'm not sure what I'm looking for here...hugs, or BTDT stories, or what. All the lingering doubts are creeping back in, and I'm just lonely and scared and very sad. TIA if you've read all of this.

Mama to DS (7)
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#2 of 9 Old 05-13-2010, 01:28 PM
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You sound like me! Although STBX played a major role in the downfall of our marriage, at the end of the day it was me who left. And I left for another man, at that. Sigh. I feel major guilt and over the past 9 months our relationship has evolved, and still is evolving. I think the hardest part of separating from a marriage, especially one where you have been the caregiver, is learning to let the other person have responsibility for themselves and their reaction to the situation.

At first, I totally held STBX's hand, and he let me. I helped him look for apartments, I bought all kinds of things to help him set up his new place, I found a therapist for him, etc etc. I still do some things like that (e.g. finding extra toys for his house since he was worried DD had more toys at my house than his house). He has since learned to have better boundaries, not sure where he learned it, but I still feel myself wanting to protect him/ take care of him and I worry constantly about how he is going to react to x, y, z.

It's hard, and I'm still learning. I hope other mamas have advice about how to separate yourself from the emotional role of supporting/helping/enabling STBX. Definitely lessons I need to learn too, but wanted to let you know you're not alone!
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#3 of 9 Old 05-13-2010, 01:56 PM
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I know the feeling to want to comfort or "help". Even after all the hell my STBX has put me through, part of me still wanted to comfort him last night and offer to help him look for rooms to rent, etc.

But that isn't doing either of us any favors, so I swept the emotion under the rug and bit my tongue. He is an adult, and he needs to manage and figure out his own way, just like I had to.

It is hard, but if you honestly feel it is for the best to set your boundaries and that you need space, then stick to it.

I know for me, I have a tendancy to be co-dependent so reading Co-Dependant No More really helped me and I've learned to let go of a lot more things, instead of trying to "parent" STBX.

It has been really freeing actually. But I still stuggle a lot with putting my own emotions and well being first.

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#4 of 9 Old 05-13-2010, 04:59 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you both!

It is going to be really hard to let go of the caretaker role. I know he's an adult, and hopefully...for his own sake, and especially for DS...will be able to move upward and onward.

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#5 of 9 Old 05-14-2010, 07:46 AM
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You can't make it better for him. And prolonging the inevitable will only drag it out more. And make it worse for him by giving him false hope. Until he accepts that it's over, he's not going to move on in the grieving process.

Seriously, no contact really is a good rule. Obviously, there is going to have to be some contact as there is a child involved. But limit the contact to just about the child.
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#6 of 9 Old 05-14-2010, 10:38 AM
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Someone in Al-Anon said this to me, and it made a lot of sense. It has to do with addiction, but I think it applies to the "caretaking instinct" in general. By trying to manage your STBX's feelings, you're robbing him of the opportunity to discover how to deal with his problems and emotions himself. He's an adult and is perfectly capable of doing this, but he's probably relied on you to cushion him for years simply because you've always stepped up and done it. Out of respect for him, step back and give him the dignity of finding his own way through this, whatever that is.

Regarding the guilt...I suffered from it a lot when I left my STBX. I felt horrid for being "cruel" and supposedly self-centered, but again, it took someone else's point of view to give me some perspective. Yes you'll undoubtedly feel bad for your ex partner, but if you are unhappy in the relationship then you owe it to him to give him the opportunity to find love somewhere else.
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#7 of 9 Old 05-16-2010, 12:54 AM
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#8 of 9 Old 05-16-2010, 09:58 AM
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Just going to echo these wise PPs with some of my own experience. When I realized that I wanted to separate/divorce my ex, I had this idea that there was some magic way where I could make him understand and agree that it was for the best and we'd share some tears but then move on and both be happier and then be great friends!


The thing is, like all these PPs have said, the thing about divorcing is that you are no longer his rock, his emotional support. In fact, like Halfasianmama said, you TRYING to be that emotional support for him actually, in the end, makes it harder to heal from this.

I think this reaction is so normal because of course you love him and don't want to see him in pain. But I think you have to start to accept, dear simplemama32, that he is GOING to hurt and it is GOING to be hard--for both of you.

My ex also begged me, BEGGED me not to leave and I seriously thought some moments that I wouldn't have the strength to look him in the face and say, Sorry, I'm leaving.

But I did. It was THE HARDEST THING I'VE EVER HAD TO DO IN MY LIFE. No doubt about it. I still ache a little when I think of those early days of pain for him. And I'm still challenged (although much less these days) not to try to be there for him. He recently completed his Masters degree; it was a day we had looked forward to as a family and it hurt not to be there, and he was feeling incredibly angry and depressed that day. I wanted to do something to make him feel better, to make him feel supported and loved. But that's just not my job anymore, I can't do it. I have really had to let go of that instinct--not because I'm a cold-hearted b**** (which is how it feels to you, I know), but because it is really unhealthy for both of us, ultimately.

The other thing I remind myself of throughout this process, and that my loved ones remind me of when I start forgetting!, is that one of the reasons that I divorced him was that I was tired of always being his motivator, his emotional backbone, his mother. Why would I continue in that role after divorcing him?!

PS-PLease also realize that your dh/STBX is going to be okay. My therapist told me that when I was struggling most with his desperation. Right now he's freaking out, no doubt, but HE WILL GET THROUGH THIS. Don't think the way he's feeling right now is the way he's always going to feel. But even if he didn't EVER get through this, IT CAN'T BE YOUR PROBLEM. Detach detach detach--for both of your sakes.

Mama to a beautiful girl since May 2007 and a beautiful boy since August 2010! :
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#9 of 9 Old 05-16-2010, 07:13 PM
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my preschoolers like to ignore me when i try to tell them something, sometimes. i'll give them a warning, tell them what the consequences are if they keep doing what they're doing (or not doing) and then count to three, with some stops along the way. but when i finally get to three, i'm done. they get the consequences i warned them about. and htey can't believe that i'd be so unfair to take away the toy/ treat/ whatever. and if i give it back they'll be good, they promise.
it's not that i didn't give them plenty of warning and a clear idea of what could happen if they kept on the path they were on. it's that they buried their heads in the sand and ignored my warnings. so it is, actually fair, in spite of their feelings.

i think your ex might be acting like my kids. but when adults do this the stakes are much higher.
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