In case you are wondering, this is where we left off in Progressing through the Fog.
Another excerpt from my book "Nice Guys Finish Last - and that's okay".
While I was living in Oregon, I lived rather cheaply and made decent money. A good job, the great outdoors, and most of my family was nearby. I courted a young lady in New Mexico, via letters and long distance phone calls. My phone bill was outrageous. But I didn’t mind, I was “in love”. My head was stuck in the clouds and nothing else mattered. I was tired of being alone, ready to get married and that’s all I could think of. Other things, like dating and getting to know someone and her family first didn’t seem to matter. Honestly, I didn’t even think about it. I had spent the last couple of years reading books and studying about what the Bible had to say about being a good husband, and I was ready to try it all out. So when that young lady came to Oregon for a visit, I popped the question and she said “okay”. (She didn’t get excited, she didn’t yell, or jump up and down, she didn’t even say “yes”, she just said “Okay”).
There were plenty of red flags after that day warning me not to marry this girl, but I ignored them. My mind was made up. Now, please don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, pointing fingers or making excuses, I’m just telling it like it is (or was).
The wedding was somewhat disappointing. During the planning stages for the wedding, we discussed exactly how everything would be, we made planning decisions together. However, when the day arrived, not one thing we had agreed upon was done. She had changed her mind and had done things the way she wanted and didn’t give a thought what anyone else desired. I guess that should be okay, since, after all, it was her day. The rest of the marriage went pretty much the same way though. She did what she wanted and never considered my feelings or needs. None of that mattered to her, she was going to have her way and that’s all there was to it. This isn’t merely the way I saw it, she actually told me this herself. Why I never saw any of that before, I just don’t know. She either didn’t behave that way, or I was simply too blind to see it. I was still a little bit foggy.
It didn’t take her long to locate my “hot” buttons. You know, those things you can say or do to someone that really gets under their skin and gets them all riled up. Well, she found them and kept on pushing them. She actually seemed to enjoy doing that. One day got really bad and I finally turned to her and, loudly, asked her why she continued to do this? She calmly replied, with a slight sneer in her eyes, that she wanted to see what it would take for me to hit her.
“Are you kidding me?”
That sort of thinking has never made much sense to me.
After our son was born the following year, things got even worse. All of a sudden I couldn’t do anything to please her. According to her, everything I did was wrong, or stupid, or both. She said she no longer had time to be a wife, she was a mother now. My first thought was “Gee, when were you ever a wife?”
I tried everything I could think of: counseling, books, bible studies, men’s retreats, Promise Keepers, etc., to learn how to be a better husband and father - nothing helped. Oh, it helped me alright, but it did little to help her view of me. One of the things I learned was that you cannot make someone love you, no matter how hard you try. I realized that I couldn’t change her, but I could change ME! So I did.
Nothing I did made any difference to her. She did notice the change in me though, but it only made her suspicious as to why I had become so much nicer to her. The answer was simple – I was growing and learning to become the man God wanted me to be. But she refused to see that. Now, I’m not saying I was perfect, or that I did everything right. On the contrary, I made more than my fair share of mistakes along the way and, at times, allowed my temper to get the better of me. But she refused to forgive me for any of those shortcomings, she just would not give me a chance. I stayed with her and loved her and did all that I could for her, because that’s what the Bible said I should do. I did everything the Bible said that a husband is supposed to do for his wife. Nothing was appreciated and I received no affirmation from her - ever. Not even once. I gave her all that I had within me to give and she gave nothing in return, perhaps because she had nothing to give, or maybe she just didn’t know how. It is difficult to tell since she refused to talk about it.
She used to call my parents to complain about me on a regular basis. My parents visited us once (flew clear across the country) with the agenda of “straightening me out”. But after spending one day with us, they realized that the problem was not with me, it was her. My Dad even told me he believed me to be a better man than he was, because he would have thrown her out long ago. If you’ve been following my story, you know how huge an impact that statement had on me.
I had returned to school to get my degree in order to build a better life for her. But instead of appreciating my efforts, she made it the most difficult four years of my life. Sometimes it seemed she would go out of her way to torment me. I did everything she ever asked me to do. I gave her everything. Yet she still seemed to delight in finding something else to gripe about. I just couldn’t win for losing. She even confessed once that she only married me to get away from her father.
I met with my pastor on a regular basis, to hold me accountable and give me the encouragement I needed to stick it out and keep trying to make the marriage work. One important thing I learned from him was that, according to the Bible, whether or not you believe she was the one God had intended for you, once you married her, she is now! So I hung in there and kept on trying.
While enrolled in the Top Gun Ministries men’s Bible Study course, I finally found a book by Gary Smalley (If He Only Knew) that I thought would finally unlock the door that would make this marriage work. I didn’t just do things I read about or learned in order to get a desired result, I actually became that man that those studies and counselors and books suggested I be. I didn’t just practice that stuff, I lived it! But it still didn’t work. After about the third time through Smalley’s book (well after the marriage ended), I finally discovered why it hadn’t worked for me. He said that all these efforts, as admirable as they may be, will be to no avail if the wife refuses to recognize her husband’s efforts. If either spouse refuses to be a willing participant in the relationship, then it won’t work. Basically, if she won’t give him a chance, he’s just wasting his energy.
Ephesians, chapter 5 tells the husband all the things he is to do for his wife. It also only asks the wife to do one thing: Respect her husband. My wife refused – adamantly! When she read that, she actually said the words, “Hell No!”
We tried counseling. Three times. Each time, she saw the counselors first before I was invited to join in. Each time, I sat there and listened while she spun some amazing stories that were total and complete fabrications. Anytime I heard her lying to the counselor and spoke up about it, I was attacked. Those counselors actually believed everything she told them. Each one, I believe, was a Christian Counselor. Each one told me that I needed to be more loving, more nurturing and more understanding of her needs. As far as I could tell, the only way marriage counseling will work for you is if you are both totally honest with your counselor. I was, she wasn’t, but they chose to believe her. It just didn’t make any sense to me. Sometimes I think that if the counselor can keep you fighting, they can keep making money off you. I figured it was cheaper to fight at home, since the results seemed to be about the same anyway, so I stopped going.
Several years after moving to California, she started seeing a Christian counselor to deal with issues pertaining to her relationship with her father. When I finally found out about it, I was relieved. The counselor she was seeing this time often worked side by side with her husband, who is a retired pastor from a prophetic church. Apparently these people are so in tune with the Holy Spirit that you just cannot lie to them.
The day finally came when they asked that I attend a counseling session with them. They had come to realize that her issues with her father were the cause of her failing marriage and we need to continue this journey together. Given our past experience with “so-called” Christian Counselors, I wasn’t holding my breath. We’d been down this road before.
Only this time was different. These people never charged for the sessions. They did this all for free. Their goal was to help people save their marriage, get their life back on track and resolve their differences. I went with an open mind but my faith was still lacking. And sure enough, sitting there in their living room, she began spinning yards and yards of crapola all over the place. How she is the “victim”, how she is so mistreated and myriads of other nonsense. This time I just sat there and kept my mouth shut. For fear of being attacked again, I just let it go and did not say a word. And then the most amazing thing happened. About halfway through, the woman counselor stopped her and ask her to tell those stories again, “Only this time honey, please, tell me the truth. You’re lying to me and I don’t like that.”
I could not believe what I was hearing! My soon-to-be ex-wife changed her story and for the first time I can remember, started telling the truth. Her eyes welled up and her face turned red, not because of the truth, but because she had been caught lying. She was rather furious about that.
During this session I finally learned that her father’s brother had sexually abused her as a child (between the ages of 9 to 11). When she told her father about it, he blamed her and told her it was her fault and that this was God’s way of punishing her for not being a good girl (the rest of the family said she was always a good little girl). Her father still made her return to that house even after she begged him not to make her go. Now, what kind of father would do that to his daughter? The counselors told her the only way to be free from this is to confront it, deal with it and move on. She adamantly refused.
She also admitted to running up over $93,000 in debt (so far) without me knowing about it. We’d already been through the Crown Ministries course, but she said she just couldn’t help herself. And she still refused to get a job to help pay it off, saying it was my responsibility to pay for everything.
After much discussion, the husband turned to me to get my side of the story and also stated that he could not believe I had put up with so much for so long. He said he would not have done that and his wife agreed. She said that you just don’t treat people like that. Especially your spouse! That type of behavior is disrespectful to your husband. For the first time, the counselors were actually on the side of the truth. Their words of comfort and affirmation towards me were so overwhelming that I almost wet myself.
They gave us each a scripture verse to read, and asked us to do only one thing (none of the other counselors gave us anything to do). They asked us to read that verse and take 5 minutes each night before going to bed to just talk. Nothing more than “Hi. How was your day?” “Oh fine, thanks.” That’s it. That’s all they asked us to do.
Every night after that, once the kids were in bed, I told her it was time for our 5 minutes. The first night she said she had too much to do and couldn’t do it. So every night, once the kids were in bed, I did the dishes, cleaned the kitchen, helped with laundry and housework and whatever else need to be done so she’d have no excuses. (I had been helping out all along anyway, but now even more so). Then I‘d sit on the couch and tell her I was ready for our 5 minutes. She was still too busy. She did not work outside the home (she refused to help with the debt she had created) so there really was no excuse. But she always found a reason why she did not have the time to talk to me. I kept up this routine every night for over three months. She still refused. She also refused to ever meet with those counselors ever again. You just can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.
After more than 17 years of marriage, I finally quit. No, I didn’t leave. I just stopped trying. I stopped going out of my way to please her. I stopped bending over backwards for her. I just plain stopped. I had thrown my hands in the air and stepped back. If this marriage was going to continue, then it was her turn to do something. I had nothing left to give. I was empty. I was hurting. I was literally dying inside. I didn’t turn mean or hateful or treat her badly, I just stopped placing her needs ahead my own. I stopped putting her first. She was no longer at the top of my list of priorities. The kids still were though. I continued to do all I could for them, but not for her. I finally found some time to go play golf, and work out at the gym.
Well, she certainly noticed that! That really burned her up. She no longer had that hold over me and it really seemed to bother her. Close friends told me much later that she had been trying to figure out a way to divorce me for over a year, but needed to find a way to make it look like it was my fault. I had focused all my energy on pleasing God, not her. My self-esteem improved, I felt better and I was getting my body back in shape – losing weight and firming up. I had lost 40 pounds in four months. She never said a word. She never even noticed, at least she never said anything to me about it. I found out later that she had been telling everyone we knew that I had lost all that weight because I was doing drugs. Actually, I simply stopped drinking sodas, stopped having that big bowl of ice-cream every night, cut down on the carbs, and got off my butt and started moving my body. I wasn’t obese, just heavier than I would have liked and I wanted to get rid of my S.E.M.B.’s*. Mind, Body, Spirit. Mine were all lining up and getting in tune with my creator.
But, true to form, just as I began feeling better about myself and re-building my self confidence (she spent years trying to tear it down), she’d turn up the heat. It amazes me how such a petite little gal can totally emasculate a guy just by the way she treats him and how she speaks to him, and about him. She became more mean-spirited and vindictive than ever.
On the Fourth of July weekend that year, she had arranged for my entire family to come to our house for a bar-b-que and fun. We had plenty of room on our ranch. We had a pool, a horseshoe pit, 4 horses, 23 chickens, 2 dogs, 1 rabbit and a goat. What more could anyone ask for? There was plenty for everyone to do. She decided to go horseback riding out of town with her friends, but promised she’d be back before anyone showed up. She completely blew us off for the entire day! When I finally reached her on her cell phone late in the afternoon, after the food had been eaten, kitchen cleaned up and everyone was ready to leave to go see the fireworks, she said, “So? They’re your family – YOU deal with them!”
I guess, deep down, I still cared because I allowed her actions to really get to me. The marriage was ending and I knew it. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t make the decision that the marriage was over, I could just see it coming. What I didn’t know was “when”. She had dropped the “D” word and said if I wanted a divorce, then I would have to be the one to file because SHE refused to do that! Well, I figured I was serving a life sentence because for me, divorce was not an option. I was just trying to hold on for another 10 years, until my daughter turned 18. I didn’t know if I could last that long, with things as they were. I was actually hoping that things would take a turn for the better by then. (Remember what I said earlier about being wrong when it came to her?)
So, what was I to do now?
My self-esteem and self-worth were on an emotional roller-coaster ride, and depression was setting in fast!
* = Sagging European Man Breasts