Archive for category Divorce
In my divorce experience, I have observed friends’ and acquaintances’ divorces in order to get some perspective on my own situation. The most amazing scene played out in the middle of all of this: certain spouses convinced each other that their soon-to-be ex’s all were narcissists. More often than not, these spouses were also what I’m going to call Laxative Spouses (a close relative to Laxative Coworkers).
I’ll start off saying this: Yes, it’s narcissistic to blog about myself. But you all are reading it, so it can’t be all bad. Also, you all are bloggers, and probably write about yourselves and your points of view too. So we’ll all be happy little narcissists together, shan’t we?
It started with an email my ex sent to my new bride’s ex when they had teamed up to oppose us and support each other. They were saying that my new bride and I are narcissists and left them feeling spent. Never mind that my new bride and I spent our first marriages eternally propping up our spouses, making them better than they would have been otherwise. Then, I found out that the ex of a dear friend of mine (whose wife left him) was sending a very similar email around to any mutual friends in order to get people to “side with her.” So I’ve uncovered a clubby little conspiracy…
The members of this little group pass around links to unscientific websites (here is one example). These websites are poorly written, and fling about this accusation describing what could really be anyone when you look at them through ugly lenses. In this case, my friend’s wife (from last paragraph) had done the leaving, and since we were all from a tight little group of Mormons from college, she felt the need to tell anyone who’d listen that my friend is a pill-popping narcissist (as my bride says: “Aren’t they all?”).
My bride brings up one other brilliant point: Let’s just assume we are narcissists for a moment. For the exes who sit there pining over the departing spouse, or the exes who are otherwise angry at being left, and yet still bandy about the N word, aren’t they in fact better off? If we have a disorder that makes us bad people, shouldn’t they feel lucky to be out of a bad situation?
The basic claim is that if you have an ex (or a spouse you wish was an ex) who is a narcissist, they have this “disorder” so it’s really not your fault. You tried to relate to them, to comfort them and be a romantic partner, and they rejected you out of fear. You were so darn wonderful, they were afraid you might get to close and instead turned about and hurt you mentally and/or physically.
Now here’s my point: Narcissism is an indefensible claim. When my parents got divorced, my mom called my dad a control freak – same/same. And I have a philosophy about who throws around indefensible claims mid- and post-divorce. On a political side-note, I am a card-carrying Republican. However, 2 years ago the theme across all of the talk-radio airwaves was that President Obama is a narcissist. It has never sat right with me – again, because it is indefensible. If it is a disorder, I’ll believe it when the President walks out of a psychiatrist’s office with a diagnosis. As my bride would say: diagnonsense!
In every breakup (other than the movie-divorces where the spouses are each other’s best friend and other such unhealthy scenarios), there is one spouse (we’ll call them Spouse 1) who wholeheartedly admits, “It looked like it would be a good marriage, but over the months and years I made some mistakes, he/she made mistakes, and things got away from us.” What I’m seeing is that the other spouse (Spouse 2) blames Spouse 1 for everything. It doesn’t seem to be tied at all to which spouse left whom. It just seems to be a general character flaw.
The really insidious thing? When Spouse 1 admits they made some mistakes, Spouse 2 leaps on that moment as an opportunity to prove how right, innocent and mentally abused Spouse 1 made them. By being the more mature adult, Spouse 1 gets an extra helping of blame. But here’s the funny part: isn’t it the ultimate narcissistic move for a Spouse 2 to say everything bad in the marriage came from the other spouse? Odd, isn’t it, that they would have been the perfect husband/wife? Just sayin’!
How this all ties into Laxative Spouses
When one spouse leaves another, it’s because they’re unhappy. I talked to a divorced exec the other day who says, “No happy marriage results in divorce” – truer words were never spoken!
In my case, and my new bride’s, we were married to Laxative Spouses. It’s like this: A complaint about laxatives is that the more you use them, the more you have to use them. What happens is, when you use laxatives, your digestive tract stops pushing so hard on its own to get food through you, and lets the laxatives do their work. Regular laxative use can result in almost a permanent need for laxatives.
I felt like a laxative. The more I did, the more I made my ex feel good about herself and the more I did around the house, the less she felt she needed to do. Period. I knew that when my bishop told me the way to fix my marriage was to hold her hand at night and pray vocally, including 5 things I liked about her, what the result would be. And I was right. The result was that she would be so happy that I just liked/loved her for who she was, that she could try even less in our relationship. That’s just what Laxative Spouses do. If your Laxative Spouse has gained a ton of weight, you probably have too much decency to tell them they’re getting extraordinarily fat. If you try to make them feel comfortable, or beautiful, or whatever motivates them, a Laxative Spouse will eat even more and exercise even less because they’re so clam-happy. You made them happy, by accepting them for who they are! It’s really a catch-22: You can’t tell them they’re miserable, or fat, or lazy, or whatever their flaw is that’s driving you insane; if you pretend the problem doesn’t exist, they get clam-happy.
They’re just like Laxative Coworkers (and for the record, my ex is not one of these). Laxative Coworkers let you help them when they struggle, and then realize how much work they didn’t have to do while you were doing it for them. My bride had that problem at a grocery store – a coworker in the deli wasn’t very fast/efficient at skewering chickens for the rotisserie. After my bride helped her, my bride ended up always being tasked with skewering. This is how Laxative Coworkers work – they always say via their actions: “You’d save so much time just helping them do the stuff they don’t want to!” All you ever get from helping a Laxative Coworker, is more work.
Laxative Spouses (and likely Laxative Coworkers) peaked at a certain age and stuck there. They want the rest of their lives to be level and predictable. They don’t want change, and they don’t want anything new. I was telling my bride tonight that I love her because she is constantly evolving. She does everything she tries magnificently, and has so many neat ways to do things that I have learned a ton from her over the past year. But she is always looking for ways to do better, to do things better, to live better. It’s this sort of refusal to rest on her laurels, that I love about her. It’s this sort of person that I want to have around me.
For the record, I’m not afraid to open up. My bride knows everything about me, even things I was always too embarrassed to tell any friend, any relative, and my ex-spouse. I wanted to make sure I was a completely open book for my bride, so that nothing would ever be too touchy to share. I advise anyone getting married, whether a RM 1st marriage, or an Elizabeth Taylor 7th marriage, to take this painful step. You are the culmination of your best and worst choices – if they can’t love you for everything you are, then find someone who can. Then you can be as happy as I will forever be.
Chances are, if you are married to your wife, you are having sex with her – whether it’s frequent or infrequent, that does not matter to my argument. And if you aren’t having frequent sex because she doesn’t want it, she probably hasn’t ever really orgasmed with you. If she is making a big production about orgasming, she is probably faking it. If she is shivering exactly at the moment you hope she’ll orgasm (right before you do), then she’s probably faking it.
To start, as a member of the Church I’ll assume anyone reading this who is having sex is doing so with a member of the opposite sex to whom they’re married. If you aren’t bound by the same principles, my words still apply of course.
If you read my blog entry on the three pillars of a successful relationship, you’ll know that intimacy is one of those pillars. That’s right, you’re supposed to have lots of sex with your eternal partner. If you don’t, then you aren’t binding yourselves together in a way that will help you withstand the assaults from a very difficult world. You need that binding, thus you need that sex.
I have a good friend, who we’ll call Jim. Jim’s wife was into all kinds of kinky stuff when they got married. That was good, because Jim was into it too. She “gave it up,” so to speak, to my friend Jim as often and as kinky as he wanted it. They had the first sex on a premarital basis, but he is also a member of the Church so he ended up marrying her. Then the sex started slowing down. She decided she didn’t want it so frequently. She openly wondered whether she really wanted any more sex at all – and if they did have sex, would she still have to in the Celestial Kingdom?
I slept in Jim’s spare room once. His wife made all kinds of caterwauling noises when they had sex that night. This woman would confide in me in the kitchen, how her husband doesn’t know anything about anything. How her husband can’t make any money. How his business is stupid. How frankly, he is stupid. She gave off the strongest “please help me cheat on my husband” vibe I think I’ve ever felt. I realize, she’s not a great example of a wife, but she’s also a member of the Church. Gentlemen, avoid this situation by talking with your wife about the sexual subjects up front at the beginning before you marry them! And if they have the same proclivities as Jim’s wife, keep control of the situation – lead through love and keep her in line (it’s her job to keep you in line, too).
Jim’s wife isn’t the only wife who is like this. What I do know is that men everywhere have similar experiences with their wives:
- Wives who don’t want sex more than once per week.
- Husbands who have elevated sex drives, but don’t ask their wives for sex for any number of reasons.
- Wives who make a big show of orgasming, but I promise you they’re faking.
- Wives who use sex as a weapon.
- Wives who don’t DO anything but sit there and let you do all the work.
#1. You cannot hide orgasm as a man – it is one of the blessings of being a guy. The only problem we have is how long we can hold out till the deed is done. And all women talk, so any woman who knows your woman will know exactly the details of your rigor (or lack thereof).
#2. If your wife does not want sex regularly, there is something going on.
- She may not be able to orgasm
- 1 in 10 women can’t orgasm at all.
- 8 of 10 women have varying degrees of being unable to orgasm.
- As few as 7% of women can reliably orgasm through penetration.
- TRANSLATION: 93% of women have some level of difficulty orgasming through sex, or they cannot orgasm PERIOD
- She may only be able to orgasm on her own, or perhaps only with certain sexual acts (like oral), or perhaps only with toys.
- These are three things you can work with her on, and broaden her horizons. Two partners in loving sexual acts can work wonders, and can break down barriers. It takes love and it takes patience.
- She may not be attracted to you any more. You have to face this possibility, and you have to ask her. It doesn’t matter if she has gained 200 pounds of fat and a pound of acne since marrying you – she still has the brain of the svelte 110-lb sex kitten you married. If you let yourself go through laziness, or through revenge for the weight she gained, she will have difficulty being attracted to you.
- She may be attracted to someone else. This is also a possibility. If she’s obsessing about another guy (or girl, this is the 21st century after all), she’s not going to be into it with you.
- If we were talking about a man, I’d suggest it were a porn problem. As I mentioned in a previous post, however, women get the same satisfaction from Twilight, or perhaps dirty romance books. The object of someone’s obsession doesn’t have to be a real person.
Again, if she’s not orgasming, she won’t want regular sex. If she can have a good, hard orgasm where her whole body reacts to the effects, she will want sex at least as much as you do. A healthy woman with a healthy sex drive will want sex at least as often as you do.
#3. The tell signs of faking orgasms.
- She doesn’t want sex
- At the same convenient moment during sex, she holds onto you really tightly and shakes her body, even fake little quivers
- Without the right corresponding reactions, you feel her clench her vaginal wall muscles at just the right time, each and every time.
- Men, you aren’t detecting her orgasm; you’re detecting her phony orgasm.
- She makes a ton of noise at exactly the moment you really get vigorous, like animal sounds that don’t sound natural
A woman orgasms differently from a man. She doesn’t have a blob of fluid to expel – her body reacts to the event, but doesn’t generally produce anything. You only have so many fluids, so you can only orgasm so many times. Women can potentially come dozens of times in a couple of hours – the worst fakers can be caught because they pretend to orgasm like men – once at the end.
#4. If you aren’t asking your wife for sex:
- Is she abhorrent to you because of her personality, or has she severely let herself go? I’m of the firm opinion that she needs to (as I heard Dr. Laura say one day) always treat you like she did when she was trying to convince you to love her. That means putting forth the effort to look young and act young.
- Are you thinking about other people? Are you thinking about your job? Are you tied up mentally with pornography? Are you distancing yourself from your wife for any reason?
- Are you avoiding sex with your wife for any reason at all?
#5. Wives who use sex as a weapon. Many people, men and women alike, believe the power is in the vagina. It’s not true, but the root of it is in the act – you are giving and she is receiving. A receiver can always reject the gift, but not the other way around. However: just like you need the participation of a vagina to have proper sex, she needs the participation of a penis to have proper sex. Don’t let a woman dangle sex in front of you to make you miserable – in the end you can both please yourselves, but nothing like you can please each other if you work at it.
#6. Wives who don’t do anything and let you do all the work. She’s not orgasming. If she were, she’d be working with you to make more of them happen. She is doing #5 above, and using sex as a weapon – you are sweating and getting nothing emotional in return. That’s empty sex and little better than pleasing yourself. Again, your wife holds onto the mistaken belief that all power lies in her vagina.
Things to avoid:
- Pornography. All you’ll be doing is expecting your wife to put on that fake show the porn girls do, to do things potentially harmful, and maybe to get plastic surgery. You also won’t be making love to your wife; you’ll be making love to the woman you saw getting hammered on the movie or in the photos. See #4 above. If she’s abhorrent to you, you have to fix it – not satisfy her sexual advances by thinking about a woman you have no right to screw while you’re inside the woman you’re obliged to make love to.
- Toys. I’m firmly against sex toys. They’re a crutch. I know a couple that cannot have sex any more because all they know is how to please each other with toys. The wife put her foot down as an evil excuse to start sleeping with other men, asking after 20 years of marriage for him to please her naturally or she’d find it elsewhere. That’s just one bad example, but let me tell you – toys fix nothing. I’d say they’re also potentially dangerous in that your wife is learning to love the feel of the object, and not your body. Anyone can use that object on her and she’ll be equally pleased.
- Swinging. As I had to tell my friend the other day, “There’s no such thing as a bisexual swinger.” There’s nothing good that can come from swinging. Your wife actually wants you – and just you. Any woman who tries to get your love by swinging is just waiting for the moment she can
- lock you down
- shut off the swinging, and
- hold it against you forever.
Don’t do it with anyone you care about – you will demolish what’s left of your relationship. The tortured logic I’ve been subjected to, justifying swinging – it’s just that, tortured logic, and not logic at all. Usually, this is how it goes:
- Husband says he wants to add partners to the bedroom, but really he wants a pornography-like multiple-woman scenario.
- Wife gives in and ends up watching her husband have sex with another woman.
- Wife thinks about it and gets increasingly upset as the days, weeks and months pass that one, or multiple, experiences.
- Wife demands to have a multiple guy experience. She doesn’t want it for the pleasure, she wants it to get back at her husband. She usually asks for the husband’s good friend to be the poor sap who joins them, so that her husband can have the pang of jealousy watching another man enter his woman.
- Relationship deteriorates with the parties one-upping and hating each other until they divorce.
I’ve seen this one play out several times. And yes, with members of the Church as often as anything else – I even know of one couple where the husband is elder’s quorum president. That’s his cross to bear, he has his own trials and we all have our own as well.
The moral of all this is: You are supposed to be having sex with your spouse. You are supposed to work with your spouse to overcome any walls she’s built up to fully enjoying the experience. Your sex should be making love – two people trying very hard for 5-50 months to please each other as much as possible. Sex should be the fulfillment of your love, not a weapon or opportunity to hurt anyone, and not defiled by you thinking about another person thanks to porn or an adulterous mind.
- Concentrate on your spouse
- Make it the most amazing sexual experience of her life
- …and it will come back to reward you.
Punishment is good and right and true – and that includes parenting.
If you’ve read my other posts, you will know that I am the child of parents who took discipline way too far. I won’t rehash some of those things – but I encourage you to “read” the other posts and “like” them to your heart’s content. But I have a few important things to say about it all.
The old adage goes: “That which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” It’s true. I just look at my brothers, and I would have to say that I was much better armed for life’s obstacles than they were by virtue of the fact that I’d already been through what I consider to be significant battles of life. Quite frankly, divorcing my parents helped me divorce my wife. By needing to stay strong as my own person as a child (rather than succumb to my mother’s will), I formed my own opinions and steeled myself against the onslaught of those who would try to control me. I saw difficult situations as just another prison someone was putting me in, which I needed to survive until I could escape. It’s precisely how I viewed the last few years of my marriage – and that’s no exaggeration (as my friends will attest). It’s also how I reacted toward Air Force Basic Training, in which I excelled.
Side note on divorce: I want to spend one more moment talking about this parallel to prison and divorce. When I first asked my ex-wife for a divorce, I felt defeated when I couldn’t get out. She uncovered all of my sins, and proceeded to use them as leverage for why I was a horrible husband. She listed off a dozen things she’d always expected of me that I had never provided for her as a husband. Right or wrong, my perception of my prospects from that moment were, “Hide all my discomfort until I satisfy her list of wrongs, and then get out.” I knew I was right that I should be divorced, and I wanted to feel right in following through on that need.
Surviving this sort of childhood isn’t about fighting back every minute – no one can do that. It’s also not about learning to put up with it – I think that sort of thing will kill you in the long run. It’s about using every tool you have to make it better for yourself, convincing your captor that everything is just fine and dandy, and manipulating your way into better circumstances. I think that manipulation is an important muscle you must exercise in order to survive life, regardless of your circumstances. It doesn’t mean lying frequently – it means moving the chess pieces around you in a way that you can win. It means making alliances with those around you, and sidling up to those who oppose you so that you become indispensable until you indispose yourself, so to speak.
It’s not that I kick against every yoke. I understand that in the workplace, I work for somebody. I understand that there are hierarchies to life, and I encourage them. I just won’t be led by the nose into my own destruction. I had the thought throughout my childhood that my mother would be happy if I attempted suicide – after all, it runs in the family. But I created my own lofty sense of self-worth despite her deprecating treatment, so that was never going to happen.
it’s interesting, the parallels between how you feel as a child under unreasonable punishment and an adult under the yoke of a marriage that should be over. The other spouse often ends up striking the same chords that your parent(s) did. At least, my situations felt this way.
It’s also important to forgive, but never forget. You can’t walk around as an adult, despising your parent(s). You have to learn their lessons and then act accordingly. Herein is why I disagree with abstaining from corporal punishment altogether: should you be an anorexic (or manorexic!) because your parents ate too much? Should you refuse to get a job because your parents were workaholics? Should you eschew all religion because your parents were Scientologists, snake-biter Baptists or ascetics? Should you eat all junk food because your parents had a crazy diet? No: it’s about learning from your parents’ mistakes and living a life with reasonable limits.
My next post will discuss how to discipline your children properly.
Every young man loves his mother. I wanted very much to make her happy. But I learned two important lessons from the long process of leaving her.
My feeling of ownership over my mom probably happened when my dad started traveling a lot. I was “man of the house” (or so they said), and I would feel protective over my mom. We didn’t have an alarm system in the house, so while my dad was away I would prop our bar stools against the doors of the house. Then, I would take the pots and pans and balance them on top of the stools. In the morning, I’d take the pots, pans and stools down.
Side story: When I was about 11 we got our first cat. Cats are no good for keeping things in balanced places throughout the house, and periodically our alarm would go off.
When the divorce happened, I helped my mother with the divorce agreement. As I said in a previous post, I’m the one who pointed out to her that Dad was paying her child support (and not alimony). I liked the idea of getting rid of my brothers, but when there’s truth that others haven’t discovered I have to be the one to reveal it! (It’s just part of who I am.)
Here are a few things I did for my mom:
–>From the age of 5, I massaged her back and neck daily. She had a parasailing accident in her teens that gave her whiplash; she was in and out of acupuncturists’ offices.
–>I always helped set up chairs and tables at the hotel meeting rooms where my mother would have her multi-level marketing meetings.
–>I helped pitch her business to strangers at street fairs. At one hot, summery street fair I gave free five-minute massages to every slimy, fat person who was sweating like an unwashed hog who wanted my hands on them for five minutes, during which time I pitched them my mom’s business.
–>I already mentioned typing out her love letters.
It was like being married. (To answer one commenter: no, this is nothing Oedipal. I wanted motherly love, nothing else.) I helped with the business, I helped watching the kids, I cleaned the house since I was 5, everything I could. And only recently did I liken leaving my mother’s house to marriage.
The End is Near…or is it?
But then it started to unravel. In about February of 1994, I decided I needed to leave home. When I’d complaint to my friends, such as David D. and Brooke B., they’d tell me I needed to get out of there. At first, I was insulted by the suggestion. Then I realized I wasn’t actually in a healthy situation and needed to leave. I was estranged from my father (and he was probably out of town), so I knew I couldn’t go there.
I had a friend named Malachi. He offered to get me out of there. So I arranged a time he could come by before my mother would wake up (she never came downstairs before 9 on the weekends). I loaded all my things into trash bags and put them in his car, and then I made him wait. I put my shoes just inside the front door (I remember; they were my snakeskin Doc Martins). When my mother came downstairs, I told her I was leaving. It had all the same feelings as a breakup; the uncomfortable, the bitter woman, everything. She told me goodbye, and as I leaned down to pick up my shoes, she lashed out in her meanest voice, “You can’t take those; you didn’t pay for them.”
Suddenly a thousand thoughts flew through my head. I knew exactly how she viewed me, and my worth in this world as long as I was in her world.
Side note: Fast forward 17 years, and I had all those same feelings when I divorced my ex-wife. I’ll return to this side-note in a moment.
I ran out to Malachi’s car, and he took me to his Dad’s house. Malachi lived in a detached garage. He had a ton of THINGS piled into that garage. And I couldn’t just sleep in his place; I had to make nice with his dad, Martin.
Martin was a postal service worker who smoked more pot than anyone I’ve ever even heard of. He would smoke out his kids, daily. He agreed I could stay at his house but that I needed to find a permanent solution, quickly.
The first thing I did was call my friend David D. I told him proudly that I’d run away and I needed a place to stay. He said, in his laughing-at-you-because-you’re-an-idiot voice, that I couldn’t stay there.
Another thousand thoughts flew through my head. I knew right then I’d eventually have to crawl back to my mother’s house, because I had no options.
I had three days at Malachi’s house. One night, Malachi and I went to a party with a bunch of mutual friends. The guy who hosted that party is now dead (as a 30-year-old man, he mainly used these parties to sleep with 16-18 year old girls). I am pretty sure this party was the first one where I ever drank alcohol. As a Mormon, you can see that the road to apostasy was directly beneath my feet.
While at Malachi’s, I sat in the circle as Martin got his fill of his joint, his sons did, and they passed it to me. I took it and tried to get some out, and it was already spent – no pot left! By sheer chance, my one attempt to smoke pot was a failure. Thank goodness. For you skeptics, there was actually no smoke – it was dead. In 1997 I spent most of the year casually smoking cigarettes, so I know what it’s like to have smoke in my lungs. There was simply nothing there. Saved by happenstance!
Martin spoke ill of his wife, and I didn’t like that. He said he was full of energy and youth, and she was all used up, but that she was good to him so he wasn’t going to leave her (I just learned that he did in fact leave her in later years for a much younger woman). He also said he had a bad back, and thought I really needed to have my a__ kicked, but that he couldn’t do it on account of his back.
The Wisdom of Martin
I learned one important lesson from Martin. He told me to earn my keep I needed to dig out a tree stump in his front yard. It was a hot day and I dug and dug and didn’t get it out. I sweat a lot, spent an hour or so working on it, and told him I was giving up. He and his other son, Micah (I really liked his kids’ names), went out and dug the stump from the ground. He then lectured me about how I had an opportunity to do something good and failed. Then he and his son had a great father-son bonding moment. He said I failed because I stopped before I was done, and that one big lesson I needed to learn was to finish what I started. More to come on that in a moment, too.
The End is Not Near
On the third day, Martin made me call my mother. I knew the jig was up, and that I needed to humble myself. I cried, and she told me to come home. Martin spoke to her as well.
Lesson #1: Finish What you Start
Martin was right. I didn’t finish what I started. So I resolved from that point onward to finish anything I started. It didn’t work at first. I went to work at the Sony plant and quit the first job they gave me. Then I got assigned to watch old TV tubes come out of a 100-yard-long oven for 12 hours per day. I lasted two days. But each time I quit something like that, I kicked myself for not finishing what I started.
This motivation helped me finish college. It helped me finish law school too (because I hated so much of it, it was hard to do!). It helped me finish projects, and really continues to push me to this day. I recommend assuming that motivation if you can; it helps. However, it can also make you finish something that perhaps you weren’t meant to. But </I.I'd rather be a mediocre finisher than an excellent quitter.
Lesson #2: Parallels with Real Divorce
I now knew I had to get all of my ducks in a row if I was ever going to successfully leave that house. I knew I needed to get out; but how do you do it? It’s the same thought process you go through when it’s time to actually get a divorce from a spouse.
Fast forward to 2007, and I asked my ex-wife for a divorce without having anything planned out, and found my feet stuck in quicksand. Once again, I had to humble myself and not go anywhere, but had to get every duck in a row. I had to take her list of complaints, and fulfill them so I would have clean hands when I left. Whether or not she felt satisfied in her complaints, I had to feel I had satisfied my duty to her complaints.
Also concerning my actual divorce, I really don’t care that I have consternation from about a dozen people who think I’m horrible for doing so. I tried to leave and was stuck like a duck.
The moral of the story: It’s not enough to know you need a divorce; you need to work out a whole lot of the how of divorce too. I had to figure out how I could feel I had clean hands. That was important for me.
I am not saying you should put together a wad of cash you’ve withheld from your family (my uncle actually tried to tell me I was irresponsible because I went into divorce without any money to pay for it). I am saying you need your emotional and spiritual ducks in a row. You need to have God on your side because you will need His strength to do such a terrible deed. You need to realize that God wants to hear your prayers, asking for anything you need, and that includes the support to leave your spouse and continue being a good parent.
A month or two later, I leaned on my father and got out of my mother’s house. He came to my rescue when I needed him the most. I stayed with him for six months and then plunged into the world alone. And about 15 sideways years began.
I haven’t had any meaningful relationship with my mother since 1994. I do not hold anything against her. I forgive her, but I will not forget. As a result of “breaking up” with my mother, two of my brothers will likely never speak to me again. I cannot control whether they are under her thumb.
When I chose my ex-wife, I chose the person I thought would be least like her. Ironically, that ended up being the one thing I got in many respects. With my new bride, I have looked for some of those positive qualities which my mother did have, and then looked to avoid the negative.
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 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.
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.
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.
Faith – Communication – Intimacy
Let’s take these one at a time.
Faith takes many forms.
It can be a home-grown faith, it can be Judaism or Mormonism or Catholicism.
It can be smoking – if you’ve never seen a zealot, try talking a smoker out of the cigarette they’re halfway through, using logic and reason.
It can be Veganism – that is an act of faith unsupported by science (as atheists accuse us religious types).
It can be atheism (it IS a faith) – you believe without any actual evidence that there is no God.
If you are of one faith, however defined, and your spouse is of another, it will chafe inwardly no matter what you say vocally. The first rule of relationships is:
You cannot change anyone. They are who they are.
You have to bridge the gap between your faith and the other person’s. Now don’t get me wrong – two Mormons or two Lutherans will have the same faith but will have vastly different intensities of that faith.
Here’s your warning sign:
Feelings of betrayal
The biggest disappointments come when one spouse tries to fake it. This betrayal starts off as them trying to shut you up – “Ok, I’ll join your religion/give up mine,” or “I would love to live as a vegan.” You are expecting them to change who they are – quite unrealistically, I might add. Ultimately you are who you are.
My former mother-in-law once said that the face resists plastic surgery, because you have an overall pattern of who you are – this is why pieces of Michael Jackson’s face would fall off periodically. It’s the same with your psyche. If you try to force your spouse to be someone who they are not, they may fake it awhile but will ultimately revert to who they are.
They will feel betrayed that you don’t love them for who they are, and you will feel betrayed that they lied to you.
You simply cannot have a successful relationship without communication. You have to understand the minutiae of who they are, and accept it. Then you have to be conversant in the subjects that matter most to them. You can’t sit on opposite edges of the couch watching the boob tube (yes it’s a dated term but I love it) until you get to escape to bed to sleep so you can face yet another day desperately trying to avoid speaking with the person you’re supposed to cherish for eternity. And don’t think you can just avoid certain subjects and get along fine! In all likelihood the things you want to avoid are subjects that matter a great deal to your spouse, whether it’s cooking or movies or sports or reading or fishing or beer.
Here’s your warning sign:
Every conversation that happens, results in an argument/misunderstanding.
Now of course you want to be able to talk to the person you wake up to every day. You want to be able to relate to them, to lean on them, to have an eternal companion. You married them (and are highly encouraged to do so, if you haven’t yet), after all! In order to do so, you smooth the skids by starting to sacrifice you you are. The next rule of relationships is:
Each spouse sinks to their lowest common denominator.
If you don’t like facets of your partner/spouse, you will absorb some of those facets just to survive in the relationship. This is because marriages and other relationships are built on the common experience, and you have to bridge the gap between two people or else you can’t have that commonality. You need to survive the relationship! And so you give.
You may give up meat.
You may give up smoking.
You may give up your religion.
You may start eating meat.
You may start smoking.
You may join their religion.
But if this change doesn’t sink into your bones, the nagging feeling at the back of your mind will ultimately take over and consume you. You’ll cast off the poseur mantle and return to who you are fundamentally! Are you a smoker? Are you a vegan? Are you a Wiccan? If not, and you’re posing as one to please your spouse, your days are numbered.
Now for the fun part:
First of all, my disclaimer. If you’re born without boy or girl parts, or your boy/girl parts are gone or useless thanks to disease/surgery/accident, of course you can have a healthy relationship. You make accommodations for actual barriers, but you don’t make them for virtual ones.
Once upon a time I was a middle schooler where we had to poll people we knew on the subject of your choice. I called divorced people I knew and asked them what makes a successful relationship. Nine respondents said “Communication,” (and some of them divorced again) and my grandmother said, “Lots of sex,” (and she never divorced again). See above for my thoughts on communication.
If you can’t hold onto your spouse for dear life at every opportunity, if you buy the world’s largest bed so you can be safely far away from your spouse’s drooling/kicking/snoring/fighting, then you are avoiding the intimacy that will bind you together with your spouse. They need you, and you need them. If that need isn’t there, then you have bigger problems to worry about.
Here is your warning sign:
Opposite ends of the couch, and opposite ends of a very large bed.
We are human beings with tactile needs. We need touching, affection and love. We expect that marrying someone means that we will get these needs fulfilled. We invariably use it as a weapon, denying our spouses what they need as payback for whatever injurious betrayal (see above) we feel they inflicted upon us. But take this food for thought in the third rule of relationships:
If your spouse isn’t getting it from you, they will get it elsewhere
Men sink into porn (and some women do too), women sink into Twilight (only slightly tongue-in-cheek here), and at the extremes one spouse sinks into the arms of another person. We are desperate for the person we married to treat us like they did when they were trying to convince us to love them. But feelings get in the way of touching. Do not let this happen!
Back in the 1950s, wives were taught to submit to their husbands. That has now become perverted so that the very thought is an affront to feminist women everywhere. But the fundamental idea is sound: husband and wife submit to each other to retreat from the stresses of the day. You should forgive each other their offenses (see the Catholics’ Our Father prayer) and harbor no ill will for the person you’re bound to for Eternity.
I firmly believe (Mormon talk time) that a person who denies their otherwise well-behaving spouse the intimacy they need, they are breaking their Temple covenants. There are many ways to do this of course, without just saying “No.” And I’m not talking about a one-off night with a headache. I’m talking about a systematic denial of what your spouse needs through action or inaction. So what if he didn’t initiate the intimacy enough times in a row? Do it yourself! There are so many “So what’s” I can’t cover them all. But do not destroy your bedroom (virtually) to satisfy your pride. Remember, the other columns will fall if you tear this one down with that pride.
When first I decided I needed to divorce my ex-wife, I looked at the relationship and realized all three columns had been ground to dust. When I talked with my ex-wife, she said I had overblown everything, that it wasn’t that bad. She definitely didn’t think we should divorce.
The first thing she did was start scrutinizing my every activity and proceeded to browbeat me into regretting my request for divorce. But you can’t bully someone into staying with you. She failed to internalize that she had any part in the sickness of our relationship. I put my divorce plans on hold and took all of her complaints about how terrible of a husband I was and conquered them to the level of my personal satisfaction. We even had twin sons.
When I had squashed every one of her complaints, I assessed the situation again and realized nothing had improved. I felt dirty from my personal sins in the relationship and there was nothing clean about our marriage (other than the children) to help me feel better. I also felt like I was not where God intended me to be – the only thing I can liken it to, is feeling like you’re in the wrong place, or on the wrong track. I would be alone in my car, crying in prayer to God to show me where I had gone wrong.
When I approached my ex-wife and told her that nothing had improved, that everything was still broken and that I would be divorcing her, I walked through all of my complaints – no communication, no agreement on our faith, and no intimacy, she said that all my complaints were “Stupid and fixable.” But do you know what? They weren’t stupid and 4 years of fixing had shown nothing was fixable. I’m in the relationship too, and I should be satisfied. Satisfaction was the furthest thing from how I felt.
I am now married to a wonderful woman who found me as I was begging God to show me the way. After I initiated my divorce proceedings, I discovered she was the love of my life. She moved 1,500 miles to be with me and has spent every day building these columns with me.
I have seen and experienced a dangerous trend among people I know who are less than happy in their marriages. Three words:
Cheating – Leaving – Death
It all stems from cowardice. We want our spouses to be the people we expected them to be when we married them. It turns out that often it was a veneer they assumed while trying to convince us to love them, and you can only play the part so long. After years of waiting for our spouses to return to the people we thought them to be, we realize they are the person we know now, and have known for several years, and not the person they were for the first 1-18 months of marriage.
What to do now? We have an innate objection to divorce, and no clue how to fix it. We are long past the position to actually communicate with our spouse – we can barely stand them in the same room. We know people who have gone through counseling, and have seen nothing good come of it. In the worst case I’ve seen, the first counselor saw fault with both sides, which the wife could not stand, so she hand-selected a feminist counselor who found all fault with the husband. Who would voluntarily subject themselves to this misery?
For the record, I chose divorce. But keep reading. These options below are those that I know lonely husbands consider because they have told me so, and they are pretty typically a sequential line of thought. First one idea, then it never happens, then the second, and then the last.
Option #1: Cheating.
More than one person I’ve known have started by hoping their spouse would cheat. Then they’d have the perfect way out! They could leave their marriage with clean hands. We all want clean hands! What they don’t realize is it’s more like Purell – it kills 99.9% of bacteria and leaves the .1% of the strongest bacteria alive and well to breed and make you sick. From the outside looking in, it seems to be a glorious way out of a bad marriage. If you have kids, you would even have leverage to make sure they love you more than her!
But that never really happens when you want it to.
Option #2: Leaving.
Many lonely husbands think if they sequester themselves away from their spouse, the spouse will just leave them. This is less than perfect, but still a wonderfully convenient way out! Except we don’t realize that they have greater stamina than we do. That’s why they can let a painful pregnancy go for 9.5 months and then give birth for 1-36 hours without medication. They likely figure the man they married will return to them sooner or later, so they just need to stick it out. Also, they too have been building up plenty of resentment for us, so they want to make sure we suffer for the many ways we’ve hurt them emotionally.
Conclusion: They don’t leave us.
Option #3: Death.
I personally have had to talk reason into a friend who confided it to me. My friend said, “I was hoping maybe she’d get hurt, like a car accident. Something where she died quickly and I could then take care of the kids and marry someone who makes me happy.” Another friend’s fleeting thought was that if he didn’t lock the door on his way out of the door on the way to work, maybe there’d be an intruder to take care of his problem. But the fact is:
Once you consider your spouse’s demise, you have started down a path that could lead to you hurting them.
I have suspected that Option #3 was the first line of reasoning that Scott Falater went through before he killed his wife (and subsequently tried to say he was sleepwalking at the time).
We discourage divorce generally, but if you have these thoughts:
I know some men won’t divorce their wives because it’s “cheaper to keep’r.” No, it’s not. Unless you actually fix your problems, squashing the problems flat and never to return, they will continue to plague your every thought and you’ll be back to considering Options 1-3 above.
This whole line of thinking comes from cowardice. I heard once that a lonely man would drive around with his passenger door always unlocked, just in case a beautiful woman would see him and jump into his car and sleep with him (that might be from Neil Strauss’ The Game or from a guy mentioned in that book, David D. It’s been awhile, and this stuff isn’t for married men anyway.). This comes from that same muscle – the muscle that places a desire in your heart without the chutzpah to do something about it.
Ultimately, we are men. We have an obligation to act, and to act in whatever way causes the least harm to ourselves and to our spouses. They put faith in us, and that means an assumed risk that you may end the marriage someday, but not that you might hurt them.
If you think it’s cheaper to keep’r because a lawyer could cost you $5k-$25k, think what a defense attorney will cost you for spousal abuse or worse. What’s the cost of 5 years to life in prison? It’s not worth it.
We are here on earth to be happy. If you’re not happy, exhaust every available way to make yourself happy, and if none of them work try one more way and then get out. If Options 1-3 above enter your mind, you are heading down the wrong path, a most dangerous one that is never acceptable. If anyone you know is considering options 1-3, refer them to this article and help them to:
Fix it or get out.