Archive for December, 2009

Five Love Languages

December 24, 2009

Everything I know about relationships I learned from Christianity (Well, up until recently, on account of not being Christian anymore).  And one of the popular Christian relationship guides is the book, “The Five Love Languages.”  When I read it years ago, I was still a Christian, and I remember thinking it was only loosely Christian.  I might change my mind if I read it now, but it’s not as though everything’s based on scripture.  Anyways, the premise is that everyone has a different way of expressing love, and that people may be expressing affection in a way that their partner doesn’t recognize as an expression of love.  So we are supposed to 1. learn to use the other person’s love language when expressing affection toward them, and 2. recognize when a person is expressing love even though it is not the way you prefer to receive affection. 

Got it?  Good.

So here’s the languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving/Giving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.

So far it all sounds like a decent little theory, right?  You may be thinking, Hey, I’m not a Jesus Freak or nothin’, but that actually might be useful.

Yeah.  I totally agree.

The problem is, I was married for about ten years, and I never figured out my love language.

Wierd, right?  I kinda liked all of those languages; none of them stood out more than another.  So maybe I’m totally multilingual! 

Or, as I have come to hypothesise, maybe I didn’t love my partner, and he didn’t love me.

Oops!!

That’s all.  Just occurred to me.  Thanks for listening.  😀

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telling the family

December 23, 2009

When I first became an atheist, I wasn’t sure how to tell people– or if I should tell them at all.  I eventually decided to wait until the topic came up, with my family especially, and then mention it.  That went over fine, for the most part.  The one glitch in that plan came quickly, the first weekend after I’d told my husband (now ex).  I was on the phone chatting with my mother and once the call was over, my ex asked if I had told her that I’m not a Christian anymore.  “No, I didn’t.”

He looked at me with this expression of authority (that’s the only way I can really describe it– like he was about to give an order.)  “You need to call her back and tell her.”

“No, I don’t.”

But he insisted, and basically, made it clear that he was going to be a bullying pain in the ass until I did it, so I did.  (This story makes me so angry, even two years later.)  The conversation went like this.

“Hi, mom.  I’m not a Christian anymore.  [Ex] thought you might want to know.”

“Uhh… okay… thanks for telling me.  Do you still believe in god?”

“I’m not sure right now.”

“Oh.  Okay.”

We say awkward goodbyes and that was it.

I told you that story so I could tell you this one.

Talking about my divorce was really hard for me when I first left my ex.  Word got out to some family members before I got a chance to break it to them, and I tried to explain a little bit to my mom, but I was really, really falling apart.  I would talk slowly and with wierd pauses, eventually stopping in the middle of sentences, and finally I would just freeze up completely.  I couldn’t even move.  I managed to get a few words out with my mom, telling her I was unhappy, that it wasn’t a good marriage despite the way it seemed.  Then my younger brother called, and I felt like he was demanding an explanation.  I finally told him, “I’m not ready to talk about it.  We’re not even really that close.”  This really hurt his feelings, despite the fact that it is perfectly true.

So now I’ve been back home, and I’ve been able to chat about it, with varying degrees of detail, to everyone except my brother, since he’s just got into town.  When we have some time just the two of us, I’ll bring it up.  I figure I’ll say something like, “You asked about my divorce before, do you still want to know about it?”  That method worked pretty good with my mom.

It feels good to be able to bring up difficult topics like this.  It even feels brave.

money

December 12, 2009

My ex and I had unusual luck during our marriage– both good and bad.  The good was awesome: his godfamily gave us full-ride scholarships until we reached our educational goals.  So I was able to finish my Master’s, and he his Associate’s (Can you tell who actually took this seriously?).

And, the bad: he was in a career-ending accident a few years ago.  And despite the fact that his Associate qualified him for other careers, he elected to go back to school full time to pursue his [new] dream job.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford this.

I encouraged him to do it nonetheless because I wanted him to be happy.  I said that we were lucky to have gotten through college without taking out a loan, so we could do it now.  I was employed, and we could pay our mortgage, but that would only last until the summer, when his GI Bill funds ran out.  (Ten years of GI Bill and he only had an Associates!  What was he thinking?)  I started asking him to get a job; he tried to get one, didn’t get it, and gave up.  I asked him to look into extending his GI Bill; he agreed that he should, but never did.  I asked him to stick to the budget; he agreed, but didn’t.  He promised he would deal with the housemate and make sure they paid rent on time; this proved to be beyond him.  I came up with various ways to save money, but none of them interested him.  Instead, he started asking his godsister for money.

Now, I’m all for family, and helping, and I think there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you need to be bailed out once or twice in your life.  But for him to live this grand lifestyle, buying video games and a PS3, a new TV, upgrading his computer, eating out lunch with his college friends, and then to call his sister acting like he’s doing everything he can to be thrifty but he just needs a little money… that really got to me.  We went on a vacation, too, just the weekend at a nearby beach town, but I could not enjoy myself.  I was cooking dinner, sticking to my budget, and basically being responsible.  100 percent of my salary was paying bills, and except for some chocolate, I couldn’t spend any money on myself without feeling guilty.  I couldn’t enjoy it, even knowing all the hours of commuting and work I was putting in, knowing I had earned the right to enjoy my life a little on the weekends, but not doing anything more expensive than buying a few tomato plants for the yard (to save money later, of course).  And then there was my husband, studying video games for Christ’s sake, working hard at his math but still having a grand old college time at the age of 29… and somehow I was giving him massages at the end of the day.

You’ll pardon me if I say, fuck that shit.

And then I had to sit at all those stupid church groups and listen to him talk about how great our marriage was, how well we got along, how we never fought.

Well.  I showed him.  (LOL)

advice for friends and family

December 8, 2009

I’ve been reading memoirs of divorce lately, and I am starting to recognize common themes.  I’ve grudgingly come to accept that the dividing of friends is perfectly normal.  The reason I was resistant to this is simple: I got none of the friends.

Even a few of my own friends were too uncomfortable with my divorce, or quickly became non-friends for some other reason.  Of course my own family didn’t exactly rush over with chocolate and booze to support me, either.  I’m trying to understand why.

Some of it– okay, a lot of it– is that I don’t have close relationships with my family, and I have about as many friends as I can count on one hand.  Of those, again, I would have called three of those friends good friends.  One turned out to be a hopeless romantic who couldn’t really handle the idea that a happily married friend was actually not so happy.  It was hard for her to see me, shocked and jaded and angry as I was, and she told me that she would be there if I needed to talk, but I could tell she wasn’t up to it. Plus, she knew my ex, and he had charmed her, like he charms everyone.

But in pretty much every memoir I read, there’s the friend or parent who knows that a divorced woman needs someone there to drink with and to keep her from drinking too much.  She needs hugs.  And she especially needs some to say “That fucking bastard.”

What she doesn’t need is for anyone to say “Can’t you go back and try to work it out?” or imply that the end of the marriage was her fault, and that she could fix it if she just tried harder, prayed harder, acted more kind, cooked his favorite suppers.  She doesn’t need you to suggest marriage counseling; she’s not stupid, she’s already thought of it or tried it.  She is desperate– hence the divorce.

And guess what!  Divorce is not the end of the world.  It is not failure.  It is not the irrevocable breaking of something.  It is simply the clear-sighted recognition that the relationship is over.  It’s paperwork.  It’s making it official (or maybe un-official).  It’s finally being able to admit to everyone that the happiness is an illusion; that we are no longer good for each other; that once we finally grew up, we realized what the definition of a good couple is, and that we didn’t fit the requirements.  I’m tired of the fairy princess mentality, the religion-inspired perma-monogamy, the implication that good, moral people just don’t do that.  Why?  They just don’t.  Marriage is forever.  It’s hard to understand the possibility of abuse, or the reality of marrying early and growing up late, or the possibility of one person changing religions eight years in, the bitterness that sets in when you’re getting close to 30 and still dependent on family because very little is going according to plan.

According to my ex, all his friends and family were telling him what an evil bitch I was, how he should get revenge, how he should hurt me.  And as frustrating as it is that he friends would tell him that, I know deep down that that is what they were supposed to do.  (not actually hurt me, but legitimize his anger and situation.)  That is support.  That is what you do when papers have been served, because your friend is losing the one person who was supposed to never leave, would always support you.  The divorcée is losing that.  And you, the friend of divorced person, you have to step in.

I had two wonderful friends do this for me.  They said come over, we’ve got a spare room, don’t worry about anything, just hide in your room and come out when you need hugs, food, or wine.  (They had lots of wine.)  They let me cook my weird Indian food in their kitchen.  When my car windshield was vandalized (golly gee, I wonder who did that), they drove me to the train station so I could get to work, and had the window fixed by the time I got home.  And as I told them more and more about my marriage, my husband, and the divorce, they cursed him and told me I had done the right thing.

I am lucky to have them.  They had only met my ex a few times and were not impressed.  I didn’t have to explain the reality of the last ten years.  They were not like everyone else who knew me, and who saw what looked like a perfect couple having nothing but fun together.  I know that I have tended to be smug about my happy marriage.  That was ignorance, then denial, then silence.

I’ll be visiting my family next week.  I’m trying to prepare myself and piece together some strategies.  I’m not feeling very optimistic.  But at least I’ll be near San Francisco if I need to get away.

mind altering beverages

December 3, 2009

It should come as no surprise that I have been dealing with some depression and anxiety lately.  How have I been dealing with it?  Mostly by self-medicating, sleeping half the day, and trying to get some exercise.  I sometimes remember to get some sunlight.

Recently, though, I decided I have to quit alcohol and coffee– especially alcohol.  It’s been about two weeks and I don’t feel like I miss either.

So if you see me drinking coffee, and say, “Alice, is that coffee?  And do I smell Pumpkin Spice Coffeemate?”

No.  It is Kafree, or maybe Teeccino, which is some herbal health-nut barley fake-coffee shit.  But never fear; you were right on the Pumpkin Spice Coffeemate.

And if you see me out with my friends drinking a Guinness, it’s because I only have one rule about drinking: I can only have a drink when I’m already happy and having a good time.  There will certainly be no drinking if I can’t sleep or if I’m stressed.  The only problem I anticipate is if someone buys or prepares me a drink.  What am I going to say, no?  But I stay in and watch South Park for the most part.

Court is next week.  I imagine my mood will be a great deal changed after that.

sex

December 1, 2009

For those of you who read my last post and are wondering, “That’s it?  She left her husband because he was reading her email and wouldn’t let her use the mobile phone?”

Well, no.  I found it easier to write about the small things– the little warning signs.  The big, overarching, negative themes of my marriage are a little more difficult to be calm and write about.  I know what they are.  I just have to dust off my English Major skills, be objective… and outline a three-paragraph essay.

Just kidding about the essay.  (Mostly.)  Here goes.

When you’re an Evangelical Christian, there’s not too many reasons to get married young.  Of course there’s the reasons people assume, and snicker about: a) the young couple wanted to have sex but wouldn’t because their Christian beliefs prohibit sex before marriage, or b) they were already having sex, felt guilty about it, and decided to make it legal.  I’m pretty sure everyone assumed one of those were the case when I got married at age 18.  But actually, here were my reasons: a) I liked him, b) we had a good time together.

Sure, we made out, and it was fun.  But I was perfectly happy making out, and didn’t have any religious angst over not being able to Do It.

That’s mainly because I wasn’t sexually attracted to him.

I hadn’t experienced lust yet, in my short life.  I was very sheltered.  I didn’t even know what lust was, really (except sinful).  I didn’t know how to be in a relationship, or even what to look for in a mate.  My parents skipped over that critical parenting step (to be fair, they said I should find a godly man, but didn’t say anything about compatibility), and I didn’t figure it out on my own through dating or another adult mentor.

All I had was a vague sense of superiority– as an individual, because I got married young and I knew what I was doing (ha), and as a Christian, because we didn’t have sex before marriage and we are still happy.

Of course we were happy.  We were 19 years old, and with him active duty Air Force, the military took care of everything.  But I’m getting off the subject, which is, I wasn’t sexually attracted to him.

With no advance planning, we eloped on a Thursday, and after all that drama (and the commute to Lake Tahoe’s charming selection of 24-hour wedding chapels) (which is a cute story in itself, though I’m not sure how cute it is now that we’re divorced…), I just wanted to go to sleep.  My husband, of course, wanted to have sex.  But since we were at his place, if we were to have sex, it would be on a bunk bed (the top bunk, fyi, with the lower bunk unoccupied).  “Can’t we just wait ’till the weekend?” I asked.

But he couldn’t wait.  He had to talk me into it, too, and I gave up graciously: “Fine, let’s just get it over with.”  It was painful– really painful– and embarrassing.  I had no idea what to do, but apparently, he didn’t need or want me to do anything.  I just lay there and actually cried a little.

The next time we had sex– at my place, on an actual bed– was better.  Sex got to be fun, and it was pretty much mind-blowing at first. But I have never forgotten that first night. He didn’t care what I wanted.  It felt like I didn’t even need to be there.  I said no, and he didn’t take no for an answer.  So the first time I had sex, with my husband, on our wedding night, it was rape.

There’s so much wrong with that that it’s hard to unpack.  Firstly, that I didn’t want him– not a good sign for a married couple, but an issue that I was completely unaware of.  Second, that he didn’t care about my desire to have a nice “first time” or my desire to rest after an emotionally exhausting day– we both had to go to work the next day, and I would have to drive over an hour to get there first thing in the morning!

His pushiness and sense of entitlement to my body regardless of my will, and my lack of desire for him — to say nothing of his blindness to the fact that I didn’t want him– these would be the issues that broke down our marriage.  It killed any love I might have had for him, leaving me only with a sense of duty to be a good wife.  I enjoyed being a good wife, most of the time.  But it killed us in bed.  A sense of sexual obligation combined with a complete lack of desire is the death blow to intimacy, in bed and otherwise.  And he never learned any sensitivity or generosity– why should he?  He only had to break me down with guilt, or just wait until I was tired enough and then keep me from sleeping if I didn’t want to have sex.  I’d eventually get out the bottle of KY and roll over just to shut him up.

After about five years of sex being a chore, as he was starting to get on top of me, I finally said what I was thinking: “I feel like a whore.”  He immediately got up, left the room, left the house, and didn’t come back until the next day.

As you may know, that’s not a good way to solve a problem in a marriage.  Unless maybe you’re in some kind of fundamentalist, polygamous sect.

“At first,” he said to me, in our bedroom, “I felt really bad.  I don’t want to be the cause of you feeling like that.”  I remember feeling a huge sense of relief, that finally we were going to work on this, maybe fix it.  But then he continued.  “But then I decided that it’s not my fault you feel like that.  It’s your fault.  And you have to do something about it.”

“I decided that it’s your fault,” he said.  I remember that very clearly.  And that was it.

Sure, I should have fought it, fought the “decision” that he made for me.  I didn’t just accept it right away; I know I argued.  I don’t remember what was said.  But a couple things prevented me from completely rejecting his decision.  One was the feeling of absolute shock at what he had said.  I was not prepared for such cruelty, and didn’t know what to do about it or his refusal to see my perspective or take even an ounce of blame.  I can’t force him to treat me like an equal human, after all, even if I occasionally had the strength to assert myself as one.  The other thing that prevented me from fighting him was the 25 years of programming from Christianity, telling me that I am not in charge and that my husband gets the final say.  I’ve been two years out of Christianity now, and I still feel an automatic submission to males.  I have to watch myself carefully and fight it really hard, but it’s stuck in my subconscious, on every issue, from pastors to professors, and yes, to the so-called head of the household.  I’m starting to understand why some women may decide to be lesbians or celibate and treat every male they come across like an idiot– that’s certainly the easy way to fight one’s upbringing.  When you add my personality trait to avoid conflict and be accommodating, I was not much of a match for someone like my husband.  Certainly not when we’d been married all of our adult lives and I didn’t know any better.

Over the next few years, we would try a few new things in the bedroom.  I would read erotica to get myself in the mood, but I found I’d rather just do that and masturbate than try to get it on with him.  I got a sex positions guide that was like a deck of cards, but that ended up giving sex a sort of clinical aspect. I didn’t feel anything when we were together.  I mean, my buttons got pushed sometimes, and sex would feel like maybe sex is supposed to– I was starting to figure it out after reading all that erotica– but I can push my own buttons by myself.  I don’t need an inconsiderate, insensitive, bullying, orgasm-obsessed (his orgasm, mostly) partner to get on top of me and get sweaty in order to have good sex.

Then, two years ago, I found that I no longer believed in the Christian god.  I think we both knew that that was the beginning of the end.

I started making some gradual changes, and he started making some, too.  He quit his job to go back to college, and we had some money problems that he wanted to solve by simply asking his sister for money.  He wouldn’t stick to the budget I’d set, and he had some money in a separate account from financial aid which he spent however he wanted, while I paid the mortgage and most of the bills with my salary and his GI Bill income, which was about to expire.  I wanted to stop going to church, but he pressured me, and somehow I found myself going to more church activities than I’d done for a long time.  He tried to get me to hang out with his friends, where he could keep an eye on me and where I felt mostly ignored.  Of course I was trying to make atheist friends, which he fought tooth and nail.  I started drinking so that I could loosen up enough to even lay in the same bed as him.

So this is the time when all the “little things” started happening.  Neither of us were acting like we were on the same team anymore.  He was becoming more and more authoritarian and misogynistic, and I was becoming more independent.  I had a brief struggle with depression, which he blamed on my atheism.  I knew our relationship was over.  I just had to admit it to myself.  Or, as he put it on that day he decided for both of us, I had to do something about it.

So I told my husband that three things have to happen if I am to continue living with him.  I will not go to church and he will not ask me to go to any church event.  I will have separate property that he will not touch (a long-standing disagreement– everything was “ours”).  And I will be the only one to initiate sex; he will not touch me otherwise.  He agreed immediately, then threatened suicide and disappeared.  A couple of his friends called me that evening, worried, because he’d called them and told them I’d left him and that he was suicidal.  He was gone all night and I slept perfectly, by myself.

Let’s just say I knew which one of my ultimatums would be a problem.

I spent the next week unable to sleep, waiting for it.  And  sure enough, I was informed that sex is required.  I don’t remember the exact words.  It was something about how I can’t expect that from him; it’s not really a marriage if we don’t have sex.  And you know, he’s right.  It took a few more days to gather up the rest of my courage and leave him.

Funnily enough, I was trying to explain to my mother the problems in our marriage when she said, “Your father and I haven’t had sex for years.”  But they are still married and live in the same house!  “That wasn’t an option for him,” I told her.  “And anyways, I was so unhappy.”

My mother gave me this advice: “Happiness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

Well.  How do you respond to that?  By saying, “You should know, mom, you’ve been depressed for years, you’re just jealous that I did something about my unhappiness and you prefer to stay in yours.”  But I didn’t say that.

If that wasn’t bad enough, my husband told my brother that I’d left him and he didn’t know why.  So my brother calls me and asks me, “What happened, you seemed so happy!”  He’d seen us the previous week, at my mom’s Disneyland birthday trip.

“I wasn’t happy,” I told him.  “I’ll tell you more details when I’m ready.  Not now.”

He says: “I just want to know why he’s being kicked out of the family.”  I didn’t give him the necessary response, which was, “Well then, you marry him, see what he’s like in private, and then when you divorce him, I’ll support you.”

I pretty much quit talking to my family for now, and not least because my ex is still in contact with them, and I don’t want him getting any information about me through them.  I’ve called my mom a few times, emailed my dad a bit, visited my good sister when she was in town for Disneyland…  And now my grandma is sick and wants me to move back up there and live with her.  And I hate letting my ex spoil my relationship with my family this way, but if I went up there, I’d be trading in the people who support me and believe in me for the people who should, but don’t.  And I need the support right now.  Trouble is, I don’t know how much my grandma needs me.

Shit, that was long enough.  Felt good to get it out of my system.  Of course now my wrist hurts and I’m hungry  🙂