My Husband Lives Down The Hall

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husband I was planning to move to the guest room. It was a week after our son’s birthday, but this decision had been brewing for months. I finally had enough, enough of what I could not entirely articulate, but enough where I knew it was time for one of us to leave our bed and live down the hall.

“I can go,” my husband whispers in his morning goodbye hug the night after the truth hit the ceiling fan.

He was volunteering to give up the space and the primary bathroom. I allowed it. Although I had been daydreaming of finally putting those framed pictures up, I knew his sacrifice to downsize rooms was big. My picture frames could wait in the closet a bit longer.

“Why don’t you and Daddy sleep here anymore?” our little one asks me that following Saturday morning.

“Just need more space!” I cheerfully assure her. “That’s all.”

I hate lying.

Our parenting differences are vast. Sexual intimacy is a ghost of days gone by with the only spark left to feed off rolling eyes and death stares. It was honestly madness, a cycle of insanity that was beginning to feel like a poorly written romance novel and less than what it was – reality.

Not many people know that there were holes in my bathroom wall from my husband’s fist. However, it’s not what you may think. The cracked plaster was inches from our light switch, so it was never out of sight. The walls were hit because our son was hitting us. More than hit – bit, kicked, screamed at, and spit on. It was happening almost daily. The wall took it when my husband had enough. But not before painful words spewed out like commentary from his tongue towards anyone in the house. Many times under the breath but clear enough to decipher and loud enough to ingest.

The likely scenario would involve me trying to save a situation or smooth out the impending chaos that could arise at any minute of the day. But I couldn’t save anything. We are raising two young children. One with multiple diagnoses that present themselves in verbal and physical violence towards the home and to family members. Tensions were higher than high with no end in sight.

“You can’t say things like that!” I would say, yell, or muddle through tears to the man whose words were nothing I had ever heard spoken to a child in my home.

He was angry. He would react in rage. He would compare and question. I wondered if he hated this, what we had, what we had chosen to do, and all the surprises that had come along. I wondered if he hated his life.

I began having panic attacks regularly. I allowed myself to grieve what I thought marriage and having children would be like, what sex and being in love would look like, and stepped into what it was.

There was no peace. There was only hypervigilance. Life had to continue. There were no re-dos or debriefs. There was no time for those conversations. Sometimes I would cover my daughter’s ears when the yelling would start. We would sit on her bed while I raced to find anything on her tablet that would fill her headphones with everything that was the opposite of what her spirit was taking in just a few feet away. I have packed bags and spent weekends away with our daughter because I couldn’t keep anyone safe.

I cope by sinking into a couch for hours, crying in a closet, or escaping. My husband manages by continually moving his body, not allowing rest, and filling unscheduled weekends with places to go and places to be. We find it easier not to all be together.

I thought this separation would allow me to work on our friendship without the pressure of working on a marriage. In the eight months, he has lived down the hall, we have reached out at different times to begin a conversation. It never goes deep but stops before hard decisions have to be made.  

“Where are we?” was asked of me early on in our in-house separation. I did not have an answer then, and I do not have an answer now.

But the yelling has stopped mostly. I don’t sink into the couch or want to run away. We laugh more. We take our meds. We apologize often. But I also don’t remember the last time I have been hugged – or kissed – like, really kissed.

“I sort of like having my own space,” we admit to one another during one of our friendly check-ins.

And for now, it’s the one thing we both agree on.

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