Do you like your spouse? Love them? Can you picture living without them? I liken our situation to being forced to divorce your spouse and enter an arranged marriage with someone you’ve never met before on the same day.
The new spouse might look a lot like your old spouse so maybe there’s still chemistry. But there’s also undeniable differences.
Where your old spouse was smart and clever and could discuss current events for hours, your new spouse struggles to acknowledge you at the end of the day.
You laughed a lot with spouse A, laughter was kind of central to your life, but spouse B doesn’t see anything funny and mostly seems to not even like you.
Old spouse loved to be with you, doing chores or errands together. New spouse seems to hate everything you do, any way you do it.
If you found yourself in this situation would you be missing your old spouse more than you worry about liking your new spouse? How would you balance trying to build a relationship with the newbie when your heart is still really with your ex?
In one horrible night I lost my best friend and fiance, and had to put up with a guy that I kind of thought was a jerk. I had trouble bringing it up to anyone because Jason was still *right there*. If you didn’t know him well you probably couldn’t see a difference. But he was so far from the type of man I wanted to spend my life with, I was crushed during our newlywed days.
I loved when we would get together with family or friends. He could put on this mask, and pull back old habits that made him seem like the man I fell in love with. When we were with other people sometimes I thought I was crazy. They could see Jason still. He seemed to be all there. I worried I was being too hard on him. Or that he was upset he was married to me. He couldn’t seem to bring out the old Jason for me, just the version that seemed to think I was pretty terrible.
On our honeymoon I remember being so sad. He had to sleep most of the time. I spent a lot of hours sitting in a hotel room, watching Netflix and trying to be happy because everyone’s tired after a wedding right? I remember picking out restaurants I thought he’d love, just to have him sit across from me and refuse to put down his phone or acknowledge me. My best memories of our honeymoon all revolve around being at a friend’s cottage with friends, and Jason seeming more like the Jason I fell in love with than he had in a month.
It was a really hard start to our marriage. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But I’m betting whatever stage TBI enters your marriage it’s probably pretty hard to be grieving your old life and trying to build a new one. I just want to say you aren’t alone. And if your spouse is like Jason, and can put on a face for other people, that shouldn’t make plan A to surround yourself with friends and family all the time. Push the doctors for more help, find alternative therapies that can help. I will say Jason started to come back to me around the January after being attacked, when he started cutting back on work and sleeping more. For us, behavioural optometry one year after the attack remains the single biggest factor of me feeling affection towards post TBI Jason. Being able to laugh with him and start to see some progress in his cognitive skills gave me hope when I needed it and a start at building our relationship again.
It’s still a work in progress. I would say only over the last month or two have Jason and I actually felt like we are more husband and wife than caregiver and patient. We love it. And we’ve realized I have some serious work on forgiveness to do for all the hurt during that first year of marriage. I can cognitively know that all those slights and fights were the TBI (Timmy) talking, I can even write about it and advise other spouses not to take it personally, but my heart hasn’t gotten the message.