The Man I Dated Filled Me With Laughter, But The Man I Married Filled Me With Tears

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Couple laughing and woman crying alone

I was in my twenties and a newlywed. I sat on the floor of my bedroom pressed against the bed with the phone to my ear. I sobbed to my confidant on the other end of the line. She was the only person I was willing to tell my secret to.

"He won’t talk to me," I said. "He doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter what I say to him. He’s cold and he's so cruel."

She listened.

There’s not much else she could do.

I made her an unwilling recipient of my tears. I placed her in a position of conflict but I wasn't completely aware of this because we were young and I considered her one of my very best friends. But she was my husband’s sister. 

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I called her because I couldn't let my own family and friends know or they would hate him.

"He looks like a Kennedy," said my aunt. "He's such a great guy."

Everyone shared her sentiment. I was dating an incredibly wonderful man. We met in college when I was just 19 and he was 20. I was nearly 25 when we got married. I thought I knew my college sweetheart. But I didn't.

This was one of many calls I made to my husband’s sister. 

She was my only outlet and my only escape. 

I couldn't hold in all of the coldness and cruelty my husband threw my way. 

It was irrational and insanity-inducing. He stayed out all night and returned in the morning and then told me I had no right to be angry at him. He could play cards and not come home. He proceeded to not speak to me for three weeks because how dare I get angry at him.

Another time he questioned me. What’s the big deal if he left me in a bar? The other guys thought it was funny to take off and leave all of the women there with no way home. It was all good fun. My husband again proceeded to turn the anger of his misdeeds back on me.

My husband sent a very clear message.

In fact, he said it the morning I had been up all night waiting for him to come home.

"How dare you speak to me that way. How dare you get mad at me."

"Any woman would be mad," I said. "Husbands don’t just not come home all night long. I woke up in the middle of the night worried something had happened to you."

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My husband never sent this message while we dated. It started just after we got married.

"You brought home the wrong thing from the grocery store," I said.

"Don’t you ever get mad at me," he said. "If you want something you go to the store and get it yourself."

I was startled by my husband’s reaction. I didn't recognize the man in front of me. My boyfriend never spoke to me this way. He was never arrogantly cold and cruel. After we got engaged, I started to notice a slight change in him but it was nothing like this. 

I would describe it as more cold than cruel.

Once I asked him to go to the florist with me and he refused. I pleaded with him saying that, because my mother was sick, I had to plan the entire wedding by myself and I’d really like the company. My husband said he was a busy man and had work to do. But the appointment was in the evening because I worked too.

It didn’t matter. 

I had to go alone.

The first few years of marriage my husband confused me and I cried. 

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The man I dated filled me with laughter, but the man I married filled me with tears. 

It only got worse. The message was clear. I couldn’t get mad at him for anything and I couldn’t demand anything of him.

If the car needed to go to the shop, I did it. If the wall needed to be painted, I did it. If the drywall needed to be fixed, I had to get my friend's husband to do it. The baby dresser had to be painted by my friend's husband too. I couldn’t get in the way of my husband, his work, or what he wanted to do.

If I needed to be picked up from surgery he refused.

If I wanted my childhood cat to live with us he refused.

If I wanted him to go to the hospital with me when our son had surgery he refused.

It didn’t matter how big or small. How natural or unnatural his reaction was. He didn’t care. He would get furious with me for impacting his day or attempting to. He felt nothing. 

He watched me cry so hard I would get welts on my face.

It’s not normal to have a husband who says he’s too busy to pick up his wife and newborn baby from the hospital because he took off when the baby was born. But nothing my husband did was normal or natural.

It's not normal for a neighbor to have to insist that your husband pick you up when you're welcoming a new baby into your family. Because he's mad that your OB/GYN told him to cancel his appointments the day I was being induced. He had to retaliate for someone telling him what to do. 

It's not normal for your husband to refuse to pick you up when you are put under anesthesia for oral surgery. It's even less normal for him to not wonder how you got home that day. It's not normal for a man to be angry you can't make a business trip with him because your mother is dying. It's even less normal for that man to respond with, "Your mother's been dying forever." It's not normal for a man to not cry when a dog is put to sleep. It's even less normal when it's that man's own family dog. 

There are far too many more examples that I have of what's not normal and what's even less normal to share.

It’s the horrific reality of narcissism.

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Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. She writes about love, life, relationships, family, parenting, divorce, and narcissism.