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Carers UK Forum • A difficult end to a relationship?
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A difficult end to a relationship?

Posted: Thu Feb 20, 2020 10:36 pm
by Just enough
Hard to know quite how to write this, but I'm sure you'll all forgive me if I get the words a bit wrong.

I've now been a carer for my wife for over 25 years out of the 27 we've been married. The bulk of those years have featured some form of mental health crisis (including at least 12 acute admissions) and for the last 15 years some very significant physical health issues too.

The toll on my MH, and that of my daughters, has been correspondingly significant. Finally I have got myself and one of my girls into a good place, and my youngest daughter is working towards full recovery.

Last year I'd finally had enough of the abuse that we had tolerated (enabled?) for so long and started to be more resilient and more resistant. I have rebuilt a social network. I have started doing sports I love again. I have developed an escape plan. I did create an independent back account so that I had funds to which only I have access and control, but my wife found out about it (by going through my wallet when I was asleep...) and then created a situation whereby I had to use all the funds that I'd squirreled away to pay the mortgage. So that has taken me some time to restart. I believe she's now knows that she is losing control of me, and is starting to try and be nice to me, although often she reverts to threats and sulking (and a fair amount of what might be considered gas-lighting).

The difficulty now is that I now see myself as her barely willing carer, not as a husband. In fact, I really don't want anything to do with her beyond doing the basic providing for and caring. I am a carer, but I don't "care"; it's just a task now.
And I know that I'm not prepared to put any effort into fixing the relationship. Not any more.
And this leaves me feeling really bad. I mean, how do you leave someone who has significant mental and physical health issues without too much guilt? How much will friends and family hate me for what I'm thinking of doing? Will I actually have the courage to leave in the end? Should I just accept that I'm supposed to be her carer no matter what, and just give myself up to my fate? Actually... The way I've phrased that last line makes it clear to me that I'm NOT prepared to do that!

I'm posting here because this is a community I trust to listen, to tell me if I'm being daft, or doing the wrong thing, and because many of you will understand how I got to this point, and won't judge. And because I had to tell someone.... sort of like a contract with myself!

Re: A difficult end to a relationship?

Posted: Fri Feb 21, 2020 2:24 am
by bowlingbun
We are all responsible for our own happiness. When were you last happy?

Re: A difficult end to a relationship?

Posted: Fri Feb 21, 2020 8:29 am
by Ayjay
Just enough wrote:
Thu Feb 20, 2020 10:36 pm

And I know that I'm not prepared to put any effort into fixing the relationship. Not any more.
And this leaves me feeling really bad. I mean, how do you leave someone who has significant mental and physical health issues without too much guilt? How much will friends and family hate me for what I'm thinking of doing? Will I actually have the courage to leave in the end? Should I just accept that I'm supposed to be her carer no matter what, and just give myself up to my fate? Actually... The way I've phrased that last line makes it clear to me that I'm NOT prepared to do that!

I'm posting here because this is a community I trust to listen, to tell me if I'm being daft, or doing the wrong thing, and because many of you will understand how I got to this point, and won't judge. And because I had to tell someone.... sort of like a contract with myself!
I also find that just writing down things like this helps to clarify it in my own mind.

I definitely know how you feel, although thankfully my wife is not manipulative at all, she's just incapacitated, but my feelings about caring for her are similar: because of her condition and only because of her condition I find it difficult to like the person she's become but still love the girl I married 48 years ago now, so I definitely wouldn't be prepared to judge you. You have to do what is right for you and your daughters.

Re: A difficult end to a relationship?

Posted: Fri Feb 21, 2020 7:58 pm
by Eileen_1912
Hi Ayjay,

I just wanted to say please don't feel bad for thinking the way that you do. You must be under a considerable amount of strain in your marriage and it is only natural to be fed up and want out after all these years. I totally get where you are coming from as my husband can be manipulative too and I often have the same feelings of wanting to leave him, but feel guilty at times for feeling like this and feel as if I should stay. All I would say is please put yourself and your daughters first and think of all your happiness. Clearly you have invested so much love, time and energy into your wife over the years, for her only not to return the love and respect you deserve as her husband. Please take care and do what is right for you. I wish you and your daughters well.

Re: A difficult end to a relationship?

Posted: Sat Feb 22, 2020 9:34 pm
by Cloudygal
Just enough

You and your daughters have been through so much.
We can all identify with the emotions of wanting to leave caring,, but feeling so guilty we stay.

You must do what is right for yourself and your daughters mental health.

However, for your own mental health it can never be just a case of walking out can it?,

For your peace of mind you would no doubt have to know that your wife is being looked after..otherwise you wont get the peace of mind and new life that you envisaged.

And that would surely blight your life as much as if you'd stayed.

Re: A difficult end to a relationship?

Posted: Sun Feb 23, 2020 10:05 am
by Just enough
Thanks all for your thoughts and support.

BB - I find I'm most happy when I look after myself better. The "mistake" I made over many years was to try and make sure my wife was happy to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. The problem was that she was rarely happy even then, so it was just wasted effort and became neglect of myself and my daughters. The damage to my daughters is what causes me so, so much guilt.

Cloudygal - you've hit the real problem - I can't just walk away. It's further complicated by many other issues, as all these things always are. It will take a long time to plan and put things in place - I'm thinking maybe 2 years (I was thinking a lot faster before you encouraged me to think it through properly!). And then I have to be able to live with the unintended consequences. And prepare for the outcomes. And not expect perfect happiness.
I still have my emergency exit plan too though...

If it wasn't for the fact that I am a carer for someone with severe and enduring MH issues, the relationship would be considered emotionally abusive, but it's hard to separate the person from the illness. There is, as Ayjay and Eileen pointed out, still the girl I loved once in there and the guilt of wanting to leave someone who is, after all, ill. And who I still care about. But abuse is always abuse, and my expectation is that it will continue. Twenty-plus years of emotional abuse is a hard habit to break, and even harder to forgive.

Re: A difficult end to a relationship?

Posted: Sun Feb 23, 2020 2:30 pm
by bowlingbun
Is she aware that it counts as abuse?
Does she make any attempt to moderate the effect of her illness on others?

Maybe you should talk to your daughters about what they would like? Clearly the adverse effects on them have been huge. They have first hand experience of your family life, after all, and your relationship with your wife.

I have two sons, one fine, the youngest, M, brain damaged at birth. He is now 40, can't read, write or do any maths, lives alone with carer support now.
The effect on our entire family has been huge, but it wasn't his fault, and he has always done his very best. Everyone in the care agency loves supporting him, he is friendly, polite, keeps his flat perfectly, and does his best to do as much as possible.

The effect on our eldest son was huge, we talk about it now. However he understands the situation we were in, and knows we did our best for him too.

Re: A difficult end to a relationship?

Posted: Sun Feb 23, 2020 3:06 pm
by Karen Dee
I think you would both benefit from marriage counselling. Your wife might not be aware of how you feel and how her behaviour affects you.

Re: A difficult end to a relationship?

Posted: Tue Feb 25, 2020 11:13 pm
by Just enough
Hi bowlingbun and Karen.
Thank you for your thoughts. Some good points.

I think you would both benefit from marriage counselling.
Tried it before (nearly) many years ago. By the time we got to Relate office, I had agreed that it was all my fault and I would try to be a better husband - we never even went in...
Next time I suggested it (just a couple of years ago) I was told that I'd already accepted responsibility and the question was now closed.

Is she aware that it counts as abuse?
Perhaps not. And I certainly wouldn't call it that to her for a number of reasons.
Having said that, she has been told on many occasions by friends, family and professionals that her behaviour is rude and hurtful and is damaging to her children, her family life and her friendships. Most of her family will not talk to her unless my eldest daughter is there to enforce good behaviour (she is absolutely ruthless in this regard).

Does she make any attempt to moderate the effect of her illness on others?
Not her illnesses, but she does change her behaviour dependent upon the audience. It can range from all sweetness and light to outright nastiness. Like a showy-off toddler.
She is absolutely horrible to most MH professionals, some of them her former colleagues and friends - I am often amazed at their patience.

My eldest daughter left home 2 years ago. We still talk most days, and meet up occasionally (she doesn't live locally any more). She speaks to her mum on a strict timetable, once per fortnight. She understands how we have got to where we are, and is in a good place with her life now. She has paid a huge price over the years :-(
My youngest daughter is very nearly 16, and talks to her sister about serious things and to me about most other things (school etc.). She is not yet in a good place, but is working towards it, with counselling.

Much of it is common relationship issues - but the MH issues and her physical disabilities are what makes it really, really difficult. If there was no caring involved, the relationship would have been over many, many years ago. Or maybe she would have been a much nicer person.
So, so hard to separate the person from the illness. But in the end, she has the ability to change her behaviour according to circumstances and yet chooses not to. Our house is fully adapted for her physical disabilities, which aren't degenerative.
Mental illnesses can tend to be really horrible. Much of it is not her fault probably, but I cannot keep caring to the same extent and retain my own mental and physical health. More importantly, I must protect my daughters.
Equally I cannot just walk away.
The Carers Conundrum.

Bowlingbun - what you and your family have achieved is phenomenal, and you should all be very proud of yourselves. I have nothing but admiration.

Re: A difficult end to a relationship?

Posted: Wed Mar 04, 2020 12:08 pm
by Monroe_2003
Sometimes we have to accept we can't change certain things. Try seeing life from other perspectives.