Reader Doesn't Feel Right says,
My husband and I have been together for 18 years (married 16 of them) and with the exception of the first six months of new relationship energy and notable events like our wedding and the birth of our kids, it's been pretty dysfunctional.
On my end, I have lived (up until 6 months ago) with untreated ADHD. We both suffer from clinical depression and anxiety though he has never been formally diagnosed. So, with all those conditions banging against each other, it's no surprise things were rarely right between us.
He saw me as irresponsible, impulsive, unreliable and even dishonest. And, to be honest, it was true. ADHD is a jerk, but neither of us knew that. I was the jerk. Always. We had this cycle of fighting and repressing. Everything would be peaceful, if disconnected, and we'd go about the business of bill paying and dance lessons and bedtime stories and perfunctory unsatisfying once a week sex. And then, BAM, we'd be fighting. Huge arguments with yelling and tears and name calling and both of us blaming the other for all the relationship's problems. And then it was over, and we were back to pretending nothing was wrong. Until the next time.
Six months ago, our son was struggling in school and it became clear he was presenting with classic ADHD symptoms. And after I figured that out, I had another epiphany. A quick Googling confirmed it. I have had ADHD my entire life. I sought treatment and now I'm medicated. It has ameliorated almost all of our issues. We no longer fight. Things are better between us. Almost.
We have ostensibly forgiven each other for the damage we did when we were both so ill, but sometimes I forget that he isn't an ogre by nature the same way he forgets that I'm not an untrustworthy flake. We know what the root of our issues have been and I have been working my ass off to fix the lifelong habits of assholery associated with long term, untreated ADHD. One thing I can't seem to fix though is how much the trust between us is broken.
And now, to add the cherry on top of the suck sundae, with me capable of regulating my own behavior and not needing him to be my external executive functioning, he has gone flaky on me.
He's running around like a teenager. His emotions have been incredibly erratic from euphoric to sobbing in a corner. And, best of all, he came to me recently telling me he has feelings for another woman.
Now, we've always been academically curious about polyamory and open to the idea of it. We've also always been monogamous. I'm not terribly bothered by him having a secondary partner, but the timing feels off. He also didn't talk to me before seeking someone and I didn't get a chance to meet them. All these things together are both troubling and painful.
He says he wasn't consciously seeking a new partner, and I believe him, but it still hurts. It still sucks. And I still feel betrayed. And if there were trust issues before this... hoo boy, now it's like an everpresent elephant in the room. A young, hot elephant.
So I guess my question is multifold. How do we rebuild this trust? Can it be done? Will couples counseling help? Is this a midlife crisis? And, lastly, why is he jeopardizing our chance at really getting to a peaceful and happy place in our relationship? I love him very deeply and have no interest in ripping our family apart, but this is really hurting me.
Basically, what should I do?
As my name for you indicates, you know this is not something to be taken lightly. Sure, if you both agreed to be polyamorous, like these readers, more power to you. But you guys talked about it in the abstract and then he went and found another woman. That is more like cheating than polyamory in my book. It is possible that, as your alluded to, his role as "being your executive functioning" was what he needed to stay invested in the relationship. He subconsciously enjoyed being the "Mr. Perfect" to your "Crazy Wife," as I discuss here. I wonder if this new woman has major issues; I wouldn't be surprised if she did.
Either way, it is very unlikely that a marriage can go from super-dramatic to easy-going without a significant acclimatization period. Many relationships never survive a change like this, which is why so many marriages break up after an alcoholic partner gets sober. (Watch When a Man Loves a Woman for more insight into this dynamic.) And many previous enabling partners go off in search of something or someone else with the drama that the current relationship now lacks (hello, new polyamorous relationship).
I think the first step is couples counseling. Sure, you don't fight anymore BUT YOUR HUSBAND FOUND A NEW PARTNER so I'd say something is off here. The couples counselor will likely bring up the fact that your old dramatic relationship may have been what you two fed off of, and without the drama, you and your husband no longer know how to engage, or how to be intimate. You need to figure out new ways to connect, and to be exciting to each other. Maybe one of the ways is polyamory, but not hidden, unilateral polyamory, which is otherwise known as "cheating."
Reading Getting the Love You Want may help you and your husband realize why each of you was originally drawn to the toxic, dramatic dynamic that characterized your earlier marriage. Self-exploration coupled with marital therapy will likely bring you both to a better and more open place, where you may be able to accept the past and move forward in some form of a new and more honest marriage.
Good luck, and till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says The Unexamined Life Can Lead To A Lot of Bad Stuff.
This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.