Saturday, April 24, 2010

Perhaps, perhaps not.

So, I read this article at the NYTimes, and wonder if it applies at all to my situation. It may apply to me, or the ex. Most especially, these lines stood out for me:
He was about to turn our first meeting into yet another encounter in which he was mistreated. It seemed he rarely missed an opportunity to feel wronged.

Of all human psychology, self-defeating behavior is among the most puzzling and hard to change. After all, everyone assumes that people hanker after happiness and pleasure. Have you ever heard of a self-help book on being miserable?

So what explains those men and women who repeatedly pursue a path that leads to pain and disappointment? Perhaps there is a hidden psychological reward.

I got a glimpse of it once from another patient, a woman in her early 60s who complained about her ungrateful children and neglectful friends. As she spoke, it was clear she felt that all the major figures in her life had done her wrong.In fact, her status as an injured party afforded her a psychological advantage: she felt morally superior to everyone she felt had mistreated her. This was a role she had no intention of giving up.
I know that my ex gets a self-righteous kick out of constantly discussing how evil I was, and how long suffering and self-sacraficing she was. In fact, her entire side of the family is like this. At family gatherings, the talk was always about how someone in the family had been wronged by someone else, causing them to fail at something, and how it was never their fault. It was always the other person's fault. In fact, there was a lot of divorce among her cousins, and in every case, it was never the cousin's fault (even the one that decided he was gay and left his wife. It was his wife's fault for being such a shrew, of course).

But then again, I wonder if perhaps I didn't somehow self-sabotage the relationship as well, all for a similar psychological reward. I may be blind to my own mind - most of us are. I know my ex and her family would read that article and not recognize themselves in it, and may in fact feel it applies to me.

But at the same time, I know I don't get a self-righteous kick out of failing. Failing depresses me.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Paranoia runs rampant.

This is related to the last post, somewhat.

The process of divorce encourages paranoia, and it's not healthy for the emotions or psyche. Suddenly, you start second and third guessing everything the other spouse does, accusing them of "playing games" or trying to trip you up. My ex has cut off phone conversations with the kids because I was asking "leading questions" and sent me e-mails accusing me of stalking her (even though we're on opposite sides of the continent) because I called her bishop to discuss my son's baptism.

I'm hardly innocent of this. Once, my son was punished for something or another, and I was sure she was doing it to get back at me for the latest court hearing (which she basically "lost" - although no-fault divorce makes it so she automatically won the war, regardless of any in between "battles"). But I have to admit, maybe he just misbehaved and needed some discipline.

There have been other incidents on both sides. I wish I was a better man, and I wish I could take her actions with more charity, and I wish she would give me the benefit of the doubt occasionally as well. It's a struggle. I've made a commitment to never send off an angry e-mail or phone message, and to look for the most charitable interpretation of her actions.

But when she constantly sends me nasty messages attacking me for things I never intended as hurtful or mean, it only encourages me to reciprocate.

As I said before, divorce is terrible and distorts reality.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It's very hard to keep perspective

Everything I've read says that divorce destroys perspective. Spouses erase all the good memories and exaggerate the bad ones, so that by the time it is all over, all they recall of the marriage is one long argument of epic proportions.

I've tried very hard to not lose perspective, constantly reminding myself of the good times we had. But it gets rather hard, as my ex-wife continues to do things that clearly violate the agreement, such as deny me access to the children. In her mind, this is all justified because I was such a terrible husband, the kids are better off without any contact with me at all. All their bad behavior is my fault - even now that I'm gone. It's either residual, or because I wrote something "inappropriate" in my weekly letters. She has lost all sense of proportion.

I used to believe many of those women who came online to Mormon sites like BCC and FMH and give a narrative like this: "I did all the right things and married an RM. But he was emotionally abusive and controlling."

I now wonder if that is always so true, or if it's the loss of perspective caused by going through a divorce. Divorce apparently forces some (or most) people to get nasty and accuse each other of vile actions, even if it's not really true.

It's just sad all around. The children really are the ones that lose out.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

This seems applicable

I found an academic article that argues "The empirical results show that unemployment seems to be an important factor behind marital instability. However, only unemployment of the husband has an effect, and this effect is immediate." (HT: I can't remember exactly how I found it, so I can't give a hat tip at the moment).

Since my own divorce coincided with a period of unemployment (followed by a brief period of part-time employment), this may be part of the explanation.

Actually, my ex-wife once heavily implied "Well, if I divorce you, I get guaranteed income for as long as I have the kids, but if I stay with you, I might get dragged down into bankruptcy if you don't get a job and can't pay off your loans."

From an economic standpoint, what she did makes a lot of sense. As my lawyer said "Unfortunately, the state doesn't care whether you starve to death, file bankruptcy, or are otherwise ruined financially for life. The no-fault divorce laws are written so that the wife gets the kids and the money, and the state can't really take into account whether or not you have a job or debt."

I don't mind paying child support, but I have to pay alimony AND her attorney's fees. And now she gets the kids (they can visit me twice a year - we're still working on that), guaranteed income (or else I become a "deadbeat dad"), and doesn't have any real expenses (since her parents, who have been trying to get her to leave me for years because I never earned enough money for their tastes, are putting her up and have told her she can stay with them for the next several years).

Anyway, if you're going to lose your job, make sure your marriage is 110% solid if you're a man. Even then, it may not help. Another reason to avoid any and all debt: if you do get divorced, you just added another massive round of debt you cannot avoid.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

First Post

Not that I expect much out of this, or that I'm even sure that I have time to devote to this blog.

I decided to start this blog based on what I see as a missing need for a place to discuss how divorce affects men in the Mormon universe. Too often, on other Mormon blogs, I find that men are marginalized and ridiculed and told to go away. Women are given a sympathetic hearing, and reassured it's not their fault.

Everyone in divorce deserves sympathy and understanding, but this reflexive "it's always the man's fault" and "we don't want to hear from the male's perspective" is more than annoying. It's downright un-Christ like and annoying to boot.

Given that women do that walking away, often in cases where there is no abuse, I think there's a real need for more discussion on how this affects men, and how men are often the wronged party.

Of course, I will talk about my own experiences, one reason I don't use my real name and I'm going to generic-ize many details. Despite it all, I still think of my ex-wife as an overall decent person who has become warped by the process of divorce. I will try to avoid casting blame (while acknowledging that both parties are always at fault to some degree or another), but I don't want to be seen as attacking anyone in particular or trying to prove myself right and her and her parents wrong.

Anyway, let's see how it goes. I'm going to allow comments for now, but I sure hope there aren't too many trolls out there. From my internet searches, there is clearly a lot of anger directed at Mormon men over divorce, but very little understanding.