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Doc@DrIrene.com

Look Up Narcissus

My Story: Look Up From the Pond, Narcissus


“Optimism is the foundation of courage.” - Nicholas Murray Butler

June 3, 2003

Dear Dr. Irene,

I have been visiting your board for a few years.  Kept coming and going and finally this past year I became ready to leave my own marriage of verbal hell.  Last year I saw a post I had made  while I was pregnant with my son six years ago.  I felt so much compassion for that person.  I didn't realize it was me until I had read the entire thing once and began to reread it!  Then I knew I had to do something.  

I became involved with my soon-to-be-ex in 1984.  From the beginning it was angst-filled, though exciting and (seemingly) intellectually stimulating.  We were both working on Master's degrees.  After a year of torture in a horrible triangle situation with his first girlfriend, who he didn't tell me about until after we had been seriously dating (red flag number one, where was I looking? I know, I wasn't!), him and myself, she finally got smart and got out.  He proposed a lifestyle that he said he needed with me in order for things to work.  This basically involved me simply being there to serve his needs so that he could get ahead in his career while I (his words) "put my life on hold."  (another red flag...)

We ended up moving to another city where we both began work on our doctorates.  This was a point of contention with him because he saw the fact that I was pursuing another degree and not doing things "according to our plan" (our?) as willful refusal (yes) and a character flaw (no) on my part.  Even with all this, and so many fights where I'd dissolve into tears while he ranted at me with his "logic" as to why things needed to change and "when was I going to start acting right"  lectures, I told him either we needed to get married or the relationship was over.  I must have thought the marriage would fix things.  I saw my "misbehavior" as due to the fact that we weren't married and therefore I had trouble fully committing to our relationship.  I guess I thought the marriage would prove his love to me.  

He did agree to marry me.  I cried and cried the night before and nearly backed out.  He convinced me to marry him.  Ignored my gut.  We actually had a nice time on our honeymoon since his father had given us money and that wasn't an issue.  During the entire relationship I think he basically saw me as something to benefit him and to use to fulfill his needs, and to him this meant using me to make money.

Twice during our marriage I got pregnant.  Yes, I used birth control.  One time I had misplaced a cervical cap inside the vagina (I have a short cervix and probably shouldn't have been using that method) and honestly I don't remember what happened the second time.  I had a lot of problems with bladder infections (I am small and he was rough with me which didn't help) and sometimes would use only foam when I felt it was safe to do so. Not smart, I know.  Both times he wanted me to abort the pregnancies.  I felt angry and sad, but I detached and rationalized it, thinking we needed to finish degrees and get our careers underway.  After the second I vowed if I ever got pregnant again I would not abort.  And I did get pregnant a third time, while using foam.  I was terrified to tell him.  When I did he asked, "What are we going to do about it?"  I had told him previously that I would not abort again and had suggested he get a vasectomy if we weren't going to have children.  I told him I was having the baby.  He tried to act happy about it.

He had finished his degree and had a job with a non-profit he had created.  I was proud of his accomplishment, but he earned a very small income.  I had not finished my degree.  I spent a lot of time typing papers for him and doing other projects for him.  Kept putting my needs "on hold."  He had applied for many college positions and had been one of the final candidates a number of times.  However he always managed to turn off the committee in the end.  I would always hear of the "asshole" on the committee he knew that didn't like him, or the people were all racists (he's Jewish) or they just didn't have a good enough program for the likes of him.  I free-lanced and made a small income myself, still half-heartedly trying to get that doctorate done before the 10 year limit expired (It did.  I didn't.)  I was pleased that during the pregnancy there were only one or two fights.  However, he wouldn't work and I took a horrible job at a call center.  While there I developed gestational diabetes and had to quit the job.  The rest of the pregnancy was difficult.  I ended up being induced and then having a c-section for my 8lb 10oz boy.  Whew.  Remember, I am a petite woman!  I was in the hospital for three days, very weak, very traumatized but ecstatic with my new son.  My husband stayed the first night but left because he felt he had to get back to his work.  I had a very bad night the second night due to pain and post-partum stuff.  I had to be sedated.  Early the next morning I tried and tried to call my husband.  He had disconnected the phone.  He finally answered and I tearfully asked what was going on.  He told me he had disconnected the phone because he needed to rest.  I told him I really needed him, I was having a bad time and I needed him.  He said, "You have nurses there to take care of you, don't you?  You'll be okay.  I need to rest."  I begged him to come.  He finally agreed to come -- after he had gotten some rest.  Either that day or the next he was in the room with me and I was crying.  He began telling me how I needed to get a full-time job the minute I was out of the hospital to support the baby.  I told him I couldn't do that!  I had said before that I wanted to be with the baby as much as possible.  I was crying and he wouldn't stop haranguing me.  I told him to stop or I would call a nurse and have him thrown out then he threatened to divorce me if I did that.  Wish I'd done it now.  It would have saved me some grief.  

I did not get a full-time job.  I taught students out of the house and continued free-lancing.  We got by.  It took me a full month to come close to being recovered.  I had had a very hard time in more ways than one.  Luckily my son was healthy and beautiful and I was awed by that sense of humor these little ones seem to possess.  It was a beautiful time for me.  It transcended the bad stuff.

When the baby was three months old, my father-in-law came for a visit.  My husband has a very difficult relationship with his father.  They are from a Latin American country and there is definitely a strong machismo and authoritarian stance involved here.  At one point during the visit we were out.  I had been riding in the back seat with my baby.  The stroller was in the trunk.  The men went to get the stroller.  They couldn't figure it out.  I laughingly got out of the car and said, "Here let me do that, you go get the baby."  My husband kind of looked annoyed.  He reached in to get the baby.  I had unbuckled his safety belt so that I could take him out of the car seat to put him in the stroller.  My husband, who hadn't read one child care book or safety booklet on the baby equipment, removed the entire car seat, neglected to snap the handle into the proper position, so that when he picked it up by the handle the baby was tipped right out onto the concrete!  He didn't even see what he was doing.  He was gazing off in the distance.  That had to have been one of the worst moments of my life.  We took the baby to the emergency room and he was okay.  I began to get angry and asked my husband, who was terrified, how could he have done such a thing?  How could he have not been aware of the child?  He got angry at me and blamed me for it, because I had unfastened the safety belt.  

Gee, now I see why some of these posts can get so long.  Suffice it to say that it has been difficult, but things did change and start to get more stable financially.  We moved to another state for a couple of years, making career changes that stabilized our lives in that way.  I hated this place though and longed to return to our former home.  I know now it was because I needed my support network of friends so that I could finally leave this marriage once and for all.  

We moved back two years ago.  We have been to counseling.  Years ago he was asked by a counselor to stop telling me what I think and feel, but to ask and listen instead.  He was never able to do this.  I asked and asked and asked him to stop and to listen.  My concerns with my child were belittled and there was a constant battle.  He wanted him in daycare and me working.  I wanted time with him.  It was a battle, but I managed to be with my son most of his first three years.  

Last summer I began taking classes for a certification in another field.  I met a man I liked a lot.  He became friends and study partners.  He confided in me that his wife of four years had gotten pregnant with another man's child.  I started telling him about my unhappy marriage.  We offered each other support and sympathy and as these things go, one thing led to another and we got involved in an affair.  

I had told my husband I was getting close with someone else.  I tried to be open and honest with him.  Before I had even made love to the other man, I told my husband I was having serious problems with our marriage.  He fluctuated between seeming relieved and understanding and being angry and hurt.  We seemed to come to an agreement that our marriage wasn't working.

The he got in to my email and read one to my friend which was simply asking when he wanted to get together to study.  I saw my friends email address on my husbands notepad while looking for something else, and he had cut and pasted that email on to there.  My husband also read some email to a girlfriend of mine.  I had told her how exasperated I was with the situation in my marriage and had said that I "sometimes wished he would just drop dead."  More than the affair, this seems to be the thing that clinched it for him.  Gave him the excuse to go, be the victim, not own his responsibility.   Two weeks before our son was to start kindergarten, he moved out.  I had asked him not to, asked him to wait for that very reason.  He said I should have thought of that before I had the affair.
He said I caused it and forced him to leave.  His sister came and helped him move out.

He has found a new girlfriend who happens to be in the counseling field.  I can't help but wonder when his facade will crack.  yes, I can help but wonder.  I have better things to do.  I have remained friends with the man I got involved with.  It has been very difficult.  He is conflicted about his marriage, though I can't see why he is still there at all except for the fact that he feels he needs to be a father and he is getting older and has no other children.  Though this one isn't his either.  Go figure.  In a few days they will either attend court and finalize their divorce or they will remain married.  Of course this is a huge mess with the biological father, me, in-laws, what have you.  I am pretty much tired of all the drama and haven't seen my friend in weeks, though we communicate fairly regularly.

My divorce has not been filed.  I have been trying to work it out as amicably as possible with my husband, which has probably just been a continuation of old patterns and my denial to completely face what has happened here.  Last night I received a shock that has gotten me moving.  My son's gerbils had gotten out of their cage and I found one of them.  I called over to his dad's house where he was staying because I wanted to tell him the good news.  His father answered the phone and I asked to speak with my son so that I could tell him.  I was told he couldn't come to the phone right then.  I asked why and he said it was because he was out in the pool.  My first thought was that his girlfriend must be with him, then I asked, "Who is with our son?"  He said no one, but that he was watching him.  From a second floor apartment!  The pool is locked and gated, eight feet deep and my child is six and doesn't know how to swim!  Regardless, I don't think a child should ever be in a pool unsupervised.  In fact it probably isn't a good idea for anyone to swim alone.  I told my husband he needed to get down there and watch him.  He said he was watching him, he was fine.  I told him he needed to get down there.  He told me I was over-reacting, that I am smothering, that I cause my son's problems with my behavior, etc.  I told him I was coming over.  Luckily I stayed calm when I got there and it wasn't a scene.  The child asked to come home with me, which I knew upset his father.  I said, "Oh, I'll bet he wants to see his gerbil."  The child acted like that was it, though I am not sure.  His dad agreed and I brought him home.

I am hiring an attorney and seriously considering filing for sole custody.  I have wanted to avoid a fight, but now I see it may be necessary to roll up my sleeves and get in there.  I am terrified for my son's safety giving the history with his father.  What terrified me is that I cannot talk to his father about these things.  As long as he won't or can't see me and I struggle to be seen, no one is watching out for the child....

Look up from the pond, Narcissus.  Find your own voice, Echo.  Life is not a frozen moment.  It lives in the hope of a child.

Thank you for everything your site has done for me and will continue to do for me, I am sure.  Thank you for providing this means of catharsis.  I needed it tonight.  Thanks.  It is worth the all Trubble.  Well, worth it.

Wow! You've lived one powerful story, and certainly have found your courage. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your child. Life certainly is not a frozen moment...

Doc