Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My ex wife and that Life Decision

I was just sitting here, watching a movie on TV that gave me a thought. The film was titled, "The Good Heart". A strange little film that DirecTV gave 2.5 stars. But there was something gritty about it that I was attracted to.

Suddenly while watching it, it hit me. I had a thought that brought me back to my ex wife and I realized something about her. About us. I realized the moment, the defining moment at which our life together began to decline. Until finally, after ten years together, we divorced.

I usually put in some interesting photos in these blogs, but I'm not going to this time. This is not one of those kinds of articles. This is a pure and important few words and one of the hardest to write pieces I've ever done here. So, I think I'm just going to state the facts, and see how it goes.

I wish you the best of luck in your life and I'll say that again, later. I've made my decision, regardless how much I may not now regret it. I want to, but I can't. And maybe I shouldn't regret it. Maybe we both made the right decision those, now many years ago. Maybe it doesn't feel like it, because I don't want it to have been right. Either way....

If you ever have a situation with a loved one, where you feel you have to make a decision between the two of you going on with your lives together, or making a major change between you that could end things, then you should read the rest of this. It will meander a little but I need to give enough background so it really sinks in.

I've been divorced now since about September 2002. We were married about 1994. When I met my lovely ex-wife, she was twenty-two, thin, in incredible shape and very attractive. She was living at a horse farm. A sixty-five stall horse farm, modern, with offices in the front of the barn containing the stalls, with two modern apartments above the offices; inside, a round pen next to the sizable arena.

You could feed the horses from upstairs, walking along with a wheelbarrow and dumping grain and/or alfalfa or timothy, or whatever, down a chute; all according to the card on each chute, for what each horse required individually. I ended up moving in with her once we realized that I was spending the night more often than not. It was a drive back to my own apartment, so I would stay over and go to work in the morning from there. It was just easier, and we truly enjoyed one another. It was a very good love affair.

She worked hard, herself, got up before dawn, working till late into the night.

Since she would get off so late, I got used to cooking her dinner. She would drag her cute butt in the door and I would let her wash up, then hand her a plate and she would watch a TV show with me while she ate. That was hard for me, because I had sworn off TV for some years and was pretty antiTV. If I could, I would wait and eat with her. Then she would eat a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

Even then, she was in incredible condition. She rode horses pregnant, up almost until she delivered. Then delivery was pretty fast and painless, much of it I'm sure, because of all the exercise. She would be so tired, that within the hour or so of getting off work, coming upstairs, eating dinner and okay, only half a pint of Ben and Jerry's because she loved feeding me half. Of course, then I had to try hard to burn it off at the UW Huskies' gym the next day, during my lunch time at work.

I worked at the UW at the time and she lived and worked in what was to me, the middle of nowhere. After the ice cream, she would inevitably fall asleep, so I would inevitably have to pick her up and carry her to bed. What was no big deal, she was light, I was strong, but the way into the bedroom was tight and I'd have to be very careful not to crack her head, or my elbows and get her to bed without either waking her, or the baby in the next room over.

Her female friends "hated" her for her being able to eat ice cream every night of the week and stay so thin and attractive. Isn't that always the way of it? But honestly, everyone loved her. Women were just envious that she could eat ice cream and get away with it. But she got away with nothing. She rode and worked the  horses sixteen hours a day, five, six days a week sometimes, seven. I used to warn her she needed to have less ice cream and coffee, it just wasn't healthy. But she had that "cowgirl up" attitude which gets a lot done but can be rather destructive, especially for a workaholic. She lived on the caffeine and sugar in her multiple mocha a day habit.

On Sundays, I would get up on my day off, and before the sun came up feed all of the horses in the barn for her. Even in the dead cold of Winter, in only my bathrobe and slippers (so cold too), I would get the wheelbarrow and feed the horses, then climb back into bed, frozen. She would wake enough to realize what I'd done, and move over to warm me (which I always felt was amazing as I was so cold), and we'd fall back asleep for another couple of hours.

When I first started going out to visit her at work, before I moved in with her, her clients would bring her an extra large Orange Mocha, with pentuple (5) shots. They just wanted to do something nice for her. So did I, so I would stop on the way in, and bring her one when I went to see her. It was a twenty mile drive from Seattle for me which was why I ended up spending the night sometimes, and then when we realized I was there all the time, I just moved officially in. Since the owner was Catholic, we finally broached the subject with her and she had me pay rent, but at $250 / mo. it wasn't bad, more a token payment. What was irritating though was that after we got married, she never told me I could stop paying that.

The first day that I got her that orange mocha, I stopped in the small town at the coffee cart that she frequented, the one just before exiting the town to go up the dead end road, at the end of which, was the farm. When I ordered the drink the woman looked at me and said, "I know who this is for." I said, "How? She said, "Only one girl orders this in this town. No one orders an orange mocha, just her." She laughed. I laughed, but was a little confused.

When I got into the arena inside the barn, she was very closely watching a young girl riding around her in circles as she shouted corrections and constructive advice to the her. She was giving a riding lesson. That's what she did, gave riding lessons, and trained Arabian horses for horse shows. She had been working with horses since she was about four. She had earned or won enough money when she was younger, to afford to go to a live-in at riding and boarding school in England for a year to get certified for teaching equitation (English style riding) and jumping (up to five feet).

She laughed a little when she saw me standing there, off to the side, with the drink. I said, "What's so funny." She nodded with her head and there off to the side of the arena, were three other drinks her clients had brought her that she had yet to get to, and probably wouldn't; and those were along with the giant ugly black and pink thermal container she always had full of her special mocha. She got through the day, drinking that damn cold drink all day long.

I felt at first a bit dejected, having gone through all that trouble and money. I was incredibly broke at this point in my life, having recently been divorced and paying child support; it had taken me nine months to move out from where I was renting a room in a house, to a studio apartment and driving out to her farm was eating up my extra money. But then I realized that she was someone special and that people saw that in her.

I have always seemed to be rather good at finding women for long term relationships, who are very special individuals, typically reflected in the attitudes of all who have known them. And she too was someone very special. She was one of those people whom you only wanted to bask in the warmth of her attention. Something I later found, after our divorce, was wonderful when you were in her good graces, but a nightmare when you weren't, or worse, in her bad graces.

After I'd been living there with her for a while, she came to me one day and said she had been given the opportunity to do horse shows with the main trainer who lived next door to us. It was an opportunity to do what she had been building up to all her life. She said she told them she didn't think she could, having an infant to raise. But she'd think about it. In asking my opinion, I thought about it for a moment, then said, "Of course, do it. This is your chance." She told me that I didn't know what I was getting into (people kept saying that to me about her, and about the horse show industry, it wasn't till a few years later, that I realized how correct they were).

So, I told her that if that were the case, then I would support her all I could, and when I couldn't deal with it anymore, I would continue to try to support her, but when I really couldn't do it any longer, I would tell her. But that was my issue. And if that was who she was, I wasn't going to stop her from living and being who she was. On the other hand, I needed to be allowed to be who I was too. So, if I really got to a point where I couldn't take it anymore, I could tell her, and leave, if I had to at that time.

What I hadn't counted on, was that it wasn't so much myself who couldn't handle it, though I did find it nearly impossibly miserable at times; but, it was her who couldn't emotionally maintain that lifestyle. Though honestly, that was mostly because their clients weren't rich. If she'd had well off clients, rather than clients who wanted to feel like they were really well off, things would have gone much better. At some point, you simply have to recognize that you have to pull the plug if you can't make enough money, or you can't get the quality of client you need, or you are destroying yourself, or your family. Here is where that "cowgirl up' attitude was destructive to her, and us. She simply couldn't recognize failure and the biggest gift in business is to recognize that and make appropriate adjustments, or when to end things.

She went on her first out of town horse show. Four days into her being gone, I started to have my doubts.

Did I forget to mention that when I met her she had an eight month old baby? To be fair, I had a five year old boy myself. But he lived with his mother most the time. That was interesting in itself.

My dating history had been rough since I had gotten divorced. I got divorced because I found my wife having a secret lover, which made the institution of marriage a little crowded for me. I had decided years before, I wouldn't hide things from potential dating partners. And that decision had come back to bite me on several occasions.

Let me explain that. I met the most beautiful girl in the world, just after I broke up with my girlfriend after college; we'd been together for six years, four of those years during our university life. After college, we moved back to our home town, and went to an apartment finding company together. Then we broke up. We still had our subscription available to me. She used it and quickly found a place. Then once our lease was up on our house, I needed to use it to find myself a place to live. I got to talking to the secretary who I had gotten to know there and asked her out. She asked what happened to my girlfriend, being a little leery of my invitation, and so I told her what had happened. So we went out.

I told her the truth while we were having drinks at a bar that night. I wanted this girl something fierce. But I was honest. She was honest back and told me, that considering I had no money, no real job (I had a job but not a good one yet), some bills to pay off (but not a college loan, my G.I. bill paid for my college), and she had guys who were giving her free cars and jewelry. She said she liked me a lot but....

Later I met a girl that worked at Elaine Powers aerobics, a business next door to where I worked. She was very cute, very tall and thin. We had drinks and I found that she was ex military, had several houses and was building something for herself. I was honest with her about my financial status. Again, it just wasn't right. It was right for me, but not for her.

Years later, after getting divorced, I had trouble dating again because of this type of thing. Women were quite interested, but once I said I had a young child, they were not so interested. Which I didn't understand, because I thought women found that endearing. Uh, no. Even though he wasn't living with me full time. In fact, one night, I was dancing on the dance floor at a bar with this very cute girl I had just met, actually, she came up to me. We were talking as we danced. I don't remember what she said, but the natural response was to admit I had a young son. I thought about it, thinking, I could easily be sleeping with her in short order, but I should get it all out in the open. So I did. She stopped, looked up at me. And simply walked away. End of story.

So when I met my ex, and she said she had a child, I a bit got excited about that. I said that I too had a child. She got excited about it. From that point on, everything seemed to click.

Eventually, we got married. We bought a house and moved out from the farm. She kept doing horse shows and training horses and riders, although she switched affiliations a few times. I'm getting to the point now.

Doing horse shows was tough. It was tough on her. It was tough on me. It was tough on the kids. She had to be away from home, and worked very hard. But being a workaholic, she loved hard work, working till you were exhausted, then hitting the bed and passing out. I had to take care of both kids, go to bed alone every night, missing my wife, wondering how faithful she really was being (I never had a girl break up with me until I was thirty, then two major relationships in a row had affairs on me, so give me a break here), and I had to deal with our daughter crying herself to sleep asking where mommy was and why she wasn't there. I had to lie and tell her reasons I didn't really believe in, but I did my best to put on a good face, until I got out of her bedroom. Then I had to go to sleep wondering the same things.

After a few years of that, my wife got home from yet another horse show that had left her distraught, stressed out, not very happy. This had been an ongoing cycle with her. Something obviously wasn't working out. It was the guy she worked with, in my opinion. He was the boss, the farm / brand owner. A pompous kind of guy I wasn't very fond of. Anyway, it seems her clients had not been paying for her room and board as they were supposed to as part of the training package they were buying. She was bouncing checks sometimes just to eat. For her to have dinner, it was the cost of the meal, plus a $25 bank fee for not enough money in the bank account, one or two of those a day, for a week long horse show, well, it adds up. And she's only eat maybe one meal a day. When you work that physically hard, you need three square a day.

I told her she needed to tell her clients to pay the hell up. Pay what you agreed to. But she was just too sweet, too nice. It melted my heart. She was disintegrating. I could see this "career" was ripping her apart. What she had lived her whole life working toward, was disintegrating all around her, and her right along with it. And she was bringing us down with her.

But I had told her that I would support her, as long as I could.

So I had to tell her, "You have to tell your clients to do what is right." I told her she had to make them pay up. But she was too immature, business-wise. She actually had a two year business degree, but putting it into practice, well, that just isn't something they teach you in college. So finally, I told her that either she needed to quit her career, or she needed to grow a thicker skin.

This was the moment. This was the defining event that became the turning point in our marriage.

Because after this, she had to either quit, or get toughened up. I wanted her to quit. But I said, I would support her. And I did. She tried, she really tried to handle things. She did grow a "thicker skin". She grew up more. But eventually, it just wasn't enough.

For one trip, she went away to her longest show. Three weeks long, in the southwest US. Albuquerque, I think. When she returned, it was obvious to me she was very near a nervous breakdown. I could feel it, the air in the room felt tense even. She was trying hard to make it, but it was an unwinnable situation for her. She simply had the wrong clients. It is a hard career field and few can really make it. So finally I realized that there was only one thing left for me to do. I put it off for a few days, but finally I had to say something, regardless how it made me look. This wasn't any longer about me, it was about her.

So I did. I told her, she either had to quit her "career" or, I was leaving. Of course, I wasn't leaving, but I had to make my point. It was me or horses. I tried to tell her it was because she was very near a nervous breakdown, it couldn't be more obvious to me. My degree was in psychology and I knew what I was talking about. So I made the decision, I would either ruin my life, end our marriage, but I would save the one I loved, from herself, if that were the case. I knew I might end up with her hating me, even, but this was literally killing her.

So, in the end, one night she went to dinner with the guy that owned the "Farm" brand that they worked under. At that dinner, she told him she was quitting. His response, which neither of us saw coming, was that if she was quitting, then he was quitting. What the hell did that mean? Well, that kind of told me, it really wasn't working for either of them. But from that day forward, she blamed me for ending her "career", just as I knew might happen. Now I say "career" and not career, because a "career" is more a hobby and doesn't make you money. And she wasn't making money, in fact I was subsidizing things for her. And we needed more money coming into the family, not my paying out so she could have a job.

So I suppose both of them owe me for their moving on in life. He went on to become a network engineer or something, making more money than he ever had and within a few months, was making as much as I was in the IT industry, and I had been doing it by that time, for some years. She went on to turn her attention to raising the kids and volunteering at the school. She became the Guardian Angel of teachers at whatever school the kids were going to. She tried a few jobs but even with her two year business degree, she wasn't really, or didn't think she was really, trained to do much other than horses.

In the end, I lost my marriage. I lost my one true love in my life. I know that, because when I look back now over my life, she is the one that really pulls at my heartstrings. She would argue with that, but she wouldn't go back to the point in time that I would, when it all began to crumble. Back to the day that I told her, "You need to either quit, or grow a thicker skin."

See, what I'm trying to get to here, is that we don't always see in time, we don't always see what it is, we don't always understand what is happening, in order to make that right decision, to save both people, to save the relationship. Too many relationships end in a split up or divorce.

In looking back on it now, I see two things. One, I needed to be more argumentative with her about things. She liked that. Some people need a solid wall to push off of. That wall can make it feel wrong, to feel it is abusive, to the one acting as the sounding board, the other person's outer voice, to give their inner voice a place to work things out. The one acting as the sounding board, needs to understand that it is not meant to be abusive to them. The other thing is, I needed to tell her that she needed to quit that destructive career path, sooner. Much sooner.

She was one of those types of people who do not know when it's good to stop, to quit, to give up. Give up, or fail, were not in her vocabulary, unless it was regarding a marriage, apparently. She lived her life with the "cowgirl up" attitude. Which is good and admirable, up to a point, from which it then becomes completely destructive. I needed to see that point, and say, "stop". To beg her not to grow that "thicker skin", perhaps. To no matter what, not grow that thick skin because that would kill who she was and all too possibly end whatever we had together.

There were other issues at hand, surely; she was the child of an alcoholic, she was herself a workaholic; having come from a family that found close personal relationships difficult to manage and so work and distance gave them the buffer they needed. I came from a more close family who tended to work things out openly (okay, my parents used to have horrible fights when I was a child, which is why I refuse to argue and bicker in a relationship; but remember, argumentation is good, bickering, is bad).

And then being quite human, I had my other, my own issues to deal with. Life just does that to us.

In the end, sometimes, instead of growing a thicker skin so that we can deal with life, we really just need to adjust our life, so that we can continue to be the beautiful person that we had been. So, when you come upon that moment in life, where you have to make that decision, or push it upon another, really think about it, first.

Don't get me wrong. You may hear regret and a touch of heartache in my "voice" here, but were she to walk back in my door right now, I wouldn't, well I won't say, "take her back", but I wouldn't try to go back. We've changed, she's not the same woman I was once in love with. And that is part of my point in all this. That lovely person began to disappear the day I told her she needed to grow a thicker skin. That was me, putting a nail in the coffin of that awesome person that I so dearly loved .

But don't get me wrong. I'm not so egoistic as to think what I told her that she needed to do, is what made her become an entirely different person, which she did. I know that she made the decision to do it herself. Yes, she heard what I said, but she knew already that was the case, it just took someone saying it for her to really pay attention and begin to do something about it. It took someone she cared deeply for, who she looked up to, not to let her down, but to give her the answer to help her make the right decision.

Now, whether we admit it or not, the other person in our life, frequently, is that person. Yes, we are adults and all, but also, we are vulnerable and that is in part, why we have relationships. So if you don't know that, wake up. This is most especially hard for macho, or independent types (which she was and always will be).

What I'm trying to make clear here, is that rather than say what needed to be done, to stop her destructive career, that it wasn't working and she needed to put an end to it; we should have just ended it. But I chickened out because of her reaction to quitting. She could throw a fit and make you want to back off. Beware that tactic and don't let it rule your life, whatever happens.

And so I just said the facts, "quit, or have a nervous breakdown". She simply couldn't hear the "have a nervous breakdown" part, to her, that wasn't an option, but to reality, it was possibly the only option. Either way, I would have been blamed for her career ending. But had she stopped right then, we would have still walked away with her as she was, before she got toughened up, perhaps bitter, frustrated, and pretty much angry at the world for her life not turning out how she had always imagined it. Yes, it's the princess syndrome all over again, but that is not the few and far between, many of us are raised with that nonsense. And it's even tougher on those who work hard, and don't expect everything to be handed to them on a silver platter.

One final comment... you can pick apart what I'm saying here and try to attribute it to this or that thing, or me, for that matter, but if you do that, you'll simply miss the point I'm trying to make. This isn't about me. Or, my ex for that matter. This was simply a way to make a point in a way that is raw and personal to me. My point was my point that I hope I have made.

Simply put, if you may ever have to make a decision in your own life, such as I have shared here, understand that it may turn out to have ramifications that far exceeds whatever you think it will do. In the end, it may turn out to be the exact thing that you are trying not to do. I knew I could ruin how my ex saw me from that point on, but I had to ask myself, who is more important in this situation? Should I choose my desire for my wife to continue to see me as she always had and for our marriage to continue as it was; or, if I truly loved her, should I choose my desire to save her from literally killing herself? I knew that it was a lose/lose situation, for me. But I wasn't what was important at that time, as I was seeing it then.

Sometimes you may need to make or force a change in life. It's just that sometimes, you may need to make an even bigger change than you plan, or sooner than you think you need to. The change that you plan for, may appear to be "massive" to you at the time, but possibly, you simply cannot see it (yet) for what it really is. I guess the thing to do then is, when you are considering a big change, a painful change, certainly consider, as we all do, if you can make less of a change than you may think you need to. But also look the other direction. Try to see if you may not need to make an ever bigger change, one that may need to be such a big change, you simply cannot see it, or imagine it. Try, to imagine it.

Remember that sometimes, with only a little extra thought, you can find a far greater benefit. And with all that having been said now, I wish you all the best in life, my friend.


  1. Thoughtful and thought provoking.
    Linda (@Brainbailey)

  2. Thanks for the comment. All the best and a Happy New Year to you.