One chapter ends, another begins!

by Chris on March 13, 2010

A lot has happened in my personal life since my last public entry on Father’s Journey, so the purpose of this article is to catch anyone up who has been following it. I have been journaling privately almost daily, but haven’t posted anything publicly for almost five months!

After really giving it a try and investing nine months in counseling, my marriage to Gayle ended last November.  What happened?

The first divorce…

It all started in November 2006. After 11 years of marriage, and at a time when I thought we were never happier, Gayle told me she wanted a divorce. I never saw it coming, and seriously had no clue how to respond.  I had never been with another woman, and it didn’t seem POSSIBLE that my marriage could actually end. What about the five children? And we weren’t even fighting or having other “typical” marriage problems.  Nothing made sense, and I couldn’t figure out why she had the sudden change of life course. I eventually found out that it was because she had what I like to call “Grass is Greener Syndrome,” and got in touch with a boyfriend from her high school years. She was 16 and he was 21, and in 2006 he was a UFC coach.   I suspect she was really just looking for something more exciting than her homemaker’s life with me and our five children.  Anyway, she got pregnant, the guy never wanted to talk to her again (or see the baby when he was born), and Gayle eventually let me in on her extracurricular relationship. Keep in mind all this time Gayle and I were still sleeping together and I had no idea about the other man.

I was still trying to identify the problem with our marriage and fix it! When she finally came clean and told me she was pregnant and that the father wanted her to get an abortion, I had a very unexpected peace come over me. There’s something wonderful about honesty and truth that makes even the most ugly situations manageable.  Before she told me the truth, I felt like I was going crazy and nothing made sense! After she told me, everything finally made sense and my confidence in my own sanity was restored. 🙂 I offered to keep the baby instead of her aborting him, which somehow lead to our reconciliation. Later that year, we remarried and moved north as a family to leave the drama behind. I think at the time I felt like she had learned some very painful lessons and we were both more sensitive to the reality that relationships take work. I also hoped that, if I could love and cherish the new child (Alexander) like my others, that Gayle would be more thankful for who I am and never stray from the marriage again.

The second divorce…

Fast forward a year later. We have been living in a beautiful home on the lake in a lovely town in southern Washington.  Kids had integrated nicely into the new schools, and we (the kids and I) were learning Kung Fu together several times a week as a family. Alexander was born into a home with two parents who love him very much, and I thought this was all behind us.  On the contrary, Gayle left us and moved back to Oregon to be with a UFC fighter (someone she met from the last affair).  This time I decided it was over for good and stayed here in southern Washington with the kids while she went and lived out her teenage years once more (she was 32 at the time). I also decided to let myself date this time, and found myself in love and engaged to a woman in town before I knew what hit me!  That only lasted a few months, as the woman turned out to be a narcotics addict and moved from man to man to take care of her. By the end of the relationship I was more than ready to cut my losses and move on.  There is a lot more to talk about regarding that relationship, and I;m sure I’ll write about it sometime soon. 🙂  About 8 months after Gayle left, she ended up attempting suicide by taking a bunch of mixed sleeping pills. Something snapped in me and I decided to take her back one more time, thinking this time, just maybe I could figure out how to make her happy. My kids needed their mom and I felt compelled to do whatever I could to try and make sure they still had her. So she moved back home after agreeing to attend regular (weekly) personal and marriage counseling for at least the next year.

Strike three I’m out!

Something happened during one of those counseling sessions. My counselor recommended that I read a book called “Codependent No More: How to stop controlling others and how to start caring for yourself.” by Melody Beattie.  This book turned my entire world upside down! I had always believed codependency had to do with drugs or alcohol, and physical or mental abuse. Not always, not for us.  I had found myself in a lifetime pattern where I measured my self-worth by how successful I was in keeping Gayle happy. I never really succeeded, as you can’t make another person happy, no matter how hard you try.  I also discovered that my actions weren’t  just out of the goodness of my heart.  Codependent people like myself tend to give of themselves with an underlying motive (while not even knowing it) to maintain control over others. This was me to a tee. This is why I always took her back!  It was my chance to feel like a hero, swoop in and save the day, and regain control to the chaos in my (and my kid’s)  life that broken marriages cause. It was a chance for a happy ending to my story.  Realizing my codependent behavior enabled me to see it more clearly in my daily decisions, and it became a passion for me to correct it. I saw my teenage children doing the same thing in their relationships, and I was determined to change and show them a better way.

From that point on, almost every decision I made during the day with Gayle or the kids, had been affected by my new discovery.  For the first time in years, I felt free from the prison I had created for myself by trying to feel personally and solely responsible for (and in control of)  the actions and emotions of others in my life.  After about a month of Gayle sulking about the change in my behavior, this time I recommended that we separate again, after talking with my counselor.  I wasn’t trying to end the marriage though; I was trying to save it by putting all my cards on the table and letting her so what she wanted with them.  I suggested that we live close but separately for a year, exclusively date one another (including sex lol!), frequently do activities with one another and with the kids, and stay in counseling. During this time, I could allow the time apart to break any addiction I had left to my codependent way of life, and Gayle could learn to feel confident on her own two feet, without relying on me for her happiness. Then and only then, could we return to a healthy happy marriage.

Our counselor’s assignment was for us both to write out a list of things we wanted to change over the next year and share them with each other during the next session. I showed up with my list, and she showed up with a letter explaining that she didn’t want to work on the marriage and would rather just let go. I tell you the truth, I half expected her response, and was in an unexpected way relieved by it.  I knew the next year was going to be tough an, if we weren’t going to really try to get to the next level, maybe it was for the best.  As it turned out, that same night Gayle went onto Facebook and proclaimed her love to another man who she had already been talking to for a while, and he moved in with her just a few short weeks later.  Obviously that was the real reason she didn’t want to continue with the marriage, and I’m just glad she made it that much easier to finally cut the strings she had over me.

Since then I have learned that the only reason I took her back the first two times was because I was trying to regain control over something I never even had – her happiness.  She needs to learn to love herself and be happy, and I have spent my entire adult life trying to do it for her.  She has already ended her relationship with the new guy and hinted at wishing she could just come home again, but now that I understand what’s actually happening in my head, there is no chance of it happening, ever. Three strikes and I’m out, and I will never give another woman more than one strike when it comes to marital faithfulness. I hope to marry again someday, but only if it’s in God’s will for my life, and only to a woman who shares my point of view on marriage and relationships. Until then I’m going to enjoy making new friends and loving my kids!

To be continued…

Well this article is getting pretty long so I’ll end it there, and next time I’ll talk a little about what has happened in my life since being single. So far it’s been a great experience and I can’t wait to share it with you!

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