In April of 1968 I married a very beautiful woman with a delightful personality that I had fallen madly in love with.  In September of 1969 she divorced me.  In August 1978 I married a good-looking, fine woman whom I deeply cared about and who demonstratively needed my help.  In 2005 she divorced me.  Two marriages, two divorces.  What happened?  What can be learned from these tragedies that I can share with others to help them avoid the same types of mistakes I made?

I’ll give my analysis first, because for the reader, it is the most important part of this article, and then I’ll give my account of the details of what happened that led to my divorces (for anyone interested in learning how two people deeply in love ended up divorced).


I made many mistakes in my first marriage and made a disaster of responding to our breakup and divorce.  My first mistake was not being engaged much longer than five months before getting married.  A longer engagement was important for both of us to learn how to amicably resolve our differences…which renowned marriage researcher and author, John Gottman, PhD, says is the most important skill to have in order to have a happy marriage and avoid divorce.  Dr. Gottman also says that a couple should have at least five positive (supportive, friendly) interactions for every negative (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling) in order to maintain a healthy relationship.  You can easily check the health of your relationship by applying the aforementioned factors that Dr. Gottman’s research discovered.

Since my first wife usually lost her temper when we fought, I should have taken anything she said or did while in this state with a grain of salt, but I did not.  In addition, we both made the mistake of informing family that we were having problems.  Family and friends are supportive and usually take your side, which although they make you feel good, family and friends cannot be objective in analyzing and resolving marital problems and usually make things much worse. My family was especially protective of me because of my recent brain surgery and they really didn’t trust my wife very much since for all holidays she arranged we celebrate with her family and consequently my family never got to really know and love the woman I married.  We should have gone to a marriage counselor to help us resolve our conflicts.

Finally, and most importantly, as very difficult as it was for me, I should have gone to my divorce-court hearing because I needed to be there in court to listen to my wife’s grievances  and then tell my side as to what happened, and fight to keep her, perhaps through court-ordered marriage counseling. Though I loved my wife very much, I was not a good husband and foolishly did not tell her how much I loved her.

Because we really loved each other, were it not for my brain tumor, my wife and I would have worked out our problems and lived happily together and raised a family.  She wanted to be a good wife and, eventually, a good mother, and the emotional irritation and paranoia that I experienced from my brain tumor was temporary and eventually went away.  Our divorce boiled down to a huge misunderstanding: I thought back then that my wife threw me out, my wife thought that I left her, and my family thought I voluntarily left because my wife tried to stab me in a fit of temper… we never discussed the issue so it was never clarified.

My second marriage was completely different and I bent over backwards to make my wife happy, including accepting a job in Denver and moving to the top of a mountain in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado so that she could have plenty of the quiet and solitude that she wanted and needed.  Knowing that I had been devastated by my first wife divorcing me, my fiance insisted that we both attend five pre-marital counseling sessions with a marriage counselor before getting married, and soon after getting married I insisted that we attend 30  three-hour “Communications-in-Marriage” couples counseling sessions with two marriage counselors and four other married couples.  This marriage lasted 27 years followed by my wife traveling the U.S. for six years seeking a religious order that would take her in. When she ran out of money near the end of each month I paid for her motel stays and also sent her funds.  Today we are just friends living about a mile apart and I enjoy her company and helping her.


It was a bath that precipitated my first wife to give me an ultimatum (I thought, but I was paranoid so I might have been mistaken) to either “not bathe then (she wanted us to immediately go food shopping) or get out,” and then follow it up after I bathed with forcing me to call a taxi and then pushing me out of our apartment (only  seven weeks after I had a large brain tumor removed). Our conflict should have taken five minutes to resolve: apologies on both sides with explanations that we didn’t mean what we said.  However, it was never resolved.  A marriage is faced with many problems over a lifetime which need amicable resolutions.  The consequences of divorce on all parties are so painful that it should be used only as a last resort, after really trying together, face-to-face, to resolve the issues that brought you to the brink. We never seriously even tried because we hurt each other so badly and were both waiting for an apology from each other. I was waiting for my wife to invite me back since I thought she threw me out. When I finally realized what needed to be done (grovel), my attempt was inadvertently thwarted by my mother by her screaming at me for wimping out after she overheard my sincere apologies and pleas to my wife on the phone).

For more information on avoiding divorce, read my article on this blog entitled, “Improving Communications in Relationships & Marriage.”  Also, because making love can heal hurt feelings in a relationship, read the most informative article I’ve ever seen on the subject, my article on this blog entitled, “Older Men, Make Great Love Again,” which is relevant for all men, not only older men.  Finally, my article entitled, “Gut-check Before Getting Married,” might help in selecting a compatible mate.  My blog address is: (“Analyses of Domestic, National & International Issues”).

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If you’re interested, here’s my account of the significant details that led to my marital breakup (if we each knew the other’s account, we would have discussed them and done whatever was necessary to avoid divorce because we really loved each other):

My first wife-to-be and I lived a few blocks from each other in our parents’ homes.  Since we both worked in the same office, I drove her to work every day and got to know and like her…she was unassuming, down-to-earth, smart, vibrant and assertive as well as beautiful and spunky.  We dated for a relatively short period, fell in love, got engaged, and married after only five months of engagement.

Our honeymoon was wonderful but later we had a tough time learning to live together.  We got off to a bad start when on our first night back  from our honeymoon…she cooked hamburgers that she prepared with a teaspoon of black pepper mixed in.  She said that her mother gave her the recipe which made me suspect that her mom wanted  to break us up since she knew that my family and I all had stomach ulcers.  In addition, I had the curse of the first-born and consequently was a perfectionist and therefore far too critical and, on the other hand, my wife never learned how to handle criticism, discuss differences, negotiate and compromise.  In addition, while growing up, her parents never fought in front of her so she thought that couples that loved each other did not fight.  Moreover, she always got her own way to the extent that, when she was a child, she demanded and got the master bedroom as her bedroom in her parents home.

Our fights would sometimes end with her phoning her parents to come and pick her up.  Eventually I learned that the only way I could get her to stop fighting was to make her cry…and the only way to make her cry was to talk critically about her mother (this was horrible for me to do but better than the alternative).  She would never compromise or even agree to end a fight…it just went on and on until I gave in completely, and even that did not satisfy her.  On two of the occasions when she became hysterical, she completely lost control and attempted to stab me with steak knives.  I consequently decided that she was not emotionally ready to raise our children though she wanted to have them as-soon-as-possible.  In order to prepare her emotionally to be a good mother, I thought that we both needed to learn how to work out our differences and compromise, when appropriate.  I thought that I had to make her hate to fight and discuss our differences instead, and therefore I came up with the “hare-brained” idea to make her lose every fight from then on by my being as tough as I needed to be…though I should have instead insisted that we talk with a good marriage counselor as well as also compliment her whenever she rationally discussed our disagreements (“Positive Reinforcement”).  Unlike the first few months of our marriage where I eventually gave in whenever we had a dispute, I had to now win at all costs…no more kindness and understanding while fighting, until she began honestly discussing our issues with me.  For example, I told her “the emptier the pot, the quicker it boils,” implying that she couldn’t control her temper because she was empty-headed.  My “tough-love” strategy actually began to work at just about the same time that I began getting even more agitated and paranoid from my brain tumor to the extent that I was no longer in control…my paranoia was.

My brain surgery took 5 hours and I was in the hospital for three weeks with 1/2 my face and head paralyzed and numb and so weak that I could barely move in my hospital bed.  When I was allowed to go home, I could barely walk, the left side of my face was still paralyzed and numb, my left eye lid was sutured partially shut to protect it, I was deaf in my left ear, my equilibrium was bad to the extent that I appeared drunk when walking.  I was almost bald and I looked really bad.  My wife was happy to have me home and cooked wonderful meals for me.  I remained emotionally on edge, easily irritated and paranoid.

My brain tumor made me hyper-sensitive to the point where I was very difficult to live with.  In addition, my wife became enraged at something I said and tried to stab me again.  She was scared and told me, “somebody said you need a nurse, not a wife,” and “somebody said you’re going to be fat and bald” and, “somebody said that they feel sorry for the one that takes care of the person that’s sick more than the sick person”  (I believe her best girlfriend at work, who hated me and was extremely jealous of my wife and did all she could to prevent us from marrying and then did deceitful things (behind my wife’s back) to sabotage our marriage and ensure our divorce…which she succeeded in doing).  About seven weeks after my brain surgery, my wife wanted us to immediately go out food shopping.  I told her that I needed to get a bath first…that it was one of the few joys I still had.  I thought that she replied, “if you get a bath now you can get out,” but it was under her breath and she could have said it unconsciously.  I should have asked her to repeat it.   Instead, I retorted, “I’m getting a bath so I guess I’ll have to get out.”  I took my bath and sang made-up lyrics that were insulting to her.  Although I begged her not to call my mom, she did so anyway, which expanded our dispute and all but guaranteed we would never get back together.

My wife demanded that I call a taxi to take me to my parents home.  I dialed the phone and made believe I was calling a taxi…but I did not.  An hour later she made me call again once after she  realized I didn’t actually call the first time.  The taxi came but I refused to leave but was still too weak from my brain  tumor surgery to prevent her from physically pushing me out the front door.  She cried while pushing me out because I believe she was reluctantly following my mom’s instructions to send me to my parents’ home (but she didn’t tell me that she was doing what my mom told her to do).  I went to my parents home since I had no money nor any other place to go.  When the taxi arrived at my parent’s home, my mom asked me what happened, not knowing that my wife, in a fit of temper, told me to get out and pushed me out.  My wife had only told her that I was leaving.  I didn’t know this at the time and told my mom everything, including that my wife tried to stab me twice.  So my entire family did not know that it was my wife’s doing that I came home…they were under the mistaken impression that it was my idea.  This colored their thinking, as well as their actions and horrific gross inaction, for the entire seven months that preceded my divorce-court hearing.  I should have told my mom that my dispute with my wife was between she and I only (because their ignorance of this fact was largely responsible for our divorce).


The day after my wife threw me out I returned to our apartment for a week, which I told her I would do, with the hope that she would still be there or come by or call me to discuss our breakup and hopefully make up.  She never showed up.  It only took about seven months from our breakup to our divorce (under Pennsylvania’s barbarically-short 6-month “cooling-off” period in its divorce laws).  After the first few weeks apart I arranged to see her, using the  pretext that I needed to pick up some of my things in our apartment.  I thought we would talk over coffee and each apologize to the other for the terrible things we said while angry and that we didn’t mean what we said.  When I arrived at the apartment she was wearing a see-through blouse over a see-through body stocking.  In addition, she told me that a (male) friend would be over soon.  Moreover, every chair and sofa had piles of clothes on them so there was no place to sit and talk.  After I was there about 10 minutes her doorbell rang, so I left.  While I believe now that her intent was to make me jealous, I believed at the time that she was fooling around with another man only a few weeks after she threw me out of our apartment and therefore was not interested in making up and getting back together.

Since she had her home phone number changed, I couldn’t call her at the apartment.  So I called her every afternoon at her workplace.  After doing that for about a month, her boss answered her work-phone one day and told me that she was always upset after speaking with me.  Consequently, I stopped calling her thinking that’s what he wanted me to do and that I might be jeopardizing her job if I continued calling.

About a month after my wife pushed me out of our apartment, I received a legal notice of divorce from my wife’s lawyer and immediately tore it up because I was outraged because I thought that I wasn’t even being given time to heal, physically and psychologically, from my brain tumor surgery.  This was this lowest point in my entire life.  In a fit of anger I applied to the Catholic Church to have my marriage annulled.  Instead I should have immediately called my wife to find out what she was doing.  I thought that since my wife’s mother was very religious, she would welcome her daughter being free to remarry and remain in the Church.  Moreover, I didn’t want our divorce to be the reason  for my wife being ex-communicated from the Catholic Church if she remarried, and my having our marriage annulled would help assure that she remained a Catholic.  My mind wasn’t working well.

My wife called me at some point and asked about a very cold “thank you” letter I sent to her mom for donating blood for my brain tumor surgery.  Although I spent an entire day writing and re-writing 20 drafts of that letter to make it thankful but cold, I lied to my wife and told her I just wrote it.  I didn’t know why she called me but upon reflection years later, thought that she was re-considering our break-up.  Things were getting out-of-hand. My wife pushing me out of our apartment and starting divorce proceedings so quickly, made my paranoia much worse to the extent that  I now began hearing voices shouting at me every waking hour and keeping me up much of the night.  I was in agony but did not say a word to my family since I thought they hated my wife and therefore I did not trust them.

After much thought I concluded that my wife did not think I loved her and wanted her, so I decided to make it very clear.  Consequently, I called her at work and begged her to take me back.  I was quietly suffering and in hell being away from her.  While I was on the phone, my mom returned from work and overheard my conversation.  After the call ended, my mom loudly scolded me for about five minutes and for not standing up to my wife and being a wimp.  Were I not really emotionally messed up I would have respectfully told my mom that my issues with my wife were between her and I, and that I knew what I was doing…my wife needed reassurance that I loved, wanted and needed her.  Instead I did not even reply to my mom. The next day I called my wife again at work to get her answer.  Unfortunately, my mom returned home from work as soon as I got on the phone, so I talked in a manner to please her…when my wife said that she thought I wanted to get back together. instead of honestly telling her how much I loved her and needed her, I replied, “you thought wrong.”  That was the end of our marriage.  I had tried so hard for the past six months to win back the woman I loved, but in the very last moment, when I actually had a chance to do just that, I blew it but now also became resentful of my mom for interfering (which continued for over 50 years, though I do understand now why she interfered and of course still love her and forgive her…but I can’t forget).  After this I became more psychologically messed up as a result because now there was no hope of ever getting back together with my wife.


While I was conflicted about attending my divorce hearing, I should have asked my wife whether or not she wanted me to attend; however, I unilaterally decided not to attend for eight reasons: 1) I thought that my wife really wanted to divorce me and that I shouldn’t stand in her way and her happiness, 2) I was overwhelmed with grief over my wife, couldn’t handle it anymore, and just wanted to avoid it all and have it go away, 3) the forced separation and upcoming divorce made me paranoid to the extent that I constantly heard voices and thought that her divorcing me while I was recuperating from brain tumor surgery was an evil deed and therefore I did not want my presence at the hearing to add to the divorce’s legitimacy, 4) I thought it was useless…whatever I tried was stymied or stopped and ended up making me feel even worse, 5) I had no money or job, and given my physical appearance, thought my prospects for good employment were dim and this was the real reason my wife did not want me anymore, 6) I thought she was now romantically involved with someone else and therefore no longer loved me, 7) my wife literally pushed me out of our apartment and never invited me back…so I thought she did not want me to return, and 8) as a Catholic, I did not believe in divorce and wanted no part of it.  Additionally, I didn’t even know exactly where in City Hall the divorce hearing or at what time it was being held and my lawyer didn’t even notify me (though I did receive a notice seven months earlier…which I immediately had torn up and discarded). However, I made a huge mistake by not attending the divorce hearing and suffered for it for over 50 years.  I should have moved heaven and earth to fight to get back the woman I loved.

I believe that everything would have been resolved at the hearing, and when reunited, both of us would have tried our very best to be kind, loving, compassionate and understanding to each other.  In retrospect, I don’t think my wife really wanted a divorce…that it probably was her lawyer or a “friend’s” idea.

For days prior to my divorce hearing I repeatedly said to myself under my breath again and again, “It’s stupid to want someone that doesn’t want me.”  But I was mistaken to not even try.  I phoned my x-wife one week after our divorce was final after my mom told me (which I did not believe) that she was living with some man, and was surprised to learn that she already had remarried  but her new husband, who answered the phone, let me talk with her.

I subsequently tried returning to the University of Pennsylvania to finish my Masters degree but my only thoughts were of my x-wife so I temporarily ropped out and needed and received psychotherapy for awhile.  I had “Command Auditory Hallucinations” for months where 24/7 I heard voices shouting at me, “murder your son.” The voices eventually disappeared, and I subsequently finished my Masters at night and remarried 9 years later because I found someone who I cared about and who needed my help.  We subsequently moved to Washington, DC (where I worked there for 12 years) and then to Colorado (for 27 years).  After I retired, I moved back to the western suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to be near my family since my second wife, after 25 years of marriage, also divorced me, but I still thought of my first wife very often and concluded that I had an ethical obligation to apologize to her, even though it had been 46 years since our divorce.  Consequently, I sent her a letter of apology for not treating her better, and also stated in the letter that I thought my brain tumor was mostly responsible for my erratic behavior.  Four years after that I sent her another apology letter for accusing her of “throwing me out when I was sick” which I had recently learned was not true since I believe that my mom had asked her to temporarily send me back to her.


The heartache that I, my first wife, and our families experienced I believe could have all been avoided by sincere apologies between my wife and I shortly after the start of our misunderstanding over my bath, and also that a good marriage counselor could have easily enabled us to have mostly positive interactions, work out our disagreements amicably, and live happily together and raise children.  Just as my wife never told me why she physically pushed  me out of our apartment, she never told me why she was divorcing me, so we never even had a chance of working it out since I had many misconceptions about why she did what she did.  The greatest legal reason I could think of is that, when my wife became hysterical I slapped her one time to get her out of the hysteria, just like I saw many times in movies.  So perhaps she claimed “physical abuse” as her grounds.  The second possible reason is that, for the last  eight months of our marriage together, I gave her a really hard time when we fought to make her hate fighting, but instead we both should have gone to a good marriage counselor.  Anyway, my wife might have claimed  “mental anguish” or “verbal abuse,” which was true, but nothing compared to her hurt to me.

Eventually I decided that the main culprit in this entire matter was my brain tumor, which made me paranoid, irritable, and lowered my libido.  It was important for me to forgive myself for not treating my wife better but I also needed to apologize to her…therefore I sent her apology letters (46 and 50 years after our divorce).  The second phenomenon that led to my divorce was my not informing my family of my love for my wife,  how much I wanted to get back together with her, and was in absolute torment and hell without her, which consequently led to their total misunderstanding of my feelings for her, what happened, and later to my mom’s inadvertent interference with my wife and I getting back together (and my resentment towards my mom for 50 plus years).

I do have some solace now, however, in knowing that my wife remarried a good man capable of giving her a good life.  This is not as strange as it might sound if you know that I loved her very much and wanted the best for her even if it meant without me.  However, 50 years later I still can’t help thinking about her every day, regretting all of our miscommunications and the pain I caused, not having my own family and four precious children, and knowing that all of the anguish and suffering could have been easily avoided if we simply had talked to each other.  Even though my wife should have not phoned my mom and thereby get my family involved in our dispute, a few words to me from my wife, such as “your mom asked that I send you home to her for awhile until you get a little better,” would have told me that she wasn’t throwing me out because I was sick and would have changed my attitude and consequently everything that I did after that.  However, my wife was under severe emotional distress and cried so it is understandable why she didn’t tell me why she was pushing me out of our apartment.

Neither my wife nor my mom explained to me that my wife was simply doing what my mom asked her to do.  For many months I was tormented by what I thought was my wife throwing me out of our apartment when I was sick.  Fifty years later, even knowing the truth, it still hurts.  All of my mental suffering and divorce could have been avoided by a few words from either my mom or my wife.

Usually I take full responsibility for all of my actions and inactions, however, the psychological trauma from my brain tumor, my sudden facial disfigurement and disabilities, and my pending divorce, made me paranoid and incompetent at that time to the extent that I couldn’t handle the incoming so I don’t know how much of my reactions were really mine or were a result of my paranoia.  Despite this, all of our issues could have been handled well by discussing them, face-to-face, in person.  Even if we failed, at least we would have known that we tried our best and for me, over 50 years later, I would not be plagued with recriminations for putting the woman I loved more than anything in the world (which I regrettably never told her) in distress.

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