Friday, December 22, 2006

Basic Dignity and Respect

It seems to me that no matter the justification or not, for some reason people simply cannot terminate relationships while allowing the other person to maintain a basic level of dignity and respect. So far, I’m batting 3-0 on this one.

When this relationship began and looked like it would take serious turns, I expressed to my then future wife, Tara Scott or Tara Lynn Scott or Tara Ray Scott or Tara Stelly or Tara Lynn Stelly or Tara Ray Stelly or Tara Ray or Tara Lynn Ray, my concerns about mixing the children too early. I told her then that my children had been abandoned twice before in bitter divorces and that I wanted to make sure this would not be a repeat of that situation. She assured me that she would never do that to me or my children and pushed to mix the kids, probably sooner than I would have on my own.

I expressed while we were dating how important it was to me to be in a relationship where we would not simply cut our losses and run the first time the going got tough. I had been through two bitter divorces before. And my then future wife spent almost two years trying to convince me that she would not be like my prior wives in this regard.

In fact, I have an absolute dislike for the holidays. It seems that year after year I go through one family tragedy after another. And this again was yet one more thing my wife swore she would never do to me and yet I’m sitting here just a few days before Christmas and I cannot even mail her a Christmas card or send a text message to say Merry Christmas. My children made cards for her kids and I can’t even let them mail them.

And all of this is for what? My best guess is that this has been a control issue from the moment we were married. Some of the counseling I have received suggests the same as well. The idea is that most of what has happened since we have been broken up has been an effort to exert control over me and the situations.

But in the end, what bothers me about this the most I suppose is that she absolutely refuses to treat me with a basic level of dignity and respect. And it really started the moment that she insisted I leave. The sad thing is, I don’t think my wife really understands that she could have just about anything she wants from me if she just asked for it with a basic tone of dignity and respect.

And the ways in which I was denied a basic level of dignity and respect are numerous, too many in fact to list them all here. When she initially insisted that I leave, she threatened me at that time. I’m not talking about threatening as in “leave or else.” We’re talking threats to destroy me financially and otherwise. In fact, she threatened to call Child Protective Services on me if I didn’t give her what she wanted. She never would give me a reason for this threat and just reminded me that she had something to hold over me.

When I called to ask if we could separate property civilly, she made unreasonable demands. She insisted that she not be held responsible for community debt but insisted that I divide with her the funds I had including funds that existed outside of the community. When I tried to tell her that she was being unreasonable and insisted that I wanted to peacefully settle this in a way that was fair to both of us, she threatened to ruin me and to ruin a business that I was trying to start.

I reasoned that this was all done in anger and have been asking her since to settle property division with me; however she has completely refused to even discuss it with me. I even explained that it was important to me that this get settled quickly because of a business I was trying to start, and she has refused. In the end, I was forced to abandon my hopes of starting a business because she wouldn't work to settle property. The sad thing is, I lost a business before in a divorce and once again here, my wife insisted that she would never do that to me. Fortunately, in this case, the business was only weeks old and had no real momentum at the time we separated, but none the less, I've needlessly lost another business in a divorce.

The sad reality of this is, I would probably have offered whatever she wanted to settle the property peacefully and without lawyers, but my wife has resisted. Her initial demands seemed unreasonable, but that was in the heat of the moment. Unreasonable as they may be, I might have agreed later in a civil conversation just for the point of reaching a quick and civil solution. So instead, now most of my funds are exhausted with a fair bit of it going to attorneys and we’ll be left with a community debt and I’ll be forced to seek her to accept her share of those debts.

I voluntarily offered my wife some monetary support to assist her with Christmas. I asked for her account number and offered to deposit it directly to her account. I did not think she would hesitate on this because this is the same manner that she used to collect child support from her ex husband. Instead she told me to mail it. Thinking that she probably needed the money fairly urgently, I sent it by third party. I was shocked when she refused to even acknowledge to me whether or not she had received the check.

She decided to file for an abuse prevention order. Her reasoning is because I was emotionally abusing her because I would not stop contacting her. The sad thing is she never even asked me to stop mailing letters or writing.

She also took issue with a website I opened up that described the arrest of her ex husband against very serious accusations. Of course she doesn’t realize that I had posted the information a month prior, the day before we broke up on a different address. But in a moment of frustration, I posted it to a more appropriate address and pointed it out to her. She took issue with some of the information that I had posted there. She never asked me to take it down or change it or expressed to me why it offended her so much.

As I mentioned above, the sad reality is that in each and every of the above scenarios, my response might have been materially different if I had been treated with a basic level of dignity and respect. There was nothing in our separation or breakup that prevents us from having a basic and civil line of communications open. I can understand if she doesn’t want to be best of friends and doesn’t want to chat for 30 minutes at a time. But I’m unsure why it is so offensive to her that I pick up the phone and ask how she’s doing and how the children are doing and if she needs anything. I don’t understand what is so wrong with wanting to wish her a Merry Christmas.

See, in the breakup, her threats to do harm to me set the tone for everything that followed.

If she had been willing to talk about property division, we’d of already settled things and would be waiting for a judge to sign a stipulated judgment at this time. Instead, our attorneys will get far more than either of us will ever get in a settlement and we’re likely to engage in a bitter battle over the few pennies and bills that remain.

If she had been willing to simply acknowledge that she had or had not yet received a check sent to her via a 3rd party, not only would she have received voluntary funds from me to assist her in buying Christmas gifts and paying bills, but she likely would be right around the time for me to try to scrape together some more to send to her.

If she had been willing to talk with me on matters regarding the separation and asked me not to write so many letters, she wouldn’t have needed to waste her time with a petition for an abuse prevention order for it to ultimately be denied in court. I can't say that I wouldn't have occassionaly written a letter to try to move the property settlement forward and ensure a peaceful divorce, but I certainly wouldn't have been pouring my heart out to her on a nearly daily basis.

Finally, if she had been able to treat me with enough dignity and respect that we could talk to each other like human beings and expressed to me that the website I posted bothered her personally and was willing to articulate sufficient reasons for such, I’d likely have altered it or taken it down without asking any further questions.

But instead, I stand here trying to figure out why it is so hard for such a precious young lady to treat me with a basic level of dignity and respect. And so we grit our teeth and will fight to the end because it’s too honorable and easy to simply treat each other like grown adults and try to work to a peaceful means.

Perhaps the real flaw is in myself. My counselor helped me to realize this in my last session. She suggested perhaps that I build an unreasonable expectation about others when I meet them. See, the first time I interacted with my wife, I formed a belief about her. The belief was that she was sweet and caring and giving of herself and often put people ahead of her. I saw how she treated her ex husband with dignity and respect and believed that this would also apply to me should we ever separate.

But as the counselor helped me to see, what I did was built an expectation and looked for behaviors to validate it. When I look back, signs were there and all over the place to suggest that the model I built of this person was in error and that my expectations based on that model might have been unreasonable.