Midlife Crisis, The Dependency Trap

With the television issue and the furniture issue, I’ve come to the realization that my aunt Betty, rest her soul, was right. I’m now looking over my life and realizing that men like my dad no longer exist (yes, Mom, I understand that neither Rome nor Dad were built in a day, but he developed well), and were even rare in his generation. So many 60+ people are divorced, and when I asked around, the running sentiment of the women is that it just wasn’t worth having an 80 kilo anchor draining their energy and finances.

The divorces were usually triggered by some intolerable behavior, an affair that produced a disease or children, or revelation of some financial indiscretion or at least secret expenditure they knew their wife would not approve. Sometimes it was something she would have approved had she been asked. The problem was that the man considered his income as belonging to him rather than the family, while the woman’s income was treated like both of their should have been, as if it belonged to the family.

I don’t have the Disney dreams a lot of women have. I know in advance that masculine men, let’s just put this mildly as possible, think differently about money than feminine people. The main problem, at least as I can see it, is that at some point men were no longer taught what they were supposed to be doing with their income once they got married. The ones who are 60+ now got into some weird limbo where they want the duty of provider, but don’t understand that this means the duty of home manager belongs to the wife. The wife is supposed to be able to tell the husband what’s needed. The husband is supposed to provide the resources. The wife determines how to get the job done within the resources provided. The mission gets accomplished and everybody’s happy and comfortable as possible within their means.

Since maternal feminism and womanism fell out of fashion, and things shifted to favor a sort of mock masculinity, the classic woman’s role is no longer respected. It may be that many women who had the option to, abused that role, but if an individual woman is not and has never abused that role, she shouldn’t be disrespected as if she has. She shouldn’t be questioned and deprived based on what a man believes is needed, logical, or practical, or one would end up living in a garage or barn.

The solution many women of that generation came up with was to have their own income, or in most cases, keep having their own income and assert their rights as workers. It may have been less because they had the additional work of managing the home and raising children, but it was enough to fill the gap between what the man could or when it wasn’t a matter of poverty, was willing to provide for and what was actually needed to not live in a barn or garage situation.

This is somewhat tolerable when one is young and has the time and patience. It becomes less tolerable as one gets older and the effects of stress become more physically damaging. If a woman already has her own money, enough to live and manage a modest but reasonable life, she makes a decision for her sanity and health that she doesn’t need the additional stressor who isn’t giving her sex, affection, good company, or doing his bit to pool resources to improve their mutual standard of living. That’s not a husband. That’s a cruel room mate.

As the cost of living gets higher and people get older, I see more of this cost/benefit divorce happening. Once the children are grown, the wife no longer needs a husband only in name. Her job is more her husband and bonus, she doesn’t have to draw a diagram or make a powerpoint presentation about why she should have some lipstick.

The generation before apparently saw this coming. They warned our mothers, and our mothers warned us to never allow ourselves to be dependent on a man. In the case of African Americans, it’s got an obvious history, but for most other western men, this is confusion due to gender role shifts. I guess nobody bothered to explain to them what a traditional man with a happy home does, just what the toxic ones do. Not every classic provider was or is an insufferable tyrant, and most these days like Shai are not technically providing all of the family’s resources. It’s usually more a sort of symbolic role for efficiency more than it is an accurate picture of what’s going on with the bills.

Symbolic as it may be though, whenever he’s stressed, I get treated like a villainous burden who is forcing my husband on penalty of tantrums to conserve resources to maintain or improve our standard of living, when living in a barn is perfectly fine. For example, I’m the cruel torturer who is taking away one of his few pleasures in life, television, because I want him to turn it off when he’s not watching it. I’m an overly status and image conscious financial tyrant because I want a sofa.

For the past 22 years, I filled the gap. I was told that we don’t have any money, so I got my own just about everything so that he’d be able to pay the rent and utilities and such without bothering about my other needs.

My daughter confessed to me yesterday that she gets jealous of people whose home looks like a real home. I found her near quoting me something I’ve said to Shai but never to her, that people who make a lot less than we do have a comfortable area to receive guests and hang out other than their bedroom. It’s not a matter of income but priorities.  We haven’t had that for three months, and when we had it before, it was because a livingroom set came with the apartment. Even then on Moriya it was half a dusty storage. On Gilboa I managed to make it less of a dusty storage, but we had the issue of him still thinking it was okay to have piles of cardboard boxes in the livingroom.

Until the epic arguments of the past weekend, he talked as if he sincerely did not understand why livingroom furniture is needed. He supposedly didn’t understand why plastic shelves are tacky. Now I think maybe he was pretending he doesn’t understand just because he doesn’t have the money for them at the moment. Once I asked him, as a retired police officer, to tell me who other than junkies and gamblers who are shit with money and have dragged their families into an intolerable level of poverty, don’t have proper livingroom furniture, he had to change his tack. I got to a point where I didn’t care anymore. I was tired of being told I’m silly or stupid. I was tired of being invalidated. I was tired of being disrespected. I was tired of being treated like an imposing room mate ruining his life when I make a request.

A few nights ago, fed up with his behaving like he was trying to get rid of me, I asked him flat out if to him, I’m the 100 kilo burden. Because of loving me he had to spend so much fighting the ministry of interior. Because of me he had to sell the apartment he inherited from his parents. He drove me to a place where I yelled at him that he doesn’t see any of the sacrifices I made. He thinks he’s made all the sacrifices.  He is the only one who gave up anything or suffers at all anywhere. His past and his pain are the only ones that are valid. For 22 years I’ve been the silly stupid burden and how dare I ask for anything, even sleep.

We were very near a breaking point. I decided that as long as he is treating me with disrespect, I would treat him like I treat everyone who treats me with disrespect. He’d be at a safe distance unless or until he proves that he can be trusted. He claimed that after 22 years, he didn’t know what respect and disrespect are for me. I told him that’s bullshit and he knows it. I am not playing that game of letting him make me question my reality when, more than most people on the planet, mine is based on hard physics. I’m a martial artist and a witch. I can afford to be poetic, but I can’t afford delusion. I have to stick with what works reliably. Disrespect in a household does not work.

Then, somewhere in the chaos, something came up that explained his uncharacteristically hostile behavior. Everyone who knows him, myself included, can tell you that Shai often comes off as a bit of an asshole. He was morbid/goth/emo long before it was fashionable to be so. More than once, we’ve been likened to the Addams family. The past week though, he has been over the top hostile.

During the latest move, as in other stressful times, I’ve been relying heavily on Diva to keep me on track in a few ways. One is advice on how to get the home set up in as economical but efficient way as possible. Another is managing the stress of moving itself, especially with our history with shady landlords. Apparently this was a trigger for Shai because of what went down with LE. Shai was convinced that somehow Diva and I were plotting against him or something. It doesn’t make any rational sense because we weren’t talking behind his back, and what plans there are focus on creating a stable and happy (as Mr. Misery can be) home life. We’re doing this partly for him, so he will have a comfortable life and not be buried in bills.

He has leftover trauma from getting played by a long time friend. LE lured him into a false sense of security and was telling Shai out of one side of his neck that we should stay in that (craptastic but big) apartment and help him, while planning with his other friend to sell the place. The point of lying to us was so that he could keep collecting rent up to the day it was sold and keep us quiet about his breaking of certain crucial legal requirements, but Shai found out what he was up to, and we got out of there.

The trauma was likely worsened by the fact that I had warned Shai that this was coming years before it happened. Moon and I had been prepared to move for 2 years, to the point of saving money and getting rid of excess stuff. We knew when LE made us sign those documents saying we wouldn’t press our right to stay there if anything happened to Shai, that the end was near, and that it would happen when least expected. Shai wasn’t convinced though. So there is probably some moral injury issue that he feels he facilitated LE screwing us up.

In short, all this drama was caused by masculine pretense. Shai hasn’t dealt with his emotions about LE’s betrayal. I told him he needs a therapist because he needs someone other than me to tell him that someone else deceiving him and betraying him is not his fault. Someone else needs to be the one to tell him that rather than bottling up his emotions and having them leak out in hostility towards the wrong people, he needs to grieve for that one sided friendship and get tools that I can’t give him to move on. As versed as I may be in enough psychology to deal with my own stuff and my parishiners’ stuff, I am his wife, and hearing these things from me is like when your parents tell you that you’re beautiful and a good person, or ugly and sinful for that matter. The mind tends to discount certain things because you’re aware they have an agenda both to make you feel a certain way and to adjust your behavior for harmony best case, compliance worst case. There’s either too much love or too much interest, though usually both.

Preferably, it should be someone with a balanced masculinity. I have some ideas, guys I know but not too well, with experience with “alternative” bonds. I’m not ashamed to ask for help. I don’t know if Shai will go for it, but I’m sure I can at least get us to the point of inviting the therapist for coffee.

Meanwhile, now that everything is clear and on the table, I’m relying heavily on conflict resolution skills learned from some very good life coaches and cultural notes from Diva. So far they’re working. Shai was uncomfortable with me getting advice from Diva, but were it not for her, I’d have been long gone after those tenant rights waivers. That would have been my signal that Shai was preparing paperwork to leave or kick me out. So he should be glad Diva’s been there to talk me down from a few ledges.


My pronouns are whatever you're comfortable with as long as you speak to me with respect. I'm an Afruikan and Iswa refugee living in Canaan. That's African American expat in Israel in Normalian. I build websites, make art, and assist people in exercising their spirituality. I'm also the king of an ile, Baalat Teva, a group of African spirituality adherents here. Feel free to contact me if you are in need of my services or just want to chat.

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