Men are typically void of emotion – at least when compared to women, like myself, who want to obsess and talk through things beyond a point where there is anything of substance to be said. I know this. But I also know that one of my husband’s primary drivers for acting out within his sex addiction is his lack of skills around communication and his seemingly voided emotions around big events. Previously, when we have found ourselevs in situations that would require us, as a couple, to lean on one another emotionally – moves, job changes, death, marriage – he has acted out in higher bouts of intensity and I have talked his ear off blind to the fact that anything is amiss.
One of the changes I have seen since both of us have entered recovery is an increase in discussion and expression around serious issues – on both sides of the spectrum. We take time each day to catch up in a different capacity than was previously the norm. This shift has opened me up the idea of progress and its felt good – like we are putting one foot in front of the other and moving beyond, if such a think even exists.
And just when things seem good, I feel like I ran into a brick wall. Thursday was a big day for my husband. As part of his legal repercussions, he is mandated to refrain from any relationship or communication with any minor, including his sister. For nearly a year he has not been able to speak on the phone, exchange emails or text, or see his sister face to face. As the oldest son in a family whose father is deceased it has been taxing and frustrating. He has missed major milestones – getting her drivers license, watching her high school graduation, being absent during the college application phase. Thursday she turned 18 – one day and she is no longer a minor.
We had been speaking about it casually over the past several months and mostly to cover logistics – planning the events around celebrating her birthday and mentions around milestones. I would argue that is where any discussion has ended – nothing more and certainly not in the context of his feelings around the overall situation.
Although it’s been present and obvious over the past year, the significance of her birthday didn’t really hit me until driving home from work. I thought “holy sh*t he can actually call her today!” When I saw him, my excitement was visible and I asked immediately if he had called. He did, but spoke matter of factly about their conversation – it went well and they were excited to see one another the next day.
As I settled upon things through out the evening, it felt unbalanced that I had asked him about the call. I was frustrated that an event that seemed so major could slip by without mention, both after the fact but almost mort hurtfully in the time leading up to his dialing the number. Wasn’t he having any emotion around it – didn’t he want to talk through how he would approach the situation, the possible outcomes, his hopes and fears. How was he dealing with the situation? Was he leaning on anyone? And selfishly, what prevented me from playing that role?
It was good to see his sister and the remainder of his family for dinner Friday. Though I have seen her on and off, she is always a bit more engaged in my husband’s presence. She seemed different – a bit more like an adult and a bit more like a woman, with confidence that had seemed so absent over the years. It was refreshing to hear her talk about the future – her next phase in life.
In reflecting on the evening, as his family left, we discussed my apprehension around the level and depth of discussion surrounding her birthday. I felt like I literally wanted to pull emotion from him and he felt that I was being unreasonable – not giving him credit for the capacity within which he was able to communicate. How do we begin to see eye to eye? What level of expectations from my side are reasonable?
I want desperately to believe in the explanation that he is a man – it’s part of the male package. But I can’t shake the feeling – my gut brings me back to a place that insinuates something more. He may not be acting out right now, but how can we overcome this? Is it even possible?