The following account is my experience and in no way reflects the right way to do things. It was inspired by a comment Nia made to my New Hope post.

When Dave and I got married I too thought that his suicidal ideation would stop, since he was promising to be with me forever. He even sang “I Will Be Here” during the ceremony with the line “Tomorrow morning when you wake up and the sun does not appear, I will be here.” I convinced myself that lyric line was true but I was in denial and I minimized our problems.

When I disagreed with him or confronted him about issues with chores or how he was hurting me, he pivoted the conversation so that I was now the issue.

In 1996, after his first “serious” attempt, Dave and I went full-time into couples therapy. We were very fortunate to have a therapist who was able to balance the conversations in our couples sessions and bring my voice out, otherwise my voice would probably have remained silenced and I would have allowed Dave to paint me as a mean, nagging, unsupportive wife. We were married about 11 years and I dated him for 4 years prior to that–so we developed and were fully entrenched in a dysfunctional dance. I would raise a problem and he would become silent. If I pushed, he would say that he was now going to be the new unfeeling Dave. Which despairingly I would beg him not to. He would be this robot of a man for a few days. And my heart would ache and I would feel so helpless and hopeless.

Some days Dave would get so angry that he would shout “F— you Kate.” And this stung hard because he never said the F— word to anyone. He never says the F word period. I would think “what’s so bad about me that I could make him say that.”

I had many distortions about myself that developed over the years of living with Dave. He projected a lot onto me. I took his projections and believed that I was all of things he said.

It took the guidance of a therapist to help us work out of the dysfunctional dance that we were stuck in. Intermittent individual sessions helped too. And after his second attempt I decided that I needed regular appointments of individual therapy—because I needed the support.

There were times I felt like walking out. And I eventually learned with the support of therapy that I had to take a stand with him, when he was not suicidal, and voice that I could not go through that again. When he attempted the second time, and after my own individual work—I put a line in the sand and said, “I love you. I want to be with you. But you need to go to individual therapy or we need to separate.” This was not an easy decision/stand for me to make. This stance was taken when I felt ready to live on my own two feet without him and I really felt that I could not go through it again.

Throughout our therapy experience one thing I think that really made a difference was that we were very fortunate to have a therapist who never shamed Dave about his suicidal ideation. He allowed Dave to share his experience and what led him to develop his suicidal thoughts (childhood development of the problem) and what led him to suicidal thoughts/attempts in the present. This allowed Dave the space to feel heard, validate his experience and at the same time work on changing his style of handling challenges in his life. (I could not take that same kind of empathetic stance with him. I didn’t understand why he did what he did.) Our therapist also was able to help us talk through the traumatic attempts at our pace. At each session our therapist helped us to both feel heard, non-judged and accepted.

It’s taken a lot of work for us to get to this place of hope. And for Dave and I it was worth it. We both worked on our part of the dysfunctional dance.

My journey–the early years and therapy. Developing hope.

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7 thoughts on “My journey–the early years and therapy. Developing hope.

  1. Feeling alone says:

    I have a question for u. Does it bother u that dave does not want individual sessions, only Couples? Same here. Second question, how long before ur daughter started to open up? My kids went to counseling but are very guarded almost aloof about their feelings about it.?

  2. Thank you so much for your blog. I finally feel understood and not alone.

    • Hi Maureen.
      Thanks for your feedback. Adding to the difficulty of living with a suicidal partner, is that no one understands what it’s like. I’m glad you found a place that validates some of what you have been going through.

  3. boxerchick says:

    I’m so glad I found your blog. I’ve been through so much of the same thing. I remain afraid of another suicide attempt. My husband now mocks my fear and refuses to take any meds. He has moved out, citing me as the one with all the problems. In marriage counseling, he is smug and superior and does not admit to any weaknesses. I feel very hopeless that our marriage will ever recover. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I hope you and Dave continue to do well.

    • Hi boxerchick,
      Sorry I have not replied sooner. Dave and I have been doing better and the challenges are more like dips than valleys. I am glad that you found my blog too. Fear of another attempt is something I struggled with too. I’m not sure where you are at with the marriage counseling and your hopeless feelings about your marriage but it sounded like a difficult place to be in November. I thank you for sharing your voice with me and with the other readers who are struggling with a suicidal spouse.

  4. Nia says:

    Thank you so much for this post. It brings me a touch of hope knowing that someone else has felt the same way I have. It amazes me that you have been through this for so many years and it has taken so much dedication and love for the two of you to get this far. Knowing that you have felt things that I feel really made me cry. I feel hopeful but it also kind of scares me. Will I be able to devote this much effort into this relationship?

    The couples therapy was such an important step in your marriage and sometimes I want us to do it too but at the same time I want to tell him how I feel one-on-one without a third party to see if I can indeed have a voice without needing a mediator. I was thinking about voicing my concerns/pain when my husband is going through a better patch but I’m always so caught up in the happiness that I forget all my pain in an instant. Does that ever happen to you? Do you get so ecstatic when Dave is doing well that you don’t ever want to bring up any unhappy thoughts that can quickly shatter your glass dream house?

    The lyric line Dave told you makes me remember the poetic things my husband told me too before we got married. My husband used to open up to me so much before marriage but as soon as we started wearing our rings it was like I was married to another person – completely walled off and unwavering. Sometimes, I see that he messages other friends – opening up to them slightly – and I feel so jealous. Does he respect the opinions of people who are not actively in his life more so than me? Was I closer to my own husband when we were just friends? What did I do to make him no longer trust me? Is this a part of his sickness or is this pointing to a flaw in our marriage/love?

    Anyway…. Like I said, I am so happy for the two of you. You guys indeed deserve having this since you worked so hard to get this far. I will always follow your story to keep me inspired when I’m feeling a little down and lonely.

    • Thanks Nia for your post. I’m sorry I didn’t reply sooner. From my own experience with Dave we also went through a cycle of pain, happiness, and walking on eggshells. I wrote about my cycle with Dave in the post Do I Stay or Do I Go (Round 2). I feel like I don’t have the words to address what you’re going through, but I do know that my heart goes out to you.

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