Saturday, January 31, 2015
Emotional Contamination in Marriage: When your spouse is your biggest trigger Part 1
Can a marriage survive where there is a severe case of emotional contamination? I never really thought too much about emotional contamination before. I always thought that I had "classic contamination" issues, and I do. But, I believe that where my husband is concerned, there is the added component of emotional contamination. Emotional contamination can encompass a lot of things, but I feel that the strong negative feelings I have against my husband make me feel like he is "dirty", even dirtier beyond classic contamination. I don't like the way he makes me feel. There are two sides to every story, and keep in mind that this is only one side. This is my story. But they are my feelings, and I feel they are important for me to explore. I feel lonely, disconnected, sad, upset, frustrated and angry when I am around him. Just for some background information, we had a really good dating relationship and talked very openly. Once we actually got married, the shift got taken off our marriage and put onto other things. My husband has always been an on-the-go type, although I didn't realize that until after we got married. We had spent almost every moment with each other during our dating relationship--talking openly about anything and everything hours and hours into the night. So it seemingly came out of the blue when he started focusing on other things. He went back to school (which was for the benefit of our family, and I'm not complaining about that), and started prioritizing hanging out with friends, doing odd jobs with his dad around the house, and other things to take up his time. To be fair, maybe he wasn't intentionally prioritizing these things. Maybe he didn't realize at the time how little attention our marriage was getting. But the lack of time affected me deeply. He went through phases--online poker, drinking, and staying out with friends. I felt like I lost my husband during this time, and our relationship has never been the same since. I feel like I have, in a sense, been grieving the loss of our marriage for 12 years. Even though he is standing in front of me everyday at home. When our daughter was born, we were struggling furthermore. I was mostly taking care of her, and he was busy doing other things. I remember keeping a journal during this time about my feelings and I minced no words in those pages about how badly I wanted out of that relationship. Divorce. Hate. All sorts of nasty things were in that journal. I got a call one day at work, and it was my husband. He had found the journal. I think there are lots of "defining moments" in life and in relationships, that can change the course of things. I have a future post coming up soon about this too. Our marriage certainly has had it's share of defining moments, where things would just never be the same again. It was during this summer of 2005 that I started developing OCD symptoms, although at this time it didn't involve him directly. It was more classic contamination with germs/illness, some checking behaviors and magical thinking that usually centered around my daughter. I became desperately afraid of something happening to either my daughter or I, as we were feeling more like our own family of two with my husband gone much of the time. Through the years, my OCD would change and grow. I would say I went from mild to moderate OCD in about 2009. There were some more changes that summer that even further drove my husband and I apart. My father in law purchased some farmland, and my husband and him spent a lot of time out there. We were really struggling even more at this time, as we were undergoing fertility problems and trying to conceive a second child at this time. I think his absence from our family and being out at the farm must have triggered something deep inside of me--something so subconscious that I didn't even realize what was beginning. I think it goes back to that feeling of being emotionally neglected by him again. The state of our relationship paired with how my OCD was worsening in regard to him. Every time he was out at the farm, I thought of him as extremely dirty when he came home. All I could think about was the fertilizers he had been around, and the chemicals from spraying weeds or crops. They also started to do some car/tractor restoration around this time. He was spray painting cars and doing mechanical types of things, including painting vehicle parts. A lot of this went on in our own garage or backyard. One afternoon he came inside with green paint covering his hands, and went directly back to the shower, without even washing his hands at the sink. That is one of my defining OCD moments that I will discuss in the future post I referred to above. This is probably the biggest act I can trace back to, where he became forever contaminated to me. All of these "dirty jobs" were causing his clothing to appear filthy with stains, grease, oil, and paint all over them. Sometimes I wonder if it was the combination of his absence, of his seeming to prioritize these hobbies over our family that triggered something deep in my brain. That perhaps subconsciously I was developing some type of "protection" against him. Don't get me wrong--I definitely felt he was contaminated in the classic way. I started fearing chemicals around this time, and his hands in particular bothered me. But I believe that I was subconsciously developing a case of emotional contamination involving him too. Maybe it was a means of self-protection, somehow distancing myself from him. A lot of times I was angry at him for working with these chemicals, feeling like he was putting my daughter and I at risk. My husband asked me recently if I ever thought this piece of the puzzle--meaning my feeling like he is contaminated--would ever go away. I really didn't give him an answer. In a nutshell though, if I am being honest, I really don't see that part going away. I don't really foresee a time in the near future where he does not feel contaminated to me. There is a lot of hurt between us. There is a lot of unresolved conflict. There has been a lot of bad words and arguments through the years. There is the added component of him not trying to understand my OCD, and really having little to no concern about my well-being. The lack of encouragement that he has been to me. Not wanting to communicate with me. His attitude towards my OCD is very overwhelming. He is my biggest trigger, and that makes me sad. Most of my "defining OCD" moments that I will post about shortly involve him. Things I've seen him do that have changed my OCD path for the worse every time (and this next post will help explain a lot of them in further detail). He does not want to be directly involved in my treatment, but prefers to "mentally bury my OCD" in his words. Unfortunately I don't see any of this changing any time soon. It's a bad cycle where we are in. The disconnect feeds the OCD, and the OCD feeds the disconnect. Even just being around his personal items in general, sets me off. Most of his stuff feels dirty to me. For example, if I see a dirty hat on the counter it will set me off. If we are getting along better than usual though, it may not bother me as much. If we are struggling at the time (which is usually the case) then I will find it even more contaminated. I will be very mindful of the hat and make sure that I am not anywhere near it when walking by it. Sometimes even retracing my steps in order to convince my brain that I didn't brush up against it. It seems like I am repulsed by his stuff, even moreso when things are not well between us. That is why I feel there is emotional contamination involved in this. This makes things tricky. Because I feel that the only way for me to get over this type of contamination is to repair our marriage, and I just don't know how that will happen at this time. It just feels like a trap. There is so much to write on this subject, that I am going to delve into this over my next several posts. I think this is very important for me to explore right now. This is just the beginning, so stay tuned for the next parts. If you have any experience with emotional contamination in relationships, I would love to hear your story and how you have dealt with it.