Monday, August 12, 2013

Ripple effEx...

The story of how Bill and his first wife met is a long one.  It was sort of a perfect storm of events that led up to his mother deciding to move them from Arizona to Houston, Texas.

Bill's parents divorced when he was about five years old.  His mom is from Arkansas and his dad is from southern Missouri, very close to the Arkansas state line.  They are both nice people, but they weren't suited for each other.  Bill's mom wanted to escape small town life while his dad was content with staying close to home.  They also had very different interests.

So Bill was raised mostly by his mom, who moved them to Memphis for awhile, until she got involved with a man who turned out to be a stalker.  She had to make a move to Arizona to escape this man, who had threatened her with violence.  Bill spent several years in Arizona during which time, his mother married her second husband.  I am told Bill's ex stepfather was a very good looking man who happened to be a talented artist.  He had a son from a previous relationship who had cystic fibrosis.

My mother-in-law's second husband was abusive to Bill and would do things like blow cigarette smoke in his face and tell him how worthless he was.  Bill's mother apparently didn't know about the emotional and verbal abuse as it was happening.  Bill has told me that his mother's wedding day was awful for him because he didn't like his mother's choice in partners and the feeling was mutual.  Second husband also had another issue that came up after the wedding.  He was transgendered and was hoping Bill's mother could teach him how to be a woman.

When this came to light, Bill's mom got all her ducks in a row.  She got a job and saved up her money. Then she demanded a divorce.  The marriage had lasted four years.  She hasn't heard from him since then, though we do still have a portrait of her that he did that shows off his artistry.

Bill's aunt and uncle lived in the Houston area of Texas, so he and his mother moved there next.  Bill was high school aged, so his mother insisted that he join the school's NJROTC program.  He did, and that's where he first met his ex wife, who was also in the program.

Ex apparently came from a very fucked up family.  She was adopted and her parents split up when she was very young.  Consequently, she didn't know her adoptive father until she was seven years old.  Meanwhile, her mother had married another man who turned out to be an abusive pervert.  Ex claims that her mother allowed her stepfather to sexually abuse her.  She'd had biological kids with this man and he apparently left them alone while he allegedly molested Ex.  I don't doubt that she was abused and neither does Bill.  He met both Ex's adoptive father and stepfather before they died.  He has said Ex's stepfather was evil.

Anyway, Bill and Ex didn't date much in high school, but they knew each other and were friendly.  Bill is three years older than his ex wife is, so he graduated high school and went off to college and then into the Army.  She ended up dropping out of high school and got a GED.  Her first husband was a guy who was in NJROTC with her and Bill.  She married him when she was still a teenager and had a son with him.  He was enlisted in the Army.

It was the late 80s and Ex and her first husband ended up in Germany, which is where Bill was also posted.  One day, Bill was on a transatlantic flight and he ran into Ex's first husband, who was also on the flight.  Ex's first husband went home and told Ex that he had seen Bill.  Ex then tracked Bill down and re-established contact with him.  One day, she showed up on his doorstep with her son, who was then very young.  She told Bill a sob story about her husband, who was supposedly abusive to her and her son.  Bill felt sorry for her.  He didn't have much experience with women and had a low opinion of himself.  Ex paid attention to him and he was very flattered.

Ex and her husband went back to the States.  She got a divorce and showed up in Germany again.  Apparently she had let her car go back to the bank and had nowhere else to go.  Bill let her in and they got married in Denmark, the day Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.  Bill says they fought on their wedding day and he didn't feel right about marrying his ex.  But he went through with it anyway and within two months, she was pregnant with older ex daughter.  Bill took over the daddy role with Ex's son, who was at that point almost three years old.

They were transferred to Kentucky a couple of months before older ex daughter was born.  They moved to Washington State less than three years after that, which is where younger ex daughter was born.  In the mid 1990s, the military was downsizing and it didn't look like Bill's career was going to take off.  He lacked confidence.  Ex didn't want to be an Army wife, so she pressured him to leave the military.  Somehow, Bill also decided to get a vasectomy.  Ex would get pregnant easily and it was physically hard for her.  They also had no money.  Bill got snipped right after younger ex daughter was born, figuring they were both "done".

Then, at Ex's behest, he got off active duty and the family moved to a small town in Arkansas.  Despite having a degree in international relations from American University, the only work Bill could find was working in factories.  Not having seniority meant that he worked second and third shifts.  When he was home, the kids were often sleeping.  They think he was never around during their early years when he was actually working swing shifts and night shifts to pay the bills.

Ex went through a bunch of jobs during this timeframe.  She was also spending money like there was no tomorrow.  She bought a house, new furniture, landscaping, carpeting... all based on Bill's pay from being in school and National Guard training.  Granted, Bill could have and should have stopped her, but he found that standing up to Ex meant dealing with her huge meltdowns.  At one point during this time period, Bill was supporting his family plus ex's sister and daughter on about $27,000 a year.  He got a better paying job at another factory, but the $40,000 he was getting from that job was still not enough.

They didn't join the LDS church until 1997, when Ex decided one day that she wanted to try Mormonism.  She had a friend who was LDS and thought they had beautiful families.  At first, the church was appealing to Bill.  People were friendly and he fit right in.  But then Ex started using the church as a means of controlling Bill and trying to change who he is.

She would compare Bill to other members of the church and pressure him to bare his testimony, even though Bill is an introvert and shy about getting up in front of people.  She refused to let him baptize his daughter because she claimed he wasn't worthy.  She found out he had viewed porn on his computer and claimed it meant he hates women and has a propensity toward violence.  She took a knife from his uniform and showed church members as a means of backing up her claims.

Meanwhile, their financial situation was horrible.  Ex had a number of medical bills that they got behind on, as well as all the money she had spent on their home and other extraneous crap they didn't need.  They eventually declared bankruptcy.

Bill decided he needed to make more money than the factory jobs were paying, so in 1999, he went back on active duty with the National Guard.  He was given an assignment in Leavenworth, Kansas.  He asked Ex to accompany him.  She refused.      

It was around this time that I met Bill online.  He had just left his ex wife.  I had just started grad school.  We were very platonic and it wasn't until several months after we "met" that he told me about his estranged wife and kids.  At the time, I wasn't concerned with it.  I didn't think we'd ever meet in person, let alone get married.  I didn't actually meet him in person until May 2001.  Ex had also met her now third husband online.  Once Bill had moved to Kansas, Ex moved her boyfriend into the house Bill was paying for and groomed him to take over Bill's daddy duties.  When I met Bill, he was literally living on about $600 a month, having lucked into a really cheap efficiency apartment in Kansas.

Ex then decided to move to Arizona.  Bill helped pay for her move.  She decided to try to sell their house herself, but of course, lacked the experience and knowledge of such an undertaking.  She tried renting it out and the people who took up residence there and trashed the place.  Bill says they even stole the toilet.  The house later went into foreclosure.  Ex remarried and promptly got pregnant.  She's had two more kids with her third husband.

So, for the first few years of our marriage, Bill and I were pretty broke because I was having trouble finding work and Bill was still paying $2550 a month in child support.  It took about five years for our financial situation to make a turnaround.  The whole time, Bill was trying to maintain contact with his kids.  Ex was somewhat agreeable at first, but then Bill moved to Virginia.  And once he told Ex about me, she really went into alienation mode.  It ramped up especially after the kids' one visit with me and after the Christmas 2004 debacle.

Finally, in 2006, she got his daughters to disown him by writing hateful letters which arrived just in time for his birthday.  Something inside me died when I saw those letters and the effect they had on Bill.  I lost a lot of compassion for those girls that day, even though intellectually, I know they were pressured, coached, and lied to.  The whole thing makes me sick.  I love Bill, but I totally resent his ex wife.  Frankly, I resent his ex kids, too.  There are a lot of fathers out there who might deserve some of the treatment they have directed at Bill.  He is not one of those guys.  Like I said before, they don't deserve him.

A couple of years ago, I accidentally found an online news article about ex that pretty much painted her as a single mom who showed up in Arizona penniless.  Believe me, someone was paying her bills... and those of her current husband's, who apparently only recently rejoined the work force, now that the child support gravy train has reached its end.

This is all stuff that I don't think my husband's kids understand.  They haven't been told the whole story and have never taken the opportunity to ask about it.

Despite all this drama, Bill and I have a very good relationship.  We get along beautifully.  Even when something like what happened last night happens, we talk about it.  He's a really good man who happened to be vulnerable to abuse.  He still loves his daughters, but he understands why I am so angry with them.

I have fantasies of telling them exactly how I feel about them, even though I don't know them and can't know what life has been like for them.  I would have understood them hating me.  I don't understand how they can hate Bill, even though I know their mother is the kind of person who can sell ice to eskimos.  I tell myself these things, but I still feel a lot of hurt and anger.  I am grateful to Ex for divorcing Bill... but I am also grateful to her because his experience with her makes anything I do seem like small potatoes.  Incidentally, Bill's mother and aunt and uncle are very loving to me because they hate his ex wife.  His father and stepmother seem less loyal-- they just want access to the kids and don't understand that any access they have to the kids means a connection to their crazy mother.

Anyway, I've been making progress in moving past all this craziness.  The past few days had been taken up with settling in to our new home.  I had forgotten about that Christmas 2004 photo.  Bill had requested it, but he never got pleasure looking at it.  He has never displayed it.  And now, when he looks at it, he feels pain.  So he's getting rid of it.

Last night, I told Bill that I just wanted us to learn from the experience.  He didn't know back in the late 80s/early 90s how settling for Ex would affect so many lives.  That one poor decision led to many ripple effects that wreaked havoc.  He knew on their wedding day that he was making the wrong decision, but he went through with it anyway.  And now, over twenty years later, it still haunts him and the people who love him.
  
On the positive side, when Bill was tempted to let ex stepson get away with lying to him, I reminded him that letting ex stepson off the hook for his actions would lead to second and third order effects.  It would send the message that he could get away with lying.  He probably still lies, but at least Bill can take comfort in knowing that he wasn't one who provided positive reinforcement for bad behavior.  Bill is a better and much wiser man now than he was when we first met.  I take a lot of pleasure in seeing how he's evolved.  

2 comments:

  1. As bizarre as things seem and as rough of a few of the early years were when my mom had cancer and we had a few other family problems, I don't often stop to think just ow much worse things could have been.

    My mom works with a lady whose parents divorced. Her parents were able to keep things civil so that all could attend major events togethher without causing any scenes. It was only after my mom's friend was in her late 20's or so that she learned that the cause of the divorce was that her father was a major womanizer. My mom's friend appreciated her mother's sacrifice inataking one for the team and not telling her any of this until she was old enough to hear it.

    Bill's daughters, too, may one day be mature enough to hear the truth.

    it's a miracle that Bill is sane, although his mom was dealt some fairly rough cards and played the hand she was dealt the best she could. This is just a thought, but, aftr the fact, I wonder if she wishes she had stuck it out with #1 even though he wasn't quite right for her because he was at least a good man, or if living in a situation with someone with whom they were clearly not meant to be would have made them both bitter and lesser people than both are today.

    One of the apostls or prophets once said that any man and woman could live together as a happily married couple if both lived the Gospel. What utter hogwash! maybe what that really means is if the wife does everything the husband wants her to o, keeps the house clean enough, makes exactly the number of babies he wants and keeps her hormones in check afterward because we know women CAN contol their hormones (right)and doesn't get fat, the two can remain happily married. actually i don't know what he could possibly have meant. i know numerous LDS couples who were all good people and good family people who just couldn't make marriages work, and who continued to be devout mormons afterwards. It's all hogwash. the only thing I don't believe in in terms of divorce is the idea that one should divorce becuse there is someone out there who is better for you. you might get lucky and find someone, such as bill did, but many women in particular divorce assuming that better person is just ready and waiting to sweep her off her feet. If I marry and I divorce, I'll assume that's probably it. that doesn't mean i won't marry again. I just won't carry around any delusions that god or anyone else has someone stored away in a drawer somewhere that is being saved just for me.

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    1. Well, there's more to the story, of course. Bill's mom was married to a third man for about 12 years. He was more of a father figure type, but he would spend money like a madman. She divorced him and decided she prefers being single. He died not long after they split up.

      Bill's dad married his second wife over thirty years ago. They seem to get along reasonably well, though Bill's stepmother and I clash a bit. I could write more about that, really. She has never liked Bill's mother, but I think that was highly facilitated by Bill's ex wife, who would pit them against each other. My mother-in-law is more mature than stepmother-in-law is and, I think, is in many ways more intelligent. Stepmother-in-law tends to be very rigid in her thinking.

      Bill's mom and dad and stepmom were together on our wedding day. When Bill's dad saw his mom, he said "You're so thin!" And stepmother-in-law just looked murderous. They're all very different people, though.

      I happened to get very lucky when I found Bill. He really isn't the stereotypical guy. We happen to be very well suited to each other. But anyone who isn't abusive would have been better for him than his ex was. She's just a vile person.

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