Archive for the ‘Guilt’ Category

I’ve shared in earlier posts about Nan deciding to take a trip to the beach instead of being here for Cindy’s graduation.  The kids were at Nan’s this weekend for the normal visitation.  Based on past history, this being the week before Mother’s Day I assumed I’d be getting some communication from Nan or perhaps from Cindy or Greg about this Sunday given that this year Mother’s Day weekend falls on our visitation.  I was speaking with my wife about this a couple times over the weekend and the time came and went without a peep on the topic.  The kids came home Tuesday night as always and with busyness and all everyone was in bed before the thought “It’s odd that nothing has been mentioned about Mother’s Day” crossed my mind.  Last night talking with Cindy she asked if she could have friends come over after prom this Saturday and spend the night.  That was fine and it led naturally into the question of if they were heading over to Nan’s for Mother’s Day.  Cindy informed me Nan said she did not want them to come over.  Bam.

We moved on from that statement and just continued the conversation, but inside me their was a sadness along with a rage of the callousness of Nan.  This is not a new feeling for me, and sadly whatever feelings Cindy, Greg and Marcia have are also not knew, but it never ceases to amaze me how Nan can find ways to one up herself in the emptiness inside.  For you to fully appreciate the agony that must be occurring for Cindy, I need to fill you in on a development related to the graduation fiasco.

The weekend before this Cindy has come home and through general conversation she raised the point of the mess that Nan is creating with grandma, for clarity Nan’s mom.  I asked what that meant and out poured the most sadly amazing story I have heard.   It seems that that weekend while Nan and Cindy had gone shopping with her grandmother she continued to have mobility issues that have been part of her life for a while and had difficulty making it from the handicapped space into the store, due to her COPD breathing issues.  Nan then decided that her mom was in no way capable of attending Cindy’s graduation but she decided that her mom is so depressed about all she can no longer do that she needed to come up with some other way to get her to not go.  So she concocted a yarn that was that we have now decided to take all the kids to visit my parents down in Florida and the Cindy will not be attending her graduation.  Cindy then proceeded to explain how a couple occasions had come up where she almost gave away the lie because at one point she almost walked downstairs in her cap and gown and another time almost made a mistake and said something that would have given up the lie.  It was evident in her telling me this whole story that it was stressful to her.  I was furious.  Because Nan already made the decision to not be present for Cindy’s graduation now she was making Cindy partake in a lie about it, not be able to share the event with her grandmother, and further stressing out a kid who is on medication for anxiety?!!

After explained the unfairness to place her in that spot and how sorry I was she had to deal with this, we arrived at the point that she would rather I speak with Nan about clearing this up.  After a long discussion with my wife, I decided to contact Nan.  I made a few mistakes in the heat of the moment with including my own personal indignation about being included as the basis for the lie and how I would not be a party to that, but in the end I cut everything out but the heart of the matter.  Cindy should not be made to carry around a lie for the remainder of her grandmother’s life about her graduation.  I also wanted to make sure this was not Cindy’s burden to resolve, because that would just be more stress, so I let Nan know that we would be sending the announcement for the open house we were having the day after the graduation to celebrate to her Mom but would wait a couple weeks.  Nan ended up calling me up and claiming that her mom was suicidal and to please not put Nan in the spot of having to tell her mom something else she could not do.  I asked for counsel from several people to make sure my clouded perspective with being furious with Nan was not making me make a poor decision on how to handle it, but everyone agreed this burden needs to be removed from Cindy and Nan needs to have an adult conversation with her mom.  After several days Nan decided to talk to her mom and it turned out to make no big deal according to what she said.  Cindy was at least free from the burden of Nan’s lie.

So when I add up the graduation skip, the stress of these several days of fabricating a lie about it and keeping her own mother from being allowed to make her own decision about her granddaughter’s graduation, now we throw in the latest slap; don’t come over on Mother’s Day because we’re too busy packing for our trip that we are leaving for in a few days.  Does my ex just have a hole in her chest where her heart should be?  What can I do as a parent on the other side of this train wreck to protect my children’s hearts?  As I have been operating for some time the answers are yes, and I wish I knew.  I am sure I am not alone in feeling that I am always amazed that my ex can somehow find a way to do something more appalling than ever before.  I’m sure she feels that way about me on things, though I am not sure what (and I’m sure she’s amazed I find her behavior so poor).  In the end I keep reminding myself that my focus needs to be on supporting the kids and I offer someone to listen, to offer advice when wanted and in general just to help them as they want.  My concern, however, is that are they becoming unable to understand what is normal?  In much the same way that we worry about Bert’s effect on Jan, Bobbi and Peter’s ability to process certain things normally, I worry about what having a mom who “loves” in such a strange and bizarre way does to their expectations, how they will develop as people and parents themselves.  Will their romantic relationships be dysfunctional?  How will they view their own kids?  As disposable and easily ignored as Nan views them, or will this drive them to do better, or go too far the other way and be smothering and too attached to compensate for what they felt they were deprived of?  I already have discussions with Cindy where she says all these things are OK.  I suggest they are not OK and that I am sorry, but still try to respect the boundary of not bad-mouthing Nan, but the longer this goes on the more difficult that becomes.  When they were younger I always felt that when they got older they would find their own voice, and perhaps they still will, but I get more and more concerned that they are stunted forever in these spaces and did I miss opportunities to have changed that?  I have no idea where, but that does not make the voices in my head any less vocal.

I’m also not the most empathetic person in the world, so I tend to press too hard into the realm of “suck it up buttercup”.  My wife calls me on it from time to time, and I and so grateful for that, because it certainly helps to avoid further unintended damage from my directness.  This topic is an area that haunts me.  Just as I could not love enough and want to stay together hard enough for both of us with their mom, I can also not do anything to replace the emptiness that must come from knowing that your mom only kind of loves you or however they perceive it.  A child should never have to feel that their parent views them as nothing more than another person.  I get that there are many parents like that, for which sacrificing for their children is not in their worldview, I just feel guilty that that is who I provided my children with on the other side.  I understand the pointlessness and the incorrectness in that viewpoint and I work hard to not get sucked into it too often, and it certainly happens less and less as the years go on, but when one of my kids is in the midst of another vortex of uncaring from Nan, it still surfaces.

We’ve both got exes that cause some form of this feeling of failure in us.  Bert is a terrible role model in many areas of his children’s lives and to some degree I believe my wife has those same feelings that I do about how her choice to have kids with that particular individual will cause them harm and pain for the rest of their lives.  It’s a burden I know not every divorced parent has, but it is certainly one that we have and on days like this it’s really, really heavy.  Writing this blog helps me air those thoughts out in the open and maybe get some comments to help me process, it’s cathartic.  As I try to be open I believe I keep these bad thoughts far enough away to not drag me into a depression of some sort, but does it make me somehow callous as well, as what I am worried my kids are experiencing?  Does having to figure out how to parent kids with a mom who is not a prototypical mom in any way effect me as much or more than it does them?  Is that healthy?  Is there anything I can do about it?  Lots of questions with no right answers.  They can all be seen from two sides of the same coin.  I do the best I can every day, and that’s all we can do as divorced parents.  One day at a time.

One of the things I do not recall sharing here, because it was not relevant to any of the posts I made, was that Marcia came out to us several years back.  At the time my wife and I decided we would not share this news with many, other than what was necessary.  We told a few family members and the youth pastor at church and that was it.  Anything else was up to Marcia, just as she had let us know.

Trying to recall back several years exactly what I said or did is impossible, but I do not doubt that I know I was honest with Marcia about what God tells us in this situation and that I believed Him.  Exactly how I shared this and the words I used are lost in the fog of faraway memories, but Marcia has shared with me recently that it was more direct than she appreciated.  We all make mistakes.  Could I have delivered the message in a more loving, God-centered way?  I do not doubt it, but over the last couple weeks I have come to terms with the fact that nothing short of denying all my beliefs in the Lord would have satisfied Marcia.  I think this fills in enough backstory to move back to today.

I guess I will approach this post as is the latest fad in so many movies and TV shows of the day.  I’ll hit you with the now, then flashback to walk you through how we got here.  As you might guess from the title of this post, Marcia has decided to move out.  Frame the picture, start the opening credits and zoom in on Marcia carrying out some containers with Nan to Nan’s car and watch them drive away.  Cut to them pulling into Nan’s mom’s house and them moving those boxes in.  Cut away again and splashed over the exterior gimbal shot of our home appear the words “Two weeks before”.

As weird as this story is, it all started with a kitten.  My wife has been on me for a long time to get a family pet.  We already have two pets, but what we don’t have I guess is a blended family pet.  She has explained to me that I obviously don’t get it, and obviously I don’t because I still do not see how this pet is any different than the pets we already had.  It lives, it breathes, it eats, it poops, and it looks cute for a second and drives me nuts for hours.  On the list of things that I view as joyful and necessary in my life, I think you can see that pets are not one of them.  I’m not opposed to them and Nan was a pet person too, so they’ve been a constant in my life for many years, but so has snow, cutting the grass and taking my car in for an oil change.  They are just part of the world.  They make my wife and kids happier and they usually have no significant negative impact on me, so I just let it go.  That’s basically how we finally got to the new kitten.  I explained to my wife that at no time will she ever see me leap off the couch in utter joy and exuberance and exclaim, “I just had the greatest idea ever!  Let’s get another pet!” and then proceed to run around the house clanging pots and pans and urging the kids to fall in line in a parade where we all chat “Time to get a kitten!  Time to get a kitten!”  If she wanted to get one, go ahead, but waiting for me to be on board was not going to happen.

Most of the kids and her went off to get this kitten a couple weeks ago, and from piecing together the story later, it seems that there was definitely discussion before they left when it came to naming the kitten, everyone could add whatever names they wanted to a list and there would be a vote (sometimes democracy works in a family) and that it might take up to a week if the voting was contentious or if Trump showed up and said we had to build a wall between me and the kitten and that we would have a little cat door in it.  Somehow, as is wont to happen with seventeen year olds, Marcia seems to have missed, misplaced, ignored or otherwise confused this discussion.  While at the humane society selecting the kitten and getting to know it, a name was suggested my Marcia, a few of the kids kinda liked it and started calling the kitten this as well, probably more to test drive the name, but in Marcia’s head, the kitten had been named.  If this were Inside Out, the little kitten name memory ball was created and shipped off across the canyon to long term memory.  It was far away and hard to retrieve and change, or at least that’s how I associate this incident with what was to flow from it, because otherwise it has no chance of making sense.  Think itty bitty molehill.  Like the smallest mole you’ve ever seen, maybe a new species that requires a microscope to see that has never been discovered yet and then picture Marcia Mountain that makes Everest look like that microscopic molehill next to it and you get to see where we are headed, at least in my interpretation of the events that are about to unfold to get us to the scene we started our episode with.  The journey from “here” to “there” was just not connected in any rational way, but then again if you parent a teen you understand they are not rational, so who am I kidding and why am I surprised?

Kitten came home.  It kind of resembled the stuff that happens around the house when a new baby is brought home from the hospital, except I was happy to note, I did not have to wake up in the middle of the night to an elbow telling me to go change a diaper.  In fact she was already potty trained!  Who knew!  Eight weeks old and we were past potty training, I didn’t have to feed her with a spoon, and the doctor had already fixed her so I did not need to worry about her meeting some addle brained boy in high school and getting pregnant.  Maybe pets are easier than kids?

However, despite all these unexpected joys, it seems, huh, some of the kids actually wanted to stick to the original plan and write down names and vote even though Marcia was already well down the kitten naming path.  She had already had the star engraved on Hollywood boulevard and you know, we can’t change a name after that.  So this comes out and Marcia goes into full flip out mode.  It is a version or mountain and molehill but we’ve not discovered the final ones yet.

Somehow this naming issue caused Marcia such distress that she had trouble sleeping.  It was now Sunday morning and since she had stormed off to her room last night in protest of actually doing what we said we were going to do in the first place.  Are you missing the justification for her righteous indignation here too?  OK.  Whew! Thought it was just me….and my wife…. And all the other kids… and anyone else we’ve talked to.  Figuring she might be less volatile (you’d think we would have learned after years of living with the most unstable element in the universe, the American teenager) my wife engaged with her about how childish she had been about simply going with the original plan of voting.  After all her name could go on the list and if it got the most votes, it would be the name.  Mt. St. Marcia erupted again.  She was going to call the kitten the name she had selected no matter what.  We were stupid, she was not being childish.  In fact, she was so upset all night that she could not sleep and did not want to go to church.  I explained that was not an option as the house rule is simple.  We go to church on Sunday mornings.

We then entered the valley between molehill and mountain.  Very quickly this went from her being upset about a kitten name and our reaction to her reaction and became about how we do not accept her sexuality and make her go to church where she is not accepted and so forth.  She brought up all kinds of stuff from all directions over many years about how I had said something and she took it as a promise and how she hated me and my wife.  I stayed pretty calm through things trying to steer her to some rational sense but it never really worked.  At one point she had said when she was eighteen she was going to live with her mom.  This is not the first time this has come up but it had been quite some time since she had brought it out.  As usual I did not make any comment about it when she mentioned it but after another fifteen minutes of her irrational screaming at me, I went down and had a talk with my wife.  At this point Marcia is less than three months away from being eighteen.  Even though we have been very accepting of her lifestyle choices do far not hindering her seeing her girlfriend in any way etc.  she still felt she was not accepted.  I had had conversations with her before when she had brought up that “you don’t love me because I’m gay”, and explained how nonsensical that was.  Her being anything did not change the fact that I loved her.  I thought a conversation we had had a few months back was very good and at this point I was at a loss.  My wife and I agreed to let her know if she felt it was going to be so much better at mom’s and that is she was set on doing that anyway, since I was not able to have an effective conversation with her about anything lately that I could discuss with Nan about making the change now.

Again, even a bigger mountain appeared.  Marcia started going on about how now that it was clear that I wanted nothing to do with her that she could not come to me ever over the rest of her life for any discussion or advice or anything.  I explained that was not what I was saying just letting her know that if she feels it is not possible for her to comfortably live with us anymore and she wants to go to Nan’s instead that I am not going to stand in her way.  Certainly I have no issue with her here, but if she feels it is so terrible then it is her choice.  It was really amazing to me how we went from naming a cat to this in about 12 hours, much of which we were sleeping.

Instead of having me call she chose to call Nan herself and talk about it.  That led to several conversations with Nan and I about Marcia.  Nan took her normal stance that she was not going to tell Marcia no if she wanted to come.  I next talked to Nan on Tuesday and the main conversation she had was her concern about how her mom and her were concerned that this could be the end of any relationship between Marcia and myself.  Her suggestion was why could I not just do something small to show her I really accepted her, like drop my religion and beliefs.  Now for an unsaved person, that statement makes total sense.  I calmly explained that to her and said my God is a much who I am as Marcia believes her sexuality is and she would never ask me to suggest to Marcia that she simply give up being gay to show she accepted me.  This did seem to help her understand that irrationality of her request.  We had a good conversation about how God works everything for good and I basically ended up witnessing to her for about forty five minutes with Nan asking a lot of good questions and seeming engaged in the discussion.  My explanation really centered around the fact that if this somehow caused me to be estranged from Marcia, that I trusted that God would work some good from that, even though I may never know what that is.  That is what the Bible clearly tells us.  The right answer was not to deny my God and walk away from Him.  That would only lead to destruction and even more turmoil than I have now.  Nan seemed to understand, though I would not go so far as to say she agreed.

The biggest revelation of the discussion was that it appeared that the best solution was for Marcia to actually live with Nan’s mom.  She is in our town and closer to the school than Nan is and it seemed she would let Marcia use her car if needed while Nan had no vehicle to offer her during the school day.  Marcia and Nan’s mom have not exactly gotten along swimmingly so this did not seem like a great idea to Nan or I, but was the best option.  Nan was hoping that that reality would get Marcia to reconsider.

The kids were at Nan’s over the next weekend and other than a few texts clearing up what would happen to the school parking pass (it would go with Marcia if she had a vehicle to use), nothing else really transpired.  Marcia returned with the rest of the kids as per the schedule and basically proceeded to ignore us for the time she was here.  I had talked with Nan and found out that Marcia was portraying the environment here as one where I constantly pushed her to become straight, and so I asked Marcia why she said that to Nan when the only time her sexuality even comes up is when she chooses to use it to indicate that we are not accepting her even though she has no examples of what that means, it is just that she feels that way. Marcia said she never said that to Nan and that Nan was just fabricating the whole discussion.  I explained again that I loved her and was here if she needed me, the same message I had been sending for the last few years.  She did indicate that she still had not decided, but later Cindi indicated that was not at all the conversation at Nan’s, that it seemed very decided the whole weekend there.

As an aside, as all this was going on I continued to have conversations over the week and a half with my dad.  He was aware of the fighting and that Marcia wanted to leave.  What he had still not been made aware of was that Marcia was homosexual.  This had now become a big deal, because Marcia had made it a big deal.  She had made it the centerpiece of this entire explosion, indicating she could no longer live here because she did not feel accepted and that we made her go to church, a church she felt also did not accept her.  The problem was I could not have an open conversation with my dad about exactly what she did not feel accepting about, so my wife and I over several days decided that is Marcia was going to be making adult decisions, this was one she had to make as well.  I needed to let my parents know, even though I felt they would be infuriated and possibly never speak with her again, and that if she was making this such a core of her identity then we could not keep lying to my parents.  I wanted to give her the choice to tell them herself.  She did not want to and in fact just told me to tell them if I wanted to.  I calmly asked again that she wanted me to let them know and that she did not want to share this important news with her own grandparents.  She said no.

I told my dad and he was much more accepting than I had expected.  He was certainly disappointed but it helped him understand.  He had recently told me “something does not add up.  There has to be something more”, and that was the point when I knew that it was going to damage my wife’s and my relationship with my parents if we did not share this secret.  That is what was the final straw that made me decide now was the time to tell Marcia is had to be shared.

I took the high road and let Marcia have her space to decide, as I felt that influencing her in any way could only have the down side of making her angry at me if things did not work out as she wanted, which honestly I think will be the case regardless of whose home she lives in because she is a typical teenager and wants no rules and to do exactly what she wants with no questions or consequences.

The kids were over at Nan’s again for Thanksgiving, which is the first time since we have been divorced that Nan has taken them for the full Thanksgiving holiday.  It meant Marcia was back with us for only a couple days and Cindi had let us know that Marcia had told Nan she did not want to be back in my house after Thanksgiving.

For several days, I got hit with a very unexpected sadness.  I certainly knew all my kids will leave the proverbial nest, and was OK with that, but I think the way this was happening just felt wrong and my belief that this really could be the start of a very lengthy period of estrangement and that Marcia would most likely also have a falling out with Nan and her mom and then be left to make her own decisions just scared me to death.  The pure understanding that there was nothing I could do about it was huge.  All I could do was turn it over to God and if not for my belief in Him my sadness would have been very dark indeed.  It was still pretty bad.  I would find myself tearing up at random times for the next couple days at work, at home or driving.  I had to trust God knew what He was doing, but it was so hard.

I had also reached out to my pastors for some guidance.  I was able to meet with one of our Associate Pastors on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  I shared all the details above and more and in the end my pastor felt I was using great wisdom in handling everything and that my understanding of God’s will was all I could do.  He felt he has not really done much to help me, but I assured him that the reinforcement that I was not doing something wrong was very helpful.

I made sure I hugged Marcia and told her I loved her once again before I headed off to work the Tuesday before Thanksgiving as I knew they would most likely be gone before I got home.  It hindsight it may have been a bit self-serving to remove any guilt I might later have that I could have kept her from making a decision that really could backfire, but I also wanted her to know that no matter what she thought I loved her.

A few hours after they had gotten to Nan’s on Tuesday she texted letting me know they would drop the other kids off Sunday and pack up Marcia’s things to move to her mom’s.  I tried to keep the sadness at bay as the finality of everything hit home.  I had been looking at materials about how to handle the reality that a child of mine was homosexual and that I was a Christian.  I truly struggled with her not feeling accepted and wanted to get guidance as I knew this was not a process I should go through alone.  Neither our home nor our church was doing anything to actively encourage Marcia to change, but I know she knows what the Bible says about homosexuals.  One of the questions I asked our pastor was, “If she ever comes to know Jesus as her Savior but then wants to know how she can choose to be saved knowing that she will not be accepted in heaven, what do I say?”  The guidance was this is the same conversation we would have with anyone where spreading the gospel.  We are all sinners and we all need Jesus.  Nothing is unforgivable and he paid the prices for all our sins, past, present and future once and for all.  I understand that with my beliefs Marcia will always feel a distance between us but God is my center and I nor anyone gets to pick and choose what we feel is true of not.  God gave us His Word to very clearly indicate what truth is.  The world believes many unbiblical things about homosexuality and a friend I discussed this with at one point said, “your view is in the minority in society today”, be he also admitted that does not necessarily make it wrong.  Just because a majority believe something can simply mean that sadly a majority does not know the truth.

Returning to my narrative, Sunday arrived and Nan came over a little before the rest of us had returned home from church.  Marcia and her were already up in her room getting stuff together.  I gave Marcia a hug, said goodbye and let her know I was always here if she needed anything.  At that point she indicated she was still planning to return for the weekends when they would normally be here.  This certainly surprised me.  I went off to change and as I thought about it realized I needed to have a direct discussion with her as her returning would place what she said was at the core of her wanting to leave front and center again. I went back and started to explain to her that I was certainly happy to have her here for the weekends but was not sure what she was thinking about Sundays.  In mid-sentence she cut me off; “Oh I know I would have to go to church”.  I threw up my hands, “I don’t get it!” and spun around and started to walk out, but stopped myself.  Her stance was this way she was “choosing” to go versus being “made” to go.  I get it, yet I don’t.  It’s a teenager’s logic and I sadly had it once too and remember enough of it that I can see it for what it is.

With all this transpiring, Nan piped up and asked Marcia is she was sure she wanted to do this.  She started to tear up and indicated she did not know.  She then proceeded down a path that my wife and figured she’d hit later, that of not knowing how to mend fences and find her way back and thinking it was too much.  First she indicated that Nan and her mom had already bought her a mattress and there was too much that had happened.  Nan indicated not to worry about that, she just needed to make the decision that was right for her.  Marcia then indicated all the awful and mean things she had said about my wife and how she would have to walk on eggshells and such.  I quickly jumped in and said we would need to call her up to talk with Marcia to help her decide if this was going to be a problem.  Marcia did not want to talk.  Nan and I said she had to.  My wife came up and they spent several minutes together.  In the end Marcia still was undecided.  All three of us let her know that this was only a decision she could make but the only caveat was that it was serious.   This will be what she has to live with until the end of the school year.  We are not a revolving door and there is a lot of disruption with this change and when she gets mad over there in two weeks, it’s not “I’m going to go back and live with dad”.  We had shared this message for the entire two weeks this drama was going on, and all the adults were on the same page agreeing that was a requirement.  My wife and I left Marcia and Nan to themselves again.

What I learned was that Marcia is still the typical immature teenager even though she insists she knows everything there is to know about the world and how to live in it.  We were all there once.  I get it and I can appreciate it.  I also know that if we made that decision for her and something happens she has us to blame again.  Making her do that and her living with the consequences she creates are part of helping her mature.  I also learned that God is always in control.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that final set of conversations we had on Sunday when Marcia was unsure.  On one hand it was exciting that the door was not as shut as I imagined, but on the other it was also heartbreaking because it exposes her inner struggle.  She is not comfortable in her own skin and she does not know how to deal with it.  None of us do, until we realize that Jesus is the answer.  I also know and my church community knows that that realization can only be made between two people, Jesus and the person.  Just as making the call for Marcia about if she will stay as things are or make a change and move to Nan’s mom’s is Marcia’s, Marcia’s decision to accept Jesus as her Savior is Marcia’s.  If any of us try to cajole, force or manipulate the result in either case is a poor one.  Acceptance of our lives and the choices we make must be ours alone.  Having God along as your co-pilot is wonderfully calming and peaceful, but we never know that until after the fact.

Since I started with the end, you know Marcia still choose to make the change.  She understands that we can revisit this as early as this summer if she wants.  She’s 18 in about two months so she is now also legally in control of her own life very shortly and we also get to treat her like the adult she is asking to become.  My wife and I already discussed the fact that if she does choose to come over for a weekend and Mt. St. Marcia erupts again, the dynamic is now totally different.  Marcia is no longer a child living under our roof who would get disciplined and sent to her room, she is now an adult who is behaving inappropriately in our home and will be asked to leave.

Life is always full of surprises.  I knew my kids would leave the nest and Marcia being the oldest I know would probably be the first.  I just did not expect it to come together so violently and so quickly.  In the span of two weeks three households have been placed in an adjustment scenario none of us expected sitting there in early November waiting for Thanksgiving.  With God’s grace I have had the strength and wisdom to move through this.  My wife let me know a couple nights ago how proud she is of me on how I handled these last two weeks.  That was a huge blessing.  My wife is a wonderful woman and a very helpful and supportive partner and we both follow the Lord but having that affirmation was very sweet.

Only God knows what will happen next year, next month, next week or ever the next minute.  I will still pray every day that Marcia along with all my kids eventually has a personal relationship with Jesus.  That’s the best way I know to weather this world and all the surprises it throws our way.

The greatest challenge that the Lord gives us at times is when He asks us to exercise patience.  For me it has been one of the items I still wrestle with.  I have been blessed with intelligence, logic and related attributes that tend to make me a high achiever and a quick thinker.  While most would say those things are good, I offer an illustration with food.  Many people would say that chocolate is wonderful and so is lobster, however, at least for me, the idea of eating chocolate covered lobster is not all that appealing; but chocolate covered raisins or lobster encrusted steak?  Mmm mmm good!  It is all about the right combination at the right time.

Similarly my Type A personality does not go well many times without patience.  It can be overbearing, arrogant or rude.  As I have gained wisdom and God has helped me reflect on situations I have been amazed at those teachable moments to show that those attributes of me, sprinkled with a little patience for flavor, turn mac and cheese into a five star meal.  At work, I still struggle as the drive to get things done many times overpowers me taking out the patience shaker, but over the years I have worked very hard to use it at home and feel I have more success there.

What I have discovered to my amazement is that doing so usually allows for more harmony in the household.  Once of the main reasons is that by being patient even when I may not be feeling that way inside offers me the chance to see differing perspectives and understand what other emotions may be at play, and so I would like to present you a few examples of recent events, but my method requires a little explanation.

Anyone that knows me understands that one of my passions is Disney.  As a child I loved the magic and wonder and as an adult I add to that the appreciation of a business built for the most part on family and fostering togetherness and improving relationships.  One of the coolest ways that I feel Disney does this is through their animation groups, especially Pixar, which is one of my favorite studios.  Just like some of us will buy any music put out by our favorite artist without listening to it, I know that whatever Pixar comes out with will have me in the theater on opening weekend with my candy and my excitement, raring to go.  So it is with the next production, Inside Out.  For those who are unfamiliar with the film, it basically explores the life of a teenage girl by letting us be inside her brain with her emotions.  But as is so often the case with Pixar, they take what is a brilliant concept on its own and add in some twists that take brilliant to genius.  You see, with the new trailer released today, I was able to see that not only are they going to help us see the emotions of the girl, but also of her parents, and I imagine those around her.  What God has taught me through patience, Pixar is going to be placing on screen as we listen to Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger and Sadness.  It is in this mode that I play out the rest of my story, which covers basically the last 12 hours of my life.

Last night, Marcia came home after a band concert.  Now to set the stage, my wife and I believe that the only reason Marcia is in band this year is because she wants to be with a friend of hers.  She used to love band but last year she did not participate and so it was with surprise that we greeted her announcement months ago that she was going to be in again this year.  In any event, her apathy has made me feel the same way towards her events and so during marching season I had not braved the cold and rain.  Nothing but the hand of God pushed me to decide to make the effort to attend her first regular indoor concert of the year now that marching has transitioned to the regular concert band season that will encompass the rest of the year.  I texted her a few times before and after and saw her when she got home.  She looked rather dejected when she came in.

Me: You look upset.  What’s wrong?

Marcia: Mom did not show up…. AGAIN!

Marcia Sadness: Why does she do this to me?  Why am I never a priority in her life?

Me Sadness: Why does she do this to them?  Why does she not make the effort to participate?

Me Anger: Because she is a selfish little b—h.  One day she’ll see how resentful the kids are and then it will be too late.  Serves her right.

Me Disgust: How can someone be so selfish?  Is sickens me to think I was married to someone like that.

Me: I’m sorry to hear that.

Marcia: It’s OK.  I’m used to it.

Me Sadness: If only Nan would understand how much pain she causes.

Me Anger: If only God would help Nan understand how much pain she causes.  He could smite the Egyptians, why can’t he wipe Nan of the face of the earth and remove the pain?

Me Sadness:  Because that would cause Marcia more pain.  I need to make sure I keep Anger in check.  It will not help Marcia if I get angry about Nan.

Marcia Sadness: What did I do to deserve this?

At this point Marcia just went upstairs and got ready for bed and school the next day.  My wife and I decided it was best to just leave her be as nothing we could say at that point would really make it any better, it would just prolong her sadness of what was a regular occurrence from Nan.  The issue here was that it was almost worse because now Nan’s mom has moved here so her grandparent who could also have attended now that she does not live several states away also was not present.  Now it is possible Nan did not make her aware of the event, but Nan’s mom has always been selfish as long as I have known her, so not sure the cause, and in the end, to Marcia, it does not matter.  Her perspective is that her mom and others do not care.  Again, I thank God for giving me the push to show up even though with other logistics with other kids we had that night it meant driving back and forth to the high school three times in about 90 minutes.  I think it was important in that moment for her to understand that I did care what she did and had I not attended no amount of explaining the difficulties would have helped.  In my perspective and other adults seeing what was going on that night it might have been a sufficient excuse.  In Marcia’s perspective it would have been the same type of crap she hears from Nan all the time about why she is unable to make it to events.  This was just worse because it was one of the few times Nan had actually said she would be there.  Normally her mode is to make the excuses well before hand and politely decline because of her busy life.  I cannot even begin to guess what Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger were doing inside Marcia for the rest of the evening, and even my narration above may be way off base, but I hope it allows you to see how things wrestle inside us.  Without patience I would have flown off the handle about Nan, but with it I understood it was not in either of our control and getting Marcia more upset would have just hurt more.

Let’s now move on to the next morning.  After being punished from driving privileges, Marcia has also been told that it is too expensive to pay for gas for her to drive to school every day so at least until her job hours pick up and she can begin pitching in once in a while they will only drive over when logistics require.  This effects Jan and Cindy as they also attend the high school and as freshman have enjoyed a rare event in the life journey of a teen; not having to ride the bus for most of the school year in their first year in high school.  Now that is being taken away and reactions abound.  This being the first few weeks of the change, everyone is still working on the system and with the business of last night I had not done my portion with all of the players to explain that today was to be a bus day, which means getting out of the house about 15 minutes earlier than a car day.

I had been downstairs, as is normal, for about ten minutes when Marcia came down.  It was about 25 minutes before they would leave.

Marcia:  Does Jan know we are taking the bus?

Me: I have no idea.  Go wake her up and let her know.

Me Fear: I had not told anyone they were taking the bus.  Something will go wrong.

Me Joy: Yippee!!!  It has only taken a week and Marcia gets that when there is nothing happening they take the bus and she is actually taking responsibility rather than being a defiant teenager and pushing back.  How wonderful!

Me Anger:  I bet Jan has no idea and it will be another crappy morning arguing about taking the bus.

We went about our morning routines and I got up to the kitchen about 5 minutes before departure time.  Marcia was present, Cindy had come down still sick so she was going to miss another day and Jan was nowhere to be found.

Me: Where is Jan?  Did you wake her up?

Marcia: Yeah, I did.  No idea.

Wife: Was she aware they were taking the bus?  You were supposed to be telling them.

Me Anger: I know that and I already beat myself up about that downstairs, thank you very much!  I know we agreed that I would be telling them, but rubbing it in does not help any!  Grumble grumble grumble.

Me Fear:  See, I knew she’d not come down.  Now I will have all that teenage drama.

Me Anger:  I had told Marcia to make sure Jan got up as she is terrible at waking up when not planned.  I bet she just rolled over and went back to sleep.  Why didn’t Marcia make sure she got up?  Why didn’t I make sure they were all aware last night?

Me:  Yes, I know.  With all the running around I did not get to see most of them last night.

Me Anger:  They are in high school.  Why can’t they assume the bus is the way to go.  Because they are selfish teenagers, that’s why!  Grr!

Me Sadness:  You were a teenager once.  Why are you so hard on them?  Meany!

I had to finish up some things on the computer downstairs so I went back down and in the meantime the bus came and went.  I walk upstairs to find Jan just running into the kitchen as we both hear the bus leaving the neighborhood in front of the house.

Jan:  I had no idea we were taking the bus today!  Now what do I do?  Not go to school?

Me: (Deep breath) No.  I will drive you over this morning.

Jan Anger: Why!? WHY!?  NO ONE TOLD ME!!!!  My life sucks!  Why can’t we drive?  This is stupid!

Me Anger: See!!  I knew this would happen!

Me Sadness: Yes you did, just try to get her to understand.

Me:  Give me a couple minutes to finish up and I will be ready to go.  You guys will be taking the bus normally so you need to figure that out.

Jan: I can’t get up that early! At dad’s I can’t get up that early and it is later than this!  I don’t understand (fade to Charlie Brown teacher warble as I tune out the tirade)

Me (calmly):  You’ll figure it out.

Jan: I’m too tired getting up this early!

Me: Then go to bed earlier.

Jan: I went to bed at 9!

Me: OK, then I guess your body is telling you it needs to be earlier.

Jan: I can’t go to bed earlier, I barely got my homework done!

Me: You’ll figure it out.

Jan Anger: This is stupid!  I don’t get it!  (Ongoing)

Me Sadness: Oh the joys of teenagers……

So now we circle back to patience.

By being patient I was able to see things from Jan’s perspective and not blow my stack, as this was a similar conversation to what has occurred every time the bus has come up.  As an adult I see no reason that the public provided transportation is not fine.  I can understand the “earlier” portion but I also struggle with the fact that it is 15 minutes, at most, earlier and if they are tired they have the whole bus ride to veg out.  Jan as a teenager does not see the problem with driving.  This is where her and Marcia have different perspectives, and Marcia’s has been provided to her by the fact that she has gone out and gotten a job and has paid for a few tanks of gas for the car she uses and has let us know how crazy it is.  Jan has not had the benefit of this reality yet.  She is still blissfully unaware that there is not a magic money plant out back, leprechauns do not arrive at my door just before they all wake up to let me grab all the money and more that I need for the day, or that I do not crap twenties out my butt like some variation of a human ATM.  She still exists in that nirvana of early teenhood where the world works and she does not need, or care, to know why.  Only when the world does not work (i.e. she is asked to ride the bus when there is a perfectly good car just parked out front calling to her) does she even attempt to understand how the big machine operates, but even then it is through teen colored glasses and hearing aids.  I say gas costs a lot.  She hears we are cheapskates.  I say everyone has to ride the bus.  She hears that we had to walk to school uphill both ways, with nuclear radiation and while carrying baby goats to market.  Not having the patience and willingness to understand the other perspective and empathize with the emotions those cause is truly the root of most disagreements.  I work hard to make sure that I keep that in mind even as Anger is pound on the control buttons in my head to get me to do something irrational.  To be a good parent, I think that is what God tried to teach us by giving us instruction to be slow to anger.  Once that short little fat guy (watch the Inside Out trailer) has a firm hold on the joystick, it is hard to break free of his control.  We face this with all our emotions and that is always the struggle.  What is happening in Marcia’s or Jan’s or my wife’s control center?  Sadly, unlike the movie or my attempt at some levity in this post, we do not get to know unless those people speak to us and tell us.  And for some reason we are all usually really bad at sharing that information in a constructive way.  That’s why the concept Pixar has is so brilliant and why I have been looking forward to this movie for years when I heard about the concept four years ago.  The new trailer is awesome.  The teenage girl has a tirade that starts out with the parents trying to be OK and ends with a punishment, but it is the emotions that play out that are so fascinating.  As a parent I could totally get the dad’s emotions and what they were doing and I still get the teenage perspective and what she was doing.  The battle between the emotions is awesome.  Can you tell I’m excited about this movie!?  I can’t wait until June!  Anyway, sorry.  I’m calm again.  Back to my post.  To operate better in our relationships it is important to have this perspective, I just wish we could find a way to see into each other’s brains and hear all the dialogue exposed in the movie, but we do not.  So we need to find other ways, mainly by patiently listening and then by patiently thinking before we act.  With our human frailty that is not always possible, but God demands of us to try.  I will just keep trying to do that knowing that my perspective is just that.  Mine.  Not my wife’s, not my kids.  I will continue to pray that they are understand that as well and that we work out of love for each other to get to a resolution for all life’s little episodes and we continue to encourage Joy, Anger, Sadness, Disgust and Fear to play nice.

It is times like these I certainly feel that if I did not have my Christian faith to place my trust in God on I might go throw myself off a bridge.  In the last few months, I have had challenges at my job including some new ones right after the new year, I have people who bought my house chasing me in court and costing me attorney fees, and we just found out our furnace has a cracked heat exchanger.  It seems as if every time I feel like I can breathe, something else lands on my chest again.

I’ve been working hard to keep spirits up and turn things over to God and I’d say I was doing alright but things came to a head this weekend.  I understand that not everyone gets the blessing of time alone with their spouse on a regular basis that we do with the visitation schedules, and maybe that’s why now that we have been doing this for quite some time, I’ve gotten to like it.  So when two of the kids were sick this weekend they wanted to stay here a little longer for various reasons, mainly revolving around they feel more comfortable here than at our exes and who does not want to be as comfy as possible when you’re feeling blah from being sick?  On the other hand, with the challenges at work, I was really looking forward to our time alone as it is probable that it may be a while till we get an uninterrupted weekend again mainly due to both our work schedules.  So I was a little, no, a lot cranky when the news came down yesterday afternoon that we would have some kids still here, and then Bert, who lives about two miles away decided he did not want to drive over twice, cause it’s too far, said to just keep the other kids until he gets the ill one tomorrow, so we’ve ended up with four kids when we should have none.  And hey, they don’t want them by their places because they might get sick, but I guess it’s OK for us to get sick?  I understand common deceny is in short supply, even with exes.

Now the other side of me is mad that I’m mad.  After all, isn’t is a great blessing that the kids want to stay here instead of screaming and yelling how they hate it here (as they are wont to do) and want to never see us again?  Of course it is.  But I like my time alone with my baby!  Sad face.  I know, I know, I’m being two, stomping my feet, looking dejected and taking my ball and going home.  I should grow up.  But it’s hard.  I’ve been blessed with this wonderful woman in my life and I relish our snips of time together when we can just do whatever we want.  Is that so bad?

So I am trying hard to focus again on the positives.  We should get some time this weekend.  The issues at work have died down and everything is working just as it should right now.  The furnace quotes we have received are honestly lower than I was expecting and we’ve got a couple decent options, plus we were told about a $400 credit that our gas company is offering that we were not aware of that can soften the blow some more.  My ex is supposedly ready to sign a settlement on our alimony that is not quite what I’d like, but in war one rarely gets what they want as generals will gladly tell you, so hey at least we get to avoid court costs.  The other issue with the house is moving along as best it can.  Nothing else is going wrong in our lives and certainly we know many others from church or work or other relations that have way more pressing problems that we do.  I’ve got a job, a loving wife, six great kids and a cat and dog who actually can be in the same room together without puffing up, growling or doing other evil eye/cheese touch dog/cat things.  Things are really good.

Now…… if God could only get the sun to come out to melt some of the ice on my driveway so that every attempt to get into the garage would not be an adventure in mountaineering……

I honestly can’t recall the exact date on the calendar, but I know it was late December 2009 (after Christmas).  It was the day I tried to talk to my nine year old daughter and she backed away from me in fear.  This was not some childish emotion.  I could look into her eyes and see the fear in them and it ripped me apart.

After years of a marriage that was not working, and years of trying to control the mood in the house by demanding my children be perfect because I felt this was what my wife wanted to keep the marriage together (I would learn the nuances of this as I talked it through in marriage counseling in a month), it had come to this.  My child thought of me as a tyrant and was mortally afraid of me.  The two other kids just hated me.

This was a few days after the latest time my wife had said she wanted a divorce.  This had gone on for a few years and we talked it through before but this time she was so adamant and we had sat the kids down and told them.  Before we did that I had asked, as I had many times before, if she wanted to go to counseling but as before she refused saying she knew counseling didn’t work.  She had had experience as a child when her mother and she had gone to a counselor for their anger issues and she felt it was a waste of time.  I had never gone but was willing, but I also understood that unless both parties wanted to work at it it really would not do much good.

I was then trying to talk to my daughter and she would not come near me and told me she was scared of me.  There was nothing I could do then and I understood.  My behavior over the preceding years was to discipline by yelling at them, a stupid decision that got results the fastest way and therefore calmed my wife down but left me feeling terrible.  I look back on it now after having the benefit of counseling that did help me and am ashamed and extremely sad whenever I think about.  I will never have those years back with my kids.  To this day my oldest daughter when angry will still vehemently yell that she felt during those years “I had no idea what was going on in the house and didn’t care about them”.  I was letting my stay at home wife handle things and listened to her version of the story.  That might have been excusable.  When my kids acted up in the slightest I would launch into a fit to get them to behave.  As the years progressed I became hyper sensitive and began doing this when I thought they might act up.  It created an environment for them that had to be so stressful.  That is not excusable, but in my convoluted way of thinking in the moment I thought it was what I needed to do to keep the family together.  I understood why my kids felt that way and I was devastated.  I have never felt lower in my life than I did at that point.  If things had not changed I could easily see how it may have progressed to take me to a very, very dark place.

For whatever reason, but I thank God for it often, my wife rethought getting divorced and wanted to go to counseling.  I am certain had we proceeded at that point, with my kids hating and/or fearing me the outcome would have been so very different.  I would have not been able to see my kids much as no judge could have listened to their stories and felt there was any real value in me being heavily involved.  What they knew of me was the father who always yelled at them.  I had no leg to stand on.  The court would have looked at me the same was the counselor did the day I told him that if I did not have to behave this way for my marriage, as I had been led to believe for years that I did, then I would just stop.  The counselor told me that was admirable but highly unlikely to make that drastic a change that fast.  The counselor was not me.  I did not doubt I could because I knew that I hated acting that way to begin with.  I was the one who time and time again had disciplined my kids to the point of tears only to retire to my room in tears myself.  The counselor never demanded, asked or did anything to get me to change.  It went like this.  I said I disciplined the kids that way because I felt that was what she wanted me to do.  She said that was not the case.  I simply said fine now that I know that then I won’t do it anymore.  The counselor expressed his doubts that it could be like flipping a switch.  I had no doubts.

So was I crazy in my belief that I could flip that switch?  I’ll let you be the judge.  Less than eight months later we were back in the same place, meaning my wife once again wanted a divorce.  In the proceeding short time I had been able to observe her interaction with the kids without the influence of me jumping in with a hair trigger.  She continued to get upset, yell at them, and tell them she wished she never had them, but I did not play my part, yet strangely she played hers.  When her request to leave came I quickly agreed because I could see the effect on the kids.  And at that time in December of 2010 I had that same daughter, who had backed away from me with fear in her eyes a year ago when I had wanted to talk to her, approach me on her own and ask me if they got to choose who they lived with because she wanted to live with me and not mom. 

My lessons learned in the years since this are complex and multi-faceted.  You must be true to yourself and to God in how you behave or it will tear you apart.  It was not my responsibility for how my wife behaved and what I did to try to address that was wrong and obviously pointless as her continued behavior showed.  Once I changed these behaviors things improved quickly.  I learned that counseling can be helpful as it opened a door to change in me that I could not find a way to open on my own, and when the divorce finally came I was able to get my kids into counseling and get them help, and ignore my exes ranting that they did not need it.

It is difficult now to know if what the kids say is reality or dramatic embellishment to some degree.  In counseling they shared that my exes behavior was much worse than even I thought and that is what fuels my oldest daughters flare ups us anger and hatred.  I am her father and I am supposed to protect her.  I failed.  I can never fix that and I have to live with that burden the rest of my life.  She had to parent her siblings while my ex ignored them for long periods and I was listening to my ex tell me that was not the case when my kids would get fed up enough and courageous enough to tell me something and I confronted her with it.  Friends have told me I cannot be faulted for trusting my wife, as that is what I should do.  My soul does not let me off that easy.  Does this make me susceptible to some manipulation by my kids now?  I think so, but I try to be aware of that and my wife helps me.  They can play on that guilt at times and I really do not know when that will go away, if it ever will.  My take on it is dark and difficult.  I know now my kids were being treated poorly by a mother who was telling me otherwise.  When they needed my support instead they received my wrath for years.  During that time they had two shitty parents.  I could not control my wife, but I could control me and for that I am guilty.  I do not buy into the psychobabble that would allow me to absolve myself of that time.  I just thank God that with His help I was able to see my sins and correct them and get to where I am today.  People who know me now might be shocked to hear this story but I think it is an important part to understanding how hard I have worked to get to the point I am at today in facing the demons of a bad marriage and coming out the other side to help others find their way forward too.  It is too easy to read the simple dissolution story and think my path was not as dark and twisted as those who go through a “traditional” messy, dirty divorce.  People who knew me during all this time, like the best man at my wedding, have commented on the differences.  They were unaware of the impact on me and the kids, and truthfully so were we.  Until you get out of the situation it is hard to realize what it really is like.

I see now that God understood my true heart and kept the divorce from happening until it was revealed clearly to my children.  He brought me to our counselor, even after my wife did not initially want to go, to help me see that which I could not see myself.  He gave me the courage to know that we would be OK and to decisively make the decision to accept the final divorce request and not drag the kids through more. 

The work to get from that day to today has been substantial.  Keeping other areas of my life together so that my career and other things were not severely impacted is also a blessing.  Some have told me it speaks to the strength of my character, but I cannot claim that credit.  The credit goes to God for making me the way I am.  I have my flaws, as I think you much better understand after this post, but I also have the desire to work on them and so I will continue onward to better things every day.

Divorce God’s way

Posted: December 11, 2011 in Christian, Divorce, God, Guilt, Recovery, Remarriage

If you have been following this blog, you know that I went through the DivorceCare program as part of my recovery process and now assist in leading the program for a church in my area.  The program does an excellent job and is really one of the few resources I have seen that I can really get behind as being all encompassing as to what a divorced person goes through and giving you practical guidance on how to proceed.

One of the biggest topics I myself and many others in the groups I’ve been a part of struggle with, especially if they were the initiator of the divorce, is were we “right”.  In my case I was not the person who wanted out.  I was doing everything I possibly could to salvage my marriage and get through it.  Even though I realized I had made some significant mistakes, some of which I have covered already, others which I will get to in the future, I had made the covenant with God and was sticking to it “for better or worse”.  Even though in our marriage we were certainly experiencing a whole lot more “worse” it never entered my mind to consider divorce, even though I at various times had many people ask me why I stayed and what I was thinking.  As a Christian, divorce was a four letter word.  Now sitting in a room with other people I felt dirty, unsure.  Even though I had not wanted out, once it became apparent after years of trying that this was really going to happen, I was in fact the one who filed, so questions in my head existed about did that somehow make me the initiator of the divorce because on paper anyone looking in would say I filed so I must have been the leaver.

Right in the middle of the DivorceCare program is where the session sits.  Week six is entitled, “What does the owner’s manual say?”  The point of this session is to discover what the Bible says about divorce.  For many of us the most important portion of this session is what it says about us as a person who is divorced.  Did I sin?  Did I do something wrong?  Will God have a black mark against me?  In the case of people who were abused, and I have now worked with six people who were in those types of marriages, there is a guilt that maybe they should have stayed because their beliefs make them so abhor divorce.  One of the most oft quoted verses is Malachi 2:16:  “I hate divorce”, says the Lord God of Israel…

Abused individuals hear this and may have it quoted to them by their church leaders and struggle, but the next sentence is usually never mentioned in that case, but it is covered in the DivorceCare program.  The verse goes on to say “ ‘and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,’ says the LORD Almighty”  This has helped all these individuals understand that the Lord hates violence as much as divorce and He is not asking you to stay true when your abuser has broken the covenant by covering him or herself in violence.

The Bible provides two specific justifications for divorce, adultery and the departure of an unbeliever.  In my case I had a wife who had committed adultery twice in our marriage.  These two incidents were separated by fifteen years of marriage.  I had forgiven her for the adultery the first time and worked on our marriage as hard as I could.  The second time occurred during the period when we were moving to the divorce and I found out about it during the process.  The incident did not even register with me and was immediately forgiven because of my faith and understanding, however that does not mean it was not an indicator to me of an immoral spirit.  I am not trying to paint myself as without fault in our marriage.  I did not treat my wife with kindness and would lash out and yell at her more than I like to admit.  I could have been a more loving husband at the end but I have the clarity to understand that was not the heart of the issues we had and was what ultimately led to the understanding that no matter what I did my wife wanted out of the marriage and you cannot force someone to love you and be with you.  The impact it was having on the children at the time also played a major factor in deciding enough was enough.  However, at no time even though I was miserable at times and had plenty of people asking me why not, did I ever think about committing adultery as a solution to the problem.  I knew the destruction it would wreak on our family, how it would be nothing more than a selfish act of retaliation and ultimately would damage my view of self in an irreparable way. 

In addition to the adultery, my wife was an unbeliever who wanted to leave.  As I sat in DivorceCare, for a brief moment I was excited.  I have not one, but both reasons covered in my situation.  Score!  Not a very Christian view I understand, but that was what I felt at that moment.  Discussing with the group it was validated that my assessment was accurate.

Another key point I want to share is that even though the Bible gives you the right to divorce you are not required to.  That was the decision I made during the first affair.  I would have been within my rights to walk away at that point and avoid all the times that followed.  Instead I chose to listen to my wife’s concerns regardless of how I felt and address them as best I could.  I also had an unbeliever, but in the early year’s she was not pushing to leave.  Only in the last half of our marriage was that regularly on the table. 

The other points they address are the definitions of guilty and innocent parties.  In my case you will recall, while I had both Biblical rights to divorce I felt that since I then went ahead and got the paperwork drafted I was the guilty party.  I found in fact that those definitions have nothing to do with the legal aspects of your divorce, but with the sin or lack thereof of the parties involved.   If you have not gone through the program, or are not religious, this sounds a little petty on the surface.  If you are not religious what I have to say will sound stupid anyway, and there is nothing I can do about that other than to hope one day you can understand and feel God’s love for you.

The reason these things are important is they establish your ability to remarry.  The guilty party, in this case my ex-wife, is never free in God’s view to remarry.  Her only option to avoid further sin would be to return to her first marriage, which is what God would want.  This dovetails later with repentance and I will explain that in later posts.  The innocent party is free to remarry.  At the time, I knew that eventually that might be a possibility for me as I was not at all jaded on the prospect of marriage.  I had done enough soul searching to understand my flaws and resolve them as well as what my marriage was like to know it was not a proper representation of what marriage really should be.  Again, this was both our doing.  The DivorceCare program does a great job of covering all this, because the initial reaction is that is not fair, it is stupid, it is hard.  Yes, says a speaker it is hard.  God allows the guilty party to leave and remain single, well you don’t want that, or to leave and return to their first mate, well you don’t want that, but you can’t leave and find another.  But I want that, but God does not give you that.  Yes it’s hard.

I had been in good shape through that recovery program for various reasons, but a weight was lifted during that session about many things.  I was not in trouble with God, in fact I had followed all the rules.  I was free to move on with my life and if I so chose to remarry with a clear conscience.  I have not yet been involved with anyone in the program who realized they were the guilty party and chose to reverse course then and there and make amends and do what God wanted in their life.  I do think by the nature of the program or any recovery program that would be rare.  In my experience and those of the leaders I have talked to, some of them with decades of experience, the vast majority of people who attend the DivorceCare programs are already religious or leaning that way and are almost always the one who did not want the divorce and not the guilty party.  Those who are tend to take the path of thinking they are fine and not in need of recovery.  They could not be further from the truth, but only they and God can get to that decision. 

I pray regularly that my ex will realize this and get the help she needs, as in her actions I see that she has not recovered even though she was the sole driver of making the divorce happen.  As a Christian it is my duty to help and guide, and I have let her know early on that she needed to heal and go to a program.  There is nothing else I can do to make that happen.  I continue to walk in God’s path as best I am able.

Taking a thread from yesterday’s post about my fiancee’s son allegedly lying and hiding homework while at his ex, I wanted to focus on sharing a bit of information I came across in a really interesting short essay, entitled “Lying” by Sam & Annaka Harris.  It is available as a Kindle single and it is really worth the two dollars it will cost you to purchase.

The premise of the essay is simple.  He states “Lying is the royal road to chaos” and also indicates that humans have this weird habit that “we often behave in ways that are guaranteed to make us unhappy.”  The point of the essay is to point of that lying, ANY lying (yes white lies supposedly meant to spare discomfort) does this oh so very well, and if we want to be happier in our lives resolving to eliminate any form of lying from our lives is a great way to do it.

The author states that his understanding of this reality changed his life and after reading this essay and embracing its points I feel the same.  To begin you need to understand the definition of a lie and it is “to intentionally mislead others when they expect honest communication.”  Think about this for a minute, because those of you ready to stop reading this post as a bunch of bunk are doing so because you have been taught that it is kind to lie at times.  For example, when your wife asks is she looks fat in that dress.  Look at that definition.  IF you lie, you have broken trust because she expects honest communication.  The difficulty is in the fact that being truthful AND being kind takes more work than we are comfortable with.

The challenge presented is to see if you can really commit to being truthful all the time.  The point being that when you really pay attention you realize how unusual it is to meet someone like that.  Being honest, and more importantly once people know you are always honest, adds so much more value to what you say.  You are not flattering people and you are not pointing out issues to be hurtful but to truly help, because again they expect honest communication.  As the author states it “You simply want them to have the information you have, and would want to have if you were in their position.”

Another interesting point made is that to truly do anything truly worth the moniker of bad, requires lying.  If you do not lie, things can only go so far without people noticing.

The most eye opening point was the discussion of white lies.  Most people feel telling them is a nice thing to do to be kind, but what we really do is “deny our friends access to reality – and their resulting ignorance often harms them in ways we did not anticipate.”  Think about that statement for a good long while.  While the author does not explain it that way, I felt the easiest way was to take his subsequent examples and imagine how I would feel if a friend told me the white lie and I had the results.  Telling someone a white lie means they go into the world acting on your answer.  Telling them the truth, “Yes you could stand to lose fifteen pounds” when you know they want to date someone may cause some short term discomfort but will help them have the information they need to get what they want out of life.

Another point that was very resounding to me was that in lying we take the responsibility onto ourselves about what that person should know about themselves.  That is a very disrespectful position to take.
You are the judge in this case of what is acceptable for your friend to know.  He provides some examples of how years of people’s lives were lost in falsehood because of white lies about medical conditions.  Do you feel you have the right to have that kind of power over a family member or friend?

Lying also erodes trust.  Those little lies we tell may never be found out, but people can feel that things are not right.  If they do find out, they may never say anything.  Again, they come at it from the same point we all do without exploring this topic.  They know you did it to save them feeling bad, but yet trust is lost, as they now know you will lie, so they weigh everything you say going forward.  If you do this in front of your kids to avoid visiting someone, you might be called out on it.  “No, Dad, you said you would rather go to the movies than visit grandma.”  “No I didn’t!” you lie.  What lesson have you just taught them?  Trust is still gone and the impression is made.

Keeping secrets also requires you to lie in some circumstances, so be careful about what information you choose to accept from others.  If you make the commitment to not lie, this is something you need to think about.

Another effect of lying is you need to keep track of everything to avoid your house of cards from falling in on you.  Your stress levels go up.  Telling the truth requires no memory as anyone else that was there can relate the same facts you could.  To maintain a lie you may need to keep telling others.

In short, this essay is a great read.  I have only scratched the surface of the details he walks you through, but I encourage you to look up this work on Amazon.  It has caused me to change a lot of how I go through the world, especially in relation to white lies.  I avoid them at all costs and take the time to nicely say the truth.  It takes some getting used to, as it feels weird, and I work at it every day.  I still stumble at times.

The commitment I made is the one the author calls on in the end.  “How would your relationships change if you resolved never to lie again?  What truths might suddenly come into view in your life?  What kind of person would you become?  And how might you change the people around you?  It is worth finding out.”