NEW COUCH; OLD PRE-ALZHEIMER’S ANGER

If the idea of showing anger against someone cognitively impaired makes you uncomfortable, you might want to stop here. 

I am not about to talk about the resentment and frustration all caregivers feel at times. I am about to describe the kind of red-hot “Drop Dead!” fury that used to wash over me in my pre-Alzheimer’s marriage, usually over seemingly small issues that represented bigger, unspoken rifts. Over our first 35 years of marriage that fury rose up a lot in both Ralph and me, whether expressed in his ugly shouting or my snide passive aggressiveness. He was unapologetic about his “my way or the highway” attitude. I fought for equal power in our relationship, usually without success (although he might disagree), and spent a lot of waking hours seething against him. 

After Ralph’s diagnosis, his personality, perhaps even his character, changed. His enviable physical and mental energy dissipated. So did his unpleasant authoritarian belligerence.  While I often bemoaned his post-diagnosis lack of interest in the world around us and my need to think for both us, not having an often-more-than-equal partner but also has its advantages. Yes, I miss his companionship, but I enjoy his current appreciation of my caregiving and my willingness to make choices for him. His passive disinterest has meant that after years of fighting his decisions and usually losing or resentfully accepting them, I have been learning to trust, even relish decision-making on my own. 

That is, until THE COUCH.

Specifically our new living room couch. 

In the past our furniture always had a somewhat masculine quality. Rustic. Practical. Brown, lots of brown (excepting the blue green chaise lounge I bought myself as a sixtieth b-day present but ended up sharing with the dogs). His choices made sense in our farmhouse, but the city house we’re in now, with its 19th century New Orleans architecture, calls for a different, dare I say feminine approach. 

Or this was my rationale behind THE COUCH. Sick of brown and dark and masculine, I told myself that after all, Ralph and the dogs live in the kitchen/sunroom and our bedroom with occasional forays to Ralph’s “office” created just for him in the garage. Bedroom and office contain the very masculine, very brown furniture we brought with us, while the sunroom is currently a hodgepodge with one comfortable chair in which Ralph sits. 

The kitchen/sunroom in one side of French door we keep closed. On the other side is the living room, a basically empty space although Ralph and I agreed to put in inexpensive bookcases and rug from Overstock.  I also ordered the kind of probably impractical couch I’ve always wanted: slip-covered, off-white, soft cushioned (Ralph always ruled strongly against loose pillows on furniture). I actually think I talked to Ralph about the couch, but maybe not. I assumed he would not care. After all, he and the dogs never come through those French doors. 

I ordered in April and after some minor drama—a dark gray couch with weird arms arrived initially by mistake and had to be returned—THE COUCH arrived at last two days ago.

Ralph let me know his opinion immediately. He began shouting in a voice I had not heard in years as he stomped between the kitchen and the living room and I responded, not shouting but with cold-blooded rage: 

That couch looks like a white elephant in there.

I like it.

What did you pay for that thing? It looks cheap. Like it’s slip-covered.

It is slip-covered. I wanted slipcovers.

I can’t believe you spent that much.

You have no idea what anything costs.

What were you thinking choosing this?

This was what I wanted. You’ve chosen things lots of times against my wishes.

What did I ever choose?

Oh Please.

(silence as I start counting up the much bigger decisions that he no longer remembers bullying me into but I suddenly do in stark relief) 

Well, I hate it.

Well, I’m not sending it back.

Well it’s a piece of sh…

F… You.

Ralph disappeared into his bedroom. I fumed my way through preparing dinner. He reappeared and started in again with pretty much the same refrain. By the third repetition, I knew what to expect but was still mad. I didn’t care that he was cognitively impaired. I just hated him and his way of letting me know I was an idiot, of making me doubt my judgment. The way he made me feel small. 

I went to bed feeling more like a wife than I normally do these days. And guess what? I didn’t like it a bit.

Of course since then, Ralph has not mentioned The Couch. And my own anger is gone.  I’m aware that his lingering low-grade crankiness comes from a combination of an earache and taking him off his anti-anxiety medicine. Ralph is still lethargic but more on edge. I’ve already contacted the doctor. 

This little blow up was a reminder, though, not to sugarcoat what our marriage was before Ralph’s diagnosis. I am committed to caring for Ralph; but with or without Alzheimer’s, ours was always a difficult, imperfect relationship. Maybe all marriages are; just the specific problems differ.

10 thoughts on “NEW COUCH; OLD PRE-ALZHEIMER’S ANGER

  1. On Mon, Sep 7, 2020 at 4:43 PM Alice in Memoryland wrote:

    > > I bought 4 PB slipped covered Ivory chairs instead of a couch in April, > they came in mid June . Steve was not happy we have a black lab and white > golden .Tough it’s what I wanted have had second hand couches, for years. > Sometimes they don’t get to have an opinion. I also have stage 4 Cervival > cancer that’s in my bones and lungs. After 40 years we can only do our > best. This morning 4 trips upstairs to get his glasses which he took off. > Next the battle of shower and getting dressed. I really appreciate your > blog, my life seems more normal , and everyday is a new normal. Thanks Ice > > > > > MCI Alice posted: ” > If the idea of showing anger against someone cognitively impaired makes > you uncomfortable, you might want to stop here. > > > > > > > > I am not about to talk about the resentment and frustration all caregivers > feel at times. I am about to describe the kind” > > > >

    Liked by 2 people

    1. First, I want to say that I love the picture you use of yourself. Second, you definitely deserve your chairs. Getting a piece of furniture we want for ourselves gives so much pleasure, doesn’t it? Third, I can only gasp at how much you are dealing with at once. Please take take of yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think marriage is the most complex, and often difficult, relationship there ever can be. We expect too much (from childhood stories to adult romances). We want love, friendship, fantastic sex like it was in the beginning, romance, empathy, understanding – we want a partner, equal in everything, a soulmate. We don’t expect so much from any other relationship! I’m sorry Ralph made me you feel small and doubt your judgement and I was cheering you on from the sidelines here and rather enjoying your explosion of rage. I hope it was a little bit, even a teeny tiny bit, cathartic. And I think your couch is perfect! I hope the dogs don’t think so, too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, it was cathartic. I have had much more patience with him since. (Also, he has forgotten the couch even exists.) You are so spot on about marriage. And the longer a marriage lasts, the more complex it becomes. The internal problems change, as do the joys…

      Liked by 2 people

  3. You are so right about the relationship stuff. I’m so much happier now with Michael in decline. I feel strong and powerful (and sometimes not either). But I can do pretty much what I want as long as I make sure he’s taken care of. It was never like that before. He never compromised. His idea of that was “I’m not doing it and if you do, I’ll make life miserable for you!” So enjoy. Sounds like you’ve earned it, girl.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Reading your note is so liberating. There is often a pressure to be seen as the admirable caregiver. It is nice to be told what I nurturing job I’m doing, etc., but frankly it is a lot more emotionally complicated, isn’t it. Thanks so much for writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing this dramatic time in your marriage. I wonder too how many marriages are smoldering fires of unrest. I know many marriage survive only because one or the other, usually the woman, is passive, docile, values the relationship more and wants more to get along. I know of many men over the years who I thought was overbearing, rude, insensitive, and unappreciative of their wife. I can almost picture your husband in my mind. I encourage you to hang in there. Fight for your self. If you don’t, who will? Many years ago an older woman asked who was in charge at my house. I explained that no one was, and that we were like two puppies, tied together and running through the woods getting hung up on every little thing in the forest. I have come to realize that my wife is very contentious and wears her insecurity on her arm. We argue about every thing to no end. I dream of the day when I might have peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I almost ended my post saying that maybe most marriages were difficult and complex, but didn’t want to presume. The reality is that Ralph is actually easier to live with now in some ways than before Alzheimer’s, but the issue is how to reconcile that with the decline that he is also experiencing, one I would not want to go through myself.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s strange how Alzheimer’s can change the personality of a person. These days, my husband is more of a hermit and a ‘loner’ than I would have ever thought possible. I don’t know if it’s just the fear of the COVID-19 that’s affecting him or if he really doesn’t want to see/visit (or have people visit US) in our home anymore. It’s strange to have to battle the issue with him, especially when it comes to our kids. Totally bizarre behaviour. But I can readily identify with you and the couch issue. Hang tough… you’re entitled to make decisions that make YOU happy! I think the couch looks great — I have a diarist friend who also has a white slipcovered couch and she’s able to change the accessories and completely change the look of her living room much quicker (and easier) than buying all new furniture. It’s a classic look that won’t ever go out of style!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The “loner” mentality has been difficult to deal with, but now I just accept that he’s not going to participate. I hope you still see your kids. They are more central to joy than any couch….

        Like

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