Around a year and a half ago, I was feeling more helpless than I had ever felt. My husband was drunk pretty much anytime he wasn’t at work, and he was leaving the kids and me constantly. Whether it was hours of him sitting at a restaurant or a bar by himself throwing back cocktails after work, or leaving for days at a time to gamble in Atlantic City, he was rarely home.
When he was home, he was pretty useless. For over a year, I was basically a single parent to our three young children, even though I was very much a married, suburban housewife.
Few people knew the extent of what had been going on with Adam, my husband. Everyone knew he liked to party, and that he was “fun” and freely spent a good deal of money, but I would assume that, to the outside world, things seemed under control. All the while, I spent many late nights wondering if he would walk through the door at all, or if I would receive a call saying he needed to be bailed out. I’m 75% sure I would have showed up for him.
I often ask myself why or how I had the strength to stay with him through those torturous, unfair, and deeply narcissistic years. Similar to an abusive relationship, he would promise me he was going to get better. For a few weeks, he would. He’d tone down his drinking, get the kids up and ready for school, and even cook dinner and tell me to go to bed early while he cleaned up. Then he would fall back into his selfish pattern of abandoning his family for a much more exciting life of debauchery.
While my kids wondered why their dad didn’t want to be home to do things like help with homework or practice sports and instruments, he was off escaping reality and living the life of a bachelor. It was all soul-crushing and exhausting.
The truth was, though, that I still really loved Adam, and I knew he really, truly loved me. One of the reasons I fell in love with him back in my early twenties was that he always brought so much excitement to my life. Despite everything going on, we still had so much fun together. Some nights he would come home and we would sit together, have some cocktails, and wind up laughing so hard that we wished we’d recorded our conversations.
But everything was dependent on his schedule and needs and no one else’s. Whatever he was in the mood to do, he did. Whatever money he wanted to spend, he spent. And, when he felt like coming home and being a husband and a father, he did that, too. It was all a big game of “Adam Roulette,” and I was constantly hoping my number would come in and I’d win his heart and attention for awhile. We all know, however, that those games come with some crappy odds.
I desperately wanted to stay with my husband. I wracked by brain thinking of ways to fix this, all while being completely alone and overwhelmed by life. I needed him to want to be home, where I knew he was safe and wasn’t out putting anyone else in danger, either. I kept searching for ways we could bond and reconnect. He refused therapy. He denied he had a drinking problem. At this point I wasn’t aware of the extent of his gambling. I was hanging on by a thread. I would give it one last attempt.
It was around this time that I came up with the idea to start a podcast. This would be a way for us to talk, to have a joint adventure and passion, and to create something that would help others who were going through what we’d gone through. In other words, it would give Adam a sense of purpose; something I knew he so desperately needed.
I was shocked when I told him my idea and he said yes. This showed me that he really had been looking for an outlet all this time. I wasn’t asking him to give up the fun he craved or the excitement, I was just redirecting that desire into something more productive, useful, and literally, much “closer to home” (in our living room, to be specific). While he still desperately needed to cut back on the drinking and come clean about a lot of secrets he’d been keeping (like the extent of his gambling), we were at least headed in the right direction.
Nine months later, we are still working toward that forgiveness. There are so many levels to the pain he put us through that it will be a long time before I can truly feel totally trusting of him again. But he’s at least committed to earning that trust, and I’m committed to move forward and believe in him.
None of this is easy. No one warns us about the trials and tribulations of spending a lifetime together. There’s so much shame associated with opening up about these traumatic times of betrayal and deceit. Sometimes, there’s no getting past them, and saving a relationship takes far more effort than it seems will be worth it in the end.
But sometimes, if at the core is love and connection, it’s really about finding a way to bond again, and figuring out what you both need to finally meet in the middle and realign. Don’t get me wrong, Adam and I definitely have not met in the middle yet. But at least we’re in the same house and room way more than we were.
We’re getting there, and along the way, we’re appreciating how far we’ve come, how hard we’ve worked, and we’re telling our story so that others won’t feel the shame and feel like giving up is the only option. We’re proving that sometimes, gambling your last dollar on your marriage results in some pretty amazing winnings.