“Isn’t it funny how they could be gone all these months and right away we fall back into a routine and it’s like they never left?”
This conversation is forever etched into my memory. It was two weeks after our husbands had returned from their final deployment and we had decided to get together for a dinner at my house. I hadn’t really seen any of the other wives from the team or even spoken to anyone since my husband’s return, other than a quick text here and there. I still remember this so clearly because it was THE moment. That moment when someone asks a simple question and you realize you are expected to answer accordingly but your gut knows doing so would be a complete lie. You all know what I mean a quick “Hi, how are you?” and you promptly respond “just fine, thanks” But you aren’t fine. Nothing is fine at all, in fact, it’s all the exact opposite of “Just fine”.
So, THE moment. I hesitated, wondering if I would nod and agree or would I dare to speak the truth I was feeling. I opened my mouth and told her no. This time we hadn't reconnected like we always did. This time, something was off. As soon as the words fell out of my mouth, I realized how worried I was about it. All of the usual feelings were there at his homecoming; happiness and joy, relief that he was back where he belonged and now we could go back to normal. My partner was back, my friend and my shoulder to lean on. He was finally home. I could have sex again! Our family unit was whole and everyone was healthy, what more could I ask for?
Yet, as the first few days went by, I felt like we were out of sync somehow. That now, in my kitchen, looking at my close friend who is overjoyed to have her husband back home, who is marveling at how smooth the transition went, all I can feel is worry and envy. I told myself that it might just take some time, that we had always been fine before and we would be again. Looking back, I always connect a sense of foreboding with this conversation. Every time I replayed it in my head there was a dark, shadowy feeling that not only was something not right, but it may never be right again.
It’s been just over two years since this conversation took place and only now are things starting to look like they just might be okay. If I had known what was waiting for me, that I was about to face the darkest year and a half of my entire 41 years of life, that I would do it mostly alone, I’m not sure what I would have done differently. Probably nothing. After all, this completely blindsided me. I never once considered that he would come home and things wouldn’t be just wonderful. Peachy keen. I had purposefully distanced myself from all the military functions and briefs. But I knew all the buzz words:
Return, Reunion, Family, Transition.
As his wife, I was supposed to keep stress at a minimum and carry the weight of the household and children so he could ease slowly back into daily life. I knew all that. None of that helped me prepare for what I was about to face.
From the time his feet hit US soil, we had only eight months until he separated from the Marine Corps. During that eight months, it felt like I was living in a modified version of the Twilight Zone. Our relationship wasn’t too bad, but it wasn’t great either. We never did find our rhythm and as the days and weeks passed we slipped into a different, new rhythm of us. I remember feeling like a different version of the man I loved was returned to me and I didn’t feel a connection to this new guy. He was odd. His taste in music was different, his attitude was different, he was abrupt with me and hardly ever looked at me when I was talking to him anymore.
“By the end of July I thought it was all me. Maybe I didn’t love him anymore”
We somehow limped our way through an entire summer living this way. Not really digging each other but not fighting about it at all. It felt like a whole lot of nothing, if you get what I mean. Affection was kept to a minimum, fun was nonexistent and he rarely paid attention to me anymore. I was always looking at the other couples, trying to read between the lines of their relationships to see if maybe there were cracks forming there, too. I came up empty, which in turn made me feel even more alone, and more unsure of what exactly the problem was with us. I mean, if you don’t know what’s wrong then how the hell do you ever hope to fix it? I asked him once, maybe twice during this long summer of doubt if everything was okay, with us. I would hold my breath waiting for his reply. Half hoping he felt it too and half hoping he didn’t. He assured me that everything was fine. By the end of July, I thought it was all me. Maybe I didn’t love him anymore, or maybe I was just bored. I knew that I easily disconnected from the people in my life. It takes little for me to pull away and distance myself but it’s so hard to welcome them back, so perhaps, this deployment had just been the straw that broke the camel’s back. I spent a little time in this mindset, feeling like I was a cold bitch and I had manufactured problems where there weren’t any in order to excuse myself from a relationship. Fortunately, this lasted only a few short weeks; unfortunately the weeks that follow would add up to a personal walk through hell that would last a year.
We thought getting out of the Marine Corps was going to be our new start. My husband loved being an operator, but various circumstances had soured his love of the job to the point where going to work each day filled him with dread. It was all he talked about. I knew how much it weighed on him and hoped that once he was finally free of it things might turn around for us. So, there we were, it was his last day. He’s going in to pick up his DD214 and I joke that it’s the first day of the rest of our lives. I tell him I will have champagne waiting when he gets home. Two hours later, he walks in the door and he’s not only quiet but definitely does not look overjoyed. The rest of the day was not what I expected. He seemed withdrawn and that champagne cork never got popped.
Within one week, he had withdrawn to the point that we weren’t even talking and finally I confronted him about it – harshly. After all, I had no way of knowing that he was a powder keg waiting for a reason to explode. All I knew was he was pushing me away at a time we should have been bonding together. The conversation we had took two hours and I sat on the floor of my bedroom in disbelief as he said things like he didn’t know if “this” is what he wanted anymore. “This” being me, our marriage, our family, our life. He went on to say he didn’t think he loved me any more and possibly hadn’t for five years. I was obviously shocked. He said he had been unhappy for a long time and didn’t feel a connection to me. He told me I was impossible to talk to and we had nothing in common. We didn’t enjoy the same things, we were different types of people moving in different directions. He felt like I would be happier if I moved back home where my family lives and meet some local guy there to build a life with. On top of all these bombshells, he was also saying he didn’t like all our stuff. He felt like were living in excess and the weight of our house and cars and things were dragging him down – he just wanted to leave it all and run away.
“He didn’t think we had a shot in hell of working it out”
It was brutal. We never really resolved anything and just sort of left it at that. All of it, hanging in the air and went to separate parts of the house to digest. I hoped it was just a severe case of jitters over not knowing where our future was headed and the uncertainty of it all. His words stung, though. It seemed to me like he was blaming me for everything. I felt like he had completely picked me apart personally and found me lacking. I couldn’t believe he felt weighed down by the things in our life, because he had chosen them. I had fought him every step of the way on the pool, the house, the things he wanted, but now doesn’t. So I found myself living in a beautiful house, that I dearly loved, and it felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me.
After our initial conversation, things continued to drastically go south. Instead of coming to his senses and apologizing for what he had said, he stuck to all of it and told me he didn’t think we had a shot in hell of working it out.
My brain just couldn’t, wouldn’t accept that. How in the hell had this happened so quickly? I mean one week earlier, everything was fine, or at least as fine as it had been since he came home from Afghanistan.
It was all so sudden and it gathered momentum at a speed I couldn’t digest.
He wanted to move out of our home, leaving me there with our children and he said he didn’t want to move forward with divorce or anything but that there was definitely no chance, in his mind, of it working out between us. I spent those first couple of weeks in shock and disbelief. I didn’t tell anyone other than my sister who was as surprised as I was. She felt like it was just jitters and he would calm down and we would laugh about it one day. But each day, I would tearfully email her the latest happenings and she was just as lost as I was, trying to make any sense of it.
No one around us seemed to be having any issues but I kept coming back to the thought that maybe, just maybe, something else was at play here. Could this be PTSD? Is this what it looked like? I very carefully broached the subject with him once, and he said he absolutely, definitely, without a doubt, did not have PTSD and this was all just stuff he’d been trying to hide hoping it would change but it wasn’t going away. He said he wanted to get away, out on his own, so he could feel happy again. Being with me was making him miserable.
We agreed that marriage counseling would be a good idea. I agreed because I was fighting for my marriage and he agreed because he wanted to be able to say he tried. For him, it was nothing more than a check in a box so he could walk away with a clear conscience. We had 3 sessions before I pulled the plug and said I wanted to talk exit strategy. At each session I listened to him talk about how I was loyal and a good person but he didn’t love me anymore and he felt terrible about it. Each time we left the counselors office, I felt like a beaten puppy. My self – esteem plummeted. I couldn’t understand how I had lived with a man who hadn’t loved me for the past 5 years and I had never known. I felt like an idiot. So at that last appointment, after he finished his round of all the things he should love about me but didn’t, the counselor looked at me and asked how did I feel about what he had just said. I told her I was ready to call it. I had taken enough, he had convinced me that everything he was saying was true and I just wanted it to stop. We spent the rest of the session planning how we would tell family and friends. Who would stay in the house and what we would say to the children. It just so happened that he had to go to Virginia immediately following this session so we walked out to the parking lot and got in separate cars and left. I went home. He went to Virginia.
Just like that, eleven years of marriage died.
Transition is a two part series by a MARSOC spouse. It’s the epitome of what Sof Wife Sof Life is wanting to do. Share stories and experiences, so the conversations can start. Some things we can be silent about. Some things we need to share, so we can grow, learn and not endure unnecessary hardships.The Raider Weekly RSS
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