How my marriage became a loveless prison


Ellie* and her husband have been together for 45 years.

Silent treatment and one-word answers have become the order of the day for former lovers who are now “house-mates who share a bed”.

This is her gripping letter about the disintegration of her relationship.

"I lay next to him in bed, but tonight I can’t sleep. It’s almost midnight. My mind races looking for reason. A reason to live? Are we enemies? Sometimes it feels that way! No, we are housemates who share a bed. Each one on their side…. without touching…without words.

How long has it been since he locked himself in his glass box? Eight months. To punish me – but actually he’s punishing himself, because I’m past getting hurt. Toughened by constant rejection and silent treatment, it’s been a long time since I’ve built a wall of apathy to guard me from his onslaught.

It is my preservation, my protection. “Shake it off, take it from where it comes. Say what you want, it doesn’t touch me.”

The silent treatment suits me actually. That way there’s no insulting and humiliation. (Only barked orders, sometimes even with a ‘please’ added to “You must” – what happened to “Will you please?”)

Talking and deciding together lies so far in the past. Where in these 45 years of living together did the change come? Could it have happened when we left the church after saying our vows?

“The woman must submit to her husband,” was what stuck in his head as a result of their indoctrination. Suddenly I wasn’t submissive in his eyes. In his words, I needed to submit to him in the same way I submit to the Lord.

I was to listen to him as though I was a child (and then became a child!). I no longer had a right to an opinion. My having an opinion was an affront to his authority.

Do you know the pain of Totius? The pain . . . my child is dead.” It is heartache with a physical pain in your chest. I know. Tonight I’m experiencing the same pain I experienced years ago when my child died. I accept that there is pain in my house.

Our love, our relationship is dead. It is over. Each time there we found our way back to each other. This time is different. As if neither of us even have the desire. Why are we are we staying together? Are we holding to what was? Habit? For the children and grandchildren?

He once told his sister in my presence: “It’s only the promise I made before God which keeps me with her, if it wasn’t for that I would have left this woman ages ago!”

To react with an outburst of screaming, doesn’t work. A quiet answer is stillborn. Shake your head in disbelief? “Yes, shake your head. It is full of pumpkin seeds. Maybe you’ll hear them!” Easily offended. Count your words. Walk on eggshells – all day, every day! The inferiority makes you sensitive!

Lord, where to now? You and my grandchildren are all that still matter to me. All that gives me reason to live. You say that I must be Jesus for him? I can’t anymore. I don’t think I want to anymore! I am tired. Why do I stick around? I honestly still feel sorry for him! And afraid. What if he takes his life if I leave?

Thank God for the radio. The presenters at least say hello to me. My only companion, my “housemate” only greets the dogs in the morning. One day I should count the words he speaks to me. Maybe even on the fingers of two hands?

How does one bury a relationship if he still moves around you every day? It’s like a ghost that won’t come to rest. He is there – but he isn’t alive anymore.

Now I got myself into an angry state of negativity again, but it makes me stronger for tomorrow. Painful thoughts make us angry. Make it harder to get hurt. The wall must go up!

Do I have to wait until death separates us? Maybe I’ll live, maybe he will. Is it wrong to look forward to it? This life only has a yesterday with beautiful memories and a tomorrow. Today isn’t important.

Wait, wait, wait – on what? Keep yourself busy with housework, needlework, and gardening work, lie in… today needs to end so that tomorrow can come.

Invite friends over. Cook food. It gives meaning to today after all. Thankful for the children and grandchildren who’s coming and going fills some days. Those days are meaningful. Their love carries me… If they only realised, but that’s my secret.

The shiny side… the falsehoods and pretense. Whitewashed graves. Be quiet, be quiet, be quiet.

Maybe the kids do know? They grew up in this house after all when there were hugs and kisses and handholding. Maybe they think it disappears with age?

Now I need to try and sleep. Need to get to bed. It’s already 2 am.

Lord, please help me though tomorrow."

*Not her real name.

This story was submitted to YOU by one of our readers and has been minimally edited.

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