I read my aunt’s biography last night. When Louise was a young girl, her parents divorced. Her mom just couldn’t take care of her, and so she was sent to a Catholic orphanage for about five years. I always wondered why Robert and Francis divorced. In those days, people just didn’t talk about things like that. Robert seemed like such a sensitive, intelligent man. He was willing to raise Frances’s son from her first marriage, and they had four children together (the first one died as an infant). And then, all of a sudden, she moved out. What happened?
Frances moved to California where she tried to work and raise the children. But she couldn’t raise four children and hold a job. Eventually, she kept her first son, sent the two boys to be with their dad, and Louise ended up in an orphanage. Frances left the church and married four more times. But Louise finally went to live with her aunt and got a teaching certificate. She met a man in Thatcher, AZ, and knew him for at least five years before they married. They had five children, and went through the depression together while they raised them. They had a solid marriage.
I started wondering. What if one of my grandchildren wonders why I divorced? I’m sure the circumstances of my divorce were very different from my great grandparents’. But I decided it might be important to write down the main reasons.
1. First of all, Chuck was pretty clear when we separated that he no longer was in love with me. Later, I found out he had been cheating on me for about eight years. I was stunned.
2. I thought at the beginning that if Chuck was involved in an affair, and it was just an indiscretion, that I could forgive, and we’d go to counseling and move on. But when I realized the long pattern of deception and lies, I wasn’t really sure I knew the person I had married. And I didn’t know if I could forgive. That is an ongoing process for me, one that advances only in partnership with my Heavenly Father.
3. When Chuck finally told me the extent of his affairs, he also said he wasn’t sorry about any of them. He’d learned a lot. He actually seemed rather proud of the experiences he’d had. That seemed a little strange to me; I couldn’t ever tell my sons that cheating on your spouse gives you great experiences.
4. There was a pattern of emotional abuse in the relationship. Emotional abuse is what happens when someone isn’t honest over a long period of time. We also had a history of reconciliation and then breaking up. During one period of less than a year, we went through this cycle 21 times. I was an emotional wreck. No wonder I was depressed! He was also very critical of my love making skills as well as being very detailed about his experiences with other women. All of that is emotional abuse.
5. I was blamed for his affairs. Too involved with the children. Always depressed. Problems with the relationship because of my shortcomings. I was too emotionally immature.
6. I realized the pattern would continue unless I got out of the relationship. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The last thing I ever wanted was a divorce, and I believed I still loved Chuck. It took me a long, long time to realize what I was experiencing was not love.
7. He asked me to promise him that I would never take him back. I thought about it a long time before I made that promise. Sure enough, he did ask me to take him back several times, but I always had the feeling he’d drop me as soon as someone else came along. Somehow, I’d never be good enough for him.
8. I don’t trust him.
9. The pattern continues. This is hard to explain to someone who has never experienced this, but women who have been in an abusive relationship understand this immediately. Children tend to side with the abuser, simply for their own survival. This is totally understandable. It is also very difficult for them to see the way they treat their mother—with the same subtle put downs and discounting of her comments and feelings. This has been painful for me, and not something I dwell on with my sons. Several times I’ve realized Chuck has told them something that simply isn’t true. But how do you set the record straight when you have no idea what lies he has told?
10. I am happier the less contact I have with him.
I still have a lot to learn about what love is and what love isn’t. But I believe love is linked to truth, to respect, to empathy, discipline, fidelity. It’s also linked to everyday little things like taking out the trash or saying good morning to someone. It’s working on something together, even when you’re doing different things. Love changes over time, and fortunately, I think we have opportunities to give and receive love every day. Being single has helped me understand the differences between love and lust. I appreciate my friends and family more, and I’m convinced that even if you’re not married, love is still what life is all about.