The Day I Knew My Husband Could Never Love Me
My father-in-law was all things good in this world. He had the gift of an open and spoken heart. He would often say he loved me and was happy I was his daughter-in-law.
When we lost him, I expected to hear the familiar things of love. But instead, I heard the unfamiliar.
“What will I do now? What am I supposed to do”
“Who will take care of me?”
I waited and waited, for the familiar words of love to follow.
“He was the love of my life what will I do without him?”
“He was my best friend.”
“I miss my husband so much.”
It hurt me. This gentle, sweet, and caring man was not the one who took center stage. Not even in his goodbye. Nothing was about him. At least not from the one he once pledged his heart to.
I now understood he had left this life never truly being loved. But I also realized he had been none the wiser.
He was a person who saw the best in people. No matter what the behavior. He was steadfast and loyal.
He was an enabler.
Someone who makes excuses for the bad or dysfunctional behavior of others. I myself had earned this title during marriage counseling.
I had witnessed the emotional breadcrumbs leading up to this point.
It was a culmination of events. Things that happened long before his final farewell. The writing had been on the wall. The words just got darker the longer my husband and I went to counseling.
I could see my future through my in-laws. But now it was abundantly clear. I was with someone who would never have the ability to truly love me.
But at least I had a choice.
One my father-in-law never got because he never knew.
I didn’t know which was worse.
That he died never understanding he was not loved. Or that he never comprehended this while he was alive.
He had simply made excuses.
He could see the behavior but he would alternate between offering empathetic alibis and being hard on himself. Yet I do believe he never grasped the severity of his situation. Again, because he saw the best in people. He believed she had led a hard life. At least that is what he would tell me from time to time. It was his way of trying to make me feel better if he witnessed something he thought was unkind.
His words were not unlike my own.
My friend once said to me, “I know! I know! You’re husband’s a good person in a bad place. How many times are you going to say that?”
She recognized he did not deserve my excuses.
Just as I recognized my father-in-law’s unending devotion.
I was heartbroken for this man who had loved so well.
As reality hit me in the face, I brushed it away.
Sure, I knew better. My husband had been diagnosed as lacking empathy and having narcissistic personality disorder. I had been sent home with two books to read. One about narcissism and the other about passive-aggressive personalities. My husband refused to believe he was either. He was aggravated with my diagnosis as an overly caring enabler.
He said he was getting a bum deal. Why should he be labeled the jerk and I be labeled caring? But this hadn’t been our first attempt at counseling and I knew the truth.
However, the only thing stronger than an enabler is denial. It’s a pretty fierce duo. It’s responsible for keeping many unhealthy relationships together for entirely too long.
So the fixer in me persisted bolstered by the denial.
I told myself he had more of his father in him. My husband would hold my hand, snuggle next to me on the couch, and say he loved me. I held onto these things. They had to mean something.
Honestly, I can’t completely justify my refusal to see the truth.
Especially since our marriage counselor was a psychologist.
I’d like to say I left soon after that day. The day I stood face to face with my future. When I clearly knew I was with someone who could not love me.
But seeing the best in people, fixing, and enabling were rooted deep within me. No matter how hard a counselor worked to help me see my own deficits.
And because of this, I don’t know what was harder to discard. The parts of me which made it worse or the worst part of my husband. It was an exhausting battle.
I now accept narcissism and love do not play well together.
They are a sad contradiction.
I was never going to come first in my husband’s heart. There was only room for one.
But I would add a caveat.
My mother once said, “He loves you as much as he’s capable of loving anyone.”
Years later, my sister reminded me of her wisdom. Our mother had loved our father who was an alcoholic. I believe those words reflected her acceptance of an illness she knew would always supersede her.
Narcissists are self-centric and self-addicted. It can never be real or healthy love. Yet perhaps they love as much as they are capable of loving.
Or maybe I’m just a girl who still wants to see the best in people.
But who made a choice to leave.
In favor of the familiar things of love.