"Keep a Journal: How else are you going to get a good look at who you were?"

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

According to Robot Chicken...there are five stages in coping with loss. Denial. Anger. Depression. Bargaining. Finally; acceptance.

I'm about through the bargaining phase and heading on toward acceptance, so I think I can talk about this now.

Laurie asked for a divorce. She dropped the "D-bomb" last november, about two weeks after we had come home from vacation to find our basement full of water. She offers no excuses, as such, except to say that the confluence of stress from the vacation, stress from the flood, and her general un-happiness with our marriage seemed to all fall upon her at once. I sensed she was unhappy, had been for some time; but had no idea she was that unhappy.

When your spouse of nearly 14 years tells you that your marriage is over and you are never, never, never going to be man and wife again...well; those blinders you're supposed to wear when you're married to someone? They sort of come off.

Laurie was "looking for an exit" for some time. I have to admit it: so was I.

Let's get my baggage out of the way first:

In 14 years of marriage, I have been sleeping on our living room couch (or an air mattress on the floor) for about 12 of those years. She kicked me out of our "marriage bed" about six months into her first pregnancy. She HAD to get some sleep, and I snored way too loudly. Why this did not bother her before and why she couldn't use simple remedies (she snores too, but I learned how to sleep with earplugs in) that didn't involve me sleeping on the opposite end of the house; I don't know. I am living in our newly re-furbished basement suite, and sleeping on a bed now for the first time in 12 years. Check entries involving "flood" for the backstory on that.

Laurie was in and out of the Church all during those 14 years. We didn't pay tithe or offerings for most of them. I stopped attending too for awhile, which is not her fault. I let my temple recommend lapse, as I didn't see any good of my seizing the financial reins and going ahead and paying tithes and offerings anyway; over her objections. Primary reason we didn't pay tithes was not because Laurie objected. It was because we're living a lifestyle that my income alone cannot support...and we really did need that extra money.

Do the math:

3 bedroom 2 level with attached garage, workshop and finished basement with 3 room suite. Currently valued (somewhat conservatively) at 450,000$ (that's the land, not the house), taxes and fees at @ 1500$+ anually. Monthly expenses at 2000$ +. This is all on a gross income of less than 44,000$. Net was less than 30,000 - or, in other words...below the poverty line. Gives new meaning to "the working poor", huh? 2 cars in the driveway (held off on that one until it became necessary this year), appliances up to date, kids in bi-weekly activities (also fairly recent) at 300$ per month. Kids requiring medications at about 100$ per month. Then there's the dog...

How did we do it? Seriously, how? I don't know...

Laurie couldn't get a job until recently because our kids needed a stay-at-home Mom. That is fact. The job she got is more of a "hobby job" as her income isn't sufficient for her boss to withhold taxes on. To her credit, she's doing all she can to get a real job now. I just really wish this desire to be financially independent had come along years earlier. Her solution to us having insufficient income to support our lifestyle? Me. As in ME - working more overtime. "Brian must work harder!"...

Nope...wasn't going to go there. That was her mom's solution. To his credit, Bob Dallman (her dad) did indeed work very hard all his life...he's earned his retirement. He literally busted his ass to get there. The diabetes and anger management issues go along with the back troubles and all together his example convinced me that I did NOT want to end up like that; when my working life was finally over.

I appreciate that Laurie wanted to give her children a good life; just as Laurie's own parents had given her and her siblings. But it's much more expensive to do that now...especially on one (blue collar) income. I don't regret being a (sort of) homeowner...but looking at it realistically? We can't afford it and never could, on my income alone. We could have rented longer. We could have moved to another province where the cost of living was lower. Laurie could have got a part-time job earlier on once we got the house. None of these were viable options for her. She refused any compromise.

Oh yes, I could have got a better job...

I did try to do so, on several occaisions. There were certain criteria that had to be satisfied: It could NOT involve moving out of the Lower Mainland. It could NOT involve me going back to school (full or part time)and Laurie supporting us (full or part time) for a while. It could NOT pay less than I presently earned, even for a few months. When the economic boom started in Alberta a few years ago and my friend Keith moved his family out there - gaining a better job and at the same time wiping out all their debts - we again discussed moving there. If I could have found decent employment - and I could have - there were a few advantages to living there: lower taxes, lower cost of living, etc.

Laurie wouldn't hear of it; "You are NOT quitting your job and starting over somewhere else! Not when I've stuck with you all these years! Not when you're finally beginning to pay out"...

I don't think she meant to say that last part aloud...

That's probably the coldest thing anyone has ever said to me.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Okay...now that I'm done beating up on her...let's beat up on me next.

I wasn't the greatest husband in the world. Surprised?

Let me give a couple of examples:

Our second daughter, Caitlin, was born very premature. The longer she was in the natal ICU, the less optimistic the doctor became about her chances for survival. On what proved to be Caitlin's last night alive, Laurie had phoned to tell me not to tie up the house phone by going on the internet (this was in the days of dial-up)...and I forgot.

The RCMP showed up at our door at about 9PM (I think) to tell me that because I couldn't be reached by phone, they had been sent to tell me in person that my wife really NEEDED to talk to me.

It turned out, that evening the hospital had asked Laurie to decide whether or not to continue to keep Caitlin on life support...and she had to make that decision alone. I forgot, and because I forgot, I wasn't there. I was supposed to be there...She held our daughter in her arms and watched her die...and she wanted me - needed me - there to support her. I wasn't there.

I will never live that down. Laurie will never forget it...

Let's shorten this a little: I was never suffciently "involved" in my kids' lives, I never did enough maintenance around the house (and it really shows...I really would rather have rented). My inappropriate behaviours in public embarrassed her. I spent money foolishly (this may be a family trait, my Dad hasn't had much luck with money until recently). I had no style, no ambition, and we had nothing in common, apart from the house and the kids. Do I hear the term lazy in there somewhere? And I snored loudly; shake-the-walls loudly. Still do.

Guilty as charged on all the above counts.

Lastly, and most recently, I was smacked in the face with the fact that I can be a REALLY big jerk.

My neice Shayla sent me a wonderful little post on my FaceBook funwall. It was a YouTube video clip of Pastor Marc Gungor's lecture "Men's Brains - Women's Brains". Very funny, and very true. I surfed over to the website of the Church that Pastor Gungor serves in and had a look around. From there I found the page of another minister who has been a marriage counselor with over 20 years successful practise in the state of California. He's written a book - an excerpt of which I found on Amazon.

That's where I got smacked in the face with the unpleasant truth. According to this book, there are things you should never say to your spouse; as these things are guaranteed to break down any meaningful communication in your marriage. The one that caught my eye was; "What do YOU want me to do? YOU figure it out! YOU tell me what I should do!".

I had said almost exactly that to Laurie the last time we argued...which was also the last time we really talked to each other (well, until very recently).

"What do you want me to do???!"

She answered correctly (and diplomatically, and without raising her voice); "I don't know."

Then, just to be a REAL ass, I added; "We've been married over 10 years, I thought you would have figured SOMEthing out by now!"

Wow. Shutting down communication isn't enough, I have to be abusive and insulting too.


Not fun to be confronted with the truth: marriages break down due to lack of communication...and whether conciously or not (I would like to believe not) I've been shutting down communication between us. Stupid, right?

Well, it may be too late to save this marriage. But I'm still reading up on how to make a good one. I may decide to take another swing at it in the future. I knew nothing about how to make a marriage work. Never bothered to learn.

This brings me to Jody. Jody is a Christian. He's a very sincere and devout Christian. He's a very sincere and devout and perhaps even a little uptight Christian...and he heard about my troubled marriage. Of course, he heard about it because I pissed and moaned about it to anyone at work who would listen; this was before I realised the breakup was partly (mostly?) MY fault. I've shut up about it since. Damage is done, oh well.

Jody lent me "The Marriage Book" by Nick and Sila Lee. I've read it through a couple of times now and come to realise there was a basic misunderstanding between Laurie and myself almost from the very beginning of our marriage. This is only a pet theory, but it fits what I've observed about us so far. Without going into details, the misunderstanding has caused us both to each impute to the other very unflattering motives for what we've been unhappiest about in the marriage.

Let's make this simple:

Laurie stands there and says; "It's all about SEX with you!"

I stand here and say; "It's all about MONEY with you!"

And we're both wrong.

Neither of us has been willing, since the beginning, to try to understand the real motives behind those accusations. Okay, I'm willing now (better late than never), but it may be too late. Firstly, it's just a pet theory, and secondly, I don't think telling Laurie about it would help. This assumes that she would listen, and that she would accept it. Plus, knowing the problem and knowing how to fix it are two separate issues. If she did listen, and if we did decide to try to fix our marriage...we would need some serious professional help. I'm clueless about what to do with what I've learned. I don't even know where to start.

So...to wrap up.

Laurie is dating Roger. Thus far it's a platonic relationship (so I'm told), and Laurie has said that she has to be very careful, as she is *not* ready for another serious relationship. We're living apart (me downstairs and her upstairs), but both doing what's needed to take care of the kids. She's got a line on a good job and I may be taking an afternoon shift at work so someone is home in the mornings to see the kids off to school. Once the job goes through, she wants us to begin to separate our incomes and assets and start paying our own bills. Then we move on filing for a simple, mutually agreed, no-fault divorce. At some point we'll have to dispose of the house, but she's willing to wait until one or the other of us is remarried (or "in a committed relationship") to do so. Frankly, we both agree that it would be weird to be living with the new fiance or spouse and having the ex living in the same house. Besides, the kids like it here and we really ought to wait as long as we can before we uproot them.

Laurie says she doesn't hate me...she just doesn't want to live with me any more. I believe her.

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