When is it time to give up?
I'm taking a big breath and jumping in here. I usually post over at other forums, but I do lurk here occasionally, when I need some perspective. I realize that by posting personal problems on a public forum I'm opening myself up to flames and trolls, but I'm also hoping to be able to sift thru that and get some meaningful advice as well.
We will have been married for 7 years this March (together for 8). He is step-father to our 13y DS who is emotionally challenged (he's very high-functioning, but it's still a huge stressor in our lives).
I married him because at the time he seemed to be all of the things I was looking for in a partner: smart, funny, responsible, considerate, stable, a good provider and all-around good person. Of course he had minor faults, but so do I, and my way of thinking was that all of his good qualities FAR outweighed any small imperfections. I tend to not sweat the small stuff. He did seem to drink a bit much for my liking, but he wasn't a fall-down drunk, just a few shots and/or beers here and there, so I figured it was manageable.
Two years after we were married, he did a complete and utter turn around. He changed employers within the same field, and all of a sudden I was hearing how no one at the new company appreciated him and that they were all "out to get him". He felt that his one boss was always yelling at him (he started to be unable to handle even the most constructive criticism), he became paranoid that almost every conversation had an ulterior motive. He became verbally abusive towards me, and withdrew emotionally. He became addicted to an online computer game, and reacted extremely defensively when anyone (myself, his family, therapists) tried to point out his addiction to him. He stopped paying the mortgage and car payment, and I admit I should have been more vigilant. Up until that time he'd been taking care of the bills just fine, so I really had no reason to think that he wasn't. I'd ask "are we ok with the bills? Everything's getting paid on time?" and he'd always say they were. He was 6 payments behind on the car and 5 mortgage payments behind before I knew anything about it. He told me on a Wednesday that they were going to foreclose on the house unless they got all of the arrears by Friday. We had to borrow the money from my parents to save the house, and we had to end up filing bankruptcy as a result of the rest of the bills. Around this same time we had dual hurricanes hit us within a month of each other, and in this stressful time he hit our son while I was at work and gave him 2 black eyes. He had been drinking at the time. He was arrested, but the state dropped the charges as long as he went to anger management classes and AA. My personal stipulations were to get counseling and stop drinking in addition. He did everything but AA - he went for the required meetings and then stopped. Still doesn't think to this day that he has a problem, but isn't drinking either.
In the course of his counseling we found that he is bipolar, and was prescribed medication. He (most of the time) takes his pills, but he's said on more than one occasion that he doesn't think he needs them. I *always* know when he stops taking them, he becomes moody and suspicious and very short-fused. He's come close to hurting our son during those times, but I've always been able to step in and defuse situations. I've also told him that if he ever stops taking his meds again we (DS and I) will leave him. He's been thru enough therapy to get the message that his disease is a chemical imbalance that is nothing to be ashamed of and that he NEEDS those medications the same way a diabetic needs insulin. I think on some level he may grasp that, but I'm not sure.
Now, in the last year, he's been through 7 different jobs. He's been either fired or laid off from all of them. Granted, he's in construction, and I am aware of how the economy is effecting that job sector. However, he comes home nearly every day telling me about how so-and-so yelled at him or so-and-so doesn't like him and is undermining him. It's *never* his fault. Whenever he does this, I try to reason things out with him and talk things through. He will usually by the end of the conversation admit to being able to see the other person's side of things, and we'll talk about how he might be able to handle things differently the next time the situation arises. The problem is, he never does. He doesn't have the ability to be able to apply or remember past knowledge to present situations.
I seem to be having the same conversations and experiences with him over and over and over again. He'll say something, and I'll remind him of the same thing happening last year and remind him that I,or his psych, or his therapist, or all of us explained to him how that wasn't the best way to handle it and gave him tools to handle it differently, more productively, or less emotionally. Things just don't seem to sink in.
His psychiatrist says that he's on the correct meds and correct doses of those meds, I do believe that he is taking them, and he's currently in therapy again. He never has returned to the man I married. I haven't even seen glimpses of it.
All along, and he'll be the very first to say it, I've tried to be his biggest cheerleader. I've tried to be as supportive as I can be, I've never yelled at him or called him names, or tried to belittle him. I've tried to face every crisis head on with him, and always tried to encourage him and point out his good qualities as often as I can. I can honestly say that every time he's lost another job, I've tried to be positive and supportive, and have not once said or done anything to make him feel worse than he already does.
The most recent crisis (for me anyway) is that he was offered a chance to change jobs. He's been at a company now for 5 months (a record, lately) and they seem to like him, he seems to like the work and the bosses, but the pay is low. I don't care so much about that, as long as he's getting the satisfaction of a job well done and he's getting recognition for that. The "new" offer would pay more, but would be less stable. We've been in this situation before, and in the old case he took the new job only to have the entire office be laid off after a month. Couldn't claim unemployment because he voluntarily left the previous job. After everything we've been through, I personally can't believe he'd even consider it, and at the therapist's office I told him how afraid it made me and that I would not be able to handle it if he became unemployed again over those circumstances. He considered that, but it didn't seem to sway his decision in the least. As fate would have it, the offer was rescinded (the person decided not to expand the company after all so the job doesn't currently exist). I think he did see just how much it shook me, and he did (4 months after I first asked him to) finally get a part time job to help with the bills. (Just so no one thinks I'm asking anything I wouldn't do, I have a full-time job and have had a part time job for the last year and a half. I'd work more if I could but physically I just can't.)
I am tired. I have no more energy to give. I am becoming resentful. I am miserable. The things that are important to me: security, stability, responsibility - they are not important to him. I am TIRED of being the only grown-up in the marriage, I truly feel like I have 2 children instead of 1. He doesn't have any fiscal responsibility, I have had to take over our finances and I feel like I've basically had to take over as being the grown-up as well. I feel like it's no longer a partnership, and I'm sinking under the weight and responsibility. I feel lately like I'd have less stress being alone again. I'm not naive enough to think that I wouldn't have ANY stress, but it would be MY stress to own, not the stress of someone else's making.
I think back and wonder why I didn't leave him when things first fell apart, and I guess the way I look at it is that if *I* were the one falling apart, I wouldn't want him to abandon me, I'd want him to stay and I'd need his help; so I've stayed and I've tried to help, but I'm just not seeing any fruits from the labor. I can honestly say I've tried everything I can, but I've lost respect for him and that's something that's so important to me.
I have told him on several occasions that I need *more*. That I need responsibility from him, that I need him to show more that he cares about those things. He tries for a few days or a few weeks, but then reverts back. I've told him I'm unhappy and want a divorce unless I see change, and he is now back in therapy but it doesn't seem to be fixing the fundamental issues. (though I do give him tremendous credit for stepping up and going back to therapy. it's been about 5 or 6 months though, I'm not sure how much longer I can hang in).
So the question at the end of this long story is: when is it time to give up? I made my vows "in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad" but I haven't seen any good in a very long time and I don't see any hope of any in the near future. I don't want to paint the picture of things being horrid all of the time - most of the time things are "pleasant" between us, when he's not being moody he can be kind and considerate and fun to be around. But I'm not sure that's enough for a marriage. On the other hand, I'd feel horribly guilty for abandoning him when he's obviously not well. I'm not interested in a religious debate, I'd rather keep that out of this. But otherwise, what are some thoughts and/or suggestions?
ps: I have an appointment with the therapist myself on Monday. I realize that my emotions are getting to be too much for me to handle on my own and that I need help. So ya'll aren't my only source of wisdom, lol, but I'd sure like to hear from those that are "in the trenches with me" so to speak.