No! We can’t afford it. We can’t manage that. I can’t take time off work. These are the most common responses that my husband gives when I suggest a new activity, event or life change. He has high anxiety and OCD coupled with mild depression, and he can be very difficult to live with. But I stay because I love him, and I just want him to be happy. Sometimes, however, that means that I am not happy, and this is a challenge I am still trying to overcome. I need to be happy; our children need to be happy, and our family deserves to be happy. We have suffered a lot of trauma during recent years, and we need to reconnect, move on, and make a good life for our girls to grow up in.
Holidays are a huge issue. He doesn’t respond well to change, and he usually tells me we can’t afford a holiday. He has a good job with a good wage, and our debts are manageable. I know that we can afford it if we plan properly. But he cannot see beyond that, so he makes me feel like I am inferior, and that I am stupid for even suggesting such a preposterous idea as a family holiday. Indeed, our recent family holidays only came about because his parents (more specifically his mum) arranged them for us. I do not have control over the family finances. Part of his mental illness means that he needs to budget very tightly, and he thinks that I am not good with money. I used to believe that, but now I realize the truth. I also accept that I must make allowances for his behavior, as hard as that can be when I have no attempts at compromise coming from him.
A recent challenge is persuading him to start a program of home improvements. We moved house last year and our first job was a complete rewire and brand-new central heating system. The house was in chaos to begin with and we couldn’t unpack properly. It was hard. After that, I decided to wait awhile before I planned to decorate or do anything else. Now I have arranged for us to have a new log-burning stove installed in the living room fireplace. For the past year we have had a hole in the wall, with a mirror propped against it because it “freaked our girls out.” I tried speaking to my husband about whether to have a fire or not, whether to simply have the space cleared out and boarded up, whether to have a gas fire, or whether to have the stove. Eventually I just went ahead and did it, because he would not engage in conversation. It is a lonely journey.
I have learned over the years that a person suffering severe anxiety will be evasive. You might ask them to meet up for a drink and they will suddenly go quiet. It doesn’t mean they aren’t interested. It means that their demons are telling them that they can’t do it. I cannot fully comprehend what goes on in the mind of a mentally ill person, but I have some idea based on what my husband has told me in fleeting moments of connection. His first reaction is always to say no because he can shut down that line of conversation and continue with his routine, where he knows what to do and he is safe. For him that routine is work. He works away from home a lot at the moment, and I rarely speak to him on the phone. It’s not because he doesn’t care. It is because he buries himself in work so that he can avoid dealing with all the other challenges of life. And I am expected to run the family, run the household, pander to his needs, and get on with my life. Yes, it is very frustrating when your spouse says no all the time. And I am still trying to figure it all out.
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