I’ve come to realize that marriages are never what they seem from the outside. Husbands cover up for wives. Wives cover up for husbands. We cover up for ourselves and we make-believe that the marriages of others are the fairy tale marriages.
When my husband and I split up, friends said, “We had no idea anything was wrong. You just seemed like the perfect family.”
I can’t speak for him but I intentionally kept the cracks hidden from view.
My current guest, Suzy did the same. Here’s Suzy:
We couldn’t talk about the lack of physical or emotional intimacy. I also have a really screwed up background with my own family. My mom—she’s a narcissist and has been married five times. So, I had my own pile of poop going into it as well and so I think we both brought that to the table and then didn’t know what to do with it.
I wanted to have this great marriage and my mother has been married five times, so I thought, “I don’t want to be her.” I have such a strong revulsion to divorce and to being like her who just mowed through men. I thought, “I’m going to make this work.” So, I stuck it out.
Also, if you’re a really fundamentalist Christian, divorce is a sin. You can’t get divorced. So, I was screwed. To get divorced or get out of it, I had to leave my religion, basically. I wasn’t prepared to do that, because it’s super embarrassing and when I brought it up to people, I was like our sex life wasn’t great. They were like, “Oh, just be patient. Everything will be fine.”
What we did is we just started pretending. We just pretended to be this great wonderful, beautiful family and yet there was nothing. It was just really hollow.
I did that for a long time. At the same time I’m a make-up artist and I was helping people on T.V. be fake, basically. There was this whole pretend thing going on in my life that was pretty enormous, like this big Matzo ball.
We’d be around other marriages and they would talk about their marriage. You know how couples share and I would just act like everything was great and that we were really happy, we had a really good marriage and “He is really wonderful.” Then I would say all of the time, “He’s such a good husband. He does the dishes.”
He did nothing else besides the dishes. I just was full of shit, basically.
We’d get into bed at night and he would roll over and go to sleep. Nothing. Not even a kiss during the day. Yet, when we’d get around people I would hold his hand or he would hold mind. It was all a façade. I think it’s more just the language I used around it. “Everything’s great. He’s really wonderful. We’re super happy.” Plus when we were living overseas and we had all of our expenses paid and so everything he made was like free cash, and so we traveled all over the place and on the surface had an amazing lifestyle.
I’ve been to different countries in Asia like China and Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand. Just the whole gamut. I went to England and France with my best friend on a holiday. Who lives like that?
It was just this great lifestyle, so by exposing this I risked losing this really great lifestyle. I think that was a huge thing for him too. He had this really beautiful wife, these two beautiful kids. It all looked so good. The whole cover-up was so great for him as well.
The Divorce Coach Says
One of the techniques I share with clients who are trying to decide if they should end their marriage is to identify the topics they avoid talking about with their spouse and to start talking about them or rather just choose one and focus on that. In my case that would have been my spouse’s discomfort with me being the breadwinner. Suzy’s case would have been the lack of physical intimacy.
When you do start talking about it, do so from your perspective using “I” messages. I know that’s an elementary school anti-bullying tactic but it’s also very effective here because it’s about what you feel, which can’t be disputed and it’s also less threatening, less accusatory. So the start of the conversation might be, “When you don’t acknowledge the bonus I just earned, it makes me feel taken for granted.” Or, it might be, “When you don’t want to have sex with me, I feel unloved, unwanted.”
Seeing how your spouse reacts to that is very telling. If they’re open to a dialogue then there is the possibility of changing the status quo. If they’re not open to dialogue, then you have to decide if you can continue with the status quo.
What would be your hot topics?