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Staying optimistic in the face of adversity is a daunting task and one I’ve never been particularly good at. Some look back at their lives during a trial trying to find the positive memories. Others have a hard time taking their minds off the negative ones. Then, there are those of us who realize how you handle the hard times means more than how you handle the good times. Almost everyone is there for you through happy times when people crave your energy, but can people handle you at your lowest point? This is the true test to love and friendship. It is that much harder for them to reach you when you’re not the type to readily open up about the negative aspects of your life. Who do you open up to when the person who always listened to you passed away? Can anyone else in your life fill that role?
After suffering a miscarriage at the beginning of the second trimester last year, I found there were only a few people I could talk about it with. My Dad was one of those people. Even though his initial advice was to have another one as if that would cure my pain, he learned to listen more and offer less advice. This is how he was with almost everything, but when he did offer advice, it was usually exactly what I needed to hear. He was very good at that. Talking about the loss with my husband was futile. It was clear he had no tolerance for the subject. I told myself his way of dealing with grief is to pretend it does not exist and only focus on positive thoughts. In some ways, I admired him for his ability to compartmentalize and move on from such a devastating loss. Deep down I could not shake the fact that his cold reception to discussing pain made it clear he was not someone I could have those conversations with.
My husband got a new job in December, so we started packing up the home we lived in for almost 11 years. This new job would move us to a different city, far away from the only home my kids have ever known. Between coordinating movers, keeping my boys in school, and finding a new home, my husband and I spent five weeks apart. During those five weeks, we spent very few days together. This is a man I had spent more than 20 years with, but I really felt more love than ever from him during our short visits. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. It was a nice feeling, because I was about to uproot my life for his new opportunity.
The movers arrived less than a week before we planned to leave. After packing up my house, I made my rounds and said goodbye to as many people as I could. My Dad canceled our plans, because he was not feeling well. Instead of taking the time to go see him, I gave him a guilt trip about canceling on me. He tried to see if I could find time in my busy schedule to see him before I left, but I told him I couldn’t. When my plans for Saturday morning with someone else fell through, I tried to call him. Despite multiple calls, he never answered. I considered driving over to his house, but I didn’t.
My day carried on until I was at my Father-in-law’s house. A call interrupted that dinner. It was my brother’s wife giving me the worst news. The man who was always there for me and loved me unconditionally passed away. According to the coroner, he likely passed in his sleep. Why could I not find time for the most important person in the city, and why did I give him a guilt trip for canceling? He was obviously not feeling well, but I had no clue just how bad he felt. That night, my husband drove hours to get to me. By the time he arrived, it was officially moving day. Moving was something I planned to do alone, because I was only bringing a few things from the house. It meant a lot to me that he drove down there.
That is the kind of thoughtful man he was. I’ve always said I got lucky in love, because my husband is far more kind than I am. He’s an optimist, and I’m a realist, although he calls a pessimist. In his optimistic, life-goes-on attitude, he convinced me to drive hours away to our new home less than 24 hours after getting the worst news of my life. Grief and stress have never been things I handle well, so a long drive under those circumstances was already more than I bargained for. Traffic was worse than I’ve ever seen it thanks to a storm (yes, a literal storm), and I often wonder how I made it through more than seven hours of driving. Three of those hours were pure stop-and-go. In retrospect, it was not smart, and I would not do that again.
In the weeks after the move, he was taking me all over the city. He said it was to get me used to it, but I knew he was trying to distract me. It was a valiant effort, but before long the effort stopped. My husband no longer took me anywhere, asked me how my day was, or talked to me about much at all. If the conversation was not shallow, it did not happen. I was so consumed with my grief that I did not really notice until it was too late. The signs were there. After skipping Mother’s Day in 2016, because it was right after my miscarriage, my husband insisted I should not skip it this year. Grief also made me cancel my birthday this year (I only wish I could cancel the aging part). If my husband needed me to celebrate, I was going to try.
The day finally arrived. He greeted me in the morning with a card printed on a cheap piece of paper he made at work. It was obvious he had no breakfast plans, so I made my own. Lunch was the same. For dinner, he actually made plans or so I thought. When we arrived at the location he picked, they could not seat us. My husband never even bothered calling to see if restaurant required reservations, so I asked him to take me home. Why force someone to celebrate a day only to plan nothing, buy no gift, or even go to the store for a card? At the time, I just figured he messed up the day and did not see the bigger picture.
It was on my youngest son’s birthday that I finally started to see the bigger picture. My husband had changed. He no longer made any efforts for me, he barely talked to me, and there were just a different vibe in the air. When he told me days before our 21st anniversary that he needed a Facebook break, I thought well that’s good. Social media is his obsession. Yes, he’s that guy who tells you every little thing that is going on in his life and updates Instagram or Facebook multiple times a day. Soon after our anniversary, he called his Facebook break officially over. Although I cannot count the exact days of his almost non-existent break, I did notice it was way too short for anyone not obsessed with social media to call it a break.
Then, I realized, he has not tagged me or mentioned me in a single post in all of 2017. He had not accepted any of my tags. Although he occasionally liked things I posted, he never commented on them. If that seems odd for someone obsessed with social media, it is. I listed that I was married on my wall, but he did not. I asked him about that, and he claims it must have disappeared when Facebook sent him an email to update his preferences. As I continued to see posts he tagged me on in my daily reminders from past years, I realized he essentially erased me from social media. Why? What changed in 2017? Was it that I was too sad and he was happier than ever? It did not make sense, so I asked him why he was going out of his way to look single. His response was that I had never been the jealous type before, so I changed. That was such an odd response.
Had he not taken that “Facebook break” right before our anniversary, he probably would not have given me the lovely, yearly greeting that he used to give me anyway. Guess we will never, because he needed that “break.” Had he not done it, I would have figured it out on that day instead of a few days later. He was not just ignoring me publicly though. It dawned on me that he was not there for me privately either. In my grief, I did not even notice he pulled away. How did I miss the signs? The sixth month anniversary of my Dad’s death approached, and we were still fighting over why he ignores me, publicly and privately. I told him that the sixth month anniversary was yesterday, and it was a very hard day for me. Instead of sympathizing, he looked at me with a very cold face and said, “it is almost August.”
I wish his belief that there is a timeline on grief was true, but there are days when I still feel as raw as I did when he first passed even now. If he walked in on me crying, he would turn around and walk away. My husband has never been the affectionate type, but he usually showed some concern for my tears. It had been a long time since he extended a hug to me. When I mentioned that I needed more hugs, he informed me that he does hug people. He proceeded to give me some recent scenarios. That’s great. The man who almost never hugs me is essentially bragging about hugging people. To all those lucky people who got hugs from my husband at the lowest point in my life, I envy you.
I tried for weeks to talk to him, but I realized he was already gone. During the lowest point in my life, he checked out of our marriage. While I definitely have some blame and heaven knows I could have handled my pain better, I will never know the exact thing that pushed him away. What I do know is his obsession with social media and his need for validation plays a role in my absence there. By pretending I did not exist, his target audience for validation (women) were more receptive. The funny thing is I went out of my way to compliment him this year. At my lowest point, I tried to feed his need for validation. My validation was not good enough though. Even through all of our fights, though he claimed he was in pain, he continued to post pictures to Facebook and Instagram looking happy.
As a realist, I cannot be something I am not. I also cannot stand to see others faking, so I had to remove him from all of my social accounts. Strangely enough, he came to me and showed me a Facebook post he made mentioning me after I unfriended him. It was the first time in 2017 that he mentioned me at all. The post was not evenly remotely affectionate. It read like he was posting about a roommate, which is what we had become. He had no problem posting affectionate messages from people he had not seen in over 20 years though. Whether in private or public, it was clear my husband and I were no longer happily married. Living in this strange place where I do not know anyone has not made things any easier.
I moved to this city the day after my Dad died, far away from my siblings and their families. My reward for uprooting my life was a different husband. This new husband lives for validation and brags about everything. He loves who he is though and refuses to accept that he’s changed. Since he refused to go to marriage counseling with me, there is nothing else I can do. Being ignored at the lowest point in my life is not okay, and in a strange way, I have Facebook to thank for the revelation. As he was unwilling to acknowledge it, we could not fix it. Without his “break,” it may have taken me longer to realize I lost him. Now, I am even more depressed than I was before, but I hope to pick myself back up someday. Until then, I once again apologize for my absence. Depression is very lonely, and it is certainly not social.