Monday, August 26, 2013

Quantum Physics and the Death of a Marriage

Quantum physics includes the study of cause and effect in sub-atomic particles, things that are really small. It contrasts with Newtonian physics, which is the analysis of cause and effect in visible forces such as gravity.

Some people take Quantum physics to the level of energy and thought. They say that our sub-conscious thoughts and motivations produce results that come to fruition in our lives. Just as a screenwriter writes the script for a movie, they say, we write the script for our lives, which turn out exactly according to the script we wrote.

I know it sounds crazy, but I'm thinking about it. Is is possible that the failed marriage I described yesterday was the result of a script I wrote years ago? Could it have been a full-immersion movie written and directed by me with me as the main character, a movie that turned out exactly according to my plan?

I was in the ninth grade, sitting on the team bus for an away basketball game. The fact that I took the window seat tells you something about me. The person in the aisle seat chooses who climbs over them. The person in the window seat give anyone that choice.

A cheerleader, beautiful as cheerleaders always are, sat next to me and tried to engage me in conversation. I was painfully shy and answered in monysyllables if at all. As we got off the bus I heard another player mock her attempts to talk to me. "So, what's your name?" he mimmicked. "How are you today?"

The next Sunday I got on my bicycle and pedalled four miles to my "girlfriend's" house. Brenda was overweight and unattractive. We walked to the woods behind her house where she took off her bra and let me touch her breasts. I wanted the cheerleader, but only saw myself as worthy of Brenda.

Years later, I married the cheerleader. No, not that cheerleader but the beautiful woman I described in my last post. But did I really see myself as worthy of having a successful, joyful marriage with her, or did I only see myself as deserving Brendas?

I remember a conversation I had with my mother when I was still single, in which she asked what kind of woman I wanted to marry. My response was an angry, "I don't know." Why did I feel that anger to my mother's question? Was it because I didn't really feel worthy to be a husband?

Once when my wife told her father something unloving I had done he replied, "It wasn't because of who you are. He would have done that no matter who he was married to."

I was furious. Everybody knows that men stop being loving because they are not satisfied at home. They become unhappy when their wives stop being their girlfriends. Just ask Dr. Laura.

But now I'm not so sure. I didn't do that because of who my wife was. I did it because of who I was. And the screenplay that I wrote, the full-immersion movie in which my wife and I were the main characters, played out exactly as directed.

"Be gentle with yourself," friends are telling me. I'm not taking full responsibility for the failure of the marriage. I'm not even saying it would have worked had I been the perfect husband. But I do realize that the feelings of unworthiness I had so many years ago played a role in how things turned out.

The author of Busting Loose From the Money Game describes a Phase 1 and a Phase 2 of life. In Phase 1, he says, we limit ourselves in innumerable ways. For me, this included the belief that I was not worthy of having a wonderful marriage with an amazing woman. In Phase 2 we come to understand that we really do have great potential and are infinitely worthy.

Many people (I would even say the majority) live their entire lives without ever reaching Phase 2. For me it took 65 years. Most of the readers of this blog are much younger than that. I hope it doesn't take you as long as it did me.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Legal Separation

My wife and I are now separated. Maryland law requires a 12-month period of no cohabitation before divorces are granted, and I've left the DC area to move to Savannah. It's an interesting law - one night spent together, a single slip-up, and the 12 months commences all over again.

When I realized the divorce was probable (I would say inevitable but I don't like that word), I called Silent Unity at 1-800-669-7729 (816-969-2000 on Skype) and asked for a prayer. I was a first-time caller, but they have been answering millions of requests for over 120 years. I asked that we would be amicable and respectful to each other during the proceedings.

The woman who answered the phone prayed for that, but she prayed for much more. She prayed that there would be a fair distribution of financial assets. And she prayed that we would take a moment to remember what drew us together in the first place.

I began there. I remember the first time I saw my wife as if it were yesterday, blond curly hair cascading over her shoulders, bright eyes, her snug blue sweater. She was fun and intelligent. She was interested in international culture and foreign travel, as was I. How many people can say their first date was watching a French movie?

She wished that we could have spent the first few years just the two of us getting to know and enjoy each other. Instead she was pregnant within four months and we had four children in the next five years. We went from being lovers to full-time parents.

When we moved to a new city for my job, we began attending a church led by an emotionally and spiritually dysfunctional pastor (I recognize it now, I didn't then). He was misogynistic, although I didn't know what the word meant then. Each Sunday he would ask for a man to stand and lead the congregation in prayer.

I only realized decades later how much my wife was hurt by that experience. Why didn't we talk about it at the time? Did she try and I was unresponsive? Or was she afraid to try because she thought I would be? I don't know.

Couples often say their marriages "slowly drifted apart". Ours split apart at the seams and, like Humpty Dumpty, a plethora of ministers, counselors, and psychologists couldn't put it together again. But we were determined to stay married. I was a Pennsylvania Mennonite, and would have been the first person in my family to divorce. She was a Jersey girl, and she would have been the first person in her family not to. Each with their own reasons, we tried to make it last.

We put on a good enough show to convince most people, but some saw through the haze. "It's obvious that you and your wife aren't close," a friend said to me years ago. "You are like two people on life support," said another. "Both terrified to pull the plug."

Years turned into decades. There weren't many fights, not much shouting, just deadly silence. I can't remember the last time we laughed together. Didn't our friends notice that in social situations we never said a word to each other?

And just like people on life support, towards the end our bodies started shutting down. Communication went first, followed by conversation and shared goals and vision. The last to go was touch.

"Take a year to be alone," a friend told me recently when I told her my wife and I were no longer together. "Connect with yourself. Grieve the end of a relationship that lasted 33 years."

Good advice. And listen to Back 2 Good dozens of times, usually with the volume turned up loud.