family, LDS, love, marriage

Discovering you’re wife #4…

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 .

I’m interested in the whole story… even the ugly parts. Sometimes, the ugly parts make the story more compelling.

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.

A good example of times when honesty is NOT the best policy…

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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Ex

And I thank you…

This morning, I’m listening to vintage Bonnie Raitt. In my enormous CD collection, most of which is in storage in Texas, I own a copy of Bonnie’s 1979 album, The Glow. I was 7 years old in 1979 and didn’t become acquainted with Bonnie’s genius until I was a lot older. She really got popular when I was in college with songs like “Nick of Time” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me”. But thanks to my work at the campus radio station, I became familiar with her “greatest hits” compilation, Classics. That’s where I got an inkling of what a versatile artist she is. I discovered that I appreciated her bluesy stuff even more than her pop hits. I became a fan. So one day, when I saw The Glow on sale at my favorite CD shop, I bought it.

That album had Bonnie’s funky cover of the song, “I Thank You”, a number that has been done by many, many different artists, from Sam & Dave to ZZ Top. I was most familiar with ZZ Top’s version of the song, but I recognized it when Bonnie sang it. I had that song in mind this morning as I sat down to write this post. But as I was looking for a good video, I stumbled across another song by Bonnie called “Thank You”. It appeared on her 1971 self-titled album. After listening to the lyrics, I decided that it was a more appropriate choice for this post. “I Thank You” has romantic overtones, but “Thank You” is just about pure love and gratitude. And that’s what today’s post is about.

Sittin’ here thinking, baby, about you
I’m wonderin’ how I ever got through my life without you
Days passed me by and left my life somewhere behind
Games I was trying left me old before my time
You came into my life almost like you knew
The time was running out I came running home with you
You taught me how to love you
You helped me to believe
You could even love me
I was all you’d ever need
Sometimes when you’re sleepin’
I wonder if its true
I’m afraid they’ll come and take away this precious dream with you
Then you wake and hold me and love me through the night
Then I’ll know that somehow everything will be alright
Thank you baby, for giving me my life
I love you honey, you’ve given me my life
Thank you baby, for giving me my life

Bill came home last night. He was exhausted after many hours of travel that started Monday morning. He boarded a plane in Salt Lake City and flew to Las Vegas. After hanging out in the airport all day, he got on another flight from Vegas to London. That took eleven or twelve hours. Then finally, on Tuesday evening, he boarded another flight from London to Frankfurt. How he was still conscious last night, I’ll never know. I’m glad he took a taxi home.

Arran was delighted to see him. All week, he’s been waiting for his favorite person to come home. There were a couple of nights at about five o’clock, he’d patiently wait in the foyer for Bill. He was disappointed when Bill didn’t show up. When Bill finally walked through the door at about eleven o’clock last night, Arran joyfully ran down the steps to welcome him home. I was delighted to see Bill, too. We enjoyed a long hug and he cried a little. He’s been crying a lot over the past few days.

A few weeks ago, when Bill told me he had to go to Vegas on business, I suggested that he try to go see his younger daughter. They’ve been Skyping for the past three years, but Saturday morning was the first time he’d seen her in the flesh since 2004. I hate it when he goes on TDYs, especially when they’re in a different time zone. I definitely didn’t want to extend Bill’s time away, but I figured it was a great opportunity for him to finally see his daughter in person. It’s not so hard to reach Utah from Nevada.

Bill’s daughter had initially wanted us all to meet up for a holiday visit, but I knew that they needed to have some time together alone, because they had a lot to talk about… stuff that doesn’t involve me. I also thought it would be better if they did it on a regular day, rather than a holiday. Holidays often prompt high expectations that are rarely met. I didn’t want a holiday to be ruined if their meeting didn’t go well. Also, I wasn’t in Bill’s life for the first six years of younger daughter’s life, and though I’ve heard a whole lot of stories from Bill’s perspective, I didn’t know anything about younger daughter’s. I’ve also never met Ex in person, so I have a limited perspective of what she’s really like. What I know about her is reason enough to stay clear of her. Bill and his daughter needed to be able to clear the air without interference from anyone else. Younger daughter’s husband was great about that. He took care of the kids so that Bill and his daughter could bond.

Bill described the meeting. He knocked on the door and she opened it… and they hugged for a really long time. He said it felt like a little girl who was missing her daddy… and there was no awkwardness. As he was describing their first looks at each other, I was reminded of the day I met Bill for the first time. The circumstances were eerily similar. We’d been chatting online for about 18 months. He came to the city where I was studying– again, on business. Knocked on the door. I opened the door and after reaffirming that I was indeed a woman, he gave me a warm, secure hug. (Hey, it was the early days of the Internet and we’d only exchanged a couple of pictures…)

Last night, Bill gave me a thank you note that his daughter wrote to me. It was just two lines. She thanked me for being so good to her dad and added that she could see that he’s happy. And she wrote that she knew I’d helped him. After I read it, I was deeply moved. Then I remembered that Bill gave me a thank you note after our first date. She’s definitely his kid. She’s kind, thoughtful, and extremely empathetic… rare and precious qualities that she shares with her dad.

I remember in May 2001, when we met in person for the first time, Bill and I enjoyed a couple of dates. He stayed in a hotel room and we went out to dinner one night, then had a picnic the next day. In those days, Bill was really broke and couldn’t afford to wine and dine me. He was also a practicing Mormon, but didn’t mind that I wasn’t and wouldn’t be. We drove around Columbia, South Carolina and I showed him where I worked and where I attended classes. At the end of our visit, he handed me the thank you note and said, “It’s going to be so hard to go back to typing on the computer.”

At the time, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about him. I was very inexperienced with men and up to my ass in academics. Over time, it became obvious that I was in love with him. Then he moved from Leavenworth, Kansas to an assignment at the Pentagon. It was about a month before 9/11. Labor Day weekend that year, I invited Bill to come down to Natural Bridge, Virginia. He came down– again, stayed in a hotel– and we visited beautiful Goshen Pass and he met my grandmother, then 95 years old. When he left to go back to work at the Pentagon, Granny advised me to marry him. Then, a week later, 9/11 happened… and Bill was there for it. After that, we decided we needed to tell people we were together. We were engaged a few months later.

When Bill told his ex wife he was going to propose to me, she said, “Well, I guess now I can tell my boyfriend we can get married. He’s asked three times.” Two months later, she was remarried. Two months after that, she was pregnant, and doing her best to break Bill’s ties with his children. Ex also told her kids that Bill had cheated on her with me… even though she had moved her boyfriend into the house that Bill was paying for… and she and Bill were still married. As time went on, the girls became more and more alienated. For a few years, Bill’s ex stepson spoke to him, but that turned out to be more about money than anything else. We worried that the girls would be like their brother– although in fairness to him, he seems to have matured and turned his life around. Maybe someday he’ll reconnect, too.

We really thought the kids would never speak to him again. Younger daughter, especially, was hateful… or, at least seemed to be hateful. After awhile, I got tired of hoping for what seemed to be an impossible happy ending, and I hardened. I didn’t think I’d ever see the day that Bill would reunite with his daughters, and I gave up on the idea. I got angry when younger daughter inadvertently intruded during our much anticipated 14th wedding anniversary celebration in Ireland. Bill had checked Facebook, and she turned up as a “person he might know”. I will never forget the look of shock and grief on his face when he saw his daughter listed as “someone he might know”. I really resented it, because the last we’d heard from her, was basically a Mormon version of “fuck you”. It was, yet again, another intrusion during a special event from people who supposedly hated Bill. I knew he didn’t deserve their hatred and disrespect, and I refused to tolerate it. I just wanted them all to go away, once and for all, and leave us alone.

A few months later, Bill’s dad and stepmother lost their dog to old age. Younger daughter expressed condolences on Facebook. Bill tentatively greeted her. They started chatting and emailing. I was suspicious at first. I worried that she’d be like her mother. All indications before then were that she was like her. We’d already been through so much pain… and Bill had agonized so much for so many years. I simply wanted it to end.

Last night, I told Bill that life with his ex wife must be like an especially sick version of Three’s Company, where everyone operates on the basis of a misunderstanding. She spins everything, triangulates, and makes it impossible for anyone to compare notes and know what’s really going on. It may seem cold of me, but I got to the point at which I just didn’t want to play the game anymore. I have my own baggage stemming from my upbringing, and this was a lot to deal with. So I just gave up hope of connecting with Bill’s daughters out of self-preservation. It was easier for me, since I was never allowed to have a relationship with them.

Fortunately, I was wrong about younger daughter. Turns out, she’s Bill’s kid through and through. She eventually realized that her mother is toxic and, at age 18, was more than ready to move out of her mother’s house. She noticed how many times her mother and grandmother had married… and how utterly screwed up their lives were. And, with surprising courage and resilience, and a lot of help from Mormons, younger daughter moved to Utah and started college. She arrived there with nothing, because Ex would not make it easy for her. In fact… it was much like it was for Bill in 1999, when he and his ex wife split. He left with the clothes on his back. So it was for younger daughter. And, like it was for Bill, she felt a lot better once she was out of that environment, even though she had no money or help from her parents.

Bill discovered that younger daughter had wanted to reconnect with him for years, but she was terrified that he would reject her. Likewise, Bill had been reading younger daughter’s blog and wanted to comment, but was afraid he’d be blocked. Indeed, Ex apparently found out Bill was reading and shut the blog down for awhile. Ex was afraid Bill would try to “steal” his daughters from her. Ex thinks of her children as possessions that can be “stolen”, rather than their own people. She had a similar reaction when younger daughter met her husband. She tried very hard to break them up. This is what happens to anyone in Ex’s sphere. She has to control everything.

I password protected my initial reactions to what Bill discovered during his visit because as visceral and raw as some of my posts have been about this situation, I was even angrier about things that came to light over the weekend. And, because I now have great respect for younger daughter, I didn’t want those very personal and profane words out in the open where her mother could read them. I know she’s read my blogs. I don’t really care if she knows that I think she’s a massive cunt. That’s a given. But I don’t feel that way about younger daughter… and also, I didn’t want to field commentary from those who don’t know the situation and want to blame this whole thing on me. I’ll admit, I’m not always likable and I am far from perfect, but this situation is entirely on Ex. I’ll take ownership of things that are my fault. I have only met Bill’s daughters once, and though I have kept my distance, I have never discouraged him from seeing or talking to them. That’s not my place.

I don’t know Bill’s daughters. I wanted to know them, but they were very convincing when they sent letters disowning him. We had a feeling the letters he received in 2006 were coached, but they were coupled with the way the girls behaved the last time Bill saw them in person. During that visit in 2004, younger daughter would barely look at Bill, let alone speak to him. So we believed her when she wrote that she didn’t care about him and that she preferred her stepfather– her “everyday daddy”– to be her dad. It’s now very clear that the whole thing was bullshit entirely orchestrated by her paranoid and selfish mother.

Bill came home emotionally and physically exhausted… but I think, overall, his visit to Utah was life changing. I’m glad I encouraged him to visit his child… and meet his adorable grandchildren. His grandson looks a lot like him. And… I have to say, I was feeling pretty good about everything, but when Bill handed me that two sentence thank you note from his daughter, it was as if the last seventeen years of pain regarding their situation just melted away. It’s amazing how little it takes to forgive someone when you know they are sincere. I know younger daughter is sincere. It makes me feel so good to know that Bill has passed on his goodness to another generation.

I was so wrong about younger daughter. I’m really glad I was. I hope now we can get to know each other. And now that I know a little bit more about the whole situation– including that of older daughter’s– I have a lot more empathy and respect for them.

I know some people have felt I was overly harsh regarding this situation. I know I was. But you have to understand the person we were up against. I have never met anyone as cruel, destructive, selfish, and ultimately stupid, as Bill’s ex wife is. We simply didn’t know if her daughters were going to be like her, or if they were going to be like their real father. I’m relieved to know that Bill imprinted them more than we knew… and despite what Ex has said, they never forgot him. And, for that, I am thankful. I’m glad we stuck it out and Bill trusted his daughter more than I did. But that’s only natural, because he knows them and I don’t. Maybe someday, we can change that.

Incidentally, it occurs to me that today is Ex’s birthday. I’m glad this year, her daughter gave herself a present by finally seeing her dad.

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love, marriage, modern problems, musings

Half boiled eggs…

This morning, before he went to work, Bill and I were talking about an article I discovered this morning. Someone had found several letters from advice columnists like Dear Abby and Carolyn Hax, as well as sites like Reddit, and aggregated them into a single article. Three of the five profiled letters stuck out to me. Each of the three letters that captured my attention were about the so-called importance of image, which is a recurring issue in my life.

Bill and I have both had to deal with image obsessed people. My late father, for instance, often conveyed that he was ashamed of me. On multiple occasions, he criticized me for not being more like my eldest sister. He had problems with everything from how I laugh, to how I look, to the fact that I hadn’t achieved enough success in life. Even the things I did well, like music and writing, were sources of shame or envy for him. He made it clear that he thought the image I projected reflected poorly on him. Yes, it was upsetting and offensive to hear one of the two people responsible for my very existence constantly telling me about how I hadn’t measured up to his expectations. It was depressing, and I knew that even if I did start doing things to appease him, it would never be enough.

I eventually told him that his issues with how I turned out were his problem and he needed to get over it. I am certainly not a perfect person by any means, but I’ve done plenty of things that should have made him very proud of me. When I pointed this out to him, he was shocked and probably very embarrassed. He backed off. Unfortunately, a year later, he slid into dementia and spent the next few years dying a slow death.

Bill, likewise, had many issues meeting his ex wife’s expectations. Because of the traumatic way she grew up, she felt she should be living an idyllic existence. She wanted a small town life in a cute little house with a picket fence. She wanted new cars, new furniture, and attractive landscaping. She was only interested in her image, and making it look to others that she was somebody special. Unfortunately, she didn’t spend much time working on the internal structures of her life– the things that actually supported her existence. Her focus was all about the external and what other people thought… not what the people involved in the relationship thought. Their relationship failed.

All of the advice seekers in the article we were discussing had what one might call “first world problems”, but the ones that really stuck out to me were about people who wanted other people to change for them. The core issue was mostly about image, and how the perceived importance of image causes relationship problems. Bill said “It’s like a raw egg versus a boiled egg. On the surface, a half boiled egg looks as perfect as a boiled egg does. But when you crack beneath the surface, there’s a gooey, uncooked mess.”

Letter #1

The first person’s letter was written by a woman in her 60s who claimed that men never appreciated her for her mind. They only seemed interested in her looks. She claimed to look at least twenty years younger than her age and was tired of people thinking she was just a pretty face. Dear Abby told her that she should appreciate what she has, since so many people would like to be considered “beautiful” when they’re in their 60s.

I could kind of see the letter writer’s point. I was never a “hottie” myself, so the vast majority of men who are my friends are friends because they value something in me other than my looks. Most of them seem to think I’m smart or funny or talented. They don’t just talk to me because I have big boobs or a nice ass… And while there have been times when I wished men found me more physically attractive, I can also state without hesitation that women who are only valued for their looks don’t have it so easy. It is a legitimate problem.

I’m reminded of an incident I once wrote about in my old blog. Back in the late 1990s, I was in my 20s and working at a very stressful restaurant. I hated the job, but I made pretty good money and some friends. Because the job was very physical and I often worked long hours without eating, I lost a significant amount of weight without trying. Back then, I looked pretty good, even though I was also constantly sick. Of course, it was all relative. Even though I’d lost about 35 pounds, had a new wardrobe, and had started getting my hair done, some people still didn’t think I was all that cute.

One night after work, a bunch of my work colleagues showed up at a local bar at the same time I was there. One friend, a very attractive young woman a few years younger than me, was dancing to Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle”.

I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around. There was a young guy standing there. He said, “Hey, are you with her?” gesturing at my gyrating blonde friend.

“Excuse me?” was my response.

“That girl over there. Is she your friend? And is she here with anyone?” he repeated.

I don’t remember what I said. Obviously, he had spotted her across the room, appreciated her rhythmic movements, hot body, and pretty face, and decided to make a move. However, instead of speaking to her directly, like a real man, he’d decided to speak to her less threatening “fat friend”, to see if it was worth his while. I remember thinking he was an asshole because his message to me was, “I don’t think you’re cute, but your friend is hot. I’d like to meet her and then…”

And then what, Junior? Do you just want to “talk”? Or did you have something else in mind?

At first, I will admit that I was merely insulted by the guy’s tone deaf query. But then, years later, reflecting anew on that incident, it occurs to me that maybe I was the lucky one. Because I don’t think I would enjoy having to deal with randy guys hitting on me all the time simply because they liked what they saw. To be clear, as a female, I have certainly been hit on before. Most women have had that experience. It’s generally not a compliment when some guy who doesn’t know me at all makes it plain that he’s just looking to hook up because he’s horny. Most of the ones who hit on me were not very appealing anyway. Women like my friend probably have to put up with that kind of shit all the time. Relationships built on the external are usually flimsy, at best. They often end in heartbreak.

Maybe some women enjoy being able to charm men with a cute figure and a pretty face, but I don’t think I’d want to be valued simply because of the way I look. I’d much rather someone like me because they think I’m funny, talented, or intelligent. I’d much rather be respected for what’s on the inside, especially since looks often fade. Most of the men in my life are there because I bring something to the table besides big boobs and a dazzling smile. So I can see why the first letter writer was having issues with being called “beautiful” all the time, even if her complaint comes across as obnoxious to some.

Letter #2

The next letter was written by a guy who had taken his girlfriend of three years to Vietnam and Cambodia. They’d spent an amazing two weeks hiking, visiting spiritual places, eating good food, and enjoying themselves. One night, when they were in their hotel room, the guy pulled out an engagement ring and proposed. His girlfriend accepted the marriage proposal, then hit the shower.

When she came out of the shower, the guy’s girlfriend was in tears. She gave the ring back to her beau and said that she was disappointed in how he’d proposed to her. She had pictured a more dramatic proposal, one that didn’t take place in a hotel room. She encouraged him to propose again, somewhere more “suitable”.

My first reaction to that letter was, “Run!” And sure enough, the letter writer, who was crushed by his girlfriend’s shallowness, was considering breaking up with her. He wanted to know if he was being unreasonable. My thought is that if you’ve gone from wanting to spend the rest of your life with someone, to considering breaking up with her over her disappointment regarding a marriage proposal, your relationship is in deep trouble. You shouldn’t consider getting married to someone with whom you are considering breaking up, especially if it’s because she’s “disappointed”.

Girlfriend threw up a major red flag when the proposal wasn’t “good enough” for her. I have a feeling that a marriage to her would mean years of his never quite measuring up and her constant dissatisfaction and disappointment. I was reminded of a story Bill told me about his ex. They were at a gas station and she’d asked him to get her a drink. He went into the store and bought her a bottle of Dr. Pepper. She said something along the lines of, “If you really loved me, you’d know I wanted a fountain drink.” Their marriage was full of these kinds of situations, where she’d demand something and it wasn’t enough, wasn’t done right, or didn’t project the image she’d had in her mind. She was never happy, and before long, neither was Bill. And if you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know how their story ended.

I think the second letter writer’s hesitation in a marriage proposal “do-over” is another red flag. If he married his girlfriend, there would almost definitely be a divorce in the future. Think about it. A marriage proposal is supposed to be a very happy occasion. Ultimately, it’s not the proposal or the wedding that makes a marriage work. It shouldn’t matter where the question was popped… and I don’t think doing the proposal over in front of a waterfall or next to a holy temple is going to erase the memory of her reaction to his first proposal. I think it would be a thorn in their sides for the rest of their time together. Divorce is messy and expensive, especially when children are involved. So, I hope he did follow his instincts and dump her, so they could both find partners who are more suitable.

Letter #3

Finally, there was a letter from a guy who was dating a very beautiful, funny, intelligent woman with whom he wanted to have babies. The trouble was, he was ashamed of her because of her weight. She was too fat for him, and because of that, he had avoided introducing her to family and friends. However, he “loved” her and would be heartbroken to lose her… and, of course, he was “concerned” about her health.

As I was reading that letter, I inwardly groaned. Here’s a guy who wants to “fix” someone. She’s too fat for him, and he sees her problem as something she should be willing to overcome. If she’d just lose weight, she’d be just “perfect”. I can just hear him now saying, “If you loved me, you’d lose weight.” But what happens when something happens and she gets heavy again? Will he still love her if she loses weight, but then regains it? Or will she be on a tightrope the whole time they’re together?

Well… that just sucks. As someone who has heard many insulting comments about my body, I can honestly state that I would much rather be alone than be married to some guy who obsesses over my looks. I know being overweight is considered unhealthy, although I doubt there are many people who are, in fact, in perfect health. If you’re not a healthcare professional with intimate and current knowledge of another person’s stats, you aren’t really in a place to judge their health. You can assume someone who is “fat” is unhealthy, but in most cases, you really don’t know for sure, and it’s beyond offensive to make that assumption.

I’m not saying that people in relationships should not encourage healthy habits in their mates. If girlfriend wants to lose weight, he should encourage and help her within reason. His first concern should be for her health and happiness. If he’s not attracted to her the way she is, the relationship is probably doomed. Plenty of people lose weight and put it right back on, along with more. She could lose fifty pounds for their wedding, get pregnant, have health issues, and put it all back on and never lose it. Would he still love her then? Or, she could lose weight and decide he’s not good enough for her. I’ve even heard of people who thought they didn’t like their partner’s weight realize that after weight loss, it wasn’t the weight that was the real issue in their relationship.

Someone who utters the phrase “if you really loved me” is probably going to eventually end up in divorce court. Again, divorce is expensive, messy, and heartbreaking. So I hope the letter writer in this case broke up with his girlfriend who doesn’t “measure up” to his preferences and found someone more to his liking. However, I have a feeling that he’s a fixer and would find something to dislike in a thinner person, too. Fixers usually have their own issues that they haven’t worked on, so they focus on the flaws of other people. Thinner gal would probably have crooked teeth or crossed eyes or something that he’d want her to fix for him… if she really loved him, that is.

I feel very lucky that Bill and I accept each other for who we are. Sometimes I’m a cranky bitch who complains too much. I have issues with anxiety, and a tendency to look on the dark side of things. I don’t wear makeup every day, fix my hair, or sometimes even get dressed. I could stand to lose weight, and a new haircut would probably do wonders for my appearance. I definitely have my problems, and could make many improvements and changes.

Bill is, likewise, a fantastic spouse, but sometimes he’s too eager to fix everything and please other people. He’ll bend over backwards for others, even when they don’t appreciate or acknowledge it. Being so eager to please gets him into trouble, because he often doesn’t speak up until things have really gotten bad. Then, instead of a little mess to clean up, there’s a much bigger mess.

Bill sometimes does little things that irritate me. For instance, he has a habit of repeating things I say right after I say them. I’ll add something to a story and he’ll repeat what I just said, as if I’d never said it. It’s annoying when he does it in front of just me, but hurtful when he does it in front of other people, because it implies that the other person didn’t hear me and needs him to speak for me. I ‘ve told him about this, explaining that I know that he doesn’t do it on purpose. He knows why I get upset this way, too. It’s because my whole life, people have discounted me, ignored me, or told me I either didn’t matter or wasn’t good enough. I know that’s not how he feels about me, but sometimes that’s how it feels to me– that yet another person doesn’t think I can speak for myself.

Fortunately, we can talk about these things. And even when talking about our issues and idiosyncrasies leads to one or both of us getting upset, it doesn’t kill the love or appreciation we have for each other. We acknowledge that neither of us is perfect, and never will be. What’s most important isn’t the perfect image of a smooth, oval, chicken egg… it’s what’s beneath the surface that counts. Is it a gooey, uncooked mess? Or is it carefully cooked, easily peeled, and waiting for a dash of salt?

I don’t think it’s a good idea to start off a marriage with residual disappointment or with the idea that the other person is a “project” who needs to be improved or changed. Look beyond the external image and consider whether or not that person is someone with whom you are compatible. Bill loves me despite my flaws, because I make him laugh and find fun stuff for us to do together. We’re very compatible, and enjoy each other’s company. We empathize with each other and are each other’s best friend. I think that’s what’s important. If you don’t have that basic compatibility with a significant other, and you can’t love them for who they are, it may be better to be alone.

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anniversary

Oh… how we danced on the night we were wed!

Uh… actually, we didn’t do much dancing on November 16, 2002. I think we danced once, mainly because Bill doesn’t dance and I was wearing a big white dress that didn’t lend itself to moving around. And we didn’t do any horizontal dancing, either, because we were both too tired and I was being visited by Aunt Flow. She showed up right after the ceremony, right on schedule. So there wasn’t any dancing and, in fact, our wedding was fraught with tensions ranging from dealing with the obnoxious caterer, the irritating florist, my organist mom getting pissed off that the organist kept messing up hymns during our rehearsal, my father-in-law fainting right before we said our vows, and our photographer going into combat mode and taking pictures of the whole thing… It was probably the worst day of our marriage so far. 😉

The night before our wedding, Bill was very nervous. His mom tried to comfort him by saying, “Don’t worry, Bill. No one ever died at the altar.” Imagine Bill’s horror when, just as we were about to say our vows, Bill’s father starts to collapse. It turned out he’d locked his knees, trying to emulate the soldiers in their uniforms, and that caused him to faint. He was revived and we said our vows, but the first thing Bill thought of as his dad was having his sinking spell was that his dad was going to die at the altar at Virginia Military Institute, right in front of the huge mural of the Battle of New Market.

And then, we weren’t officially married until about two weeks after the wedding, because the court clerk of Rockbridge County misplaced our marriage license and wouldn’t cooperate with us in trying to find it. I’ve already written the story about that, and how Bill had to use his powers of persuasion to get that mess sorted out. We have definitely had our challenges since that rainy day in November 2002.

Despite the issues we faced at the wedding, it was still a wonderful day. My former boss, then a Presbyterian minister, was the officiant. We had beautiful music, including “Highland Cathedral”, and several other gorgeous hymns. My friend, Robert, a gifted pastry chef, made our cake for us. We got some lovely photos and no one said or did anything embarrassing or illegal. All in all, it was a successful day regardless. And the good news is, things have gotten even better as time has passed.

Hard to believe I walked down the aisle to this majestic piece 17 years ago… we had a piper and an organist and it was beautiful. Maybe not as beautiful as this rendition… but it kicked some ass.

Today, we’ve been married for 17 years. They’ve all been good years, despite everything that has happened. Look at everything we’ve weathered! Here’s a list:

  • Nine moves, twice to Germany and once within Germany
  • Bill’s narcissistic ex wife and her smear campaigns
  • Shunning from his daughters and ex stepson
  • Multiple job changes
  • My prolonged unemployment and subsequent early retirement from the career for which I spent three years and many thousands of dollars in training
  • Manipulative family drama from my family
  • Manipulative family drama from his family
  • Deployment and extended TDYs
  • War
  • Military retirement
  • My father’s death
  • My mother’s breast cancer
  • Bill’s financial recovery from his first marriage, to include bankruptcy and foreclosure
  • My student loans
  • Facebook
  • Bad living situations
  • Tyrannical and intrusive landlords (and there have been a couple)
  • Abusive boss in a war zone
  • Infertility
  • Extreme child support payments
  • Bill’s decision to leave Mormonism
  • Health scares
  • Co-dependency
  • My depression and anxiety
  • Losing four rescue dogs to diseases

I’m sure I can think of more items to add to this already impressive list of the challenges we’ve faced. It’s more fun to think of our victories, though. Here’s a list:

  • Exploring life in five states and Germany
  • Visiting more countries than I can count
  • Mom has been cancer free since 2014
  • Bill reuniting with one of his daughters and meeting his grandchildren and son-in-law on Skype
  • Finally being completely left alone by Bill’s ex
  • Multiple job successes
  • Bill earning two master’s degrees
  • Paying off my student loans for my three degrees
  • My writing and music career, which some people appreciate and for which I have earned some actual money
  • Deciding to distance ourselves from family dramas on both sides
  • Confronting people who are abusive and taking legal action when necessary
  • Full financial recovery so that Bill’s credit score is now as good as mine is
  • Better living situations
  • Military retirement
  • Church free Sundays
  • Ending child support
  • Realizing that not having children isn’t the end of the world
  • Being basically healthy– neither of us has been hospitalized yet
  • Being more assertive instead of resorting to ineffective behaviors
  • Surviving war… and not having PTSD
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder… TDYs and deployments can be blessings
  • Realizing that Facebook isn’t the end all, be all
  • Realizing that my dad and other relatives who have passed on are no longer in pain or suffering
  • Most of the time, I’m not depressed or anxious and I no longer require medication
  • Adopting five awesome dogs and making a commitment to keep giving a loving home to dogs who need them
  • Working hard to eliminate and minimize debts
  • Bill’s work being recognized and appreciated, and getting to live in Germany, which despite everything, is a great place to live.

We have had our share of trials, but I can truly say that as much as I loved Bill on our wedding day, I love him so much more seventeen years later. He is a wonderful, kind-hearted, decent, responsible, intelligent, honorable man, who loves and cares for me like no other. I will always be eternally grateful that we found each other and decided to share our lives. I think it would be very difficult for me to find another man who understands and appreciates me as much as Bill does. Not everyone can take my personality, my sense of humor, or my very distinctive, cackling laugh.

Bwahahahaha! This was just one of the challenges of our wedding day. And yes, we had rain, too! Guess it was good luck!

As I was writing the above lists, I suddenly remembered that day in early August 2007. Bill had been in Iraq for six months, working as a deputy for a very abusive boss who was later very publicly fired from the Army. Although Bill was never in much physical danger when he was downrange, he had a boss who enjoyed abusing him and others who worked with them. It was probably the longest six months of Bill’s life.

I spent those months alone with our two dogs in a brand new house at Fort Belvoir. Although I missed Bill terribly, I took care of myself and the dogs, and started to prepare us for our first move to Germany. Bill got a temporary bump in pay, so I took the opportunity to start paying off debts. I paid off his credit cards and bumped up my student loan payments by $20. I remember thinking we’d never get beyond those debts. Hell, even five years ago, I still owed $40,000 on my student loans. As of last year, they’re gone.

And then there was that day in August when Bill came home from war. I drove to Ronald Reagan International Airport in Washington, DC– otherwise known as National– to wait for him to emerge. There was Bill in his uniform, a look of sheer delight on his face when he saw me. His boss walked ahead of me to greet his family and Bill came charging toward me and enveloped me in a tight hug that almost knocked me over. It was a true movie moment. People were standing around us, watching the reunion. We went home, where I had decorated the house with streamers and balloons, and baked him his favorite chocolate cake… and we spent several days making up for all of the sex we didn’t have while he was gone. Six weeks later, we moved to Germany, where things continued to improve.

The first five years of our marriage were tough, especially financially… but things got a lot easier after Bill went to war. That was when we were finally able to get ahead financially. Moving to Germany also helped, since we got extra money there, and I was making some money from writing. By the time we left Germany in 2009, two of the three kids for whom Bill was paying child support aged out. And two years after that, number three turned 18 and refused to speak to Bill, so we reclaimed her share of the money, too. We started being able to take nice vacations, put money in savings, retire debts, and invest for our future together. Through it all, we loved and trusted each other. Even when we were broke, we were happy just being together. Now that we’re no longer broke, we’re still happy and thriving.

Considering how and where we met, and everything that seemed to be against us, it’s crazy to think we’ve survived everything for so long. In fact, I’m sure a lot of people were certain we’d wind up divorced. But it’s all working out beautifully… so much so that I’ve adopted Keb’ Mo’s lovely song “Life is Beautiful” as our theme. Because it just keeps getting better… despite everything.

I have got to see this man play live. Fortunately, he’ll be in Europe again soon.
My best selfie partner.

Well… here’s to 17 great years with the best husband (for me, at least) ever. And here’s to at least 17 more. Now, time to pack a bag for our night in Frankfurt and days in Poland. It will be yet another fine adventure!

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Bill

The many faces of Bill…

Yesterday, Bill and I decided to go to the Middle Rhein Gorge. We didn’t actually do very much while we were there, because we got a late start and had to sit in some traffic. I took some photos and we had lunch at the Rheinfels “Romantic” Hotel in Saint Goar, which overlooks the Rhein River. Then, after we ate, we went home. It was just one of those days that we had to get out of the house. The weather was beautiful and surprisingly warm, and my Mini Cooper convertible needed driving. The Middle Rhein Gorge is a popular vacation destination, and we happen to live close to it now.

One thing I love to do to Bill when we’re enjoying a day trip, is ask him ridiculous questions. I always expect some kind of shocked reaction, and Bill NEVER disappoints. Yesterday, the question of the day was, “Would you like it if I decided to become a prostitute?”

Now, bear in mind, I would never consider being a sex worker, and Bill knows it. Prostitution is legal in Germany, but I believe sex workers are required to have regular health checkups. I hate going to doctors. Also, I don’t really enjoy sex that much. I mean, I like it with Bill, but that’s only because we know each other very well and he knows and cares about my likes and dislikes in the sack. Random other people who are paying for sex would neither know nor care about my experience. It doesn’t sound like any fun to me… and at my age, probably wouldn’t be much fun for my hypothetical customers, nor would it pay much. So this was a truly ridiculous question. Bill rewarded me with a facial expression like this one.

WTF?

Followed by one that looked like this…

He made this face in December 2017, when his mom came to visit and we took her on a trip to Berlin. I quipped that he once came out of her and now he comes into me…

And then, inevitably, I get this face…

I would not blame Bill if he eventually got annoyed by my silliness and inappropriate questions. Fortunately, he has a great sense of humor and a lot of patience.

When I met Bill, he told me that he never took good pictures. I would beg to disagree. I have a lot of awesome pictures of my husband and he’s become very tolerant of letting me photograph him. I’m not sure if I would be as patient if the situation were reversed. I don’t like having my picture taken because I often look hideous. Bill has had a lot of bad pictures made, but I’ve gotten good at photographing him. I think it’s because I know him very well and can easily tell when he’s going to make an awesome face. I also love him, so I often capture him at his best. Here are a few handsome pictures I’ve managed to get recently.

Someday, if I outlive Bill, maybe his long lost daughters might appreciate the many pictures I have of their dad. He’s a very handsome man to me, not just because of his physical appearance, but because of who he is inside. I may do a lot of griping about things, but I will never complain about Bill. He’s one of the very few people in the world who almost never annoys me. He truly is loving, kind, thoughtful, and caring, even if he probably indulges me too much. I think we work well together because I encourage him to have fun and remind him that deserves love and respect. And he does the same for me, although our needs are different. But mostly, he’s just a lot of fun, witty and intelligent, and mostly game for new experiences. He has a gentleness about him and a deep capacity to love and forgive. It’s always a pleasure to be with him, and an honor to be his wife.

These pictures remind me it’s time for a trip to Italy or Austria… or somewhere else we haven’t been in awhile. We are very fortunate to have so much fun together and enjoy each other’s company so much. Our idiosyncrasies are actually kind of complementary, which is a rare thing in any relationship. We rarely fight, and when we do, the make up is swift and satisfying, with no lingering bullshit. Neither of us has to walk on eggshells around the other, because we’re both eager to settle any disputes and get on with living peacefully.

Sometimes, I forget how much fun we manage to have just being together… and sometimes, I think people who read my blog think I’m just a negative, unhappy, mean-spirited person. I may be negative and cranky sometimes, but I’m definitely not mean-spirited… at least not to people who aren’t clearly asking for it. If you treat me right, there’s nothing I won’t do for you. But shit on me, and that’s when you’ll certainly see the less fun loving side of my personality. Bill is almost always a peach, even to those who mistreat him, but he’s getting a lot better at enforcing boundaries. That may make other people lament, but it’s the best thing for his own self-preservation. No one can stay healthy or happy being a doormat to other people.

I remember when I first fell in love with Bill. My mom could barely stand it. Mom always told me how obnoxious she thinks I am and, apparently, I was even worse when I found love. She said, “I’m not sure I can stand being around Jenny in love.” Fortunately for her, it’s only happened once.

I’m not sure what we’re going to do today. It’s Columbus Day and we still have beautiful weather. Maybe we’ll go somewhere and do something fun. It would probably be a good idea, rather than sitting around the house watching bad TV and drinking wine. No matter what, I’ll probably ask more inappropriate, offensive, or ridiculous questions to provoke one of Bill’s best WTF facial expressions. If I’m lucky, I’ll catch it with the camera.

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