Should Cindy follow through with her third divorce in 25 years, she'll be among three percent of other Americans who have married and divorced three or more times. Three years ago, Cindy convinced me that her third foray into matrimony would succeed because her hubby-to-be was "normal." Middle-aged, with no children of their own and reasonable step-children and their canine "baby", there was a strong possibility of connubial bliss for the long haul.
There's was a mutually agreed upon traditional division of labor -- he the primary breadwinner and she the homemaker. A proficient "domestic engineer," Cindy used downtime cultivating her creative pursuits as a visual and performance artist, as well as freelancing as a location scout in the entertainment business.
Husband number one was an adorable ex-Ringling Brothers Circus clown and stand up comedian. Husband number two was in an Elvis cover band when she met him. Husband number three had been sober 16 years, was in Alcoholics Anonymous and, as she relayed to me, was "a simple truck driver;" he would be the charm and not another strike-out.
"Wrong!" she claimed as they called it quits just before Christmas. When I asked what happened, she said, "I started saying me ﬁrst when we were intimate. In the past I always put the man ﬁrst."
Cindy recalled that there were troubling signs within months of getting married but, "I chose to have compassion, knowing we only know how to love the way that we were loved." Cindy surmised he was overwhelmed by a sense of deprivation from early on, abandoned by his father, raising his siblings in the projects with a teenage working mother.
Cindy thought she was doing right by "ignoring the signs, accepting and understanding with compassion without complaining," until a year and a half ago. What tipped the scales according to Cindy was that hubby number three refused to take her to the emergency room under doctor's advice. She comforted herself that he was afraid and paralyzed by fear. They called off their date night plans, but he went out with his buddy instead, which infuriated her.
Over the next 18 months, it was increasingly difficult for Cindy (who is known for her gregariousness) to swallow with grace Tres-Hubby's various requests. On top of his OCD and enthusiasm for constant watching of televised sports, she was forbidden to speak about his kids or his friends. She tried to keep a lid on her growing dissatisfaction by reassuring herself, "He is just being who he knows how to be and this too will pass."
Cindy's profound questioning lead her to ultimately pull the plug and take the relationship off life support, but she continues to mull over her part in their demise: "If only I'd tried harder to see things in a different light. Could I look at my husband and say he is not who I think he is, but re-create the meaning I give to our failed relationship? If I was able to react differently, would we have been able to work through our rough times?"
"Could I have decided to believe that he loves me dearly but isn't able to show it to me the way he shows it to his friends and family and just get on with what makes me happy in life and allow him to be who he is?" Instead of dwelling on the impasse, Cindy still wants to forgive and "do what I need to do to create my happiness. Was it my unwillingness not to overlook what seemingly stood in the way of us that ended it?"
The separation is about a month old and appears to be holding. "My ﬁnal attempt at compassion was to ask if he would go to therapy, so that I could learn how to communicate with him and he emphatically said no. I do know one thing for sure. When living in the illusion of security in my marriages, I became too comfortable and lazy. I didn't feel the need to connect with friends and family outside the marriage but I had never felt so alone. I am now out with friends almost everyday and even family, much more often than when I had someone here waiting for me at the house."
"Weird isn't it?" Cindy asks wrapping up our stirring conversation. "He didn't want to do anything that I enjoyed. In the beginning he did adventurous things with me, like go to ﬁlm director John Waters' Christmas party, but within months of putting the ring on my ﬁnger, he resumed his old habits of watching TV from the moment he got home from work until bedtime, not even sitting at the table for dinner anymore, following his fantasy leagues and seeing his two buddies once or twice a week, all centered around sports on TV."
Does any of this sound familiar? We're curious to know your thoughts based on your own experiences.
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