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Keeping a Marriage Together

My husband and I have been together since I was 19 years old. We have been married for 24 years. Until last year it looked good from the outside, we didn’t often fight, no one was cheating, and we slept in the same bed. We spent all our time alone together in our house. How then did we end up separated for 4 months in 2018?

There are three sides to story they say.

Over the years my husband grew more and more angry. Most of my days were spent trying not to make him mad. This was a fool hardy task as it seemed he was always mad. Lightbulb burnt out, rant and rave. Child spilled a glass of juice, mad. Someone got sick, mad. It was his default emotion and it was holding all of us hostage. In July 2018 he made a comment to our son that both shocked and devastated me. It had gone too far and needed to stop. I insisted he move out and get help.

Our wedding June 10, 1995

It would be easy for me to say it was all him. To point the finger, show him the door and refuse to even look at my part in all of it. But there are layers to our relationship, and it was important to examine those layers to better understand what was going on. Living with a child with complex needs took its toll on us. In no way am I blaming my son. My son wasn’t the challenge for the most part – trying to work and understand the system to get his needs met were what took up most of my time and energy. Truly it was soul sucking work. By the time our son had been properly diagnosed and treated I had shut down. I didn’t know that I had but I rarely saw friends, I didn’t have hobbies – I didn’t even go to the dentist and doctor. Periods of depression and attempts to harm myself were followed by hospitalizations three times in five years. My husband held down the fort during those times and I wouldn’t be here without him. For my husband, the time of searching out answers for our son was complicated and confusing. He didn’t have the background that I did in child development, so he often deferred to me. As well I just rushed in and took it all on – like the martyr I can sometimes be. I didn’t leave any room for him.

Our son also had attachment issues and desperately wanted my undivided attention and rebuked his father repeatedly. My husband became angry in response and this grew over time. Things between us were strained. I was desperate to carve out time for myself as I was deeply immersed in my son’s struggles. My husband was trying to figure out where he fit in.

When I asked him to leave my husband could have wallowed and become even more angry. Instead he treated it as the wake-up call that it was. He went into counselling, read a dozen books and went to anger management classes. We started to go on dates, and he made efforts to reach out to me in silly but meaningful ways. Having lived with a father who never seemed to be happy has certainly influenced our sons. The guilt I felt for allowing it to go one for so long was immense. But as the saying goes “When you know better, you do better”. As soon as my eyes were opened to the tyranny in our household, I put an end to it. I hadn’t known if that was the end of my marriage, I only knew I couldn’t live with the anger any longer. The truth is – I was in an emotionally unhealthy marriage. But there is also more to that truth than it just being my husband’s responsibility. Once he took action to make changes it allowed me to look at what I could be doing differently as well. This wasn’t about assigning blame, it was about taking action. My husband has changed his ways (he hasn’t yelled or said anything demeaning in over a year and a half) and we are both working on being better partners to each other.

Tina Szymczak
Tina Szymczak
Tina Szymczak is a 40-something mom and wife with two spirited boys. She has worked in early intervention and as an advocate resource for families with a loved one with a disability. Now she also writes a blog about raising children with complex needs, trying not to lose your sense of self as you parent, and her struggles with mental health.

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