Happy Wooden’s (Odin) Day.
Warning: To my family and friends, this one is going to be as truthful as the old Rabyd Microphone so be advised. Mostly I feel the need to write this series for therapeutic reasons. This also a long post so be prepared to give it some time.
This is part three of a Year Ago Retrospect. These are going to take the place of my normal journal posts this week in a mini-series:
An additional disclaimer might be necessary here – I am talking very openly about my feelings and struggles I have had and am having with my marriage. Two things: 1) My wife and I are in the process of rebuilding things and, given recent experience, are painfully aware of the weaknesses in our marriage. That said we are working on it but both of us are no longer naive enough to believe that things will always be cool without working on them. 2) I am not going to speak for my wife’s feelings on things currently. That would be rude and presumptuous on my part to do that, but I am going to be very open about mine. This is about sorting things out in my head, not looking for excuses or reason to call it quits. It is more an honest assessment of the situation, so I can move forward.
A little background. We have been married for 30 years now. It almost wasn’t 30 years. My wife and I have known each other since we were children, we dated on and off through middle school and high school. In early 1989, we got back together and in February of that same year, I proposed to her. We got married that June on the 10th. From that time on our life has been basically revolving around two things: 1) Our lives as a pastor and his wife and 2) Our children. We always talked early on about how we wanted a few kids early so later in life we could spend more time enjoying each other but life began and slowly these two things dominated our lives.
Through the years we were pastor and wife through four churches and we raised our kids. The last one graduated in 2011 and that is when the seeds of our troubles really began. Mostly, I guess my expectations that we would do more together felt a little short-changed. It was one of those moments when you are done focusing on the kids and you look at this person you have been with and go – who are you again? I would say to any couple that hits an empty nest stage, even if you think you are in good shape – go get a marriage check-up with a counselor. There are probably things that have been unsaid while you have been raising the kids that need to be said now as it turns back into the two of you.
For me, things started south at about the same time I started school in 2015. I know I wasn’t supported in that decision by my wife. It bothered me because I was facing the reality of the fact that the church was never going to support me so that retirement was an option. I was basically going to have to stay preaching until they put me in a box and to be honest, that image did not appeal to me. The thing is my wife and I had drifted by that point because even though the kids had grown up she kept injecting herself into their lives. At the time I felt that if I was a priority on my wife’s list it was down near the bottom and I didn’t feel at all supported as I tried to do something to make a better life for us now that the kids were gone.
Over the next three years, a gap began to develop between us. It became pretty much church, the kid’s life, and other small talk items. As someone who hates small talk, this began to drive me nuts. As early as 2016 I began to think about divorce because from my perspective it seemed our marriage worked great for her but it sucked for me. Throw in at that point a lost faith and frustration with the Dirty Pig and his control of the church and my mind is pretty much in a very dark place about the whole thing.
As I have said before in this series, my plan was to finish school, get a new job, resign from the church and file for divorce. I wasn’t going to provide a better life for someone who hadn’t been supportive and didn’t seem to care that from a financial point of view we were in the middle third quarter of our life and down by 35. Time to get off the bench and put up some financial offense. My view was if she wasn’t going help with that, I needed to either play on my own or find a new teammate.
My affair with Miss Salty accelerated my departure from the church and it also caused the troubles in our marriage to be brought to the forefront. My wife and I spent the next three months separated including our 29th anniversary. We had a couple conversations and the same problem presented itself from my end. I never fall out of love with a woman completely. That was true for my wife as well. I just didn’t feel at the time I had the right kind fo love. I felt also that my wife and I’s passive aggression had also hammered most of my love right out of me for her. I just could bring myself to love her the way a husband should love his wife. Plus all the practical concerns listed above.
I filed for divorce in middle June and given the 60-day waiting period before a hearing, we were slated lat August and that would have been that. It was an interesting test at times because when the severance was denied my letter written in response said that the main person they had hurt with that decision was not me but my wife who had to shoulder all the bills seeing I was not working. I had also wanted to give her some of the money to help her transition, but that was no longer an option. It demonstrates that I wasn’t out to hurt my wife in any way on this. I just wanted out of a relationship that at the time wasn’t very good for either of us.
Then Miss Salty left me for the last time and I found myself alone, again. People remarked later how quickly I made the decision to return to my wife. It was a 10 day or so wait. I remark back it only took Miss Salty about 3-5 days to get over dumping her fiance and moving on, so what is their point? My main concern was I knew that Miss Salty was no longer an option for me. My two choices: 1) go to something new or 2) try to fix things with my wife.
My decision to try to fix things with my wife was predicated on a few factors. 1) I would never be able to trust Miss Salty again with my heart, so that was done. 2) My children had remarked that I hadn’t really tried to fix things with their mother. True. (I want to give a shout out to my daughter if she reads this – a lot of your comments my dear were spot on – take a bow girl, you probably saved your parents’ marriage.) 3) There was that little bit of love for her left. That said, it was my wife’s reaction that ultimately made it work. For my kids’ sake, I contacted my wife and asked if we could try to work this out.
My wife listened to me and then she talked. She did something I didn’t expect. She forgave me. She also took responsibility for her part in all the crap that went on before. She didn’t tell me it was all my fault and she listened to my story and believed it. Long story short, we got back together, I canceled the divorce with like two days to spare and we took a mini-vacation where we spent a lot of time naked in bed talking and doing what married couples do when they’re naked in bed. We got counseling and moved into our own apartment on our own. It isn’t perfect, but we are working on it.
There is one element of church nonsense that happened during the whole thing I feel the need to address. When word got out one member of the church, Miss Salty’s aunt; she tried to contact my wife about what an evil person I was. How I had committed a felony, had a teenage girl problem, etc. My wife’s friend basically told my wife to tell her to shove off as a busybody and move along with the reconciliation. My wife was kinder than that but the basic advice was followed to tell people to mind their own business.
Later in counseling, our counselor made the simple observation that the affair was a typical one that had nothing to do with Miss Salty’s age, but our marriage being shitty. When a marriage doesn’t help the people in it, these things happen because you are vulnerable. For my part, I simply fell in love with someone who started to meet the needs I had that my wife was not meeting. That’s it. Anything else people want to think is Bull Shit.
If there is any possibility this still might not work, it lays with me and a few issues that are between us because of who we are:
- I place a high value on my freedom to act as I see fit. I don’t like a constraint. I accept the few constraints that our marriage puts on us because it is a marriage, but outside that I want the freedom to do what I want and what is best for me. That could pull us in different directions.
- Part of my problem related to this is that I tend to help others at the expense of myself. This leads to a building up of a deficit emotionally that eventually will blow up like a bomb. If someone doesn’t make a point to stop and ask me genuinely how I am, or as an INFJ I will go on my merry way on destruction. My wife has learned not to take my “I’m OKs” at face value which is good, but I still have to watch myself on this and on occasion do what is emotionally right for me even if it seems selfish to others.
- My values are rapidly changing. My social mores are also changing. This means in our religiously mixed marriage, I a Deist/Pagan don’t see things as evil or sinful anymore. As a Christian she does and so compromise is definitely the order of the day. I measure things in terms of building virtue and benefit to each other, not avoiding what is wrong or bad. If our values get too far apart, our counselor said it could still be our marriage downfall.
- Our compromises have to be genuine give and take. I call bullshit pretty quick if I don’t feel they are. Some things are still in tension because of this and it is going to take time to work them out. With our values, she and I have to really watch this because it is pretty significant if a couple values different things from one another. You can still love one another and the marriage can still fail because of this.
- My Weaknesses are now pretty apparent. I miss certain things about another relationship that speaks to these weaknesses. I either have to go without or find alternatives. In some of these areas, there is no alternative so it becomes a major internal battle. I concede now that I could very well lose those battles. I’m am indeed vulnerable to these things.
I am not trying to create doubt here, but state the reality of where I am. I view marriage as a pagan would. In particular, the brand of paganism that renews vows every year. This forces you to be constantly working at it to make it mutually beneficial, rather than just taking it for granted as a lifetime commitment does. It is far more realistic in my opinion and the vows don’t set you up for failure.
That said, our vows are Chrisitan ones, so the basis for me is gone except for my commitment to the Asatru Virtue of Fidelity. I still honor the spirit of those vows for that alone and nothing else. That said, one aspect of Fidelity is loyalty to self. It is possible given our different faiths/values that loyalty to my marriage and loyalty to self might come into conflict. How I view the virtue of Fidelity is starting to solidify with self at the center and all my other relationships in a circle around it. If that circle is broken or weak in some spots, it needs to be addressed or changed but the center needs to always be strong.
One part to go and that will be me directly addressing some of the people I mentioned in this series so far. For now, know that my wife and I are good and we are working to be great.
The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard, and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.