There’s a caveat for the poor treatment I was receiving from my husband. Whenever his or my parents were around, he turned into the best, most attentive, loving, supportive husband I’d ever even heard of.
He’d deep clean the apartment before they came over, prepare drinks and food, create a special playlist, wear his best casual attire, use pet names and inside jokes from when we were dating to keep up the happy married couple façade. And to be honest, I loved it. It felt truly like a recall to the man I loved, the man who proposed, the man I pictured a whole life loving. I began to invite our parents over more often. I asked them to stay later. My dad even started to notice and wondered why his usually-independent fiercely-private daughter was suddenly inviting them over every weekend, offering to make up the guest room, and becoming noticeably sad when they were unable to come over.
My husband acted completely dumbfounded when I asked him about it. I asked, quite simply, if he enjoyed having our parents over. He responded with a quiet anger, “Of course I don’t.” But he never discouraged inviting them. I think he did enjoy having them there. He seemed to love playing the part of the husband he’d always pictured himself becoming. That’s when I began to realize that as disappointed as I was in the husband my boyfriend had become, my husband was mostly disappointed in the man he’d become.
Usually not a drinker, he would indulge in cocktails when our parents were over under the guise of loosening up and playing the host. He’d become fun-tipsy while they were over, joking, suggesting we play games, grilling, talking about future plans we’d never discussed privately. And when our parents would leave, he’d transition into full-on rage drinking, screaming at me for allowing him to become this man, sad drinking crying at me that he knew he wasn’t the husband I’d wanted, and passing out on the sofa.
He was usually a little better for a day or two after a parental visit, as though he’d seen the version of himself he liked and wanted to try to keep it up. But a small inconvenience would usually send him spiraling back into bad-husband territory.
The first person I told about our marriage issues, besides Robin, was his mother. I didn’t mean to, she texted me one day because she was in the neighborhood and wondered if I’d like to meet her for a glass of wine. She told me that she thought I’d been withdrawn lately, I seemed sad, and she wanted to make sure things were ok. Between tears of joy for finally being asked and tears of fear for the words pouring out of me, I told her everything. I told her about my husband’s dissatisfaction with our beautiful expensive wedding, his loathsome honeymoon behavior, my dislocated shoulder, and his performative love during parental visits. She listened quietly, in deep thought, with a look of sympathy on her face.
“You should be grateful to have a husband who cares so much, young lady” she chastised me. “He’s told me how you’ve been behaving, making him sleep on the sofa, spending all of his money on weekend trips that you demand he plans, and inviting your parents over every time he wants some alone time with his wife.”
She was clearly the wrong person to tell. And my husband had clearly anticipated me breaking eventually.