Damaged goods

A few months ago I had a short telephone conversation with a man who was interested in meeting me. Nothing came of this, as I was in the midst of an extremely busy period and couldn't free up the time to meet him. Towards the end of the conversation, he said, "Just remember, I'm not the one who hurt you."

I felt a bit irritated. Of course I knew he hadn't hurt me. I've healed, haven't I? Aside from my slight annoyance(this was our first conversation, after all) I tried to brush his comment aside, but I couldn't. And I haven't.

First, if I hadn't been "damaged" by my divorce in some way, I wouldn't be so wary of meeting new men. In my pre-divorce days, nothing, not even my busy schedule (and it was crammed full, believe me) would have stopped me from embarking on a new adventure.

But I have grown cautious, and protective of myself.

So how does a reckless, adventure loving person like me become so timid of getting hurt again that she thinks twice about meeting new men? Here is how.

During my marriage I was simply me. I loved my husband and he loved me, and with that knowledge I felt free to let myself simply - BE. I loved, laughed, cried, hurt, got angry, pouted, and said and did incredibly stupid, careless, and thoughtless things, because I knew that no matter what, Bob loved me. I shared my innermost feelings, my hopes, my fears, my foibles, and my truly hideous traits, because I knew that no matter what, Bob loved me.

In turn, Bob acted and behaved fearlessly because he knew that no matter what, I loved him. And I did. And I managed to do it with very little judgment and disloyalty. Whatever Bob did I supported. If I had reservations, I discussed it with him only. To the world, we were a united front. And if I had a disquieted feeling or two about his errant memory or temper towards someone else, I kept it to myself until we were alone to discuss the situation.

Twenty-five years into my marriage I learned that I had been judged for years. Not only had I been judged rather harshly, I had been found wanting. And so my husband left. The betrayal I felt was devastating. I cringed when I recalled some of the things I had told Bob, including my fantasies, and I felt rejected to my inner core. Since I had hidden nothing from my husband, there was no place to hide.

It took years for me to realize that the reasons for Bob leaving the marriage weren't because of anything I said, was, or could have done, but it sure felt that way. So I have built a nice, thick protective layer, one that insulates me from hurt but also prevents me from getting too close to a man.

At the tender age of 58, can I ever trust to be entirely myself with a man again? To laugh a little too loudly? Purchase him presents for no reason at all? To drink one drink too many? To make a huge mistake and forget to pay the water bill two months in a row? To disagree with him because I have the right to disagree, or to hug him at unexpected moments and tell him wildly how much I love him?

Frankly, I don't know.


On the right track...?

Here are my results to the quiz: Are you depressed?

Your Depression Level: 16%

You aren't depressed, and you probably already knew that.

Like everyone else, you have ups and downs.

But unlike most people, you've mastered keeping your mood stable.

Seems like a great result, right? At first I crowed at receiving confirmation that I was emotionally healthy (and I think I am.) However, for some reason I decided to test this quiz and took it three more times. Each time I chose worse and worse answers, and each time I received the same reply: "You aren't depressed, and you probably already knew that..."

Out of curiosity, here are a few statements I began to mark:

* You have been preoccupied with death, dying, or suicide.
* You feel like no one likes you anymore.
* You feel like you have nothing to live for.
* You feel more dead than alive.

And this is the worst result I got:

Is this free quiz harmless? I think not. Imagine if an actual depressed person took it and believed the erroneous result. He or she might stop seeing their counselor or taking their pills.

What a horrifying thought.


Winning at all costs: The results

Divorce can be so nasty that the two parties involved can lose sight of all rational thought. I have no doubt that Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger love their daughter Ireland, but since their split in 2000 neither has acted in her best interest.

Alec’s rant is inexcusable. What sort of father calls his 12 year old girl a pig? On the tape one can hear the frustration build in his voice. He’s at his wit’s end, but instead of lashing out at Kim, he unleashes his fury on Ireland. Bad daddy. Stupid daddy. What rational being leaves physical evidence of his loss of self control in the enemy camp? One who has reached the end of his rope, I suspect. Click here to read the rant in full.

In my opinion the release of that tape was even more horrible than the rant. Instead of being allowed to deal with her father’s tirade in private, Ireland has been forced to deal with her humiliation in public. Someone with an agenda that did not include this little girl's welfare released that tape to TMZ, a sleazy, muckraking tabloid. I doubt Alec’s camp was behind such a vicious, self-defeating move.

In response to the maelstrom, bad Mommy's camp released this statement: "Everybody is always asking why this custody battle has been going on for so many years. The issue is not about Kim or the alleged alienation that Alec constantly refers to, it is about his ongoing aggressive behavior. Kim's sincerest wish is for him to finally address his unstable and irrational behavior so he, at some point, can potentially create a relationship with his daughter. Until then, Kim will continue to protect and safeguard her child's well-being as any parent would."

To justify his actions, Alec’s representatives retorted: "Although Alec acknowledges that he should have used different language in parenting his child, this was one, isolated example of inappropriate language; whereas, Ireland's mother has subjected her daughter to a six-year, systematic campaign of deliberately attempting to alienate her from her father."

No matter how many justifications the two parents make, it’s obvious that “winning” is more important than their daughter’s psychological health or welfare. When will the madness end? And will Ireland ever be able to have a normal relationship with a man after years of emotional abuse from both parents? I doubt it.


Dreams lead the way to recovery

During my divorce I dreamt of my ex all the time. He would scold me, love me, laugh with me, and vacation with me as my subconsious sorted out my emotions and reflected my current situation. Often my dreams allowed me to flee my sadness, but at other times I would wake up sweaty and exhausted from working through my anger and past mistakes.

During the worst period of my divorce I sought refuge in sleep and often slept 8 - 10 hours straight. I dream in colors, and these dreams were vivid and memorable. Their images were often bleak and stark. As I slept, my "work" was at its most intense and I could feel my brain working.

According to Dare to Dream-What Your Dreams Really Mean, the intensity of your dreams reflect your emotional health.

"In a new study of 30 recently divorced adults, Cartwright tracked their dreams over a five-month period, measuring their feelings toward their ex-spouses. She discovered that those who were angriest at the spouse while dreaming had the best chance of successfully coping with divorce. "If their dreams were bland," Cartwright says, "they hadn't started to work through their emotions and deal with the divorce." For therapists, this finding will help determine whether divorced men or women need counseling or have already dreamed their troubles away."

During this period, my dreams exploded with bold colors and symbols. Sometimes I would wake up convinced that my experiences had been real.

With time, my dreams about Bob and our situation lessened. Recently I went on a trip abroad near a region in the far east that Bob and I had visited regularly. Just two nights ago he appeared in my dreams for the first time in over a year, married to his current wife, and totally disinterested in me. I awoke feeling slightly on edge, as if we'd had an argument.

As I shrugged off the dream, which was full of imagery of my rejuvenation, I realized that I'd moved on. I've made new memories and am experiencing a life that is rich and fulfilling without him. Where once he took center stage, he plays a vague and distant part in my dreams. In fact, I used to sleep badly, but these days I sleep well, dreaming healing dreams and waking up refreshed and eager to start a new day.


Point of No Return

Those who desert a marriage have a different set of issues to deal with than those of us who are abandoned. By the time my husband quit our marriage, he had gone through months of making decisions and dealing with the issue of divorce and separation. When he moved out of the house, to his way of thinking his obligations to me were over.

Where I was reeling from shock and grappling with his rejection, he was feeling relieved and ready to move on. Oh, he had some issues of guilt to deal with, which is why I think he came to therapy, but he behaved and acted like a single man.

A major snowstorm, unusual for Richmond, hit the area about two weeks after he moved out. I recall going out every hour or so to shovel the snow to keep my car and driveway clear. Although he had the four wheel drive vehicle, Bob didn’t call or check up on me until three days after the storm. Still stuck on my street, as the plows hadn’t come by yet, I asked him to drive me to the grocery store. He performed this kindness with so little grace that I never asked him for a favor again.

This online article, Saving a Marriage Alone, accurately describes Bob’s reason for abandoning me:

"I find that spouses who are running away from their marriage are in three
main groups:

Group 1) The Dreamy: This is a person who seeks romance, adventure and an
exciting new life. They believe their spouse is holding them back.

Group 2) The Angry: This type of spouse seeks revenge and cannot calm down
because their spouse ignites even more vengeance which they cannot control for
any amount of reason.

Group 3) The Affair: In this group, the spouse has met their romantic match
who fills them with feelings of love and acceptance while their marriage partner
of years leaves them feeling empty.".

It turns out that Bob belonged to Group 1. By the time I began to realize that my marriage was in serious trouble, he had already passed the point of no return