Divorce, Part 2

June 8, 2009 · 4 comments

As I mentioned in the last installment, the 5 Mondays in this month of June are “My Story Mondays” with The Naked Redhead.  TNR and I are doing a crossover segment on our respective divorces.  Click here to read TNR’s post, before or after you read this one.  I know I’m psyched to see what she has to say.

Marriage Misconceptions

Ha!  “Till death do us part.”  Marriage misconception #1 for Ted:  marriages don’t end:  they’re forever-things.  Once we say “I love you” and/or “I do”, everything after that is just working out the details.  “Our love will carry us through anything”. 

Ok, maybe I’m starting off on a bitter foot.  This is going to be kind of tough for me, because with a topic like “misconceptions”, I’ll get caught up in the definition of the word, and end up way off in the blogging wilderness, talking about sticks and stones and river stones and zen gardens – and I’ll have no idea how to get back to the task at hand.  So forgive me, dear reader, as much as I’d like to be organized about this, I’m going to have to do some stream-of-consciousness here in order to get out the stuff that matters.

I believed that love was a solid and permanent thing – that once I had it, it would never leave me, no matter what.  I talked to M about this often – before and while we were married.  My parents have been married for over 30 years, and they’re my example for how marriage works.  They fight sometimes, and disagree often enough, but the one thing they never did was get divorced (or even separated).  They never even joked around about it.  To a certain extent, this was an excellent example for me.  Divorce wasn’t even in my vocabulary.  Until all that shiz went down that I talked about last week.  I learned real quick – and, one might argue, the hard way – that divorce is real and it can happen to me.

I confess to believing in the soul mate concept.  The movie “What Dreams May Come” makes me cry with longing every time I see it.  I really thought I had that with M.  At some point, though, that started to break down.  I called M my soul mate, but after a while, I wasn’t so sure.  I started stubbing my toes against things about her that I didn’t really like.  And because I thought that marriage was forever, I’d say to myself “ok, I can live with this forever”.  At the end of the day, the whole naked pictures on the internet thing was really just the straw that broke the back of the camel that was my marriage is forever concept.

Looking back, my thinking was pretty skewed and one-sided when it came to being married.  I thought that once we were married, we were a single unit; that we shared a life.  Mine is yours; yours is mine.  Being an extremist, I took this a bit too far, into the land of my mind is yours and yours is mine.  One really good example of this was that I connected my inner monlogue directly to my voicebox:  not only was I constantly talking to M, I had no filter.  Whatever random thoughts passed through my effed up mind at the time came out of my mouth.  At the time, I had extremely negative thoughts about my co-workers.  Every day when I came home, I’d complain about how lazy they were and how they have no ambition, etc. to M.  I can’t imagine how that must have worn on her over time. 

I also thought that I could tell M anything and everything.  I learned – again, the hard way – that this isn’t the case.  I was a chronic “oversharer”.  I told her some things – specifically about past relationships – that really pissed her off.  Now, I have to confess that I should have stuck to my guns and not said anything about my past relationships when she pressed me about them, but heck, she was my wife, and at the time I thought I was being immature by not telling her everything.  I told her about my relationship with the girl I was a-wooing before M and I met.  We still saw the girl every now and again, and M built up a pretty serious resentment against her.  This was pretty rough for me to deal with, because I didn’t bear the girl any ill will, but all of a sudden M did.  We fought about the fact that, while I had no desire to be buddies with the girl, I certainly wasn’t going to treat her poorly social situations.  M thought that I should do just that.

Marriage (and divorce) is a two-way street, and I definitely played a significant part.  It’s really important that I say that out loud – and, as it were, here in this post.  As much as I’d like to think that I got screwed and that my divorce is something that happened to me, it’s not.  Yeah, it happened, but I had a hand in it.  If fault is to be ascribed, part of it must lie with me.  Of equal importance is that I come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t all my fault.  Beating myself up and “taking all the blame” would be just another exercise of ego for me.

That said, I’m not here to assign blame.  This is about catharsis and getting some of this stuff onto the screen.

I was inflexible in a lot of situations.  I believed that, because of the success of my parents’ marriage (M’s parents were divorced), I was the one who knew how to achieve a successful marriage.  I thought that by being firm on certain points, our marriage would be healthier in the long run.  I compromised or didn’t offer an opinion on what I considered to be “the little things”, but when it came to what I considered “the big things”, I was always right – and I didn’t budge.  At the time, I really thought that I was right and that I was doing the right thing.  In the end, though, the marriage became about me and what I wanted. 

After we had been married for about a month or two, M suggested that we go to marriage counseling.  I was totally caught off guard.  In my mind, marriage counseling was for people who were having problems with their marriage – and I certainly didn’t see anything wrong with the way things were going with us.  We were friends with a couple who had been engaged for a couple of years and were constantly fighting.  They were starting to go to counseling, and I thought that M was just jumping on the bandwagon.  I put my foot down and said “no way”.  Why do we need to involve a third party in our marriage?   If we love each other, we should be able to work things out between us without having someone else telling us what to do.  Besides, what does some schmuck with a certificate know about a happy marriage that I don’t?  As I look back on that suggestion, I can’t help but think that there were things about me that were bothering M that she either didn’t feel comfortable bringing up to me, or (more likely?) that she tried to bring those things to my attention and I brushed right past them.

Being inflexible also means that I held on too tight.  I didn’t let M have her own life.  I tried to live out my own marriage ideal without including M in the process.  My marriage ideal consisted of spending every possible waking minute together.  When M started to find things outside of her marriage that made her happy, I became jealous and tried to pull her back to me – I honestly thought that I should be able to give her everything she needed to be happy.  I wasn’t an asshole about it – I didn’t forbid her from anything, but I certainly let her know that I didn’t think that she was spending enough time with me.

Looking back, if marriage is forever, that’s a long time.  Plenty enough for M to have done the things that made her happy – things that I didn’t necessarily have to be a part of.  My mistake was that I put all my eggs in her basket – I depended totally on her for my sense of self-worth.  I had friends and did some things outside of my marriage, but my first, last, and every thought was of M.  I don’t remember ever having an argument about me wanting to go out “with the boys” when she wanted me to stay home.  In putting everything into my marriage, I lost my self.  I didn’t exist outside of being married.

That said, I dug every minute of it at the time.  As I think I mentioned last week, being married was all I ever wanted.  My main mistake was that I hung everything on being married, and I wasn’t a whole person outside of my marriage.  So I guess it’s fitting that next week’s installment talks about what divorce felt like – what it was like for me to suddenly eject that big a piece from my life in one fell swoop. 

Anyway, that’s it for me (for now), dear reader.  Please be sure to jump over to The Naked Redhead to read her take on the whole marriage misconceptions thing.  This crossover blog post thing is a two-way street as well, you know.  ;-)

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

The Naked Redhead June 8, 2009 at 09:58

SO well said…I think people often forget that each marriage is its own beast. Each marriage is not like the one before it, and each one requires different types of nurturing and compromise.

Your post also sums up another misconception, that once you’re married, you and your partner will just automatically “grow together.” I believe growth in any relationship requires continual PERSONAL growth and maturity, as well as growth with your partner. I think you said it best:
“In putting everything into my marriage, I lost my self. I didn’t exist outside of being married.”

Good stuff, friend.

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Darth Traya June 8, 2009 at 13:16

Very wonderful blog Ted.

I am with you, I went into my first marriage believing I knew what it took to make a marriage work. But looking back in hindsight, I think my parents had more of a non aggression pact than a marriage. As long as dad, busted his butt to afford the lifestyle to which we had grown accustomed things are peachy.

We learn as we go. While getting married the first time was a very bad idea, it gave me the insight to make my current marriage work. And for that alone, it was worth it.

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Diomedies June 8, 2009 at 20:39

Wow. I needed this. You practically described my last relationship and then some, so now I have an idea of what else to look out for. Discovering these things sure comes as a permanent shock to the system, eh?

Well thank you Sir Quixotic Jedi, for some insight much needed. Best wishes for all your future relationships!

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