Wednesday, January 16, 2013

In The Disease - Walking on Land Mines & Stonewalling

The recent months have been particularly difficult, and I see a lot of "insanity" and "in the disease" behavior and thinking in my husband.  As a result, interacting with him is at times maddening and subsequently I am left baffled and exhausted.  Slowly I see that a list of slights is being compiled against me, ready to be whipped out at a moment's notice, and it never ceases to amaze me just how quickly he can accuse me.  In the past I would feel as though I was trying to walk on eggshells and this has progressed into the feeling that the eggshells are now land mines.

Earlier last year, my husband and I relocated and he found himself in a job he "hates" and in a town he "hates."  When we first moved, he was very supportive and communicative, and still he has his moments, but this was a time when he seemed more himself.  He had been attending counseling and taking antidepressants, though he had not stopped drinking.  He seemed to be more relaxed and able to have tough discussions without them escalating.  That all went away in the first few weeks after moving here.  Soon he was verbally abusive, yelling horrible things - 

"You're a disease."
"I hate you!" 
"I want a divorce!" 
"If I could go back I never would have met you!"

- only to break down after my questioning and cry, saying that I wasn't the problem, he was sorry, that he just hates where he is in his life - he doesn't have a house, we don't have kids, etc.

After this happened a handful more times, he began stonewalling me. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, stonewalling is: "A refusal to communicate or cooperate."

John Gottman, a psychology professor and marital therapist, calls stonewalling the "fourth horseman of the apocalypse" as relates to his cascade model of divorce prediction.  Well, that doesn't make me feel any better.  "In his studies, men's physiology reached a state of arousal prior to them 'stonewalling', while the female partner showed a physiological reaction of increased heart rate after her partner had 'stonewalled' " (from my friend Wikipedia).

Yup, I'd say that is about accurate.  At times I find myself shaking.

It went like this: I would see him in the morning when he left for work, words rarely exchanged on his part. He would come home, exercise, go upstairs to drink and work on his hobby or play video games, come down for dinner, and would retire upstairs thereafter.  He didn't talk to me unless spoken to, and sometimes not even then.  He didn't touch me, hug me, and forget about kissing or anything intimate.  When he did look at me, it was as if all the contempt, anger, sadness - whatever horrible chasm of pain he held inside of him was shooting out through his glare and onto me.  It was this weird alternate universe in which I found myself with an irritable, sheltered roommate who seemed to despise me, yet whom I had still somehow agreed to cook for and clean up after.

This weekend my husband went back to stonewalling.  And I was completely blindsided.  Friday, he had come home with a dozen roses for me.  He even put them in the vase himself, mixed the flower food in the water and all (guys - this earns major points).  But the man who came home that day and the man who was here the rest of the weekend and through to now seem vastly different to me.

Some of the insanity of the disease is so hard to describe to those who aren't familiar.  Everyday interactions
are taxed by short, irrational or rude replies to simple questions.  The strangest part about stonewalling this time is that it happened without warning - sure, I could see it starting, but there was no fight or tension that brewed it; there was no criticism (from what I recall) on my part.  Nothing I did, I feel, warranted even this kind of disproportionate behavior and attitude.

Soon I found myself back in my own insanity of replaying the weekend, trying to pinpoint what I had said or done to cause him to withdraw, and later to lash out.  By Sunday he was not looking at me or speaking to me unless I asked him a question.  When he did look at me his pupils were dilated, either with anger or alcohol or both, and his jaw clenched and unclenched, clenched and unclenched.  Later he questioned why I hadn't prepared his lunch with certain extras.  His tone was expectant and irritated.

These particular instances from this weekend illustrate what I think is the disease rearing its head:

While I was out walking our dog, my husband walked out to his car, and we were both walking towards it and each other.  He passes me and my dog sniffs him hello, my husband barely glances at me.  Thinking he was simply getting something from his car, I was surprised to hear him get inside and start it.

As he pulled out I stood there, waiting, and when he lowered the window, I asked "Where ya goin'?"  Normal question.

Without hesitating he said: "I just walked right past you, why didn't you ask me then?"  Not so normal response.

"...I just thought you were getting something from your car, I didn't know you were going anywhere."

"Well, I'm going somewhere."

"...Where are you going?"

"Hobby shop."  This specific store is closed on Sundays.  Should have been my first clue, but later I was still not so surprised to see my husband return with yes, more booze of various kinds.  He once again retreated to his room, where he continued to drink and work on his hobby.

Later that night as I was working on my own interests, my husband comes downstairs, downs a fresh glass of wine and grabs his keys.  I figure I better ask him when I'm "supposed to."

"Where ya goin'?"

"To get some F*CKING dinner!"  Looking back, I should have just let him go at this point.  But I just couldn't help myself.

"...Excuse me?"

"I'm f*cking hungry! I'm going to get some dinner!"

"I know you're hungry but why do you seem angry also? And angry at me?" To this he said nothing.

The conversation didn't go much further and he left, once again returning to go back upstairs.  I let him be, but did check his door when I figured he had gone to sleep.  It was locked.  My husband was sleeping in the other room of our house...with the door locked to keep me from him.  After *he* yelled at *me*.  The locked door was his last physical manifestation of refusing to talk, refusing to offer anything.  Refusing to open up.  And there was just nothing I could do about it, was there?  And take that, he seemed to say.

Being strong in my program, the first few days were not so difficult.  Besides, I have my own thing to focus on, a business venture, and I have felt more myself than I have in years.  I am fired up with passion and inspiration so much so that I must force myself to go to sleep at night instead of toiling away into the wee hours.  As the stonewalling continued however, this faded, and I broke down this morning.  

After being snapped at once again (an first thing in the morning - never ceases to amaze me) I asked him, what was wrong?  What did I do?  He insisted there was nothing wrong as he hurried around to gather this belongings for work.  

"I'm not stupid", I said.
"Neither am I."
"I know what you're doing, you're upset about something and now I have to guess what it is and until then I'm being punished."  
"I'm not doing anything."  He answers these questions without looking at me, busying himself with leaving.

I did what I could to get through the day.  Right now I am trying to remember what I have learned in Al Anon; that "taking care of me" means I am able to focus on myself, and in doing so I am able to lovingly detach and love him where he is.  I continue to hope for the strength to be able to do so.


  1. Get out! I have to say that your story was me, to a T, 12 years ago. I'd finally seen enough to realize that he was an alcoholic. But, I wasn't a person to give up and get a divorce. No, I wasn't a quitter! I was going to stick with him through the difficulty of recovery. And, perhaps he'd see that he needed to recover from something. Yes, we moved for better jobs, the world was unfair, etc. He was always successful, money was never really a problem, etc. He was and is a very functional alcoholic. Now, we have three kids (I know, how did I let this happen? How did I get here? I saw it 12 years ago for crying out loud!)

    And here is my "hind sight is 20/20" moment - I now am in a situation where I am concerned that the stonewalling and other problems will cause our children to be precisely what they are, children of an alcoholic. And, I'm in a situation where leaving won't be the same as it would have back then - we are connected forever through not only our love for each other, but even more importantly, our children. If I had left then, 12 years ago, Yes, I would have a "failed marraige" checkbox and I would be sad. But, I'd be free to continue my life without the alcoholism and I wouldn't have the guilt of bringing my children into this.

    So, if I were you (and I was 12 years ago), I'd just call the effort thus far as "good enough" and get out, divorce, done. Continue your own treatment on your own and let him work on his if he chooses, but don't stay any longer than you have to.

  2. Sadly, I'm in the same situation. I have been with the same guy since 2000 and we have been married for 11 years. He was always the happy go lucky guy and still is until we are behind closed doors and the other side comes out. We seperated in 2010 for a year + and got back together (which seemed like a great idea) about this time last year. He assured me he was better and even with the first few weeks of me living back at home I found a bag of coke and he swore up and down it wasn't his and he hasn't done it since we were seperated. As a loving wife I agreed to drop it and agreed that it wasn't his. This is just the tip of the iceberg for the past year of us being back 'together'. For some reason I thought it was better for us to get back together since there was still obviously love. Sadly, when only one person is working towards improving the relationship, it goes nowhere FAST. Somehow the one who is compromising, not blaming the other person and is the one working towards improvement is the one who is blamed for all the wrong doings.... I'm no longer going to be treated like a doormat or kicked to the curb. I'm going to stand on my own two feet and make it work for me. No longer will I worry about him and his feelings because obviously he doesn't for me. Alcoholics = selfish children who never grow up. Sadly, his daughter is watching him deteriorate and there is nothing I can do for him. I'm going to focus on her and make sure she is safe and pray that she doesn't look for a guy 'just like her daddy'.

  3. I left for a few days after binge drinking escslated into a verbal attack when I asked a question about my birthday front of our children...which I suposedly did in a way that would belittle his authority (over peace...the kitchen as his sovreign kingdom). I then had the nerve to.ask why he yelled at me (because I should just accept whatever info he thinks I need). This is the second birthday in a.row he has gotten drunk and abusive. After days of him apologizing, attending one therapy session and stonewalling the therapist into his belief that binge drinking isnt a real.problem, I returned home with my two younges daughter...because the therapist advised I would have to take a chance either way. I feel caught in a cyclone.

    1. "The kitchen as his sovereign kingdom', I had to laugh at that. King Baby as they say! This sounds like my boyfriend to a T.

  4. Just subscribed to your blog updates. Why? Because I, too am married to a "functioning" alcoholic. You know what makes me sad, and angry as well? "They" don't seem to be suffering nearly as much as we are! (Yes, I know, I know....) Seriously though, like today, when my husband told me that I need to just "get over it" (was trying...really, but detaching is much easier if he just smells a little boozy the next morning compared to getting up to take care of our son and finding puke in the powder room toilet and the kitchen sink). Tonight he told me I needed to just "get on with it", because after all, he still managed to "take care of his wife (by sending me garage saling with my mom), pull A's on his finals (we are both going back to college), take care of the kids (uh...not so much), and smoke a brisket...Basically, he doesn't believe his drinking is a problem and has no plans to change it. While I am living with "Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde", and walking on eggshells. This is a second marriage for both of us, I followed the pattern to a tee and married someone who I believe is actually panning out to be WORSE than the first one. Difference is, I will get my shit together soon and I will NOT be in a miserable marriage for 19 years this time! So, heed my words of warning as I am trying to do NOT have a child with this man, and once you realize and can accept that you are truly happiest when you don't have to worry about him, pack your bags! (Or his!)

  5. It feels like you and I are the same person and married to the same person. Everything your husband does, I feel like I've experienced exactly. Stonewalling is regular. Even when he has a long period of not drinking. I subscribed to your blog and I hope you continue to post. I feel so alone in this. I cannot speak to family or friends. Everyone mentions Al Anon but I'm just not sure about that. I don't want to risk running into anyone I might know.

    I don't know if you are a spiritual person but I pray for my husband daily. I pray for myself daily. I have now began praying for you and the people that read your blog.

    I've only read your blog yesterday and today and conventinetly, my husband and I have been married a little over 2 months and he had his biggest drinking problem last night since our honeymoon. It helped me to remember the words you wrote about not taking inventory, not trying to guess where he has been or how much he drank, not arguing with him, not even talking with him.

    I can't believe I'm only 2 months in and it's already like this. Where is my romantic newlywed phase? I feel cheated.

  6. Wow. I came across this post and reading it was like reading my own diary EXCEPT he is sober and hasn't been drinking since long before I met him (maybe 15 years?) But the behavior is identical. I'm baffled.

  7. I came across this wonderful blog...I thought i was the only person out here living this lonely life..i am married to FA..we have been married over 10 years....he drinks and smokes pot everyday not at home all at the bar....all of friends are there.....then I get the drunk person who is happy and nasty all at the same time....then we have conversations after being buzzed bout al these idea dreams and plans and they never ever come true....I feel I am going CRAZY.....I try and limit my interactions with him and go to sleep earily...then i get accused of being with other men... i want to leave but I feel guilty if I do...he has no family left...we have no children thank God I cant imagine a child seeing this everyday...I am so lonely and lost ....