Wednesday, October 26, 2011

When Marriage Fails inspired by Lost Edens

This post was inspired by Lost Edens a FromLefttoWrite book club selection. Lost Edens is the memoir of Jamie Patterson. This is not a book review but rather a post inspired by reading Jamie’s book.

“Why do people get married?”


“No, because we need a witness to our lives. There are a billion people on the planet, what does one life really mean? But in a marriage you’re promising to care about everything, the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all the time. Every day, you are saying your life will not go unnoticed, because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness.”
Masayuki Suo (from the movie Shall We Dance)

With time, therapy and additional self-understanding I have forgiven myself for mistakes. I now embrace my bad marriages as part of the journey to find myself, know myself and esteem myself. Understanding as relates to men in general did not come easily for me. I didn’t have what psychologists call a “daddy hole,” the emotional lack of relationship with your father, I had a Daddy Crater and I learned to fill that crater in unhealthy ways.

Daniel Allen Moore (a pseudonym)
"I think we all wish we could erase some dark times in our lives.
But all of life's experiences, bad and good make you who you are.
Erasing any of life's experiences would be a great mistake."
Luis Miquel

My precious Mark and Denny, ages ten and thirteen, walked me down the aisle of a packed Central Baptist Church to start the wedding of my dreams and the marriage of my nightmares. Moisture filled eyes followed us to the altar. Everyone celebrated that I had found a young, good-looking professional man because they had also watched and prayed as I lost Bart to cancer. My irrational thought that two and one half years totaled enough time to get over my grief just points out how grief cripples your judgment.
            I accept full responsibility for this huge marital mistake. However, I do wish to note for the record, that no family members and only one friend voiced misgivings about this match. Even my therapist later apologized that he had not noted the signs of --what? Mental disorder? Dysfunctionality? Woundedness? All of the above? And that’s just the part that related to Dan! My part in this colossal mistake? I underestimated the psychological healing I had yet to do. Clueless concerning damage from some childhood wounds, I didn’t yet know the therapeutic work left for me to do. 
Shortly before the wedding, my groom-to-be commented, “Your friends seem to think of you as being very sexy. I’m not comfortable with that.”
“No kidding.” I replied. “Did you think you were the only one on the planet who had noticed?”
The warning gong should have clanged at that time with concern over his unhealthy attitude about sex, relationships and more. At the time, it just ticked me off. This constituted the beginning of my daily urge to say to him, “Do you have applesauce for brains?”
On the honeymoon when he brought up issues he had not mentioned in a year and half of dating--all issues related to his need to control me, such as what I wore, where I could go and who I could be friends with, my stomach knotted in fear. My expression in all the honeymoon pictures looks like I’m gritting my teeth. I was. He assured me he just found it “necessary to rake back the glitter” when confronted with someone who shimmered like Brenda. I replied, “You’re doing the job with a god damn backhoe, not a rake.”
One of numerous difficult issues in eighteen months of marriage surrounded the issue of humor. Dan had no access to humor and my boys and I survived on ours. Intestinal gas is a sacrament to adolescent boys. Dan denied he ever experienced such a human failing. Mark would lay in wait outside the bathroom door and scream at the top of his lungs if a sound close to gas emitted from behind that door. How can you refrain from laughing at that? One therapist pointed out to Dan that the boys and I also laughed at ourselves which he seemed incapable of doing.
Mark impersonated Dan in Saturday Night Live style. Dan, handsome and very well built, bore the unfortunate characteristic of a high waist. In a culture already pushing pants to the lowest possible place on the hips, Dan’s high waist supplied a perfect set-up for caricature. Mark would pull his pants up to his armpits and imitate Dan’s overly-serious mode of speech. I tried on most occasions play the adult and refuse to laugh at these impersonations. I threatened dire consequences if they didn’t cease and desist. Laughter often won.
I offer no excuse for my part in this gigantic mistake. Devastated by Bart’s death and desperate for emotional security, I thought I found a good man. A college professor who attended church, had two sons of his own, Dan shared many of my values and desired the kind of home life I wanted for my boys. His issues with sexuality and obsessive, irrational thinking escalated from the honeymoon until the day our divorce finalized. I learned an important lesson about myself from this marriage: I had very low tolerance for someone who needed to control me in order to feel safe himself. Circumstances necessitated that I become my own authority at an early age, he didn’t stand of chance of controlling me in my forties. I also learned that I didn’t possess enough relationship skills to bridge the psychological divide between Dan’s dysfunction and my own.


  1. That quote out of the movie "Shall we Dance" is one of my very favorite ones and makes me cry every time I hear it. It's so true that that is what marrige should be, but usually isn't.

    I've been searching for a witness to my life since 1993 and haven't had much luck as I'm still single to this day.

    The control issue seems to always be the biggest one. The control issue is what I wrote about as well. It sounds like you have a great relationship with your boys and I'm sure they've helped your through alot of the pain.

    Very good post, I'm glad that you were able to see early on the problems in this marriage.

  2. what stands out to me about this post is the fact that once you did recognize the control issues, you were able to get out. Whether it was for you or for your boys, you did it. That's commendable.

  3. Thanks, Alicia and Brandi, for stopping by with your comments. Yes, I was able to get out and get out quickly. It was one year of hell but I knew that's all I could do. I hope all women realize the strength is within them to get out of bad marriages, they just have to access it!

  4. After I read this, I can't explain why, but I felt so sad. I'm sure some of it was sadness for your situation, but I know that all of your past was a part of the journey that led you to the marvelous man who is your witness today.

    There was something else, though, that swept in without me getting to see what it was that just feels sad.

  5. What a brave and honest post. SO glad you were able to put your foot down early in the marriage. I really would hope you don't beat yourself up too much about this. I really believe this can happen to anyone, in fact, I know it does. Again, great post!

  6. Perhaps, Gayle, your sadness is the intuitive knowing that I had a LOT of pain before I got to John. More of that will be revealed in my memoir. I so appreciate your thoughtful reading of my blog!

  7. Silicon Diva, I don't beat myself up about my failures anymore but I sure used to. It's part of the failing and forgiving and learning journey.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Like you and your boys, I try to handle everything with humor and often find it best to laugh at myself. Cannot imagine trying to live with someone not able to do the same.

    I'm glad to hear that you and your boys were able to still find reasons to laugh during this time and hope your spirits weren't broken too much while you were with him.

  9. Humor is the grease for most all difficult situations. Too bad he never got that.

    Thanks for stopping by, Lisa.

  10. Your post made me think of a line in Lost Edens that took me awhile to understand myself. It's said to my ex-husband and something like "I can forgive you for everything you've done but how can I forgive myself?"

    When I wrote the words I was just reporting what was said without much of an understanding what it was I meant. It wasn't until recently--and your post helped bring it more into focus--that forgiving myself would have to include admitting I had made a huge mistake. Something I wasn't very practiced in.

    I could have done without the pain but I'm glad for the mistakes, now. Thanks so much for the post, Brenda, and for reading Lost Edens!

  11. You displayed remarkable courage in getting out of this relationship, and that is wonderful. I'm sure your boys think the world of you for finding that strength inside yourself.

  12. Thanks for stopping by, Taylor. My life has required more strength than I ever imagined! Stay tuned for the publication of my memoir!