Dear Ms. Vicki,
I am 30 years old and have been married to an active-duty Special Forces operator for four years. We have a 2-year-old son together, and I have a 7-year-old son from a previous marriage. He deployed overseas two weeks ago.
I love my husband. He is smart, funny and attractive. He always helps with housework, tolerates my passion for Pinterest projects, cooks, is a great provider for our family and is a great cuddler! But I'm writing to you because I don't know if my marriage can be saved. Prior to his departure, I came to realize that his behavior toward me is sometimes manipulative and borderline emotionally abusive.
Things I do that I deem to be acceptable behavior, like going out to dinner with another married woman and getting home by 9 p.m., texting my ex-husband regarding scheduling and visitations with my oldest son, speaking to my male supervisor on the phone, etc., are met with accusations of adultery. I am badgered with questions such as, "Did anyone hit on you?" "Why are you talking to him?" and "Why are you flirting with him like that?"
I try to explain that communication with my ex-spouse is necessary and communication with my supervisor is required, but my husband's disapproval remains evident. He also disapproves of my business work attire, which I think is conservative. I am then punished with a cold shoulder for my actions, and he refuses to show me affection.
I have not cheated on my husband in any way, nor do I have feelings for anyone else. I understand my husband's insecurities may be related to his previous relationship. His ex frequently cheated on him. So I try to be as transparent as possible by providing him with all of my passwords for social media, email and for my phone.
I used to feel guilty and apologize to him for my actions in order to smooth things over with him, but I can't suppress the feelings of oppression and forced submission any more. I know I should have stood up for myself when this behavior started years ago.
Before he deployed, I told him all of this. I told him that our marriage is on shaky ground and that I am emotionally exhausted. I was overjoyed when he acknowledged his accusations were unfounded, his behavior toward me was rude and demeaning, and he said that he would make an effort to treat me better. I had so much respect for him in that moment.
A few days later, he went with me to a dinner party for my work and he stood in the corner with a scowl the whole time. He later tried to justify his actions by saying he was angry because I had shaken a man's hand "too long."
I was embarrassed when I learned that others at the party had also noticed his demeanor. I couldn't contain my frustration any longer. I told him that I loved him, but his disrespectful actions made me question the stability of our marriage. I said that I didn't think he cared about my feelings and that I thought we should separate.
He slept on the couch on that night. I felt awful that I had let my emotions get the best of me and placed this burden on him during such a stressful time. I apologized to him the next day and told him that a separation was the exact opposite of what I wanted.
The next week was great. We communicated without accusations, and I finally felt we were confronting our problems in a constructive way. Then, the night before he left, he told me that because I had requested a separation earlier in the week, he had removed me as a beneficiary of his SGLI and named his mother instead.
He said he didn't "want someone else to benefit from it" and that it made no sense to leave it to me if we could not save the marriage before he deployed.
Ms. Vicki, I work and I make an income similar to my husband's. If I had to, I could pay for all of my husband's and my bills without any additional support. But it hurt me to know that all of the hours I've spent crying over his absence and fearing for his safety during previous deployments apparently mean nothing to him.
It's not about the money. I hope no one ever sees a single red cent of that policy because the requirements necessary are worth more than any dollar amount could replace. But I don't know if I can ever stop feeling this sense of complete insignificance.
Can I get past this? Should I be more understanding since he thought our marriage might be over? Am I making excuses for him? Am I making excuses for me? I feel more lost than ever.
First, I don't think you're insignificant. However, I do think your marriage has hit a very rough spot. You two are dealing with the different accusations, innuendos, mean-mugging, power, control isolation from each other, deployment separation and then your husband goes for the jugular by basically saying, "Oh by the way, you're not the beneficiary on my life insurance policy anymore. ... I love you, but I don't trust you, so deal with it."
Your husband wants you to change your personality. You appear to be a very outgoing, friendly and engaging person. But now you are trying to be someone different to appease your husband, so he will let his guard down and won't be so defensive. However, as you can see, this is not working.
On the other hand, your husband is pretending to be something and someone that he isn't, too. You explain things to him, like, "I'm not cheating, I'm acting cordial with people because it's a part of my job." He says, "I get it," but then he becomes defensive and starts accusing you all over again.
Then he takes it to another level by informing you that he believes his mother is more trustworthy that you, his wife. I think you understand that this was a gut punch. I also think your husband likes to one-up you and likes to have the last word. Honestly, I could go on and on conceptualizing your husband, but I will stop here and say that I think this is a problem. Your husband is saying there is a problem and so are you.
I think you should speak to a therapist about your marriage and the anxiety that you describe about coping with his deployment. From what you say, you keep going over and over in your head about how or what you would do if something should happen to your husband. You sound like you can envision this so vividly.
I think you are having anxiety about your husband's deployment. These feelings can happen because you are trying to learn how to cope. Deployments are stressful enough on their own. When you add marital discord to the equation this increases the pressure.
A therapist will help you work through these emotions, help you confront different issues in your marriage and offer support and guidance. I really regret everything that has happened, and I hope your marriage will get better. Please keep in touch with updates. Thank you for reading the column and for taking time to write to me.
Sincerely, Ms. Vicki