Lou did not like the sexual side effects of my medications, and he was more irritable than ever. As a result, I repeatedly requested prescription changes; the doctor could not grasp the concept that my husband’s frustrations caused me more anxiety than the pills alleviated. One day, while waiting for a new prescription to be filled, I wandered down the strip mall to the bookstore to find book to help Lou to cope with the stress of having a depressed spouse. As I scanned the shelves, one title popped right out at me: “Stop Walking on Eggshells”, which is something Lou had said he felt like he had to do around me since I had become so sensitive. As I browsed the pages, I read a checklist of questions… and the answer to each was “YES”. Only I was not reading about me… I was reading a description of my husband, and the traits of borderline personality disorder. I literally sat on the floor in the aisle and read most of the book. I bought it (along with When Someone you Love is Depressed to give to Lou)… but I hid the Eggshells book in my desk at work.
I knew he was picky. I knew he had an explosive temper. I knew I could not do many things I wanted, and I constantly bit my tongue rather than disagree with him. I knew to ask his opinion before making decisions. I knew our daughter had to behave perfectly. I knew my house needed to be spotless. I knew he did not like my family, so we rarely visited and did not spend holidays with them … he didn’t even speak with his own family. I knew he needed everything to be perfect and the best we could buy. I knew we had empty bedrooms and yet not a single place for guests to stay. I knew he had trouble maintaining work and personal relationships. I knew he got revenge on anyone whom he felt crossed him – which happened a lot. I knew he cheated on me, and put little effort into hiding it. I knew from early on that I was unhappy and I had cheated on him, but I made sure he had no reason to suspect… And I also knew from early on that I could not leave.
I constantly ran interference between him and the rest of the world. I helped him cope when he lost jobs because of his arrogant behaviors, including sexual harassment. To support his bodybuilding, I made carefully weighed and measured foods and we all ate his diet. Every time I complained about or questioned anything, he turned it around and convinced me that I was the one who was wrong. Since age 16, I had lived my life trying to keep him happy and stable.
What I did not know was that these things were not normal.