Thursday, April 28, 2011

Another thing to think about

And this one is a doozy.

So, in the weeks right before and right after she served me with papers we did bits and pieces of couple's counseling.  Invariably, she quit before anything could really get started, while I would continue to talk to the therapists and ministers we were talking with.  But also, invariably, the counselors would come to two conclusions, that seemed rather obvious to everyone, apparently.  Number one was that the two of us should simply never have been allowed to get married because it would NEVER have worked in the long-term between us. 

That one I've thought about a bit.  And it's true.

But the second one I've just ignored: that at some point, probably not too terribly far in the future, she would realize what all she was giving up and come asking me to reconcile. 

That one I haven't thought about much, but I also know I have NO idea what I would say or do if it were to happen.

Because, on one hand, how can I NOT accept?  Her coming back and saying, "Let's not break up our family.  Let's try and make it work."  How could I not try?  How could I justify refusing her as the right thing?

Yet the fact that this might happen someday, and the fact that it would be the right thing to do to accept it doesn't negate the first point.  And that one is pretty important.  Marriage between the two of us will NEVER work in the long-term as long as she is who she is and I am who I am.

Over the last few months I've talked to a lot of people, and grown surprisingly close to some surprising people.  There is one lady who used to work with Madam X.  She and another woman worked very closely together, while the ex worked more by herself, but would stop by often to chat with the other two.  After she would leave the two of them would sit there astonished and say, "Why would ANY woman talk that way about her husband?  Doesn't she know how badly it reflects back on her?"

And these were pretty gossipy people anyway.  And it shocked them.

The last six months before the divorce she would often come to me, angry, and say things like, "Nobody likes you, nobody likes to talk to you, everybody thinks your a jerk, I'm tired of people not wanting to hang out with me because of how badly they dislike you," and I would think to myself, "The people I talk to like me.  It's just the people that know you better than me who feel this way.  The problem isn't me, it's what you are saying about me to anybody who will listen."

But that's who she is.  To this day she believes that NOTHING that ever went wrong in our marriage was at all her fault.  At all.  That all of it was my fault, and that all of it was caused by me being the wrong person.  Her last grasp "attempt" to make things work before the divorce was to say to me, "The only way we can make this work is if you change everything about who you are." 

What kind of person does that?  What kind of person says that?  About six months before the divorce she started seeing a therapist, and then she insisted I see one.  But it was obvious that, to her, the reason I needed a therapist was because everything with me was wrong; and the reason she needed one was to learn how to deal with me. 

That's a level of messed-up that's pretty amazing.  I guess if I was some really, really awful guy that might be all justified.  But I'm not.  I may not be perfect, but I also know I'm, generally, a good guy. 

But, then again, she never really wanted to be married to me at all.  She's told me that, too.

So, when she comes back asking me to reconcile, what do I do?  I know the first time she does it, she'll try to make it on her terms: "If you change everything about you then we can get back together."  Sorry, but no.  But what if -- and this possibility is a lot less certain -- she actually comes back more contrite? 

I don't WANT to have her back.  I'm really OK not being married to her.  I mean, it is going to take YEARS to heal from how much she would tear me down constantly, but already I feel so much better about myself.  So much more comfortable being me.  When you don't have someone you love telling you all the time how much you suck, the world feels a lot better.  I can't go back to that.

I can't go back if her attitude is still that everything was my fault, that she was perfect, and that all the change needs to be in me.  That I will never sign up for.


  1. I certainly understand your ambivalence here. I absolutely understand the thinking that, if she asks to try to make it work, you should honor that request. I mean, you have kids together; and it would at least take seriously the promises you made to each other, once upon a time.

    But yeah, I also understand your hesitancy. I think you should be utterly clear with her (if she does ask for a reconciliation) that it won't be on the same terms as before - that you won't tolerate her trashing you like she did before.

    Honestly (and I don't say this as in any way to rip on you), you've got to stand up to her in ways you never did before; you've got to 'live into' your healing sense of your own self-worth, and be a man. And also be clear with her that 'trying to reconcile' (at this point, having broken the marriage that you had) isn't an iron-clad guarantee that reconciliation is gonna happen. She absolutely needs to know that you're not gonna lay down for her like a sick puppy anymore, and that she's got her own major input to whether any reconciliation could ever happen. And that you're entirely prepared to walk away; even that you'd rather walk away, but you're willing to give it a shot, if she is. . .

    I'm also intrigued that you say (and have said before) that your counselors/clergy say you should never have been allowed to marry each other. Were your old pastoral folks really that 'interventionistic' that they could have allowed/disallowed your marriage? Our community was pretty, um, pastorally aggressive back in the day, but I'm not aware of any pastoral folks ever 'disallowing' a proposed marriage. I know of a couple that they strongly advised against, but the marriages went ahead, and mainly struggled as had been predicted. . .

  2. I'm also recalling an 'incident' from Jen's-and-my courtship. At one point, she raised some issue over some bit of behavior of mine (which was really pretty trivial, but I don't want to seem to let myself off the hook too easily), which she took as a marker of some character deficiency on my part (which it might have been), and she said she didn't know if she could marry someone who wasn't more committed to, (let's say) a Christian way of life. So I told her that I guessed she had a decision to make, then. Which wasn't what she'd expected to hear. At all. And it didn't take her long to decide that she didn't think that particular character flaw was a deal-breaker. . .

  3. I agree w/Craig that while you DO owe the mother of your children at least a reasonable discussion of reconciliation if the subject arises (did I miss something somewhere? I thought she had a new boyfriend already?), you must be clear on the ground rules: all of this "it's-all-your-fault-so-YOU-must change" nonsense won't work...
    That's just not how grown-ups operate.
    I enabled my narcissistic & abusive ex for years & years, so obviously when I tried to stand up for myself & "lay down the law", he chose to walk! (esp since he had his new squeeze waiting in the wings)

  4. I'm gonna second/third, that you do need to make clear that her thinking it's all you, and YOU must change, isn't worth even listening too, and let her know that...

    But, I'm also gonna say, having watched my best friend go through very much the same thing, in fact some of your words here could be from *his* wife... and, seeing how much healthier he is, and really she is too, and the kids are adjusting to this "new normal"... think long, and hard, about what you "owe" her.

    For instance, how many times in your relationship, did you bend, and bend, and she continued uncompromising? Despite the occasional promising signs, which you blogged about, what ever changed? Well... what would change NOW?

    Not to say you shouldn't consider, discuss, and all- but don't lose track of why you're in the situation as it is.

  5. Nothing (marriage, family, life, business partnerships) can work unless everyone takes responsibility for their own actions. Until she does, there is no chance of reconciliation. It is going to be easy and tempting to look past that and try to be pliable, but it won't solve anything.