My father died two months ago. He had very slow-progressing dementia for many years. For the last two years, he had been in a memory care facility. I had not seen him since he entered the facility. He contracted COVID-19 several months before passing away. He seemed to be doing well up until just a few weeks before his death. I don’t know if he was still COVID positive and died of this disease and its effects or if he died of something else. My mother acted like it was the dementia that killed him. I think she was just very relieved for the ordeal to be over. I haven’t asked her about the COVID-19, because truly, I’m afraid she would lie to me in service of her own political agenda. It’s a horrible feeling to have for me, the not knowing. One day soon I will ask my brother if this is what sped up his ending. My brother and I have a strained relationship at best, but I do think he will answer as honestly as he can.
My mother texted me the night of my father’s death and told me not to come to the funeral. She was dealing with a health issue of her own, so I’m guessing she was only thinking of how much trouble it would be to host my family for several days. I told her we were coming anyway and would stay in a hotel, which we did.
For the last three days before the trip I barely slept. By the time we got there after our 13-hour drive it was 9pm and I was exhausted. Sadly, it was also my husband’s birthday, so we had a quick meal (our son travelled with us) and raised a toast before returning to the hotel. As we lay down to go to bed we talked about eating breakfast with my mom at 8:15 the next morning, before the funeral. I asked him if he could let me sleep in as late as possible, say 7am, because I’d not slept well for three nights and wanted to be somewhat rested for my dad’s funeral. This is not a request I ever make of my husband – to let me sleep when we’re sharing a motel room – but I asked just this once. My husband defensively asked me something to the effect of “How do I usually disturb you?” So I said, “Maybe you could sleep in until 7 as well and not get up and shower and get dressed and make coffee while I’m trying to sleep tomorrow morning.” To which he rolled away from me and said. “Maybe I should just go sleep in N— ‘s room.” He was referring to my son, who had his own motel room across the hall. I felt very hurt and angry and we argued. He said it was a joke. I said it was mean, not funny, intentionally hurtful and unbelievable that on this particular day, this would be his response. Very disturbed, I cried afterward for quite a while.
My husband lost his father earlier in the year, and it was very hard for him. He was quiet and sad, easily upset and didn’t problem solve well. I did all I could to just keep the house running for him and to be there if he ever wanted to talk. He didn’t talk much about his mourning, but he doesn’t usually work through his emotions verbally. He’s been watching a TV series that has helped him deal with some of the mourning, I believe.
In the month following my father’s death, there were many days that I woke feeling so lost and sad that I truly could not find a reason to go on. It’s no secret that I’ve been depressed for many years and I really just barely function, if you can call it that. But during that month there were days that I just sat in my rocking chair and cried and a few days where I didn’t even bother to get out of bed. I’m pretty sure I moved much more slowly, said fewer words and began crying for seemingly no reason, the way you would expect a person to when they are mourning and depressed.
During a few of those times, I guess when my actions or lack of actions were most noticeable, my husband would ask me, “What’s wrong?” And most of the times, I would answer, “I’m just so sad about losing my father.” And then my husband would turn around and walk out of the room. Just that. Nothing else. Every now and then he would say over his shoulder as he was leaving, “Do you need me to bring you anything?” As if a glass of water or a cracker might be just the thing that a wife needed from her husband as she mourned her father’s death.
The most troubling time he did this, I think, was the first time I didn’t get out of bed. It was very very late and it became clear I wasn’t coming downstairs. He came into the room and asked what was wrong and I told him how sad and empty and hopeless I felt and he actually just turned on his heel and left the bedroom without a word. How do you explain to someone else how this lack of, what, anything at all, from my husband hurts to the very core of my being? How do you describe someone who has stayed married to someone for 23 years and still does not have any idea how to support his spouse emotionally? Truly, if he hasn’t learned it in our 25 years together, I feel certain he never will.
Not long after that, the next time he asked me what’s wrong I couldn’t help asking him in return, “Why are you asking me?” And he said simply, “Because I want to know. Don’t I have a right to know?” And I said, “After I tell you, what are you going to do?” And he said again, simply, “Nothing. I just have a right to know.”
My husband is emotionally unavailable and emotionally neglects me and has for most of our married life. When trying to figure out what’s wrong in a relationship, the absence of something is so much harder to pinpoint, to describe to others, and to try to remedy with your partner. It is made that much worse in our relationship because my husband resists truly taking responsibility for any of his shortcomings. I expect that this comes about from his insecurity, but it makes solving our problems or asking for something different from him or asking for something more from him turn into a world-ending event. First he claims to not understand. Then he claims I mistake his intentions on everything. These are all defense mechanisms so that he does not have to admit that he could try to do something in a different way. And then, finally, he ends by oversimplifying what I’m asking as if one could write one simple rule for him to do to take care of what I need. For example, he’ll say, “So when you tell me you’re sad, you’d like me to stay in the room for awhile. How long should I stay there?” Somehow this reduction of my needs into rules he must memorize and follow always leaves me feeling more alone and neglected. No, I’d like you to care enough to want to help. To look for ways to help. To try to connect with me. To not constantly dismiss everything about my experiences, day after day.
So, one of the main reasons our relationship is this bad, in this much of a shambles, can most clearly be described as “The Lack of….”.