Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. Today, Ben and I had one of our usual brief conversations, around Rosie’s evening chats. He’s resumed speaking to us (albeit abruptly with me), and I took Rosie down to the rehab centre on Sunday to see him.
Rosie started ‘big school’ today – her first day at reception (or kindergarten) – so she had plenty to tell Ben.
Even so, we managed to squeeze in a few sentences, some of them banal (So, what have you been watching on TV lately? Me: Nothing, I don’t really watch anything aside from the news. Ben: Yeah, nothing of note.) But his tone ranges from conciliatory to snarky within the space of a few minutes, and he thinks nothing of simply hanging up on me. I guess he doesn’t really know what to think any more.
Nevertheless, today he told me he is happy with the idea of having separate accommodation after he comes out from rehab. In fact, he said he thought it might be a good idea if we did split, after all.
What? I mean, WHAT??
I believe this is what you might call an ‘about turn’. Not him, mind you, but me. You see, I am still mulling all this over, and although I am the one who suggested the separation in the first place, I didn’t expect him to agree quite so enthusiastically.
Rather than feel relieved, I am confused and upset. I don’t know what to think any more. At the moment, I’m thinking, how dare he. I mean, how dare he think it is ok to say these things to me after everything I’ve been through to help him get well again? And has he ever, even once, thought to apologise for what he’s done?
Which then leads me to: yes, it is definitely a good idea to separate.
After which I think, well, no, not forever. I don’t really want my marriage to be over.
And then I remember the drinking: the time he turned up to Rosie’s nursery sing-along performance reeking of drink; the time he arrived late for Rosie’s appearance as an angel in the church Nativity play – again, smelling of booze; the many times he drove drunk with Rosie in the back of the car; the hundreds of times he’s lied to me about his drinking; the scores of times I’ve had to clean up his various effluvia; the times I’ve had to care for him while he was in withdrawal; the hours I have been spending ferrying Rosie back and forth from the rehab centre.
I remember all those things and I get angry, and then I think: yes, it is definitely a bloody good idea to separate.
And then I see our wedding photo and I remember all the great things about Ben – his dedication to his music, his generosity and gentleness, his incredible way with Rosie, and something turns inside me – call it stupid hope – and I don’t know again.
Many of you have told me how hard it is to save yourself from co-dependence. But what about love? On the other hand, maybe the angry Ben is all there is left. Maybe he feels – and I can’t fault him for this – that coming back here will lead him down the same path again, that our dynamic is one very real factor in his drinking.
A dangerous dynamic
I finished reading Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye a few weeks ago. This passage in particular struck me for its tragi-comedy. Toni Morisson astutely exposes the extreme ends of co-dependence here. It’s awful, but it really made me laugh out loud, because it resonates, even if a tiny bit, with my own experience.
Cholly, by his habitual drunkenness and orneriness, provided them both with the material they needed to make their lives tolerable. Mrs Breedlove considered herself an upright and Christian woman, burdened with a no-count man, whom god wanted her to punish. (Cholly was beyond redemption, of course, and redemption was hardly the point – Mrs Breedlove was not interested in Christ the Redeemer, but rather Christ the Judge.) Often she could be heard discoursing with Jesus about Cholly, pleading with Him to help her “strike the bastard down from his pea-knuckle of pride.” And once when a drunken gesture catapulted Cholly into the red-hot stove, she screamed, “Get him, Jesus! Get him!” If Cholly had stopped drinking, she would never have forgiven Jesus. She needed Cholly’s sins desperately. The lower he sank, the wilder and more irresponsible he became, the more splendid she and her task became. In the name of Jesus.
I can’t say I’ve ever asked Jesus to smite Ben down, but I can say that the notion of the drinking becoming the glue of a relationship – the constant that defines the relationship – is very real, not just for me, I suspect, but for many others out there.
So, what is to become of us? Has Ben really stopped drinking? Is the end of his drinking the end of us? And even if our marriage does end, will I ever stop being the wife of an alcoholic?