My First Divorce

My first divorce was my parents’ divorce. My second divorce was breaking things off with my mother. My third divorce was the one I just wrapped up in 2010.

My parents divorced in 1992. I was 15. This was back when I was always the youngest person in the room (that was annoying, then fun, and now it’s gone!).

My parents were divorcing. Here’s how it went down.

My parents fought a lot. It usually ended with my dad driving away to sleep in his office. Once it ended with my Mom taking us kids to her friend’s house for Christmas. Sometimes it ended in laughing, which meant my mom was punching my dad in his gut and he was choosing to laugh about it.

My parents thought poorly of people who divorced. I still remember my father telling me about a lady in our ward (our church community) when I asked where her husband was. He wore a look as if he had tasted bad milk and said, “She’s divorced.” So even though the fighting had gotten bad, and I would tell my friends at school I expected my parents to divorce, it was hard to imagine it would ever happen.

I only once saw my mom run to the front door and kiss my dad when he got home. I remember being shocked — I practiced piano 4 hours a day, 10 feet from the front door, so if it had happened I would have seen it. I never saw any snuggling. I never heard any sounds from the bedroom. I knew they were married but never learned anything about what it meant to be married.

The most intimate thing I saw my parents do was actually a point of massive frustration for my father. It was right at the end of their marriage. They had been fighting in their room – I remember it was just before a holiday because she had been wrapping presents in her room. I think it was Easter, though, and not Christmas, but I could totally be wrong. I heard her make a different kind of frustrated noise than I had heard before, and I walked into their room. They were fully dressed, but dad had her sort of awkwardly pinned down. He had reached his last straw and had no idea how to handle her other than to hold her down to make her listen. He ended up taking his blanket and driving away that night, and I helped wrap presents, but my mother had to tell me to leave during that event, but not to worry and not to call the police. I remember thinking two things: “This is not good,” and “This is really more intimate than anything I’ve ever seen them do.”

The Snowball Starts
The year is 1989. I got my first computer. My dad gave me a computer he was done with from his office – an IBM AT with a 10MB hard drive, DOS, WordStar, and a 600 baud modem. Soon he upgraded me to a 40MB hard drive and I thought, “How will I ever use this?!”

The year is 1991. My parents have been much more on the rocks lately than ever before. When my dad upgraded my computer, once again giving me a hand-me-down, within a week I typed “delete *.*” (a command my dad had just taught me) from the C:\ directory. For you geeks out there, stop groaning. For you non-geeks, that means I accidentally deleted everything on the computer. Dad gave me a copy of Norton Utilities which helped me be able to see everything that had been deleted off of the computer. In my spare time, I started tooling around with it.

I soon found a document that outlined how my father would want to divide the estate if he divorced my mother. I printed it out and gave it to my mom. I knew this was a seminal moment.

The year is 1992. My parents go through the divorce process after a lengthy separation. My mom enlisted my help, which meant slowly turning me away from the father I loved very much. She had a multi-level marketing business called Sunrider. While she was out of the country seeing her married Australian boyfriend, I would run her business for her. In her defense, there was no boyfriend until she became separated from my father – that meant she saw separation like I do: You’re never going back. Her error was making my father believe otherwise. Also in her defense: She got the Australian to divorce his wife, and she’s been married to him now for 15 years.

While my mother was seeing the Australian, she would have me type her love letters to him (she was embarrassed of her handwriting, which was quite good). This was the first exposure I ever had to romance. I found other letters she didn’t want me typing for her, which she faxed to him. They were dirty! Also a first. Later, when I was mad at her, I opened up the suitcase where she stored those letters and showed my dad.

My Brothers
My brothers were born in 1980, 1984 and 1987. My mother started off the divorce process saying she wanted to give up my three brothers to my dad, that she never wanted to be a mother and he forced her to have them, but that she’d keep me because I was such a big help. She then said, “I’m getting $3200/month from your father anyway, and they cost a lot.” I told her that I had read through her divorce agreement, and I was fairly certain it was child support, not alimony – meaning the money goes away if she doesn’t have the kids. She made me show her the spot in the document – I was right (see the name of my blog). From that point on, she full-on manipulated my brothers every time they even hinted of wanting to see more of our father. She would even produce tears – she’s a wonderful actress.

My Faith
I was born in the LDS faith – “Born in the Covenant” as we call it. My parents had both been complete zealots when I grew up. I couldn’t date till I was 16, and that meant missing out one every important high school function because there would be girls there. No dances, no formals, nothing until Senior Prom (when I was actually 16). My mother would scream at me how evil I was when I was 8. She was a Mormon’s Mormon, good and bad. The only thing she hated about the Church was Utah – probably why I still have never been. I still remember her holding the hymnal during songs at Sacrament, and teaching me the melodies as we sang, including how to sing the other parts (Tenor, etc.) instead of just the melody.

A few things we didn’t have: We didn’t do family home evening often. I didn’t see the temple more than once before one was built in San Diego, and by then my parents were almost through with their divorce. I didn’t go to Church dances and generally we didn’t go to a lot of Church events (the reason would usually be that Dad was out of town and Mom didn’t want to do it alone, or that they had “bad food” there and my Mom didn’t want to cook something just for us kids to eat).

When my parents’ marriage began to disintegrate, my mother stopped going to Church. Her only appearances were the meetings with our Bishop, and she got really involved in trying to block my father from remarrying in the Temple. I am personally bracing for a similar fight when I go to the Temple again. My mother never went back. When missionaries went to her door, she and her husband screamed profanities at them until they left.

Note: She never withdrew her records from the Church, and won’t ask my brothers to do it either. I think that means that deep-down she knows the Church is true, but has too much pride to humble herself and submit herself to God. When I left the Church when I was 19, I tried to rekindle a relationship with her. She asked me to convince my brothers to withdraw their records – I told her that was a really big decision for me, and not one I’m going to influence for them.

My Mother’s Great Error
I mentioned it above – not letting Dad know it was over. I know how she thinks – I’m half hers, remember? The moment she was into getting a divorce, she was never going to be comfortable in that marriage again. She was emotionally out. However, the initial divorce agreement wasn’t favorable enough to her desires. I still remember being quite frustrated that even though she was signed off emotionally from the marriage, she would go out on dates with Dad and string him along some more. She explained why: if she could convince Dad he had a chance at reigniting the marriage (And again, she’s a great actress), he would give in on divorce terms. She always had in her arsenal the threat to divide the entire estate, including his business, but felt that you can attract more flies with honey. So she laid the honey on thick, got everything she wanted (including the entire equity in our home, instead of partial; Dad assumed all of the debt; and she got child support till we turned 19 instead of 18). Probably the most worthwhile nonprofessional acting in history.

My Father’s Error
He gave in. He loved my mother and wanted the marriage to be repaired. At every turn, he chose to run instead of fight. He may have done it for love, but the wrong things happened – my mother got her way. That means she got all of the financial gains, and she got my brothers and I “on her side.” I don’t think he realized, though, that he would lose so many of his sons in the process. I think just a little foresight, however, a good lawyer and the right counseling (perhaps from his lawyer) could have told him to put up his dukes where it counted.

This divorce left plenty of dead bodies, so to speak.

My mother continued to reach into my father’s life and screw with him for another decade after their divorce. She tormented him with hateful faxes, and my dad’s failure to fight back properly had his second wife convinced that he was still in love with my mom. Dad’s current wife put a stop to that by standing up for him. But even recently, at my brother’s wedding of all places, my father sacrificed a lot to get to China to be there. At the wedding, my mother used every last ounce of knowledge about how my father ticks, and ticked him off enough to leave right after the wedding. She has a tremendous sense of timing. I am firmly convinced that if his wife had been there, or I had been there, things would have turned out differently at that wedding.

I think my father believes he could have saved his sons’ souls by sacrificing his own soul and staying with my mother. He fails to understand a few things, though. The way some people think (including my mother and I), once you sign off of a marriage you never go back. Why make such a monumental decision if you aren’t going to stick with it to the end? What kind of spine would you have, or moral confidence? His real responsibility, the main effort, needed to be from the day she asked for divorce. Instead, he concentrated on making her happy. All that did was sink him into her smokescreen while she had her way with us.

I too bore many of the influences from my mother before I could properly sort out who I was and what was important for me in the long-run. By the time I graduated high school in 1993, I was firmly disgusted with my father (partly by him giving up, and heavily because she had convinced me of all the usual suspicions an ex casts on her hated ex-spouse – manipulation, being a control freak,etc.). On the night of my graduation, outside City Hall (where graduation happens) I told him he was no longer my father. I remember shaking while I was doing it, thinking I was making him pay for his errors and making my mother proud. He didn’t take it well, and I didn’t get to repair things fully until 1998.

My parents taught me nothing about marriage. They taught me some good lessons about divorce, however. My brothers are still reeling from the after-effects and it’s now been a long, long time. Years after the marriage, my third brother asked my dad when he was getting back together with Mom. It embarrassed Dad, but he failed to recognize even at that point how much he needed to be shepherding us through the process. That brother doesn’t even speak to him (or me) any more.

The Lesson
You can avoid many of the long-term damages that can stem from divorce if you take a strong hand with your life and the lives of your children from the moment a divorce seems inevitable. Your children need your strength. Your soon-to-be ex (or now your ex) needs to be dealt with in the legal process, and you need to treat them with respect, but you are no longer responsible for their salvation. They made their choice by asking for a divorce, or for their contribution in destroying the marriage to the point that you had to “man up” and make the divorce happen. Your children need you. Your own soul needs you. Shepherd them.

  1. #1 by lesliehobson on November 29, 2011 - 4:32 am

    I’m curious. You gave your mother the information your father had on his computer regarding the breakup of their marriage, and showed your father the suitcase full of letters your mother had sent to her love – after their separation.
    Were any of your children as instrumental in the dissolution of your marriage?

    • #2 by occamzmormon on November 29, 2011 - 7:02 am

      Quite the interesting comment. Are you blaming me for their divorce? Obviously there was a significant amount of disintegration in their marriage, for my dad to be drawing up plans for dividing their estate. And they were fully divorced by the time I showed my dad those letters (I did it out of sympathy; he was blaming himself for divorcing her. He needed closure!).

      Now that you have context, I can answer your question directly: No. I am responsible for my divorce. If everyone else in this world had their way, and I mean everyone, I would have continued to rot away from the inside for the rest of my life in my first marriage. But doing what’s right sometimes means breaking a lot of glass. The easy route is almost never the right route.

  2. #3 by lrwhitney on November 29, 2011 - 8:54 am

    Sounds like your dad is a pretty normal guy. You have no idea how few choices you have as a man in a divorce. The only way you’re ever going to get custody away from a woman is to prove she’s an axe murderer, and convicted of it. Other than that, manipulative sociopaths are pretty hard to fight in court, or as you found out, in your mom’s case, as a son or daughter. Yeah, you can call it ballsy to “fight,” but that’s what a manipulative sociopath wants you to do, then she/he can point to your rage and lack of “cooperation” and simply direct the intended victim to that and shift claims to being “belligerent and selfish.”

    “You see how your father is–you can’t even reason with him! All he wants to do is fight…”

    There is nothing unique or special about you, your mom, your dad or the relationships you describe. Your mother is a stereotype, a cliche. That you fail to see this amazes me at this stage of your life, which may be an indication just how deeply she continues to control and manipulate your thought processes.

    And at a hundred bucks or more an hour in the day, your old man, nobody’s old man simply has money enough to “fight” a woman who usually gets a free attorney from some woman’s support entity, and who can drag on and on indefinitely at thousands of dollars a month if she wants to. More often than not, if a man “fights,” with this pertend, “good attorney” you fantasize a “real” dad would have employed, the court will order that his impoverished wife’s attorney should also be paid by good ol’ dad. The system is designed to treat all men and husbands as cash machines for women who are institutionally viewed as victims of male oppression.

    As far as the draft of a theoretical divorce settlement goes, you say you loved your dad, but rather than ask him what it was all about quietly, you finked on him to mommy. Sounds like you didn’t love him all that much–a momma’s boy sort of thing to do. What we used to call a “tattle-tale.” Nobody likes one of those you know. Every child knows this, but you seem to see it as almost virtuous. What you were doing is making points with mommy by stabbing daddy in the back. In the mental health field they call this, “staff shopping.”

    The fact is, you think mommy was faithful until the “separation,” but you really have no idea what lunatic, possibly sexually related perversions your mother was into in her recreational life you never were allowed to see. You don’t know what crap your dad had to put up with either in the bedroom, or related to your mother’s drinking or drug or sexual or dating habits before he got to the point he thought it was probably going to end in tragedy and figured he’d better plan for it, because he couldn’t take that BS any more. You have no idea what a normal mom is like in any case, and it sounds like yours was inflicted with something between simple OCD and Rainman-level food and who-knows whatever else obsessions–this on top of being selfish and egocentiric to the point of near autism.

    And for some reason, you “credit” your insane and selfish mom for destroying not only her own family, but for breaking up another family on top of it. And she enlisted you to help her. See, people like that never developed what Freud called a “super-ego,” or what some people call a “conscience,” or that little voice in your head that says, hey asking my son to help me flirt with my married boyfriend so I can break up that marriage, while he knows dad still wants to get together with me is crazy fecking out of line… But I suppose, since you don’t know the other victims of your mother’s egocentric mind-games, like your mother, it’s no skin off your nose and you count it to her credit.

    I don’t know if it was other men, other women, sex, drugs, mental aberrations above and beyond her bizarre cooking and eating compulsions, or if you’re just holding back or not insightful enough to realize that she was an outright bitch and a shrew all day and night and made your father’s life a living hell no matter how much he loved her. Or that she took out on your father the fact that she hated you and your siblings and blamed him for inflicting you all upon her. You might not be aware of what she was heaping on old dad just out of earshot. But any mother who would tell you how unwanted you all were and openly confess she was forced into the marriage and only had you children against her will, is sick in the head for openers. And you’re even sicker to lick that puddle of “Mommy Dearest’s” poo up and still blame your father for anything.

    Mommy having you type love letters is what we’d usually call “demented,” and possibly some sort of Oedipal thing on the verge of happening. Didn’t you feel revolted at yourself cooperating? Weren’t you creeped out or offended that she’d be so egocentric that she’s even ask?

    Admittedly, your were young, vulnerable, and she used you. Even with the best of moral and mental defenses, you can’t win with a manipulative sociopath, especially when she’s your mom.

    You also seem to have run into a couple of parents who are rather a-typical Mormons, inasmuch as I went to every highschool event, all church dances and events, ate the crappy food and loved it, and most of my Mormon cellmates did too. In fact, in Utah, the whole school prom is LDS. Haven’t you seen Napoleon Dynamite? It sounds to me more like mommy here than daddy though.

    This whole food thing your mom had is likewise a mental illness, not Mormonism. Sometimes Mormons get off on Word of Wisdom Superiority Complex, and use that to justify a religious fixation on Sunrider, Shaklee, Amway, or Herbalife MTL marketing schemes to support their addictions, but that’s not Mormonism, that’s Utah Folk Culture, it’s a mental illness, not a religion.

    I also think you’re the victim of Stockholm syndrome. You’ve just embraced the warped world-view of your kidnapper.

    I can give you a little advice, since you say your parents didn’t prepare you for marriage: Get over it. Quit your crying. You’re too old to be having these mommy and daddy issues. First of all your dad was probably not fecked up. You’ve got the wrong villain. Your mom was unquestionably fecked up and she fecked you up and she fecked your siblings up and tried to feck your old man up as well, but lost on that score. You’re the abnormal one. You mother made you that way. Your mother is the last person you should be listening to at all, much less taking advice from or empathizing with, much less sympathizing with.

    But I may be speaking in the dark. Your mother may not be mentally ill. She may just be a heartless, selfish a-hole. That may just be who she is. She may just be a bad person. Every youth goes through an early phase where he hates his father, and she just used that to her own advantage because she’s evil and selfish. It’s a fine line between mental disorder and simply being a miserable excuse for a human being.

    I can’t help you unless you’re willing to admit you’re the problem. Because at this point, it’s all about you. Your mommy and daddy should be irrelevant, though I know it’s somewhat therapeutic, or at least cathartic, to spill it all out in a blog. You can’t change the way you feel until you change the way you think. Think about it. And think harder, more critically than you are. You’re still inside the box your mother put you in.

    I’m just sayin’…

    • #4 by occamzmormon on November 29, 2011 - 9:15 am

      Yes, Dad is a normal guy. What I did by laying out all of my mother’s actions (yes, the ones I know of), is lay out the facts. I also try not to just make a shallow blanket statement of, “She’s a bad person.” I didn’t want to taint the audience by talking about how her mom committed suicide when she was 8, which would affect her mental stability over the long-term and point to perhaps something inherited. I didn’t want to do any number of things like that. I also don’t harbor hatred for her. She is who she is. But let me tell you, the first thing that happens when I remark about a “strained” relationship with my mother, is most people tell me I have a problem if I can’t have a healthy relationship with my own mother.

      Thus, when it’s my world (my blog), I can lay out all the facts and let you, my much-appreciated reader, form your own conclusions (and there are so many!).

      Let’s be straight here: I love my father. He and I are the only remaining members of my family who love the Church. I misread something you wrote and thought perhaps you don’t, but I’m sincerely glad you love the Church as well. Regarding me, though, I only struggle to figure out which parts of me come from my Dad, and which parts I’ll always need to rein in because they come from my mother.

      You should read more closely, because I never blame my mother for anything in my life now. I am responsible for my own decisions. I would be a fool, however, to say she didn’t influence anything about who I am or why I do the things I do.

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful reply. Every good blogger needs contributions like yours.

  3. #5 by Divorce on November 29, 2011 - 10:37 am

    Getting married is one of the most important events in a person’s life. However, all marriages don’t end up happily. Due to several differences sometimes couples decide to break up their marriage. In legal term, dissolution of marriage is known as divorce. This is the most traumatic event in a person’s life and most of the time a person is unsure where to get a good attorney. If there is any kid involved, getting custody of the child also becomes an important issue.

  4. #6 by lesliehobson on November 30, 2011 - 7:57 pm

    Thanks for your response. I most certainly didn’t mean in imply that you caused your parents divorce – just that you were so involved in the many elements of it. What a difficult position for a kid – even a teenager – to be put in. I just honestly wondered how you handled it differently, if you did, with your own divorce by trying to keep your kids out of it, or perhaps being more upfront with them than your parents were.
    p.s. if lrwhitney doesn’t know your family intimately he is making an awful lot of judgements based on a single blog entry!

    • #7 by Occam's Mormon on November 30, 2011 - 8:49 pm

      No, I did my best to keep the kids out of it. My ex, however, felt inclined to insist that by leaving her, I was abandoning the children. Still upset about that one 🙂

      Lrwhitney has never met me. He has a decent blog though that’s very informative (I went there to find out if he is an idiot 😛 )

  5. #8 by rekstalo13 on December 9, 2011 - 1:57 pm

    I really like this article and read it intently like a novel you can’t put down partly because I am going through the same issues(My wife is also LDS) as your dad and more than anything it hurts….However, reading this makes my life seem a bit less complicated. I appreciate your insight and hope that it all works out in your favor (granted you are doing the right things.) No pun intended.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: