Last night, for the first time since we married, Spouse and I slept in separate rooms.
This is in part my fault, but it emerges out of longer-term issues. The following is what happens when you cut open a spleen and vent it.
1. The part where it’s all my fault:
Yesterday when we were getting ready for work, I asked Spouse (using appropriate euphemisms) if she wanted to have sex that evening (in our home, sex requires preplanning; admittedly this would have been unusual, because she likes to have sex on Sunday nights at 10:30, after everything else is done. Makes me feel like the very last thing she wants to deal with). She replied “I thought you were busy this evening.” (All exchanges are paraphrases from memory.) She then diverted to other subjects and showed zero interest. I’m cool with being told no, but the total avoidance rankled.
As I was leaving for work, she asked when I would be home and I told her I would likely be a little late—around six or seven or so. (Normally on Fridays she takes Child to counseling, which ends at 6:00, and then gets home c. 6:30). For decades, we had a rule as a family that we always ate dinner together, but it’s been slipping (I often come home to find Child and Spouse—at least Child—have already had pizza or fried chicken). Still, Fridays and weekends had been sacrosanct. Our time.
I got home at 6:30 and waited. And waited. Finally, I got myself some dinner at Ye Olde Local Panera (their chili is not the worst I’ve had). Spouse and Child got home about 8:00. When I asked why so late. Spouse told me that since I’d said I’d be home between 7-9:00, she and Child had gone to dinner after counseling.
I blew up/it. I told her (not yelling, but not terribly quietly) that she doesn’t seem to hear me, that she doesn’t listen to me. That I don’t exist for her any more than I do for Child. So she told me that she would sleep downstairs and I told her not to bother, that I would sleep in the study. And that’s what happened.
2. The part where it’s longer-term:
Several things are going on, and I’ve whined about most of them here before:
I think much of our problem emerges from our very different relationships to Child. Spouse spends nearly every waking minute, except for mealtimes, alone with Child. This involves sitting with Child while they watch TV, helping Child with Child’s writing in college courses, waking child up and putting child to bed every night.
Child is 19.5 years old, transgender (pronoun: they) and has, depending on the particular therapist/counselor they are seeing, one or more psychological conditions like bipolar, depression, ADHD, etc. Years ago (c. age 11 or 12) they simply stopped attending school (“too tired”). Years of cajoling, bargaining, tutors, and special schools followed. Finally, this year, they have been regularly attending two introductory classes at a local college. Child blames me for all of their psychological issues and has decided that I don’t exist. Literally. She walks into a room and addresses Spouse and totally ignores me. We’ve talked for a grand total of maybe 20 minutes in the past two months. Spouse and I will be talking, and Child will walk in as if I’m not there and address Spouse, who immediately switches attention to Child.
I feel like I’m building related resentment on money matters, too. For 15 years I made pretty good (very good) money working in software and living mostly in the small-town Midwest, but I spent most of that time feeling dirt poor. Hell, I can’t even tell you exactly what I was making, because it all went in via direct deposit.
It’s not like my law practice is putting a significant amount of money into the family fisc right now—§ 1983 cases are notoriously unrewarding and individual clients are slow to pay. Without Spouse’s employment we’d be in deep shit. I understand that. I can only practice the kinds of law that I do because her insurance covers me. But I was the sole financial support for over a decade, and I kind of feel like I should get a little credit for that. I also adjunct teach at least one class each semester, so there’s money coming in from that (teaching complicates legal practice, but so what?).
Meanwhile, Spouse is spending substantial amounts of money on everything from hair care ($100 per session) to wigs ($300) for Child. Spouse and I never ate fast/chain food, but since that and a few other things that have to be specially prepared by Spouse are all that Child will eat, it’s Domino’s or KFC at least three nights a week. We never ate out during the week because it was expensive. We seldom bought new clothes because they were expensive. But where Child is concerned, it appears that no amount of money is too much. These days, most of my clothes come from Goodwill (admittedly not all), but Spouse doesn’t mind dropping a couple hundred each month on clothes for her and Child.
A few years ago, a colleague and I settled a case and I got $20,000 in a contingency payment—a nice sum. I decided that it was time to get rid of my leaky Y2K Volkswagen Beetle. Spouse told me that she wasn’t comfortable with me spending more than $5,000 on a car, which was OK with me, because I was able to get my used 2010 Fit for exactly that. A couple of months ago, we started talking about the need to replace Spouse’s 2007 Hyundai. She wants to get a particular SUV. The reason? She likes the color, and It has an automatic transmission so that Child will have an easier time learning to drive. $35K.
Spouse and I also pulled $60,000+ from our retirement account to pay for Child’s FFS (facial feminization surgery—I don’t object too much to that, but I’m 60, and I do worry about what life will be like without that money). Spouse had assured me that insurance would reimburse us for that amount, but so far it has refused to do so. And I can’t seem to get her to help me attend to writing the documents that we need to make an argument with the insurance company.
Spouse says that all that she’s doing is being done to prepare Child to live in a dorm, which might happen in January. She says that she’s doing this because I’m always saying that I want Child out of the house.
It’s true that I’ve said that I don’t want Child living with us forever, and that I am greatly concerned that they’ve shown little initiative toward gaining competence in the things they need to do. There are not many jobs available that involve watching every episode of Bleach or reruns of late-night monologues.
I have said that I envisioned that by the age of 60, Spouse and I could be “on our own”—in other words, I think that with someone who is almost 20, it would be nice if we could, say, take a trip together to Europe without having to worry about Child. Spouse has never been outside North America, I was last off the continent in 1983. I would love it sit in the Piazza San Marco one more time and watch the pigeons before it vanishes beneath the water, or before I do. Or walk beneath the Eiffel Tower or visit Aigues-Mortes. See the Taj Mahal. Something like that. When I was 17 and my brother was 15, my parents spent two weeks traveling in Europe. They felt they could trust not only that I could take care of my younger brother, but of my diabetes and the house and car and getting meals on the table and so forth; Child is still incapable of that basic level of independence.
When I try to talk to Spouse about all of this—how frustrated and angry I feel and how I have arguments with her in my head every morning in the shower so as not to have them in real life, she tells me that she’s tired of my moods and that I need therapy. Maybe she’s right.