Posts Tagged ‘Intermittent Explosive Disorder’

DON’T DIVORCE?

 INTRO

In April of 1968 I married a very beautiful woman with a delightful personality that I had fallen in love with.  In September of 1969 she divorced me.  In August 1978 I married a good-looking, fine woman that I really cared about and who needed my help and I wanted to help her.  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 that I made?

I’ll give my analysis first, since 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 how two people deeply in love ended up divorced).

ANALYSIS

I made many mistakes in my first marriage and made a disaster in responding to our breakup and divorce.  My first mistake was not being engaged much longer than our 5-month engagement.  This was important in order for us both 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 two aforementioned factors that Dr. Gottman’s research discovered.

Over the years I’ve come to realize that my first wife probably had IED (Intermittent Explosive Disorder) where she became hysterical sometimes when we fought; therefore I should have taken anything she said or did while in this state with a grain of salt, and not automatically believe that she wanted to get rid of me because I might be permanently handicapped (from a large brain tumor that was surgically removed 5 weeks before she threw me out) and therefore not be able to make her and our children-to-be a good living, which is what I thought she thought.  Another mistake we both made in my first marriage was to inform family that we were having problems.  Family and friends are supportive and usually take your side, which although they make you feel good, family cannot be objective in analyzing and resolving marital problems but usually make things worse.  The job of marriage counselors is to fix marriages. We should have gone to a marriage counselor to help us resolve our conflicts.  My wife went to a divorce lawyer, instead, which all but guaranteed that we would get divorced.  Although I instructed my lawyer that I did not want a divorce, he did nothing to assist me in preventing it.  In addition, my mom became overprotective and did not want me with someone who tried to stab me twice, especially at a time when I was very weak and unable to defend myself while recovering from my brain tumor surgery.  Mothers are funny that way…disliking people who try to kill their children.

Finally, and most importantly, as very difficult as it was for me, I should have gone to my divorce court hearing.  Even if I simply showed up, limping, shaven-headed, one-eye-closed and half of my face paralyzed, etc., any judge would have been very skeptical believing that a spouse had legitimate grounds for divorce or, at least, would have listened to my side of the story.  I needed to be there to listen to my wife’s grievances  and the tell my side as to what happened, and fight to keep her, perhaps through court-ordered marriage counseling.

Because we really loved each other, I believe that, 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 eventually faded away.

My second marriage was completely different and I bent over backwards to make my wife happy, including moving to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.  In addition, my second wife desperately needed my Federal medical  insurance because of her medical conditions. There’s much to be learned from my second marriage and divorce, except that having been devastated by my first wife divorcing me, my fiance and I attended 5 pre-marital counseling sessions with a marriage counselor before we got married, and attended 30  2-3 hour “Communications-in-Marriage” couples counseling sessions with two marriage counselors and 4 other married couples soon after we got married.

ON THE OTHER HAND

It was a bath that precipitated my first wife to give me an ultimatum to either not bathe then (she wanted us to immediately go food shopping in Philadelphia’s 9th street Italian market) or get out, and then follow it up after I bathed with pushing me out of our apartment only five weeks after I had a large brain tumor removed.  In addition, over the next six months my wife never even acknowledged, let alone apologized, to me or even shed a tear (that I could see) except for the time when she pushed me out of our apartment.  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.  Perhaps I was lucky to have been tossed out of our apartment early-on before we had children?  But 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.  When I finally realized what needed to be done (grovel), my attempt was thwarted by my mom.

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, Have Great Sex Again,” which is relevant for all adults, not only for older men.  Finally, my article entitled, “Choosing a Spouse,” might help in selecting a partner who will be  there for a lifetime.

If you’re interested, here’s my account of the significant details of my marital breakup (if I also knew my wife’s account, we could have avoided divorce):

OUR BREAKUP

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.  We then dated for a relatively short period, got engaged, and married after only five months of engagement.

We had a wonderful honeymoon but a rough time learning to live together.  We got off to a bad start when on our first night she cooked hamburgers that she made with a teaspoon of black pepper mixed in.  She said that her mother gave her the recipe which made me paranoid about her mom wanting to break us up.  In addition, I had the curse of the first-born and consequently was a perfectionist and therefore too critical and, on the other hand, my wife never learned how to 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.  I eventually 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.  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.  Fights did not end.  On two of the occasions when she became hysterical, she completely lost control and attempted to stab me with steak knives, which she tried to plant into my chest.  I consequently decided that she was not emotionally ready to raise our future children though she wanted to have four as-soon-as-possible.  In order to prepare her to be the mother of our children, I thought that we needed to learn how to work out our differences and both compromise, when appropriate.  I had to make her hate to fight, but instead to negotiate, and therefore I came up with the hair-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.  Unlike the first two months of our marriage where I eventually gave in whenever we had a dispute, I had to now win at all cost…no more kindness and understanding while fighting. This strategy began to work just about at the same time that I began getting agitated and paranoid from my brain tumor to the extent that I was no longer in control…my brain tumor 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 shut to protect my left eye, I was deaf in my left ear, my equilibrium was bad to the extent that I appeared drunk when walking.  My wife was happy to have me home and cooked wonderful meals for me.  I remained emotionally irritated, however.

My brain tumor agitated me, aggravated my behavior, and made me hyper-sensitive to the point where I was 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”  (her girlfriend, Rosemary, 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 to sabotage our marriage and ensure our divorce).  When my mom told my wife to “have patience with him, he’ll make you a good living,” she replied “I don’t have patience.” One Saturday, five 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.  She replied, “if you get a bath you can get out.”  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 too weak to prevent her from pushing me out the front door.  She cried while pushing me out.  I went to my parents home since I had no money nor any other place to go.  My mom asked me what happened, not knowing that my wife 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 just told my mom 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 misimpression that it was my idea.  This colored their thinking, as well as their actions and gross inaction, for the entire six months that preceded my divorce court hearing.

FROM BREAKUP TO 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.  She never showed up.  It only took about six months from our breakup to our divorce (under Pennsylvania’s brief, horrific 6-month so-called  “cooling-off” period in its divorce laws).  After the first few weeks apart I arranged to see her, using the excuse that I needed to pick up some of my things at the 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 under that.  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 that 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.  Incidentally, my wife’s boss was also the father of her new husband-to-be and was probably trying to help me since he probably didn’t want his Jewish son marrying a 23-year-old Catholic girl.

When I received the legal notice of divorce, I immediately tore it up.  My lawyer never contacted me to discuss it or even inform me of the divorce hearing.  My wife called me at some point and asked about a very cold “thank you” letter I sent to her mom (since I blamed my mother-in-law for our breakup) 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 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.

Meanwhile, my physical condition (one eye closed, 1/2 my face paralyzed and numb, equilibrium injured to the extent that I couldn’t walk straight), plus my wife throwing me out and starting divorce proceedings, no money, made my paranoia worse and I heard voices every waking hour shouting at me.

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.  While on the phone my mom returned from work and overheard my conversation.  After the call ended my mom lit into me for not standing up to my wife and being a wimp.  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 my mom so when my wife said that she thought I wanted to get back together.  I replied, “you thought wrong.”  That was the end of my 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.

POST DIVORCE

I was conflicted about attending my divorce hearing but decided not to attend for five reasons: 1) my wife threw me out and never invited back in, in other words, I thought that she did not want me to return, 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 separation and upcoming divorce made me paranoid to the extent that I heard voices and thought the entire proceedings were evil and I therefore wanted nothing to do with them, 4) I thought it was useless…whatever I tried was stymied or stopped and ended up making me feel even worse, and 5) I had no money or job, and given my physical appearance, thought my prospects for good employment were dim.  Additionally, I didn’t even know exactly where the divorce hearing was being held and my lawyer didn’t even notify me (though I did receive a notice months earlier…which I immediately had torn up).

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, and was surprised that she had a new husband and he answered the phone but let me talk with her.

I subsequently tried returning to U. of Penn to finish my Masters degree but my only thoughts were of my x-wife so I temporarily dropped 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 (and 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 had divorced me, but I still thought of my first wife every day (and also worried about my second wife) 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 it that I thought my brain tumor was partially responsible for my erratic behavior while we were married.

Finally, the heartache that I, my first wife, and our families experienced, I believe could have all been avoided by sincere apologies to each other shortly after the start of our last major misunderstanding and that a good marriage counselor could have enabled us to have mostly positive interactions, work out our disagreements amicably, and live happily together and raise children.  My wife never told me why she was divorcing me so we never even had a chance of working it out.  The only possible 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.

Eventually I decided that the main culprit in this entire matter was my brain tumor, making me paranoid, irritable, and lowering my libido.  It was important to my peace-of-mind and well-being for me to have recently forgiven  her (in my mind).  In addition, sending her an apology letter was also cathartic.  My wife and I had decided to have four children; she had four with her new husband and I had none with my second wife since she could not have children.  I do have some peace of mind now, however, in knowing that she married a good man capable of giving her a good life.  This is not as strange as it might sound if you keep in mind that I loved her very much and wanted the best for her even if it meant without me.

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