Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Difficulties with women

Rob has often(allright, very often) commented on women in general, and his difficulties with his two ex-wives in particular. And Steve has sometimes jumped headfirst into the fray with posts on dating and women and the way women think. I'll throw in something, and proceed to bor- er, illustrate it with something from my own mostly boring past.

Do NOT marry someone thinking that they will change in some fundamental way, or that they will stop thinking some things just because you are there; with very rare exceptions, it just won't happen.

Strictly speaking, this goes for women AND men. My illustration to follow.

My first wife and I have managed to stay on friendly terms. Disagreements, yes, but neither of us hated the other, and neither of us tried to turn the kids against the other. If the kids needed something she couldn't take care of, she knew she could call on me. If I wanted to spend a night/weekend/whatever with the kids, there was no problem. My attitude has always been that if there are kids involved, you'd damn well better be able to get along in at least a civil fashion; divorce is hard enough on them without the other crap thrown in.

Enter wife-to-be No. 2. Good-looking, smart, good job(these things are important to the story), two previous divorces and(warning signs I really, really should have paid attention to when put together) stories about how ex's were abusive. We got along pretty well, and then a problem appeared. She really didn't like me talking to my ex. For a long time was just a little background comment on occasion, but as we got serious it got worse. Then came three things.

First, the ex called one night. Daughter was a little sick and needed ibuprofen, and she was almost out and short of money; could I get a bottle and get it to daughter the next morning? No problem, done. When B found out, she about blew a gasket. "I was a GOOD mother, I took care of things like that!" and so on. That got a little nasty- I don't give a rat's ass if I DO hate my ex, if one of the kids needs medication I'll take care of it-, but we got it ironed out. I thought.

Second, a while later I got sick. As I was sitting in the living room contemplating the joys of life(as in 'I haven't had to bow down to the porcelain receptacle at least'), knock at the door announced ex and kids, who had swung by to drop off some ice cream and see how I was doing. They left, and about twenty minutes later B showed up. She had decided to bring me some ice cream and Oreos, and had seen the ex and kids leaving. She'd then driven around the block a while, came back, and after entering put the bag on the floor and announced(more like accused) that if I really cared for her, I wouldn't be 'sneaking around' seeing my ex. Now, I felt pretty ratty to start with, and I do have something of a temper, so you can imagine where that went. I explained(mistake) about the visit, she accused some more and left, almost in tears. And the next day half-apologized for being so upset, and being an idiot who tries to see primarily the good side of someone I care about, I thought it was ok.

Third, a couple of months later we made a trip for topsoil to fill in some places her dogs had dug in the yard. Rode to the site, loaded up, back to her house, carted it around and spread it, nice day all 'round. I had said something about seeing the kids for some matter. Next day I got home to find a message practically spitting from the speaker about my untrustworthiness, I didn't really care about her feelings, you can fill in the rest. At that I decided enough of this crap, and took some records of hers that I'd been going to copy to tape for her and left them on her front porch. Late that afternoon she showed up at my house, almost in tears as she apologized. I did not accept it right then, said I'd think about it, and would you now leave? That night went to see her, looong talk, and I thought things were fixed.

Yes, I KNOW I was an idiot. Yes, I KNOW I should have changed my phone number and hid when she knocked. After my divorce I'd felt like the world's worst failure, and I was just SURE that we could make it work. Can you say 'brain-dead'? I knew you could.

A while after that, things having gone along quite well, I asked her to marry me. That very night I told her again that I'd worked to remain on friendly terms with my kids' mother, and that wasn't going to change. Her response was basically that she was over that, as long as I wasn't calling her every day or something she'd be ok.

She lied. Imagine that.

Things went along nicely until after the wedding, about two weeks after. And it became a case of every call about the kids or anything else, every visit to pick up/drop off the kids, damn near everything became a threat to our marriage. After hearing "You're married to ME!" a few times in such circumstances, you begin to think of running away, and does the Foreign Legion still take recruits? When I pointed out that I HAD to have contact with her due to the kids, her answer to that was I should go to court and take custody away from her- with no visitation for her, of course, so there'd be no reason to every speak to/see her again.

That was such a drastic piece of thinking I was stunned. If my ex had been unfit or abusive, I'd have done something about it already. And I thought that any judge with three working brain cells to rub together would say something like this: "So the reason you want total custody and no visitation for the mother is that your new wife doesn't like her? Bailiff, kick that man three times around the courtroom and throw his ass out of here!" Ignore the adults; to put the kids through something like that... I just could not imagine.

If this crap had been directed only at me, I might have stuck and tried to work through it(I can be stupid and stubborn), but she started making comments about the ex and/or me in front of the kids- later insisting that she'd never do such a thing- and that finally did it. One day I moved(damn near ran) out, and that was that. There were some more contacts, but they only reinforced to me that going was the thing to do.

Responsibility? All 'round. My first wife is not a saint, and she did have a part in this(show that much dislike to someone and they damn well will dislike you back), partly from the standard "My ex is getting married!" stuff, but if the second wife hadn't taken damn near everything touching on the ex as a threat, it would have been nothing to worry about. The second wife? She thought that if we got married, then I would change and do whatever it took to make her happy, no matter who else it affected. And me?

You ever have a little voice in the back of your head saying "This is NOT a good idea", but you so badly wanted it to work out that you ignored the voice? That was me. I wanted it to work so badly that I put the crap from the past behind me(after all, everybody has bad days, right?), and I believed B when she said she'd changed("I can handle it"). In the years since I've put it that my second marriage ended because I made a really bad mistake: I married her. Fallout from this went all around, of course. First ex caught a lot of crap really didn't deserve, kids got to observe adults they cared about acting like idiots, second ex got her third divorce(and I suspect has since told everyone about her third 'abusive' husband), and I had it pushed in my face really messily what a set of mistakes I'd made. And it made me so gunshy that I've screwed up with two women in the years since.

So I repeat my statement from above:
Do NOT marry someone thinking that they will change in some fundamental way, or that they will stop thinking some things just because you are there; with very rare exceptions, it just won't happen.

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