I originally published this book review on my old blog on December 14, 2016. It appears here as/is.
I have long admired singer-songwriter Carly Simon. Having been born in the early 1970s, her music, and that of her ex husband’s, James Taylor, has been a part of my personal soundtrack for many years. I also enjoy reading life stories, especially by people I admire. I downloaded Carly Simon’s 2015 memoir on the day it was released, but I’ve only just read it. I tend to download a lot of stuff that interests me and it sits in the queue until the mood strikes for me to read it. There was a time when I would have greedily devoured this book days after its release, but I guess I’m slowing down in my old age.
Anyway, Carly’s book is entitled Boys in the Trees: A Memoir. I like the book’s title, since it references the title song from her 1978 album, which I remember almost wearing out during Christmas break 1991. I had a month at home with my parents and had always loved the song “You Belong To Me”. I bought the CD and played it non-stop. It was a comfort during those bleak winter days when I was 19 years old and hating the semester break at home from college.
Simon’s book starts with her story of growing up in New York, the daughter of Richard Simon, one of the founders of the Simon & Schuster publishing company. She had a privileged upbringing, surrounded by family and friends. Her two older sisters were beautiful and talented. Her brother, Peter, was younger and the son her father had wanted. Carly writes that she was supposed to have been a boy named Carl, but when she came out female, her father simply added a “y” to the name. Carly Simon’s father evidently didn’t mesh that well with his third child. He was the first of many men to disappoint her.
As Simon grew older, her father grew frail. Sidelined by strokes, he was eventually convinced to sell his interest in Simon & Schuster. Carly’s mother, Andrea, fell out of love with her husband and had an affair with a much younger man named Ronny. Starting at age 7, Carly also suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a visiting teenager who had seen porn and wanted to replicate it.
As a teenager, Carly Simon lived in Martha’s Vineyard. James Taylor’s family also had a home there and that was where the two of them met, when they were adolescents. In November 1972, they would marry at City Hall, wearing wedding bands they purchased for $17.95 each, at a Middle Eastern kiosk. The rings weren’t even the ones that had been on sale. Simon had been involved with other men, notably Mick Jagger and Warren Beatty. Taylor had been seeing Joni Mitchell before he hooked up with Carly. But they were destined to be together and make two children, Sally and Ben.
Boys in the Trees is divided into three books. I think Simon was wise to divide the book that way, since her story is not one that necessarily lends itself to seamlessness. The last book is about her marriage to James Taylor, a man she clearly deeply admires and probably still even loves. Sadly, James Taylor was apparently not a very good husband in the 1970s. He had a pretty serious drug and alcohol problem, which Simon references, as well as a penchant for affairs with other women. They were together when their careers were both smoking hot and, though they were able to make beautiful music together, it wasn’t enough to forge a commitment.
Simon writes that things really went to hell in her marriage to James Taylor after she’d become a mother. Suddenly, the children were more important and she could no longer turn a blind eye to Taylor’s dalliances. I got the sense that perhaps James Taylor resented that. In any case, she basically makes James Taylor of the 1970s out to be a selfish ass. Whether or not he still is, I don’t know.
Naturally, whenever I read about another person’s relationship, I wonder a bit about the other sides of the story. And there always are other sides to include the truth. I don’t think Carly Simon is lying about what happened, and she admits to being difficult herself. But naturally, this book skews toward her perspective… not that I think cheating and drug abuse is necessarily acceptable behavior. Simon writes that she still lives in the house they lived in and much of it still bears Taylor’s design marks, some of which were not as inspired as his songwriting.
I think Carly Simon would have made a fine author had she not been a musician. Her writing is elegant and interesting and I enjoyed reading about the many inspirations behind songs I’ve loved for years. When she was married to Taylor, the two collaborated a lot on their albums. It was cool to read about how Carly Simon came up with the ending coda for “Terra Nova”, a gorgeous collaboration on Taylor’s 1977 JT. I well remember the hit song “Jesse” from the early 80s, which she reveals was actually inspired by her son, Ben.
As someone who has experienced anxiety and depression, I appreciated Carly’s revelations about her own issues with panic attacks. She writes about one serious attack she suffered in Pittsburgh back in 1981, when she had to call upon the audience to help her. She writes that she still gets letters from people who were at that concert, many of whom express a great deal of empathy for the situation she was in at the time. Panic and anxiety kept Carly Simon off the public stage for several years.
Curiously, Simon’s book ends basically with her split from Taylor. She doesn’t write about her second marriage to and divorce from poet Jim Hart, although she does mention him in her acknowledgments. She doesn’t write much about her breast cancer battle, nor does she write about how it felt to become a grandmother. But perhaps those stories will come later.
In any case, I really enjoyed Carly Simon’s memoir, Boys in the Trees. I recommend it.
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Happy Labor Day, y’all. We had a really lovely weekend, as the weather was absolutely glorious! I love this time of year, especially in Germany, where the seasons still change. It would have been nice if we could have taken another short trip somewhere, since it was a holiday weekend. But, as I noted in yesterday’s travel post, there’s something to be said for staying home and enjoying what’s local. Yesterday, our sweet Noyzi and Arran got to hang out at one of the many awesome Freibads here in Germany! And then they came home and crashed!
So… let’s get down to business. Once again, I’m struggling not to focus on the grimmest news of the day, which includes the scary resemblance Texas is showing toward Gilead, and people on the left seem to want to cram COVID-19 awareness down our throats. Seriously… I get how serious COVID is. I’ve even been watching some heartbreaking videos on YouTube, showing seriously ill people who have died. It’s important to note that COVID is serious, but we can’t let fear take over our lives. I’m for taking precautions, of course, but some people seem to be pretty obsessed.
On the other hand, some people truly don’t give a shit. Take, for instance, the pregnancy announcement shared by Jed Duggar, and his new bride, Katey Nakatsu Duggar. These two got married in early April, just before big bro Josh got busted by the feds for downloading nefarious photos and videos of underaged children being abused. It’s now early September and Jed and Katey have some big news to share…
Now… I don’t usually watch videos by the Duggar family. I’m watching this one, though, because I wanted a screenshot of the sign they held up. It’s a sign that makes light of COVID-19. Can you read it? It says, “She tested positive, but not for COVID.”
Um… this is the very same kind of pregnancy announcement that was made by Nurie Keller, wife of Josh Duggar’s brother-in-law, Nathan Keller, and daughter of the always tacky Jill Rodrigues. Seriously… why are fundies making light of such a serious issue? What will happen if one, or both of them, or another close family member, gets sick with COVID and winds up dying? Will their future offspring think that sign is cute? I tend to think not…
But at least Nurie and Nathan didn’t include a blow by blow video about how Nurie peed on a stick at Walmart. Or, if they did, I blessedly managed to miss it. Jed and Katey, by contrast, explain in great detail about how both of them needed to take a piss on their way home from Wednesday night church. They stopped by Walmart, bought a pregnancy test, and blessings! Katey got the news while at a discount store, that she’s on the mommy train, as Josh Duggar would put it.
Jed goes… “Whoo hoo!” as Katey tells him of her condition… and they talk about how Jed teared up at Walmart. My father once teared up too, when he went to Walmart. But it was because he was suffering from dementia and got lost. I can’t blame him for that. I haven’t been in a Walmart in probably twenty years, but when I have gone in one, I’ve always had sensory overload.
Anyway, next, the twosome go hunting for a generic wall for them to take pictures of themselves announcing their positive test result, as they hold up their sign assuring everyone that their positive test result is a good thing. How exciting. It amazes me how much importance people in the Duggar family put on announcing their weddings and pregnancies. Especially when most people are working hard to stay afloat. I mean, seriously… they get all dressed up, make a sign, and go looking for a place with an appropriate backdrop, just so they can tell strangers on the Internet that they’ve managed to conceive.
Next, Jed and Katey go to a baseball game with their church, where they’re going to announce their special news to everyone as they eat hot dogs. More “whoo hooing” from Jed. Yippee! You can barely hear the announcement, and Jed and Katey seem slightly disappointed that not everyone heard their news over the loudspeaker.
I will grant that pregnancy is exciting for many people… the ones who actually want to be pregnant, that is, or for whom pregnancy is not physically dangerous. I can tell that Jed and Katey are excited about their new addition, and I hope the pregnancy goes well for them. I also hope they never feel embarrassed about their lighthearted COVID sign, because they’ve lost a friend or family member to the disease. Because I would be very surprised if they and their ilk have been vaccinated, you know… and the Duggars and the rest of the fundies of the world, aren’t exactly known for social distancing or wearing masks.
It’s barely 8:00am today, and I’ve already read two heartbreaking posts by women who had medically necessary abortions. They are bravely sharing their stories with the masses, just as this Duggar couple have. Unlike the tacky signs that allude to “testing positive”, but not for COVID, these women have written eloquent, searing posts about why it’s so important to keep abortion safe and legal for all women. Both of the women whose stories I read were women who wanted their babies, but tragic circumstances intervened.
She was too unhealthy to carry a baby. Pregnancy would have killed her.
Her baby girl had serious birth defects and would not have lived.
Both of these brave women had to endure going to abortion clinics, where they were, by law, forced to listen to information about abortion that was supposed to get them to change their minds. They had to do this, even though both of these women had medical reasons for having abortions. Both had to tolerate being yelled at by protesters, who had absolutely ZERO information about their personal circumstances.
Christy Ransom, author of the first post, wrote that the protesters screamed at her that they could help her keep her baby. But they had no idea, did they? And they had no right to harass her for a very private and personal decision she made to preserve her own life over that of her six week old fetus.
Susanna Roesel was planning a baby shower and celebrating being pregnant when she got the news that something terrible might be wrong with the pregnancy. When she had her abortion, at just under twenty weeks, she had to go in twice, once to be dilated, and once to deliver. Her milk came in. And then, when she got pregnant again, she suffered an early miscarriage.
I shudder to think what is going to happen to women in Texas who encounter situations like Christy’s and Susanna’s. But, at the same time, I get that Jed and Katey are excited to be expecting their new family member. I sincerely do hope it all goes well for them. And I also hope that in the course of the pregnancy, they both grow up a little bit and reconsider joking about COVID as they share their news. I’m sure that if COVID ever hits home for them personally, they’ll have the chance to see why their announcement is in such poor taste.
On the other hand, fundie Christians aren’t known for being insightful, sensitive, or thoughtful towards people who aren’t like them. It often takes something personal to get them to have an understanding… and even then, they say it was God’s will, or something like that. It’s a very convenient way to get out of shouldering responsibility, isn’t it? Just leave it up to God… and do whatever the pastor tells you. No thinking required.
I’m having some trouble getting into the mood to write this morning. I did, however, find this post from October 2018 that I think is pretty interesting. And it has nothing to do with the horrors of the news these days, either. It has to do with the horrors of life… “slogging” along in a job that pays the bills. We’ve all done it. Most of us keep doing it. Why? Because unless we live alone, we have responsibilities to other people. And so, a lot of us are truly “slogging” through life. I have edited this a bit, since things have changed for us since 2018. That makes it more of a “partial repost”. Maybe later, I’ll write something fresh.
The comments on this song are pretty interesting. There were quite a few from men who were offended by the notion that they’re selfish and self-absorbed. Clearly, they aren’t the ones Garfunkel and Oates are singing about, right? Not all men are inattentive to their partners, obsessed with their jobs, and expecting women to wait around for them and follow them as they pursue their dreams. Not all women are being forced to give up their aspirations for their men, either. Hell, in my case, I wound up doing what I’d always wanted to do anyway, albeit not for a real paycheck.
Actually, what really stuck out to me was a comment made by a man who presented the other side of this reality. Behold…
The insinuation being that men don’t sacrifice their dreams to support their family? Maybe not in show business, but sacrifice is very much the norm for the working class (which constitutes the majority of the population). Nobody ever dreamed of working in a coal mine or in sanitation, but millions of people (mostly men) do it on a daily basis to support their family.
Lots of people, including many men, are just “slogging through life”. It’s not just women who give up their dreams for a relationship. Plenty of men do it, too. How many guys do you know had dreams of being in a band or creating art for a living, only to wind up doing a job they hate simply for the money? It takes money to raise a family, run a household, and make the world go around. Not everyone has the talent, luck, or ability to pursue their dreams. That’s true for everyone.
I can’t think of a single person I know who, when they were kids, said they wanted to empty port-a-lets for a living. And yet, you can bet there are people out there who do it, simply for the money it brings. I don’t know too many people who had aspirations of making refrigerator doors for their life’s work. And yet, before Bill got back into the Army full-time, he worked at a Whirlpool factory and supervised men who had been doing just that for over twenty years. They’d show up every day, punch in, and spend their shifts standing on the line, putting three screws into refrigerator doors all day. Then, at the end of the day, they’d clock out, go home, and sleep until it was time to come back and do it all over the next day.
I don’t know anyone who, when they were kids, dreamt of waiting tables for a living, nor have I ever heard of any parents wanting that job for their adult children. And yet, I know several career servers and bartenders. Some of them stay in that work because it sometimes pays better than sitting in a cubicle all day. Some stay because it’s a portable skill. Some truly enjoy the work and find it more stimulating than an office job. Personally, I hope I never have to wait tables again. It wasn’t work I particularly enjoyed. But I might do it again if I had no other choice. I’d rather wait tables than shovel dog shit, which is another job I did back before I became an overeducated housewife.
I think this song probably resonates more with the stereotypical career woman. That’s the woman who went to college, busted her ass in an entry level job, climbed the rungs of success, got promoted, and became unwilling to let that success go, simply for the sake of a relationship or motherhood. Not that I necessarily blame them for doing that. It’s hard work to succeed in the work world. It’s not usually enough to simply be good at what you do. There’s usually a certain amount of social engineering involved and a willingness to kiss up to the right people. That takes a certain kind of person… the kind of person I’m not. So although I am fairly intelligent– or so I’ve been told– and I might have gotten a career going if I’d worked at it, it’s probably a blessing for me that I latched on to Bill. It’s also a miracle that we’re as compatible as we are.
Of course, Bill is also lucky enough to be doing work at which he excels and finds interesting. When he was married to his first wife, she had a vision of what her life was going to be, and she expected Bill to conform to her vision. In the 90s, the Army was downsizing. Bill’s military career, in those days, was not so good. He lacked confidence, and didn’t have the “killer instinct” that is highly prized among some military leaders. Ex also didn’t like the Army dictating to Bill over her, nor did she enjoy having to move all the time. She was not a fan of the “mission first” mantra to which all people in the military and most of their families adhere. She wanted her wants and needs to come first.
So, when Bill had the chance to get out of the Army early, he took it, along with severance pay (that he eventually had to pay back). Then he joined the Army Reserves, and he and Ex moved from Washington State to Arkansas. They bought a money pit of a house that Ex liked, because it reminded her of one she’d once seen in a snow globe. Ex proceeded to then spend money they didn’t have on furniture, carpeting, and landscaping. She said she didn’t want her children growing up in a trashy house or living like poor people, even though they were legitimately poor!
Because the Army Reserves didn’t pay enough to cover all of the bills, Bill also worked in a couple of factories. He did this only for the money. He had looked into becoming a parole officer, which was work he thought he might enjoy, but the money was not enough to support the family. So he worked in a hellish toy factory for awhile, making very little money and doing extremely dull, soul crushing work, simply so his family could eat. He eventually got another, much better paid job at Whirlpool, where he was a supervisor. He hated it; but he did it.
Here Bill was, a guy who had gone to a great private university in Washington, DC and earned a degree in international relations, watching old codgers put refrigerator doors together. It was not the stuff of his dreams. He worked hard during the times when his young daughters were awake, so he didn’t get to see them much. Meanwhile, Ex continued to treat him poorly, and work turned into an escape from his home life.
Bill’s whole existence revolved around that factory job– a boring, soul draining, exhausting position that made it hard for him to properly support the family, let alone ever see the sun. And Bill is very much a morning person, so those swing and third shifts were pretty hard for him. His brain goes down with the sun; that is a fact! I remember seeing a picture of Bill in those days. He was in his early 30s, but he looked at least twenty years older. In fact, he looked older then than he does today, over twenty years later!
Then, an opportunity arose for Bill to go back into the Army with the Arkansas National Guard. He could be in the Title X program, which would mean he’d be a full-time officer, same as he was when he was in the regular Army. He’d just be paid from a different pot and serve at the pleasure of the governor of Arkansas. It was a real blessing for him, because he was finally ready to excel in the Army. Yes, it would mean the regular Army lifestyle, but it beat the ever living hell out of factory work and never having enough money to pay the bills, or enough seniority to score a day shift.
But Bill’s ex wife wasn’t on board with that decision. She was presumably pissed off that the Army would, once again, dictate the course of their lives so much, and give Bill someone else to answer to besides her. She was not willing to let him go back into the Army to do work that was more appropriate for him, yet forced them to move all the time. She wanted instant gratification and total freedom to do what she wanted… although it’s hard to enjoy total freedom of choice when one is broke.
It didn’t matter to Ex that the Army paid more, offered much better benefits and more prestige, and was work that Bill found interesting and fulfilling. Bill’s decision to go back into the military wasn’t what Ex wanted. She resented that he’d made that choice for himself, and wanted him to get back in line. So she tossed out the “d” word.
Ex later admitted she hadn’t wanted the divorce. She had meant for it to be an idle threat. But Bill went off script and agreed when she presented her ultimatum, which also included the false accusation that Bill hates women (I’ve been with him for almost 19 years, and it just ain’t so).
Ex didn’t want to give in and be a good partner, and let Bill’s career disrupt her vision of what her life was supposed to be. She expected him to keep working in that factory, living in podunk Arkansas, strictly so that she could maintain the status quo of that vision she had. Bill realized that he didn’t want to live that way; so, when Ex demanded the divorce, he agreed. She was supposedly shocked, and very upset. She locked herself in the guest room at my in-laws’ house and cried.
Instead of owning up to what was supposed to be an idle threat, Ex was determined to make Bill pay dearly for not doing her bidding. She still thought he’d eventually cave, even after they drove to the notary she’d tracked down who would work on Easter Sunday morning. She truly believed he’d come crawling back to her. She even told him he’d always know where his family is; which, of course, was a lie.
They had their ugly divorce, and then Bill and I found each other. We weathered some difficult years financially, but I’d say our lifestyle is a lot more like what Bill’s dreams were for his own life. I’m relatively contented, too, even if I do worry about someday living in a refrigerator box– perhaps even made for a Whirlpool fridge— under a bridge. Ex, on the other hand, is reportedly still unsatisfied.
I had my own “dreams”, back when I was a lot younger, although to be honest, I’m not sure how they would have worked out for me. I got through my graduate programs just fine, but if I had taken work in those fields, I’d probably truly be “slogging through life”. It would be work I was doing to put a roof over my head. I’d probably be waiting to die.
But then, I probably would have also liked the career I trained for more than shoveling dog shit or waiting tables. Maybe I’d feel better about myself… although if I know myself, I doubt that’s what would have happened. I would always be coveting something else and kicking myself for not following my elusive dreams. My real dream, by the way, is to be a writer and a musician who actually gets paid regularly, not a public health social worker. Right now, I’m fortunate enough to be able to chase my dreams with little hope that they’ll come true… but I also don’t have to slog away in a job I hate just to maintain my existence.
It’s hard for a lot of people to be satisfied, though. Even though I do pretty much get to do whatever I want most days, I still feel a bit unfulfilled. I do sometimes feel like I’m just waiting to be done with this life. Listening to “50/50” and reading the comments reminds me that I’m not alone in this reality. I probably shouldn’t complain.
Edited to add: I played this song for Bill and he immediately got what Garfunkel and Oates were singing about, even before they got to the punchline. Then I shared the comment I quoted in this post and he was about to protest, until I reminded him that many people aren’t lucky enough to pursue their dreams. They’re simply trying to keep the lights on and the fridge full. Often, accomplishing that involves slogging away at a job they don’t enjoy.
So while I get the point of the song and enjoy it– I also realize that it really applies to a relatively small segment of privileged people who had the opportunity to even try to chase their dreams. Many people are not that lucky. That being said, as much as I complain, I do realize that I’m very lucky, and luck can be a fleeting thing.
Here’s a reposted review from Epinions.com. It’s short, which tells me I probably wrote it for their annual “lean n’ mean” challenges. We were supposed to write reviews of less than 500 words to be entered in the monthly sweepstakes. I think I won a couple of those.Anyway, this post was written February 6, 2013 and appears here as/is.
Catherine Graves feared marital infidelity when she noticed a change in her husband, John. The two had been running a business together. Catherine had always been the practical one, while John was more whimsical and easygoing. But then his behavior began to change and Catherine was sure he was cheating on her. Then she wondered if he was dealing with a serious bout of depression. They saw a therapist, who thought maybe John needed time in a rehab facility to find out what was wrong. The couple went to Sierra Tuscon, an inpatient counseling center, where a staffer brought up the possibility that John Graves’ problem was neurological, rather than psychological. When John experienced seizures and was taken to a hospital, his brain tumor was finally discovered.
The doctor who discovered the tumor told Catherine that it was cancerous and putting pressure on his brain. She told Catherine that while John could have treatments that might extend his life, his condition was terminal. John Graves had what is known as Glioblastoma multiforme, a nasty and thankfully rare brain tumor that kills quickly.
In her 2011 book, Checking Out: An In-Depth Book At Losing Your Mind, Catherine Graves explains what it was like to suddenly lose her beloved husband to a personality altering sickness and death. Then, once John died, Catherine began to lose her mind with depression. The aftermath of brain cancer nearly destroyed the author, her children, and John’s children.
I was alerted to Checking Out when I read an online review of it on CNN last year. It took awhile to get around to reading it, and once I did get to it, reading the book didn’t take much time. It’s a short memoir, but packed with raw emotion and eloquence. Graves includes touching revelations from her children, Alex and Caroline, products of another relationship who thought of John Graves as their dad and were devastated to lose him.
As poignant as I think Checking Out is, I thought it was a bit short and could have used more substance. The paperback version is priced at $16.95 and $9.99 on Kindle, which is pretty steep for a book that only takes a few hours to read. On the other hand, this book is a beautifully written tribute from a woman who obviously loved her husband and whose tragic loss almost destroyed her. Her recovery is triumphant and I was particularly moved by the thoughtful passages her children contributed.
Checking Out will move many readers as it did me. I certainly recommend it to those who can bear to read about such a depressing subject as losing one’s beloved spouse. While I wish this book had been a little more substantive, I admit that it’s beautifully written. I think it rates five stars and a box of tissues.
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Yesterday, someone wrote an off topic post on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard. Or, she’d labeled it as OT. Personally, I didn’t think it was an off topic post at all. I’m sure a lot of people who are ex members of the LDS church can relate to the ultimate breach of trust and lack of respect she describes with this post.
I was aware of my husband’s previous marriage. What I didn’t know, until I recently discovered it, is that I’m actually wife #4, not #2, I thought. We discussed previous relationships before we got married, but he referred to them as relationships, not marriages. I also pulled out our marriage license application where you have to declare which marriage this is…he wrote “second”.
When asked why he did this, he replied, “it was along time ago, the marriages were so short, I thought you may not marry me, you didn’t ask”.
I’m really struggling with this. It feels kinda like discovering hidden church stuff all over again.
This lady’s post was up for several hours before someone responded to it. I happened to be that person. My comment to her was this:
I don’t blame you for being upset. I would wonder what else I wasn’t told in that situation. It’s a breach of trust.
I could have written more, but I was on my iPad and it’s a pain to type on the iPad. Also, I really just wanted her to feel heard and validated without having to wade through too much. Her instincts are correct. Her husband lied to her, and that’s a major betrayal. I’m not an ex Mormon, but Bill is. When we met, he claimed to be a devout church believer. However, we met in a place not typically frequented by church types. After awhile, I realized he was trying to convince himself that he was a believer. He wanted to save his first marriage– felt it was his duty to try to save it, even though it was a relationship built on bullshit. Those kinds of relationships pretty much never last.
A couple of hours later, another nevermo regular poster also replied. She agreed with me. Then, came the somewhat inappropriate responses from men. One guy wrote:
“Everyone with the ability to speak ‘edits’ their life story.”
That may be true… but glossing over two previous marriages is a bit extreme, in my view, even if they were super short and “meaningless”. At the very least, it means that her spouse once had little regard for the institution of marriage. He obviously didn’t take it seriously a couple of times in his life. I would have a hard time regaining trust for my husband if it turned out he’d hidden something this significant. I also think it says something when the spouse who lies by omission says something like “I was afraid you wouldn’t marry me if you knew the whole truth about me.” Cover ups are almost always worse than the truth. At least if you tell someone the truth, they have the ability to decide for themselves about the right thing to do .
Consider this. If you’ve been reading this blog for any time, you know that I love my husband with all my heart. This year, we will have been happily married for 19 years. But if I’d relied only on my common sense, I never would have married him. He had a lot of baggage that would have sent a lot of women packing. Here’s a list of his “shortcomings” from those early days, over twenty years ago.
He had bad credit. He and Ex had gone through both a foreclosure and a bankruptcy. After getting to know him, I realized that Bill wasn’t the one with the problem handling money. But if I had been exercising common sense, I wouldn’t have gotten involved with him because of his financial issues.
He was broke. After his divorce, Bill was paying over half his salary to Ex in child support and alimony. It was really tough going for awhile, but I realized it was a time limited issue. And, based on our lifestyle, you can see that I was right.
His ex wife was (and still is) legitimately “crazy”. Those of you who have followed my blogs probably already know how crazy. She has no compunction about making insane demands on people and smearing them to others. She withheld visitation with the kids from Bill and completely alienated them after he married me. I strongly suspect she has a character disorder.
He’d had a vasectomy. Bill is not only my first husband; he’s also the only man I’ve ever been intimate with. I wanted to have children, and he’d already had them with Ex, who then asked him to have a vasectomy. He obliged. However, he was willing to have it reversed for me. That was enough for me, even though I never managed to have children. Now, I realize maybe not having children was a good thing, given how complicated his situation with Ex and their kids has been.
He was involved in a “weird” religion. Not everyone thinks Mormonism is “weird”, but coming from the South, where most people are Protestants, it was certainly different to me. Fortunately, Bill wasn’t that committed to Mormonism, nor did he feel compelled to convert me. If he had, our relationship probably would not have worked. I can tell you right now, I would never willingly be involved in a faith that dictates what undergarments I wear or what beverages I choose to drink. Other people’s mileages vary, of course.
I met him on the Internet in a chat room! I might as well have met him in a bar!
So why has our relationship worked, given all of these “obvious” shortcomings? It’s worked because Bill was completely honest with me. Three months after we started chatting, he sent me a long email explaining everything, even though he worried that I might reject him. Also, he stayed platonic in his conversations with me until he was legally divorced. He even wore his wedding ring until his split was official. We didn’t meet in person until about a year after his divorce was official. Even after the divorce was official, he wasn’t inappropriate with me. I realized that he was a decent, honest person and I could trust him. He also eventually learned that he could trust me, despite what he’d been through in his first marriage.
It took about five years before Bill completely trusted me with finances. He finally gave me access to his bank account when he deployed to Iraq and I had to handle the household bills. While he was gone, I made a point of paying off all of the horrible, high interest credit cards he had because he’d trusted his ex wife to pay the bills and she hadn’t. A year later, USAA, which had taken a loss in his bankruptcy, granted him a new credit card. PenFed let him refinance a car loan, saving us hundreds of dollars. He’s never missed paying a bill the whole time we’ve been together. He now has an excellent credit score.
When Bill goes on business trips, he is incredibly reliable about contacting me. In fact, it’s almost annoying… I’ll be watching a movie or something and he’ll want to chat. But I appreciate it, because I know he’s thinking of me and is faithful. I don’t worry about him fucking around when he goes TDY. He is extremely respectful and faithful, and I knew he was when he was still married to his ex wife. Meanwhile, she was shacking up with her now third husband in the house Bill was paying for and she later let go into foreclosure. I was certain he was trustworthy when I met him, and so far, he’s proven me right.
Over the years, Bill has been incredibly brave about telling me pretty much everything about his life, even some things that are completely embarrassing and potentially humiliating. And he has had quite a life… and a lot of weird stuff has happened to him. He could write a book. Every day, I’m amazed at how balanced, reliable, and decent he is, despite everything that has happened in his past. He could have chosen not to tell me about the embarrassing things in his past and risked being rejected by me. But, it turns out I was willing to trust my instincts, rather than common sense. I knew he was the best kind of person, and I was right. It would devastate me if he’d hidden something as major as prior marriages, no matter how short. It would mean he didn’t trust me, and that would make me wonder if I should be trusting him.
I don’t think strong relationships start with deception, either outright untruths or lies by omission. When I married Bill, I was taking on a new relative. That means he’s family… family I CHOSE. I wouldn’t voluntarily choose to make someone a family member if he didn’t trust me enough to tell me the whole truth about who he is. Likewise, I would expect my partner to know everything there is to know about me. But I also realize that I have been extremely lucky. Bill is an honest person who doesn’t hide skeletons in the closet. I am also an honest person. We told each other the truth. A person who can’t handle hearing the whole truth about serious issues before agreeing to marriage is probably not the best candidate to be husband or wife.
Now… it’s true that I do believe in being completely honest about the major things, like prior marriages, criminal history, health situations, and finances. But that doesn’t mean I think it’s always a good thing to be completely honest about everything. Like, for instance, if Bill thinks my ass looks especially dumpy one day, he doesn’t have to be honest about that and tell me so! That would hurt my feelings unnecessarily, especially since there’s nothing I can immediately do about having a dumpy ass. Fortunately, he’s not the type of guy who is overly hung up on looks. 😉
But yes… if I found out that I was wife #4, rather than wife #2, I would be very hurt and feel betrayed. I think it would be difficult to trust a partner who hid something major like that from me. And I would not think too highly of someone who tried to brush it off by saying the marriages were short or insignificant and, therefore, unworthy of being mentioned. Marriage, to me, is a huge deal. The fact that someone got married twice, but doesn’t see them as significant is a huge red flag, in my opinion. I have a lot of empathy for the lady on RfM who is making this discovery now. I wish her luck and strength. She might even feel like she doesn’t even know this man anymore.
At least at this point, Bill and I are a team. We work together to achieve common goals. He supports what I do, and I support what he does. We trust each other, and, for the most part, we’re completely honest. We don’t hide things. Like… I can say whatever is on my mind and, for the most part, Bill doesn’t judge me for them. The same goes for Bill. Because I think we both know that neither of us wants the other person to be hurt. That being said, though, I also think I hit the husband lottery. Bill is an unusually mature and respectful person. Most people aren’t like him, including myself. I never forget that, and I try not to abuse it.
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