Stay Clear of Confirmed Bachelors

To tag onto the previous post, I want to relate the discussions I had with two men (at separate times) on why they don't intend to marry again.

One had been married three times. He tried his best to make his third marriage work. (He was married at 18 the first time, married on the rebound the second time, and fell head over heels in love with his third wife, who eventually "Done Him Wrong.") When we met, he was in his mid-forties. The third sentence out of his mouth after we had set up our first date was, "I don't ever intend to marry again." He was as good as his word. And even though I felt some hope when our relationship lasted, he pulled away when everyone but the minister expected us to get married. I couldn't fault him, though. He never promised permanence, and he said right from the start that he'd had enough. "Three strikes and you're out." Nine years after his third divorce, he's still single as far as I know.

Three months into dating man number two, he began sending me links to blogs that other men had written. The posts went something like this (and I paraphrase): I've got a good job, a great house, wonderful kids, as much sex as I like or need, no debt, no worries, I can do what I want when I want it, and there are no conflicts in my life. Why upset a good life?"

Why indeed. I received about three or four of these links, read them, laughed at the absurdity of some of the comments, and then ... it hit me. Man number two was sending me a message: A strong one. That Christmas I arrived at his house with a truly wonderful gift, but he had none for me. Instead, I received a comic little riff about women who bought useless presents for each other that cluttered the house. Oh, he was funny, but there was a stridency to his tone as he performed his little comic routine. He then commented on the nice manly relationship between Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering in My Fair Lady, and quoted these lines from "Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man?"

Women are irrational, that's all there is to that!
There heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags!
They're nothing but exasperating, irritating,
vacillating, calculating, agitating,
Maddening and infuriating hags!

He went on to quote,

Why can't a woman be more like a man?
Men are so honest, so thoroughly square;
Eternally noble, historic'ly fair;
Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat.
Well, why can't a woman be like that?
Why does ev'ryone do what the others do?
Can't a woman learn to use her head?
Why do they do ev'rything their mothers do?
Why don't they grow up- well, like their father instead?
Why can't a woman take after a man?
Men are so pleasant, so easy to please;
Whenever you are with them, you're always at ease.
Would you be slighted if I didn't speak for hours?
Of course not!
Would you be livid if I had a drink or two?
Would you be wounded if I never sent you flowers?
Well, why can't a woman be like you?
I recall plastering a smile on my face, trying to hide my incredible hurt. Then I looked at the gift I'd given him, and said lightly, "Well, if you find gifts women give useless, guess I'll take mine back."

"Oh, no," he said. "I like yours." (It was a gourmet wine opener.)

I left his house feeling deflated and a sense of disquiet. I cried again that Christmas. It was the third time in five years that my heart had been broken in December, and I was beginning to dread that time of year. In fact, I refuse to have another holiday ruined by a man.

Weeks later in one of our last phone conversations he told me how easy I was to get along with. Of course! He had made it plain that there was no future, so I held myself back. He's never realized how many tears I've cried over him, and I'll be damned if I'll ever tell him. Besides, I've been wrestling with the notion that I'm attracted to the wrong kind of man. How else can I explain my dismal record?

So, this is the lesson I gleaned from my former beaus:

All in all, both are quite content living alone. One is neat and tidy; the other's house is a mess. Both love to eat and can cook quite well. They drop everything to be with their children (as they should.) Both care a great deal for their parents. One visits his mother, who lives in a nursing home, two or three times per month in a city three hours away. The other renovated his house so that his father, who is legally blind, could move in with him. He now spends his spare time driving his father everywhere.

These two men are decent and honorable. Both will drop everything to help me if I should ever make the call. They just don't need a woman to make their lives complete. It isn't that I'm so undesirable to be with, or a pushover, (thank God I have no self doubt about myself or my conduct,) it's that every woman these two men have dated since their divorce have been dropped or left dangling. In my case, I lasted four years with one, and three months with the other.

I no longer date. It's too much of a bother. I've also decided I just cannot go through another heartache soon again. I may be dumb, but I'm not stupid. Besides, I have a dog, a lovely home, a career, and as much sex as I want. Sheez! Now I'm sounding just like them. Isn't this world simply crazy?

Here's an interesting article about Some Common Reasons Men Leave Relationships.


Divorce Talk With Men of My Acquaintance, Part One

I encountered two men in their late thirties this week, my insurance agent and a former coworker. Both are going through a divorce. Being men, they said little, keeping a stiff upper lip. Still, I commiserated with them, telling them I understood they were not going through an easy time. Hearing my sympathetic comment, my insurance agent opened up. He'd been married 10 years and had two children. He would have tried to make things work, he said, but his wife was done. She didn't want to continue the marriage. He shared joint custody of the kids and he lived for them. At this stage of his separation, all he could think of was them.

My former coworker had been married for only two years. I could tell from his demeanor that he was the one who left. He was embarrassed about his public failure and hadn't told many people. Despite his decision to leave, I imagine it was still a difficult one. Breaking up is never easy, especially after one has declared to the world, "'Till death us do part."

This news about my former coworker resulted in a conversation with my boss, a man who has been divorced for over 35 years. His one and only marriage lasted only a few months. "Unlike other peoples' responses," he said, "I congratulated him and told him I thought he was brave for leaving an impossible situation and for not attempting to fix something that couldn't be fixed."

Good point, I reluctantly thought, recalling all the pain I felt when my husband told me he was leaving. Then my boss continued, saying how he couldn't understand how marriage truly worked. How anyone could worry about another human's welfare in addition to their own. (Obviously he doesn't have children.) It was tough enough, he said, worrying about losing your own job or being able to pay taxes. Having to worry about a spouse as well doubled the pressure. He had no idea why anyone would want to put their faith and trust in another, open a joint checking account, or purchase joint property, etc. He loved living on his own.

"Living the selfish life," I added, "Doing what I want, when I want, and how I want it."

"Precisely," he said, perking up. "It's very satisfying." He then went on to say how it always irked him that society celebrated successful couples. "How about the single individual successfully living alone? Why aren't they rewarded with praise?"

Indeed, why not? I thought, knowing my boss shirked all parties and get-togethers, and spent most of his free time watching baseball with his two dogs and cats. I have no pat answers to this strange discussion. I was simply happy to get as much from this man as I did. In fact, from now on, quite a few of my posts will center around other middle-aged people's thoughts about divorce, marriage, and the single life. So stay tuned. Meanwhile, here are two links for a man going through divorce. No matter what sex you are, the process is tough.
Part II of this post will describe a conversation with another divorced man. Like Henry Higgins from My Fair Lady, he needs no women to make him happy.


Cleaning files

I am going through old files today to make way for storage space, and encountered the papers I kept of the days, weeks, and months after my separation from Bob. It is eerie to read the almost desperate attempts I made to save my marriage; it hardens my heart to see the cool and indifferent responses from my former spouse. I now understand what sort of calculated waiting game he played with me.

All these events occurred during 2000. Interestingly, yesterday was my wedding anniversary. I was married on a Saturday on September 15, 1973. Like yesterday, the day started out with a drizzle and ended up clear, sunny, and warm. This was important, for we were married outdoors.

Thankfully I had made plans to be with my family yesterday. I shed no tears. My therapist told me it would take five years to completely heal, and she was right. Last year I had a similar cool response when I traveled with a girlfriend to Paris. So for those of you who think that the memories will haunt you forever, take heart. Time and distance do heal all wounds.


Sister Links of Strength

Two blogs I'd like to direct you to are written by women (younger than me) who are also going through periods of vast upheaval and transition. Their blogs are beautifully written personal accounts of overcoming pain and anguish. In fact, I'm tagging them, asking them to identify two or three blogs that they visit regularly and that are written by people who are going through a painful transition as well. The only requirement is that the blogs they identify are also written in a positive tone. They should be absent of spiteful posts.

For Sister Links of Strength, I've tagged:

Mom of 3, who resides in Boston. She writes about Finding My Way, in which she embarks on a personal journey of growth and discovery as she and her husband are separating.

Iona Fiona: Tales from the post marital quagmire views the world in an unflinchingly honest way. I am always surprised when I visit Iona's blog, and in turn feel supported by her. Her site is well worth a visit!


Little Girls Whose Daddies Leave Them

Little girls whose daddies leave them

...know it's all their fault.

...yearn for their daddies to come back.

...search for their daddies, sometimes all their lives.

...will do anything to get their daddies back.

...find substitute daddies, even in bad places.

...try to be good girls, even though they really think they are bad.

...have a hard time saying no.

...think they have a flaw that made their daddies leave.

...will do everything in their power to keep their new daddies (husbands.)

...will find fault with themselves over their daddies.

...might seem tough on the outside, but they are bruised on the inside.

...have a hard time trusting anyone.

...enter co-dependent relationships when they grow up.

I am a child of divorce. This was how I felt. This was how I reacted emotionally to men. Did I miss anything?


Facing your anniversary alone

My wedding anniversary is coming up. I spent my first wedding anniversary alone crying. It would have been our 27th year as man and wife. We were still married, but Bob had already gotten engaged to someone else.

I was caught off guard by the sheer force of emotions, and I clung to my bewildered dog all night long, crying so hard and so long that my eyes and voice were raw for days. The next year (on what would have been my 28th anniversary) I was in a serious relationship. It didn't occur to me to protect myself. Inexplicably, I spent that day alone also, and once again my emotions overwhelmed me.
I was prepared the third year, and planned a weekend with friends. I've planned something on my anniversary every year since then. Last year, I flew to Paris. This year Mom and Dad will be joining me. We are going to tackle the rest of my garage, throwing out the last vestiges of Bob's possessions, and clearing out the clutter that represents my hanging on to old memories and the past. These possessions and memorabilia have been bogging me down, slowing my ability to store new things and using my house to the fullest.

Letting go. This has been my theme for a few months now. I am finally starting to cut all the connections that are holding me back. Some day I will regard the date of my anniversary as just another day.

This article, Coping With Tragedy from the National Empowerment Center, was written to help people cope with a traumatic event, such as after a hurricane. I found the advice to be pertinent to my situation as well.

Letting Go

Some of the hardest post divorce task I've had to tackle have been in the areas of 'Letting Go.'

First, I had to let go of material things.
Days after Bob moved out of the house, I stopped the lawn service, discontinued the wine of the month club, beer of the month club, and dinners out. I checked books and videos out of the library and joined Price Club. I waited for sales before making purchases, and for the first time I set foot in the Dollar Store and Tuesday Morning. I began to frequent Goodwill and Salvation Army stores, and scour yard sales. I even shopped at Wal*Mart regularly. Slowly but steadily I stopped paying retail and studied wholesale prices. I had no choice.

Second, I had to learn to let go of former dreams.
We had plans to build a lake house on some lake property we had just purchased. I had dreams of getting my novels published. A more immediate dream had been to visit Hawaii. All these had to be swept aside as I concentrated on emotional and financial survival.

Third, I had to let go of my former friendships.
Oh, I kept most of our friends, but the nature of those friendships changed. All of a sudden I found myself living in a largely female world. Where before Bob and I would go out as a couple, now I would meet my girlfriends for lunch. Since my divorce I've seen some of the men I used to see weekly only six or seven times. While those "couple" friends would invite single men to their parties, dinners, and get-togethers, I seldom got asked to attend them as a single woman. I had to let go of my anger and disappointment towards those friends. They were treating me in a different way. I could either accept this or move on and find a new, close circle of friends who were not intimidated by my single state. I chose to move on, connecting with old friends less often and concentrating on my new life.

Fourth, I needed to let go of the anger.
This has been the hardest task. I haven't completely forgiven Bob for giving up on "us" or forgotten some of the hateful things he said, but I have placed him far down the list of people who matter. Consequently, my anger about the divorce has lessened. I found this one thing to be true: It is impossible to love someone you don't respect. Once I lost my respect for Bob, my love for him disappeared. Once I stopped loving him, I could let go of him and most of my anger.

Fifth, I needed to stop thinking of myself as a failure.
Through 6 years of dating and 26 years of marriage I did my best. I loved Bob with all my heart. In my mind I was a good and devoted wife. Yes, my faults and actions contributed to the demise of the marriage, but I did the best I could given my background as a child of divorce and his seasonal depressions. Once I stopped thinking of myself as having failed at marriage, and once I stopped beating myself up, the healing started.

Read more on this topic:

Coping: Letting Go of Anger

Divorce Support Forum: Letting Go of Anger

Strategies to Cope With Anger After Divorce