I had been a little more raw and emotional than usual in what I said in the group chat with A and H after leaving my therapist appointment. I apologized, sheepishly, and said that it was grounding to say something when my brain wanted to pick a direction and then drive until I couldn’t. H said not to be sorry, if it helped, it helped. (If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m incredibly grateful for A, H, M (Tennessee), & my sister J. I don’t know if I’d have made it without them.)
Later that night, ruminating again, I observed that I couldn’t remember my husband ever expressing nice sentiments or gratitude towards me on social media. How I had on occasion said nice things about my husband, and how I could think of numerous people I knew that had posted nice things about their partner, whether sincerely or not. Expressing warm sentiments about your partner is just a thing people do.
Then I realized I couldn’t even think of this kind of warmth being expressed towards me off of social media. My husband would sometimes compliment my appearance and say he liked something I was wearing. There’d be grudging implied compliments when he’d ask me to do something I was better at than he was, like taking measurements for a DIY project. But the warmth of affection and happiness that I was part of his life wasn’t there.
I’d never tried to make my husband feel small or inferior, but now I wondered if he had, in fact, felt small and inferior and if the control he had over me was a way of getting back at me.
In the morning I returned to this train of thought and it dawned on me that I had no evidence that my husband actually liked me.
I knew he hadn’t had healthy relationships until high school – and those healthy relationships couldn’t undo the damage he carried. He grew up poor, lonely, bullied, feeling unwanted and not listened to. He would have brought those insecurities into our relationship. I knew he was paranoid, tended to assume the worst interpretation of social interactions and held grudges. He had probably been putting the worst interpretation on our interactions, regardless of my intentions or the facts or evidence available. He might easily have come to see me as another of his tormentors trying to make him feel small – but this time, he was calling the shots.
A person can be attached and co-dependent without actually liking their partner.
Looking back over our marriage, I could see evidence of attachment and resentment. I could not see evidence that he liked me.
I had always had the sense that the sexual aspect of our relationship was what he cared about more than anything else. It never occurred to me to ask the questions ‘is this the only thing he cares about?’ and ‘does he even like me?’
Suddenly it made sense that he’d fixate on my sexuality and our sex life or lack thereof. He’s fixating on what he valued, and what he valued wasn’t me.
If he’d been projecting, well, I had been projecting, too. I knew I wasn’t in love with him, but I felt warm and friendly towards him. I liked him as a person and as a companion. I had just assumed he would feel the same towards me. I didn’t understand, back then, that a person could be attached and dislike the person they were attached to.
That feeling that nothing I had done mattered to him – the knowledge that he felt entitled to it because we were married – well of course he’s not going to recognize and appreciate my efforts if he disliked and resented me. It’s a rare soul that can be objective and appreciate effort from someone they dislike and resent.
Weirdly, this new knowledge, this shift in perception – felt freeing.
There was still hurt and sting there, but what I’d been pondering and the conclusion I reached made sense, and knowing that would help me orient myself. It hurt more to think that someone that cared about me would devalue me that way. Knowing my husband disliked and resented me felt like it had severed something that had been holding me back without me realizing it.