Despite the fact that I spent most of my life vehemently anti-divorce and swore I’d never get one, divorce was the best thing ever when I actually needed one. It took an impossible situation and turned it into one that was challenging–but not impossible.
You see, I’d stipulated early on in my marriage to Seth that I wouldn’t give up our marriage without a fight — a struggle that would involve intensive couples counseling and soul searching. I wasn’t going to “take the easy way out.” Nope, not me. I’m a fighter, and commitments terrify me precisely because I take them seriously and feel their weight long after agreements have dissolved.
My ex-husband Seth knew all of this about me, and as our relationship spun into chaos, and our time together was punctuated by his pronouncements of sentiments like, “I used to love you before you became such a bitch,” he took a clever and unconventional strategy for keeping us together.
He refused to go to therapy.
This strategy completely fried my circuits. It’s surprising to some as I am a very emotional and expressive person, but people I’ve had romantic relationships with know I tend to be a “letter of the law” and not a “spirit of the law” kind of person (“because I’m not a frickin’ mind reader!”), and I found myself caught in a place where I couldn’t repair the marriage without a neutral third party (i.e., a counselor), couldn’t just pack up and leave Seth without the closure hashing things out in therapy would bring me (even if it was futile, I needed most of all to TRY to fix things with him), and couldn’t be anything but miserable with things as they were.
So I was doomed to unhappiness, spending a winter with a depressed spouse who had a hostile bias in response to virtually everything I said or did. He acted like a wounded, cornered animal, and any attempt I made to help him was interpreted as an attack. After one particularly bad fight in which he was incredibly verbally abusive, brought up the topic of divorce, and told me to leave him (and that I would if I weren’t so dependent and chickenshit), he apologized, and I gave him an ultimatum. He needed to go to counseling (either alone or with me), or we would have to be separated. The financial problems exacerbated by his not working and active spending habits were one matter. I would not tolerate abuse, verbal or otherwise. Seth agreed.
He called his primary care provider to set up an appointment, ostensibly I thought for meds and a counseling referral. However, he returned with a prescription for Lexapro (which he’d taken in the past and I was at that time taking myself) instead and no counseling referral. First, Seth said that he thought getting on meds was what I meant. Then, he said that he had forgotten to bring it up to his PCP during the appointment. Finally, he stated that we were moving to Ohio in 6 weeks anyway so what was the point of getting established with someone therapy-wise. He shifted explanations so quickly and fluidly that I doubted that even he completely understood where his resistance was coming from.
I cut him some slack because he was right about the last point, that we were moving to Ohio soon. However, even after we moved to Ohio and a few months passed in which we both acclimated to our new home, he still hadn’t sought counseling, despite the fact that friends in the area were able to recommend free/cheap services to do just that. He would always conveniently forget to schedule something, deflect, make excuses.
The entire conflict culminated when I was undergoing short-term counseling at Cleveland Rape Crisis after a rather unfortunate incident with a partner that burned my poly web. The counselors there were very non-judgmental about the fact that I was polyamorous and informed me that any and all of my partners were welcome to receive therapy as well, for absolutely any reason – that it did not need to directly relate to the assault. Seth drove me to a couple of my appointments, and on one day, I explained the free partner counseling to him and indicated that he could step forward to the receptionist’s desk to schedule an appointment of his own to get the counseling we’d agreed was needed. At that moment, Seth literally was shown the proverbial door and refused to step through it.
Still, Seth was shocked when a bit later I opened my own checking account and told him I wanted a separation. I have a flashbulb memory of that evening, the way he spat “fuck you” at me after I said, “I’ve opened my own checking account,” how quickly things escalated from what should have been a civil discussion to Seth’s vitriol and storming off. It occurred to me then that I’d been handling him with kid’s gloves all those years and rightly so, and it also occurred to me that I didn’t want to do it a minute longer. This was not how rational adults behaved. And if I were a bloodless bitch, a ruthless pragmatist for feeling that way, then that was just something I’d have to live with.
I was done.
It may seem petty to some, to divorce him over his unwillingness to go to therapy (something he’d done in the past on an individual basis) for our marital issues, but it meant everything to me, and I was willing to do just about anything to get him to go, andyet he wouldn’t go to therapy (with or without me) for me. It was devastating to realize I spent 10 years of my life on someone who couldn’t be arsed to get some help while our relationship burned to the ground, and a part of me died from it.
Skyspook (my second, and current, husband) has promised to go to counseling with me for any reason at any time, no questions asked. In fact, he actually attended a session during my former treatment for dependent personality to discuss some issues with a housemate the two of us were having with my therapist and see what she thought.
I glean an extraordinary amount of comfort from the fact that he’s open to mediation should we need it.