Sunday, February 8, 2015

Divorce 2.0

Ma’ikwe told me Friday evening that she wants a divorce. This is the second time I've had experience in the last 19 months and I didn't enjoy hearing it any more the second time. It's like getting kicked in the stomach.

One of my first thoughts was how clearly this development points out that I am only in control of my part of the partnership, and the commitments I make do not bind her. While I readily agree that we've had to handle some tough challenges on the way to death do us part, I've never found divorce an attractive choice. Yet Ma'ikwe can opt out—and has done so twice—regardless of where my heat is on the matter.

Here are some high and low watermarks of our relationship:
Oct 29, 2005             We became lovers
Nov 18, 2005            We decided to get married
April 21, 2007           We got married in a blow-out four-day wedding in Albuquerque
July 11, 2008             Ma'ikwe moved to Dancing Rabbit 
spring 2009               Ma'ikwe broke ground to start building Moon Lodge
2010                          Ma'ikwe discovered she has Lyme disease and had a debilitating year (a lot of pain and a lot of bed rest)
2012                          Ma'ikwe relapsed with Lyme and had another debilitating year
Feb 11, 2013             We had our first appointment with Kathy, our couples therapist, which continued for the next two years
July 14, 2013            Ma'ikwe announced that she wanted a divorce
Aug 26, 2013            Ma'kiwe agreed to try the marraige again
Nov 29, 2013            I moved out of Sandhill and started living in Moon Lodge with Ma'ikwe
July 14, 2014            We held a recommitment ceremony for our marriage
Oct 3, 2014               I strained my lower back lifting heavy boxes improperly
Oct, 2014-Jan 2015   I had restricted mobility (with a lot of bed rest) as I recovered from back pain
Feb 6, 2015               Ma'ikwe announced that she wanted a divorce

Our marriage has enjoyed many sublime and beautiful moments, and it's also been a gut-wrenching emotional roller coaster.

In this latest round of turmoil, Ma'ikwe first told me that she was again frustrated to the point of thinking about ending the relationship three weeks ago. Having reserved time with our therapist for Feb 3 (the day before I left on a four-week trip) I had understood we were waiting to work on her concerns with Kathy's help—which has frequently been a good idea. After one 90-minute appointment last Tuesday, Kathy was able to make another session available to us the same day. In trying to decide how best to use that opportunity I said my highest priority was using the time to give the best chance for us working through the issues that had brought Ma'ikwe to the brink again. 

With that request on the table, Ma'ikwe decided to meet with Kathy alone. While I don't know what they discussed in the second session, three days later Ma'ikwe announced that she was done. In retrospect, I reckon by the time we got to Kathy I was essentially a dead man walking and just didn't know it yet. 

I outlined in my previous blog some of the concerns that have been troubling Ma'ikwe lately and it all unraveled incredibly fast. The thing that hurts the most is that there was never much of an opportunity for me to address Ma'ikwe's concerns between her articulation of the issues and her unilateral decision to end it all.

I reckon staying with me represented too much slog for too little hope; she weary of trying to make it work and just needed to move on. 

One interesting pattern I noticed is that both times Ma'ikwe got to clarity about wanting a divorce, the sequence started right after one of us came out of a long stretch of compromised health, where the person in recovery wasn't capable of doing serious relationship work. Both times I was caught off-guard by the build-up of negativity and critical analysis. I don't know if that's merely a coincidence or a smoking gun.

When weathering the localized storm of emotional turmoil that was triggered for me by Ma'ikwe's first decision to end the relationship in July 2013, I got enormous help from EMDR therapy with Kathy, which has permanently helped me be less reactive. This benefit, fortunately, is still available to me today (thank god) and helped both to stay afloat with my feelings and to not spiral down into a very dark, and blaming place. I know Ma'ikwe has been doing the best she can and I know that I will not die.

Oddly, it has also helped that I'm currently reading Wyvern (a semi-obscure 1988 novel by A A Attanasio). It contains a fantastical exploration of being alone while at the same time being in relation to spirit, in relation to other humans, and to the universe. The protagonist is an illegitimate blond blue-eyed boy of mixed Dutch/aboriginal stock who is raised as a sorcerer (or soul catcher) in the jungles of Borneo, and the book is full of cosmological and existential questions as explored through the eyes of “primitive” culture. This story is powerful medicine for me right now.

The bottom line is that Ma’ikwe no longer saw her future as fruitful with me and acted decisively to move on. Loving her, I support her getting what she wants—even if at the extreme of leaving me.

Having gone through this particular hell once already, it’s not so devastating the second time. I know I'll survive. Though I've been rejected, I'm not beating myself up.

Yet whither now? Fifteen months ago I've walked away from my community as part of my recommitment to the marriage. Can I go back? Is that what I want? Is that good for Sandhill? I don't know. I was mainly at DR to be with Ma'ikwe; now what?

Ma'ikwe and I have to navigate our professional relationships moving forward and to what extent, if any, it makes sense to try to work together. It's confusing for me to know how much I can trust her commitments at this point.

I went all-in on my relationship with Ma'ikwe, and still got rejected. While not an ending I was looking for, I knew at the time that it wasn't a guarantee and I don't regret the attempt. I am not bitter.

In addition to losing my wife, I'm losing my best friend—the person I'd been sharing my daily observations with. This is highly disrupting and I have no idea how I'm going to replace the comfort and groundedness that I derive from that level of subtle sharing.

Right now there's a large hole in my heart and it will take some time to figure out what it all means and how to adapt to my suddenly wifeless life.


Jami Gaither said...

It was so lovely to meet both of you this past year. My heart is with you as you walk through this part of your life. I send you love and hope. And I know you will find your way.

While it can be very tough walking through transition, I have found there is always something better coming. Something different, but something better. And something I would never have foreseen if things hadn't changed the way they did.

My best to you both in moving forward to what life brings next.

Rosemary Wyman said...

Of course I am sad for you, my friends, to have put so much effort in and to again be at this point.

Laird, in our last conversation, we agreed we were of an age. From the vantage point of that age, I can look back and remember that as a younger woman I thought many times I might serve myself better by leaving a difficult relationship behind. It does not escape my notice that those ideas/impulses were no different from (and actually seeded by) the culture that climbs on top of others and throws everything away.

Sustainability is a TREMENDOUS challenge to work with; the obvious challenge of our times. Like any spiritual practice that we dedicate ourselves to actually practicing it is bound to bring us smack-dab up against the crux of the energy crisis -- within -- where the demons of our worst fears reside. I'm talking about scarcity fears that tell us there won't be enough. Enough for ME, that is.

There are so few of us who are lucky enough to have partners who give us all the room we need to discover who we are and strike that energetic balance between our work in the world and our primary partnership. I have been extremely fortunate to have been given one of those partners and to have climbed out of the jaws of illness myself to be (for whatever time I am) functional and relatively in balance. By watching my partner I learned how to be a no-reins partner; high, true commitment to the monogamous ride but plenty of room to discover, grow, adapt our gifts of who we are in this broader world and what amount of togetherness could work.

From the outside it looked to me that you were that kind of partner. I am sorry that there seems to be the notion that we can, any of us, leave these relationships behind and get on (up) in life. I think the old saying is true, and maybe us old farts are the only ones who realize it: Wherever you go, there YOU are. Like the toilet paper that we don't know is stuck to the bottom of our shoe, our stuff just follows us every damn where.

My love to both of you in these hours, days, and weeks,of grief and uncertainty. Please come and have dinner with us when you are next in Floyd!

Derek Roff said...

My heart goes out to you, Laird. While every person is unique, and every relationship more complexly so, I was struck by how similar your description is to some elements of my experience at the end of my marriage. As you say, an essential reality is that each person decides for themselves whether to be in a relationship, and once willingness is withdrawn by one person, there is little that the other can do to revitalize the connection. Yet a major part of choosing to marry is the belief by both parties that we can somehow transcend that reality. That our union will be a commitment by both parties to work through all difficulties. While the commitment lasts, so does the marriage. If interest in the commitment fades, then other aspects of the relationship are jeopardized.

Perhaps we could benefit from thinking about commitment to the commitment. What failed in my relationship, in my opinion, was not the ability to work through problems together, but a loss of willingness to try, on one side. When the organic interest faded, there was no attempt to revitalizing the collaborative spirit, which I see as an additional level, underlying commitment to the other individual and the relationship. All this was tremendously difficult for me. Recovery of my self-worth and joy in life took years. I believe that Laird is healthier and more mature than I was, so I hope his transitions are less lengthy than mine. In any case, I hope that both Laird and Ma'ikwe can find a new life-positive balance in the coming months and years.

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