After the chaos and a week of not speaking, my spouse called me at work; it could have been about the children, so I answered.  I accepted his apology so we could move on, but before I knew it, I apologized too, even though I was innocent. When I hung up, I felt stupid for kowtowing to the spouse who terrorized me. If my apology was the right thing to do, it felt wrong, and I was stuck. I focused on my spouse instead of my job for the rest of the workday. I have apologized to his family, my family, the pharmacist, the mail carrier, and anyone unlucky to incur his wrath. Sometimes I apologize for nothing or too much, or if somebody bumps into me at the store, I am the one who apologizes; my apologies have become rote and inappropriate. My children got home from school and reported that they got an apology too, and I am glad about that. But I feared my apology opened the door for my spouse to get what he wanted.

His apology meant that he and I had to talk, not about the chaos, but about himself–his successes at work, AA meetings, and speeches. I dreaded the truce because I liked the silence, as unhealthy as it was. I got things done around the house without my spouse’s interference, criticisms, demands or sarcasm. It was beautiful while it lasted. When I got home, my spouse greeted me, I let him hug me, and felt nothing. I was fake and friendly, patting him on his back for doing something ordinary, indulging his selfishness, and rewarding his bad behavior by being too scared to tell him the truth about himself. Too afraid to tell him to leave. I found a semblance of my voice and asked him not to explode in front of the kids anymore. He lied and said Ok. He never asked me about my day or how I was doing. The more my spouse talked about himself, the more muted I became, nodding and smiling like a yes-man. I go along to get along. I allowed myself to be twisted into whoever he wanted me to be and allowed him to do whatever he wanted: his way.

Life simmered down. The bills got paid, and the grass got mowed. I began to let my guard down. My spouse continued to go about his business, work, AA, and whatever else he did during his day. I didn’t care as long as he didn’t act a fool when he got home. We managed to talk, laugh and sometimes watch Tv together. So far, so good. Then he tried to touch me. I was not flattered. I recoiled because I wasn’t ready. I know he cheats, but I can’t prove it; I don’t trust him. He keeps bugging me, and I fold. If I ask him to wear protection, he’ll go ballistic. I am a coward. I go along to get along. I pinch some of his weed, buy a bottle of wine, get high, drunk, and do the deed.

The cycle of battles and truces went on for years.  The good news is that we rallied around birthdays, holidays, celebrations, and vacations and enjoyed them. The bad news is that I was sacrificing who I was and what I needed to keep the peace, manage the marriage, focus on the children, and function in dysfunction.