After nearly a year of being separated, my husband and I have decided to get back together. It has been good for us to be separated because it made each of us look at our own issues. For me, those issues were about codependency. For him, they were about addiction. A very common theme in households with people who struggle with substance abuse.
When I first learned that my husband was HIV+, I was very intrigued. He was the first person I had ever met that was HIV+. To be honest, my intrigue was probably my codependent tendencies getting riled up. We started dating, and after I did a lot of research on HIV/AIDS, I made the decision to marry him. But I did not marry him because I loved him, I married him because I felt that no one else would and he would die alone. He was too great of a person to die alone, and in a twisted contorted kind of way, I mistook those feeling and thoughts for love. I honestly didn't think we would be married for longer than 5 years. I thought he would die of AIDS before our 5 year wedding anniversary.
Now, of course, over these past ten years of marriage, my feelings have evolved and I love him for all the right reasons (and some wrong reasons too), but it was good for me to untangle those feelings with my therapist over these past months.
My weekly sessions with my therapist helped me to get to the bottom of my codependent issues. I knew that my decision to marry him stemmed from my codependent tendencies. I loved him too, but mostly I married him because I needed to be needed. And I think he married me because he needed to be taken care of....most addicts do.
We knew that our marriage would be over if only one of us changed, or if neither changed. The only way our marriage could survive was if we both changed in equal and sometimes opposite ways. I had to stop "caring" (controlling) him, and he had to start taking full responsibility for himself. It was the only way we would survive, and I am happy to say we both made the decision to work hard on ourselves to keep the marriage alive.
Now that I am past the "crisis" of stabilizing our marriage, I am able to think back to the friends and family who offered advice or support to me during that difficult time. There were a few friends and family members who were amazingly supportive and let me go through each phase without interjecting their opinions or imposing their advice. But others, mainly my therapist, were not so caring and it has left a bad taste in my mouth.
I have been seeing this therapist for at least 5 years. My husband and I would often go see her together. She helped us work through the decision to try to conceive naturally. So I was surprised at her reaction when she began to realize that I would make the decision to stay with my husband. One day she asked how I was feeling and when I told her that I just didn't think I could get divorced, she seemed frustrated and asked how could she best support me to make that decision. I told her that I felt as if I was on a high diving board, and I had to decide if I was going to jump off into the pool (divorce), or go back down from the diving board and not make the jump (stay together). I told her that I needed her help to determine my decision. Her response was that I needed to be pushed off the diving board. She was pressuring me to get divorced! And I felt this way from a few other friends as well....this pressure to divorce.
I got the sense that my therapist, and these friends, thought that I had "married beneath myself" and if I could escape from my marriage, I would be better off. Their thoughts were relevant, and I even felt the same way at times, but feeling their pressure was very off-putting.
I've learned over these ten years that people have their own issues and fears around HIV/AIDS, and I have to give people room to react to my circumstances with my husband. As I mentioned before, many friends severed their friendships with me when I made the decision to marry him, and I know it was out of their own fears and lack of education...but instead of forcing them to see things from my perspective, I had to just give them room to deal with their stuff. I am back at that point with some friends now...
Most of them have been supportive of me over the years and I am very surprised by the pressure I feel from them to end my marriage and start over with someone else. Someone who does not have as many "issues"....someone who does not have HIV.
Being a co-dependent person, it has been difficult to stand up for myself, because I want to please everyone. I wanted them to feel as if I was listening and valuing their advice...but I soon realized that this can't be how I relate to people anymore.
It became clear to me that I needed to give myself room to react to my friends and therapist. I want to consider their perspectives and analyze why I'm feeling pressured by them. Is their reaction truly about the HIV or is it about something else?
Either way, it feels good to be self-reflective and self-aware...and that's the way I need to stay for a while.