Every Step Is Painful

Some background for the newbies: we're separated, 2 kids, we still share a house, he is on disability & I'm currently a student...I put my foot down that he needs to move his "hoard" out by Feb 1....see last story & any other story since January for background.

In my last story, I detailed how I had put my foot down that he needs to get his sh*t out of the basement by Feb. 1 so we can rent or sell the house. Various responses form commenters - all very sensible - how I need to follow this up with a lawyer, how I need to kick him out, throw his stuff out, etc., why am I not doing all that?

I have been searching myself to try to find the real reasons why I am not being more decisive. I don't know the full answer. I'm just going to throw some things out there and see what sticks; you guys are expert at figuring out when I'm just b&llsh*tting myself, and when something's real.

I have this HUGE block to doing the WRONG THING. HUGE. I am scaling that mountain, but every step is hard.

It seems like the first step - seriously separating, legally anyways - was monumental, and then we just sort of plateaued. He's being extra nice (I guess he's got what he wanted - no sex pressure anyways), helping "as much as he can" in his own way, not being such an a&&hole about stuff.

But every once in awhile - like today, I sent him for dark brown sugar, he came back with something that said "demerara sugar", i said "that's not brown sugar!". Well I got this super hutrt look, like "how dare you suggest I did anything wrong" that used to just make me so anxious and worried that I'd done something heinous to offend him. (I looked it up - demerara IS a type of brown sugar, just different taste/manufacturing process, in the end no big deal either way right?). These every once in awhile things make me realize I can never trust him, ever, when I have something I need checked, or that I disagree with him on.

Not that the sugar incident - minor as it is - is a marriage breaker. No, it's more the instant guilt and other awful feelings he's able to instill in me when I "step over his lines". "Making him feel unable" is a huge one. He could never own that he might have bought the wrong thing. It would end his little world.

So whiel we have kids here, and he is being liveable, I dread what I might have to do - I am in fear of upsetting his little world. Why? WTF is wrong with me?

At every turn he derails plans for a better life, if they interfere with "his zone". Me gettign a good job or other opportunity, for him or me, he sabotages one way or the other.

I think maybe I'm being a little superstitious - if I lay low and don't cause a scene maybe the basement will miraculously clean itself?

Maybe it's superstitious like this - if I insist on cleaning the basement and then I don't get the opportunities I think are coming my way I'll look like a fool?

He came in here the other night and was really down and asked for a hug. I gave him one. He tried (again) to explain to me why it's important to him that he be able to buy crap from China online every day - "I need something to look forward to" - sigh.... I said 'everyone needs something to look forward to, I don't begrudge you that, I bought chocolate almonds today for that reason... just, can you not see you need to get rid of stuff? You know we need to clean this stuff out, so we can get a good price, for the kids' sake? I know this has been a fight between you & I for a long time, but now it's not about that, please understand..."

He started in with "my failure as a husband is something I regret so much (tears), I always wanted to be the best husband, I tried my best, i never wanted to hurt you"...

I said "I never wanted to hurt you either but here we are... it's not about that anymore. We can bring all this stuff up, but it just makes you sick when we do, I'd love to discuss it all but don't want you to be sick"

At the time these things happen, I'm always the GIVING one - "you're ok, you did ok, here's a hug", looking at it rationally, it's all about his fear of having been a failure, rather than wanting to fix or learning from it, he wants to be reassured.

How old is this man I married? Honestly my 8 year old has more relationship sense... I think maybe he's just missing something upstairs...

Either way, why do I feel like the world will end if I force his stuff to be removed? Why after 10 years am I even waiting for the inevitable Feb 1 debacle/failure?

I feel if I push it, maybe he won't let me take the kids... or something else... I have so little fight left.

I need someone in MY corner.

Rambling today, thanks if you go thtis far.
zsuzsilowinger zsuzsilowinger
36-40, F
7 Responses Dec 20, 2012

It sounds to me as if he has a really fragile ego and lacking in confidence. It is an ever-present dilemma for all of us, but for some it truly becomes debilitating and they can be acutely aware of it, yet not be able to move beyond it.

Personally, accepting criticism from others is something that I find essential to me, in terms of personal growth, without feeling disproportionally anxious or depressed about it. It should absolutely be possible to accept that criticism is valid without feeling that you are a failure. It's like the old adage, to err is to be human, but you can only avoid making errors by doing nothing.

I would also dare to say that it is also nicer if the criticism that comes your way is put to you in a proportionate, tactful, diplomatic way. I really believe that it is amazing what you can get away with saying to someone else just because of the way you say it. I believe it is possible to have a dispute without there being a 'winner' and a 'loser'. However, our instinct so often is to be emphatic, abusive even and in that case although we may win a battle, we all lose in the war. When someone poses a point of view that explicitly or implicitly says I am right, completely right and there is no margin for debate or alternative views then I simply think "**** you!" and want to spray them with the human equivalent of an insecticide. It's simply a natural defence mechanism and it is very difficult and maybe unreasonable to expect anyone to discard or dismiss it.

I guess you were looking for muscovado rather than demerara? Would he still have pouted if you had said that was what you were looking for but as you has just said "brown sugar" that it was understandable. Why not just go back and get the right stuff instead of sulking about an issue being made of it? I would have just have said, "Do you want me to go back and get the alternative?". That way the impetus for the nature of the next response would have been yours. There can be a bit of a 'game' involved in our exchanges with others, it's knowing where the essential balance lies.

Here, sugar is labled "dark brown", "light brown", and then the others. There is a slight difference between "dark brown" and "demerara". Not that it matters in the end for cooking.

I hear your point, but let me tell you, I approached him in the nicest possible way, putting no pressure on him. I have learned not to over a decade. I am very assertive in other areas of my life, but with him I tread on eggshells. It was my point to go and get the other sugar myself. I asked him if he still had the receipt so I could exchange it, this brought on more pouting and frantic behaviour. Short of NOT BRINGING UP ANY ISSUES WHATSOEVER, he is unhappy.

I don't give a flying fk about sugar or groceries. But can you imagine what happens when I actually NEED something from him????

"I believe it is possible to have a dispute without there being a 'winner' and a 'loser'. " Sadly, my STBX does NOT believe this, no matter how I try to approach.

"It sounds to me as if he has a really fragile ego and lacking in confidence. " This is 100% true, but I cannot live my life any longer bowing to his fragile ego, and denying all my own needs or wants.

You've been around here long enough to write better stuff than this drivel, NAVBW. You've been around since I started here. Surely you've got a better idea of what my back story is than most. In general, your points are good. When you are dealing with a passive aggressive mentally and physically ill person, your points are complete sh*t.

I have this HUGE block to doing the WRONG THING. HUGE.

I have had the same issue for years. It can be paralyzing. Therapist said it was from my parents overreacting to small mishaps (spilling milk for instance) that all children have.

At some point you just have to take the risk of doing something wrong so you can do something right. Or anything at all. Yep you have to accept the fact you may do it wrong yet still do it. Not easy. But you must. And if you do indeed do something wrong you have to accept yourself as an imperfect person. Self acceptance can be very difficult. Helps if you see yourself as a work in progress. And believe that mistakes can be over come.

I've mostly conquered this in other areas of my life. My terror at doing the wrong thing on a relationship level is still huge. But tahnk you fro the great advice. I've definitely gotta get over this, one more, hurdle.

I am speculating here Ms Z. Take it or leave it.

I think at some level, you are deathly afraid of the drones re-action when the blade eventually does drop. That he will fight you for the kids. That he will roadblock you if you try and move them out of the jurisdiction. That he will be try all sorts of skullduggery financially. That he will do his level best to besmirch your reputation. In short, that he will act like a total ****.

And THAT, is why you are reticent to drop the hammer on him. You fear this benign, passive agressive, victim of circumstances, but essentially inert drone, will emerge in his true colours when this gets to the pointy end of proceedings.

Tread your own path.

"balk bak bok bok"

flaps wings and chicken-walks around room to emphasize point

Yes I am a huge chicken, you are right!!! I am. I am trying to fight this in myself. I am just so tired and just so scared.

All of his stuff is not his stuff. Each item is a part of his emotional baggage that he doesn't know how to deal with. It's as if he has exploded all over the basement and you have to pick him up, cell by cell, with a tweezers. He has metastasized.

I went through a kind of similar situation. First, I had the moral support of a sibling, so it wasn't just me--it was "we" who took care of it. Second, we decided ahead of time that we could not be burdened with getting it right the first time. It was just too monumental. We could never get it right. What we could do was focus on an intermediate step that preserved as much of the physical stuff as possible: storage in a PODS. We strategized ahead of time, planned out every step, set up a maximum time frame that allowed us to get the task done but not any time to think about it after it was planned. We have not had the backlash yet--it's coming. When the time comes, we have the practical balance sheet that trumps the emotional balance sheet. It hurts; we go over it every so often, and as events have been playing out, come to the same conclusion. At the end of each of these re=accountings, we must conclude that it didn't have to be this way. But the other person's choices necessitated the choices we had to make.

I meant to comment on your previous story. I think there is an EP group for hoarders' spouses here. I think maybe you should join it. To expect him to be able to clean the basement up is expecting him to do something he simply isn't capable of. (Like my husband and sex!) At least not without years of therapy. You don't have years. He is NOT going to clean it up. He can't. He's sick. (Not his physical sickness, mentally). I know it's not fair that this is one more thing for you to deal with and it won't be easy because it will cause him mental distress and possibly physical pain (psychosomatic but still real) for someone to go and clean it out for him. Sorry.

i agree he isn't capable of it. I've watched countless shows of Hoarders tv online... he is def one of those for whom it is emotional, not just "stuff".

I've offered to clean, I've offered/asked/begged to have someone come in and clean, even this morning I said "STBX, could we have G___ come in a couple hours next week and help you out? She could even just do something really easy, like put those books in boxes, you don't even have to throw any out or think about that"... the response was "maybe I should buy more boxes".....sh*t.

Short of FORCING the issue there's nothing to be done, and FORCING the issue is going to be so very, very painful.

Pain, sometimes inevitable. People grow when they feel pain. You aren't superwoman, Szus, you are a mere mortal. You CANNOT shield the ones you love or feel beholden to from real life. The more you protect h and kids from reality, the less opportunities they have to mature. As for the hoarding, your h has a mental problem, and cleaning out the basement will hurt him a lot, even make him get devastatingly sick. Is there a professional you could talk to to walk him through this? (like on the show?) NOT that I think this should stop your process, tough luck for him. He's had years of your compassion, even Jesus got pissed off and kicked *** once in a while, and I bet Mother Theresa did too! lol

You know what would be easier for everyone? GIve him a deadline and never mention it again. At the deadline say "Ok, that's it, it's going in storage...now" You have two hours to pack up your essentials. Everything else is going. But the constant reminders like he's some kind of rational person who just has a time management problem is just gonna make everyone unhappy. In the end you know you WILL have to force the issue and he knows it too.

or it could just provoke a massive meltdown....

I don't know, I just don't f'ing know.

My school semester starts again, life is so very f'ing busy, I just want this over with, blah. Just venting. I did post on the living with hoarders group - what a sad lot - tons of stories but not much in the way of answers, AFAI can see...

Thanks again everyone for support around here. It's gonna be a brutal time either way.

2 More Responses

Observing my own behaviours, feelings, thoughts, etc. - we're all Pavlov's dogs. It's almost impossible to break the patterns we've become trained into. It's one of the reasons I want less and less to do with my ex, I can spot the dance now, and it disturbs me (and p1sses me off...).

Zsu, just picking at one small aspect of this ...
If he's well enough that he can buy stuff online, then he can SELL stuff online. Possibly at a profit. Now THAT would be something for him to look forward to.

Yeah you'd think so... but he doesn't. I sell stuff online; he doesn't want the bother of meeting people and negotiating etc...