Sep. 3rd, 2014

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I really, really need advice, guys.

My relationship with my fiancee might be on its last legs.  Dying a death of a thousand cuts from tiny little frustrations that we haven't talked about because we thought they would pass.  We're finally talking about them and working our way to fixing our problems (it's taken me  weeks to write this, because we keep having good days and I fool myself into thinking I was overreacting), so if we DO manage to work this stuff out we may end up better than ever. 

Don't get me wrong, I still love him, I still enjoy his company when we're doing the things that brought us together in the first place (games and nerding out with mutual friends), he still gives me warm fuzzies when he holds my hand or snuggles up to me in the morning.  But the spaces in between the good moments are getting... not longer, but definitely harsher, and I am very afraid it might already be too late to save us.

The grand narrative, at least from my standpoint, is this:

I've been deeply unhappy with how my life has been going for something like two years now (momentary distractions that fool me into thinking things are getting on track notwithstanding), and every time I try to talk to him about it he gets really angry because all he hears is me laying a guilt trip on him.  To what end I'd be doing that, I don't know.  Usually, I'm just trying to explain why I'm being lethargic and weepy, although I admit sometimes I'm explaining why I want him to fix my car...

Related: One of the big reasons I moved in with him when I did, rather than staying in Madison to sort out post-college me and get my career started before I tried to learn how to cohabitate with someone, was because he promised to fix up his car so I could look for theatre work in Madison AND Milwaukee, seeing as he lived halfway between the two.  Nearly three years and an entirely different car with my name on the registration later, I still don't have a functional vehicle.  I spent well over $1,000 and declined to return to a seasonal job so I could go to the 2013 USITT conference in an effort to kickstart/breathe life back into my theatre career, and was completely unable to follow up on that investment because no car...  And, of course, he seriously resents that investment, because from his perspective I just spent over a grand on a weekend of nothing in particular instead of continuing to pay off my student loans without his help (understandable, really - in hindsight, we probably would have been much better off if I'd just taken the money and bought a car that worked).

He also seems to resent that my business hasn't become an instant success, and he has straight up TOLD me that he thinks it's ridiculous for me to spend the first half of my day working on my computer (ie, social media wrangling, tweaking price lists, researching construction techniques and new product ideas and sizing standards, writing copy for my Etsy store, etc.) instead of sewing things... as if a stack of premade clothes will magically generate money for an unadvertised custom clothes business.  Although, really, the problem is that he doesn't trust that all those tasks actually take half the day and I'm really just sipping coffee and playing games on my phone and/or computer all morning... I, of course, resent his suspicion, and fear that no matter how successful I become or how hard I work, that suspicion will always be there for as long as I'm working at home (or only working out of home part time).

Needless to say, money is getting tight, and I've been looking for a day job, which is something I wish I didn't have to do, but I accept as a consequence of not being an instant success (I've almost got the business set up to the point where I'll have time for other things/a real job)...  Except I can't apply for anything I might actually be good at or enjoy, because I'm stuck either within walking distance or on a schedule that lets him drop me off.  Which brings us back to the car thing.

I know it sounds like I'm blaming the potential end of a four-year mostly-happy relationship on a car, but I'm not.  That would be stupid.  The car is just a fetish, a bit of phlebotinum that I like to pretend would have prevented the real problems from becoming big enough to break us, a focus for the resentment I feel.

It's the resentment that's the real problem.  The car on my side, the business on his.  There are so many other things, too.  We BOTH resent that I've become totally dependent on him - him because supporting both of us financially means he has to cut back on hobby spending and worry about bills, me because I don't feel I have any agency in my own life, and him again because when I want to do something outside the house (whether it's for fun, or taking my business to vend at an event, or even applying for a job) I have to convince him to come with/take me to it (and there's that damn car again).  He resents that I'm home all day and yet don't keep the place clean or cook dinner more than a couple nights a week lately, I resent the idea that because I'm home all day it must mean I'm a housewife.  His (understandable) baggage from his ex, my resentment of his baggage getting dumped on me.

Those resentments are all in addition to the normal couple stresses.  Personal habits that we thought were innocuous or even cute when we first moved in but now make us want to strangle each other, household budget, different political views, not delivering hugs exactly when needed, not being horny when the other wants to get laid, various "could you help around the house" complaints from both of us.  We're so wound up in our resentments that we can't talk about these day-to-day problems without it turning into a fight.  In fact, until very very recently, that's how this relationship drama has played out - we try to talk about a normal-functional-couple problem, and other-stuff-resentments from both sides explode the conversation into a fight.  ...Check that - because this post has taken a while to write, a new pattern has emerged: he complains about normal problem only loudly, angrily, and at length because ::such and such resentment, usually computer-based work/suspicion of gaming:: that he mentions, then usually apologizes a few hours later, I keep response to said complaint minimal and stay shut up about normal problems because I don't want to fight.  Basically, that "we're finally talking about our problems" thing I mentioned above is fading, because most of our talking was triggered by the aftermath of a fight, and if I don't have the emotional energy to take a rant and turn it into a fight, then the talking doesn't happen.

To top it all off, that baggage from his ex I mentioned above has given him a cut-and-run reflex.  When fights get bad, he goes straight to some variation on "if that's the way you feel, you might as well just leave" (and the threshold of fight badness where this tactic appears is getting lower and lower).  When fights get REALLY bad (and they can turn really bad for tiny, superficial reasons, often semantics along the lines of saying "nice" instead of "affectionate"), he has actually told me to "pack your shit" (always that exact phrase, always multiple times once the fight escalates to that point) and get out... this has happened three, maybe four times total, all within the last six months.  Once things get calmed down, which usually involves me throwing away my half of the argument and apologizing for everything I think I might have done, that order gets recanted, and it usually only takes about 15 minutes for that calmdown to happen...  But I'm not certain how much longer I'll have the emotional energy to drop everything and grovel if/when the next time comes.  I'm pretty certain that the next time, or maybe the time after that, my response is just going to be "Okay, I'll call my parents and see when they can get a Uhaul here."

The stress of all this is seriously taking its toll, to the point of making me physically ill.  (There's also a possibility that I have a quiet case of mono, as well, but the following I'm quite certain are stress symptoms:)  I've had next to no appetite for nearly a month, haven't had a restful night's sleep in even longer, my already chronic heartburn has turned into a daily ordeal of discomfort and ranitidine, my libido is pretty much gone, my caffeine tolerance suddenly dropped to fraction of what it used to be, and my hair is starting to fall out a bit (not in clumps or anything, but I'm definitely shedding way more than usual).  I've started carrying a stuffed animal with me at all times just to keep myself calmed down.  Efforts to keep myself distracted/calm have also made his suspicions about me playing games all morning come a LOT closer to being true than they were a few weeks ago, which does not help in any way...

Something has to change.  Something has to change SOON, because I cannot handle this.

I feel like, if I can pull off the change in trajectory my life needs, get my career going (or go to grad school - I've been out of the loop long enough that might be a better choice), become less dependent...  If I can do that, then that will pave the way to fixing everything.  A couple of the biggest sources of resentment will be gone, or at least faded, we can work through whatever is left as well as the normal-couple stuff, and because I'll be happier with my life I'll also be in a much better mental state TO work through it.  But that's a big "if."

As mentioned before, I've become almost totally dependent on my fiancee, which means that I'll need to either convince him (the full-time worker with an exhausting job who somewhat resents how dependent on him I am) to work nearly as hard as I will toward this goal, or find a way around that dependence... which would probably include spending a few weeks here and there staying at my parents' place so I'm within bus range of my goals and things like that (he says he's going to get my car on the road this weekend, so that'll help if it happens, but still).  Either route, it's going to put a even more stress on a relationship that's cracked already.  It could be like the relationship equivalent of a House, M.D. treatment... it might cure us, but it might kill or permanently maim us on the way.

The way I see it, there are four ways for this to go:

1) I surrender.  Try to forget that I think I already found The Thing I Was Meant To Do With My Life (or at least the general category of Thing), stop putting real effort into my business, get a part-time job that pays just enough to cover my student loans, and spend the rest of my time cleaning and cooking.

2) I pursue my goals for reals.  The financial strain and increased time away from home (or at home, but unavailable) on my part rubs at us and eventually the friction causes a fiery, relationship-ending explosion.

3) I pursue my goals for reals.  The visible action and gradually-increasing independence on my part eases tension between us, we work stuff out and live happily ever after.

4) I leave.  Figure out how to fit all of my stuff into my parent's basement, get out while I still have enough good feelings that maybe neither of us will have to give up a hobby just to avoid each other, and try to get my life on the track it was when I graduated from college.

Clearly, the one I WANT to happen is #3.  And I hate to say this, but I'm pretty sure the one that my fiancee wants now (possibly has always wanted, even though he loves the idea of Art Chick Wife) is #1, which... I can't do that.  I'm pretty sure Life Choice #1 is a variation on how my paternal grandmother became the bitter, dream-crushing old bat that she is now, and I've already seen hints that I could go that way in myself (ie, having difficulty being happy for my friends/family that are doing cool stuff in the entertainment & archaeology worlds), so going further down that road is just...no.  Anything else.

Unfortunately, #2 and #4 may be the most likely options.  Which REALLY sucks, because 2&3 are the same choice, only with different outcomes that may be beyond my control.  No reasonable person would want #2, but if I want any "happily" along with some "ever after" with my fiancee, that's what I'll have to risk.  I don't know.  Maybe I'm being overly pessimistic.  But I'm just so tired.  Tired of being unsatisfied and unhappy.  Tired of fighting, and of keeping my head down to avoid a fight.  Just plain TIRED tired (although that last is probably the quiet possibly-mono).  And I don't know if I have it in me to handle it should option 3 turn into option 2.  So option 4, leaving, is starting to sound like an oasis in the desert - it's a long, long way from what I want, but at least it would be a cool place to stop and rest.

So, please.  Help.  I don't know what to do.

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Cerys, The Great Whatchamacallit

September 2014

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