In 1986, my husband had a massive heart attack and died at age 42. I can tell you that grieving his death took a long time and didn't follow the stages of grief I expected. One of those stages was anger, and I never felt angry about it. Then, one night I had a dream that he walked into the kitchen, not dead at all, and told me that he had faked his death as part of a midlife crisis! In my dream I was furious at him! I guess this was my unconscious mind dealing with the anger I wouldn't let surface when I was awake.
Now I'm remarried and my 2nd husband and I will celebrate our 22nd anniversary in September. If I were to compare the two men, I would say that they were miles apart in the how they've treated me. My first husband was continually reminding me that I fell short of his expectations as a wife. He wanted me to be thin, pretty, and a good housekeeper, plus good at keeping his shirts ironed and his suits pressed. I guess what he really wanted was a Stepford wife, and I never quite fit the bill. He responded to me in a passive-aggressive way most of the time. My present husband is kind, loving, and accepts me just the way I am. He appreciates me in a way that my first husband never did.
In the past couple of years, I've dreamed many times that my first husband left me for another woman who fit his ideal for a wife. It's always a disturbing dream, because I don't know how I would manage the kids, the house, etc. if he left me, even though that's exactly what I did when he died. The recurring dream is always a little upsetting, because when he decides to leave me, I feel so betrayed by his being with another woman. You may remember a time in your life when a relationship broke off because of your partner loving somebody else, and it just seems so alienating and empty when the love you had together is just thrown away. Maybe in my dream, I'm feeling that I betrayed him by remarrying, so my unconscious mind is showing me how that feels. I really don't know.
Last night, however, I dreamed that I decided I had endured enough of the way he treated me and I told him I was getting a divorce. It was interesting to see how once the table turned on him, he begged and pleaded for me to stay. Still, I took the kids and left. I didn't feel happy about hurting him, but I did feel empowered to take control of my own life. I don't know what caused this dream--spicy foods? Or perhaps a movie I watched about a doomed relationship? (Tara Road by Maeve Binchy, showing on Netflix streaming.)
There are many responses a person may choose from when she is "never enough" for her partner in a relationship. I put up with it too long, but I didn't have the self-confidence to go it alone. Finally, I decided to take better care of myself. I lost weight, got myself appointed to a city board, and finished college. Then I went on to graduate school. My husband was afraid I would find somebody else and leave him. I would never have done that, but his whole family thought the same thing. On Valentine's Day that year, I convinced him that I wasn't going anywhere, ever. Four days later, he died. He had told me earlier that he was happier than he'd ever been before.
I wonder what life would have been like for me and the kids if he hadn't died. I'm pretty sure the kids wouldn't have gone away to college, and he'd still be disgusted at me for being fat, but maybe there would be some positives too that I'm unable to envision. I'm working on putting all of this aside, but it's turned out to be more difficult than consciously trying to let it go! When I do, I hope the weight goes with it. When the turmoil in the back of my mind stops, there's no telling what other detritus of my painful memories will fly away. As I said in my last blog entry, I'll let you know.