Today I’d like to introduce you to Debbi Dickinson. Debbi was married for thirteen years to a man who was twelve years her senior. She was forty-one when they separated almost ten years ago. Their daughter is now a teenage.
Debbi says they had problems almost from the very start but instead of confronting them, she avoided them. Here’s Debbi:
I got married when I was 28 years old. I was basically swept off my feet by him because he was an older gentleman and we were people that partied together. We just enjoyed a lot of time out on the town and did a lot of activities together.
Shortly after the wedding bells rang and the relationship went from dating to married things started changing on his side of the fence.
Looking back at it, I see it’s like, “OK, now I don’t have to keep the pretense up.” There were just aspects of the relationship that started changing. Sex started changing, he was angry a lot more, very impatient, short-tempered, and instead of dealing with them, what I started doing was drinking more.
We still went to parties and were entertaining and all that stuff, so it was one of those things that had the outside façade that everything was going good, but I was confused on the inside and didn’t understand what was going on. Since he was older than me and he was so angry and I was not used to dealing with angry people, I just didn’t confront any of the issues. I just started drinking over it.
I did not realize at the time what I was doing. I think at the time, I knew the relationship was changing, but I was just confused. My parents just celebrated their fifieth wedding anniversary and are so absolutely madly in love with each other, so that’s the kind of household I was raised in.
His was the total opposite. His parents were alcoholics themselves and it was kind of an emotionally and physically abusive household. He started treating me the only way that he knew how spouses treat each other, which was with the example of his mother and father.
I didn’t know what to do with it. I was kind of ashamed of the situation I was in, so I didn’t want to talk about it. I had this image of being the perfect wife and woman and professional and all this kind of stuff. What I did when I didn’t express myself is what ends up happening with everybody, is it comes outside from someplace else.
For my ex, it comes out in anger. For me, it came out in drinking. I didn’t know how to handle my emotions, so I started drinking to suppress them. Over the course of our thirteen-year marriage, the drinking kept getting worse and worse, and so did our marriage. Obviously my drinking contributed to it, but there were issues on his side of the fence, as well, the anger, and there were control issues.
It was not a happy life.
One of my unscientific observations about couples who have enduring relationships is that they talk about their issues and work out a compromise that works for both of them. It seems that nothing is taboo.
My husband was very uncomfortable with me being the breadwinner and he showed it in a number of ways. I thought that talking about it would make it worse, that somehow he would adjust and I certainly didn’t want to make it worse. So after the first few incidents, I stopped trying to talk about it. I tired instead to make my wage-earning status insignificant, less obvious. I worked around his discomfort. What I realize now is that that one topic was related to other topics which over the years we stopped talking about too and so it snowballed. We didn’t know how to communicate. I know where Debbi is coming from.
Were there issues in your marriage you and your STBX avoided? Do you think it would have made a difference if you had talked about them?
Debbi Dickinson is a personal coach who writes at Stepping Into Joy inspiring professional women the importance of self-care and balance. Debbi also creates audio and video programs and hosts telesummits focused on topics professional women deal with today.
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