Friday, June 29, 2007

Love is More than a One Way Reflection

sixdegrees writes:
And how many times a week does she masturbate?

I know that this was probably meant to be a rhetorical question, but it's definitely worth noting something that I wrote in a prior post:
We moved on to the question of genital touching. My wife said that it wasn't just directed at me; she said she hated touching her own genitals.

Sometime with in the last couple of years, I asked her whether she ever experimented with pleasuring herself to figure out what might feel good. She said she had done it only a couple times.
She constantly uses sex as a weapon. Her comment that she was "horny" but didn't act on it because she didn't feel "emotionally connected" to you is yet another example.

It took me years to get past my own sexual shame to see that she was doing this. Despite my efforts to become a "healthier" person sexually, there was no rise in interest on her part.

I know people probably get tired of me quoting Schnarch on this blog, but I've never read any other therapeutic literature that identifies this dynamic. He calls it normal marital sadsim (read through page 311).

This excerpt nails it right on the head:
Emotional fusion fuels and shapes normal marital sadism. You see it when a spouse attacks the partner's reflected sense of self. Statements like, "If you were good enough, I'd have orgasms... or no sexual difficulties... or desire for you." are invitations for the partner to feel bad.

The key to getting past it is to stop being fused, or dependent on the other person for your validation. It upsets the apple cart and either pushes toward greater intimacy or the end of the relationship. It all hinges on whether the other person can begin to self validate as well.

It's also worth noting that Schnarch harbors skepticism about sexual addiction.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Updated on 6/29/2007 at 12:46 a.m. to reflect another interview change.

On Monday, I spoke with a recruiter down in the Music City who had set me up with an interview for a government contract position down there last spring. For that lead, they nixed me on the lack of SQL knowledge.

She was back to see if I would be interested in another position in her neighborhood. It turned out to be the contract-to-hire position for the radio airplay monitoring software.

You might recall I wound up canceling the face-to-face interview for that lead once I got the original offer from the Online Payment Subsidiary. I guess they still haven't been able to find any Linux/C++ gurus down there, and they've decided to sweeten the deal with relocation assistance.

I told her that I had done phone interviews for the position back in April through another agency, so I might not be eligible to work with her. I told her she had my permission to vet my resume to see if they would take me, but I don't think they will.

On Tuesday, the Local Startup in the Upscale Mall withdrew its offer, but the wording was such that it left open the possibility future positions. Consider that more of a drawbridge up situation rather than burnt to a crisp.

On Wednesday evening, I had a conversation with a local recruiter who was pimping openings at the Local Growing Network Telephony Software Company, which happens to be the same company that gave me a rejection late last year.

I told her about my prior experiences with a different recruiter for the same company, just to make it clear that they might not consider my resume. I then said that if she wanted to put my name in, she was free to do so.

They haven't given me the time of day over the past two years, I have no reason to believe that they would do so now. As far as I'm concerned, this is not going anywhere.

Also since Tuesday, I have exchanged several e-mails with someone at the Online Payment Subsidiary's HR department. We've been trying to nail down a time to do an interview with the department that has an opening in the Silicon Valley office. This group wanted to do a video conference interview, meaning I'd have to get my tail over to one of those 24-hour copy centers that everyone knows and loves.

I gave them a list of times on Tuesday. I got back a reply this afternoon asking about two possible times on Friday. I responded quickly, indicated a preference for the later time. They responded in the early evening, saying that the earlier time would be better. Then I got an e-mail with the video conference reservation. Then I got an e-mail and a voice mail saying that the person couldn't do the video conference and would just do it by phone at a later time in the day.

I responded both by e-mail and phone, letting them know I got the messages and that the time would work just fine. It'll make for a somewhat late lunch, but I'll just be glad to be through this one last hoop. Unless the interviewer is just a complete jerk, I am going to take this offer.

UPDATE: The guy at the Online Payment Subsidiary with whom I would be doing the interview on Friday just e-mailed me to let me know that the time that I agreed on won't work now. So it will either be later on in the afternoon on Friday or possibly a half hour after my joint counseling session on Monday (yech). I expressed a preference for the Friday afternoon time, but I'm making myself as flexible as possible.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Two Days in Therapy

I'm in a better space after my private therapy session from yesterday afternoon.

I'll go into a little more detail on the joint session. Because I led off the last session, this session was my wife's to start.

After saying that she really didn't know what to say, she said there was a part of her that wanted to stay in this marriage and that there was a part of her that didn't. To her, it seemed like we had spent more time in therapy during this marriage than we hadn't.

She said that she thought I didn't give serious consideration to her offer of taking the local job for more money and then going out on dates from a few weeks back.

She said that she had noticed that I was masturbating a lot more, and that she was concerned about it. She thought I was falling back into addiction.

Regarding her claims that I needed to take medication, she said that I always seemed "mopey" or "woe is me" about everything, and that I had made several remarks about wishing I wasn't alive or taking my own life.

I didn't recall anything of the sort, but the next day, I realized what she had been saying. At one point during a conversation about why I didn't want to take the job with the local startup, I talked about my unhappiness, and then said I felt adrift, as if "I was living, but not really alive." She either misremembered this remark or turned it around to her advantage.

She said that I constantly needed my ego stroked, and that I had low self esteem. The only reason that I was so interested in the job offer with the Online Payment Subsidiary was that they had stroked my ego the most.

She said that it didn't make sense to turn down the offer with the local startup because of a longer commute because my commute would have been just as long if not worse in the desert southwest.

She said I never wanted to talk with her, and that all we did talk about was mundane things. She said I was on the computer a lot on the evenings, so she wondered if I was addicted to the internet. She noted that we hadn't talked much about our last therapy session.

Her therapist used that to go back to the text book "better communication" techniques. We spent most of the session dissecting a phone conversation my wife and I had last week, where she called me at work and told me that she needed me home 20 minutes earlier than what we had discussed, and it was for no real reason.

The thing is, both my wife and I have been through the communication exercises before. We're dealing with a bigger problem than communication. We have situations where neither side has been willing to accept the message the other is sending.

During the session, I had wanted to make my disclosure about my dwindling energy. But since this session had been more about my wife's reactions to last week, I figured to do so without first letting her have her say would have been an attempt to hi-jack the discussion.

As time began to run out, the therapists asked if we had anything left to say. One of them noted that I looked like I had something on my mind, so I let it out. Big mistake. My wife's therapist was peeved, saying, "You don't drop a bombshell like that with only a few minutes left in the session. That leaves your wife in a bad space. This is about fighting fair."

Her therapist had to go to another appointment, so my therapist kindly went over. I added that I had not given up completely. My wife would need to meet some conditions for me to give this more time. I spelled out three at the session and one later on in the evening. Here they are:

  1. Stop blaming my unhappiness on depression and telling me that I need medication. She needs to confront herself to understand how her actions might be throwing down barriers.

  2. Whatever the causes for her aversion to touch and sexual activity, start working seriously to get past it. I could not live in a marriage where there was so little touch and such a dead sex life.

  3. Start putting this marriage first, ahead of friends, relatives, and volunteer activities. I viewed her refusal to relocate because she would lose her "support network" of friends as a clear indication that she values her friendships over her marriage to me, my career, and our financial security.

  4. (added later in the evening) My body, and especially my genitals, are mine. I would not allow her to forbid me from pleasuring myself sexually or using guilt to make me refrain from it.

We talked about these points later that evening, and it didn't sound like she was taking them seriously.

She said regarding the touch and sex issue, I just wanted her to cuddle next to me naked all the time, and that I just wanted her to give me sex five days out of the week, which wasn't realistic. I told her this wasn't strictly about frequency, this was about mutuality and involvement.

I told her that her attitude toward sexuality made me feel like she could just live without sex for the rest of her life and not feel like there was anything missing, and that made me sad. She said she did have sexual feelings. In fact, she said, she had them Sunday night, but didn't feeling being sexual with me because she didn't feel emotionally close to me at the time.

We got on the subject of my masturbation. She said she had counted five times in the last week. I said that seemed a little high, but I didn't keep a day-by-day count in my mind.

She then confronted me on whether I was masturbating in the shower when I locked the bathroom door on mid-day Sunday. I said that I had done that because I wanted privacy and didn't want the kids walking in while I was doing that.

It had also been over a month since we last had sex, so I had been feeling a bit frustrated lately.

I asked her why she was so concerned about the count. She said that she was worried it was "going to lead to something worse." I asked her for examples. She said, maybe something like phone sex. I told her that I didn't have any credit cards and 900 number access was blocked on the phone lines. There was no practical way for me to do that even if I wanted to.

I then countered that if she had been so worried about me "acting out", why was she so slow to return the second batch of her late brother's porn VHS tapes that were still sitting in the minivan and garage. My only interactions with that stash was loading them into the van and moving them into the garage. I had not so much as pried open the box, nor was there any temptation to do so.

She also said that she didn't think my claim about her misplaced priorities/loyalties was valid.

The bottom line: she's not even willing to acknowledge the validity of most of my conditions, let alone agree to work on them.

I'm giving her a few more days and her private session with her therapist, who probably views me as The Bad Guy now, to process this. If she doesn't make any movement on this by the next session, it is over.

Monday left me feeling icky, and I wasn't looking forward to talking with my therapist, either. But afterwards, I was glad I did.

We went over the previous day's joint session and the discussion later that evening, and I talked about how I felt that it wasn't very productive at all. I didn't see my wife addressing the merits of my concerns. She seemed to be more interested in painting me as a damaged person.

My therapist took away from the session several things...

  • My wife has a very negative view of sexuality, period. Her lack of engagement and desire to limit my own activity wasn't healthy.

  • My wife attempts to control through shame and guilt.

  • In arguments, my wife latches onto minutiae, and then blows them out of proportion to put the opposition on defense. A good example of this is the "You just want a whore in bed" line.

  • My wife's arguing tactics were "juvenile".

  • My wife was very adept in shutting me down in arguments.

  • My wife's remark about "being more in therapy than not" grated on my therapist's nerves and she almost called her on it during the session because my wife had quietly stopped going to therapy last fall and didn't do so until confronted with it by my therapist in early April.

  • I really needed to work on assertiveness with her to keep her from flipping the conversation.

  • She noted my wife's statement of ambivalence in the early part of the session and echoed Law Girl's comments about how she might really want out, but can't or won't bring herself to say it.

In the interest of helping me work on assertiveness, my therapist loaned me a book titled How to be an Adult by David Richo. I started reading that last night.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Not in a Chipper State

Joint session yesterday was ugly. I'm not going into gory details, but my wife seems to believe that I'm a occasionally suicidal depressive malcontent who has low self esteem, masturbates too much, and may have shifted addictions from sex to the internet.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Critcal Mass has been Reached

Something has been going on inside me over the last day or so. The anxiety that so dominated my consciousness a couple weeks ago has been dispersing.

I have come to this realization:
I no longer have the energy to keep this marriage alive.

That little sentence packs a wallop in meaning, and it's worth taking stock of how I got to this point.

Over the course of this blog, I could say in the abstract sense that I was so unhappy that one day I might want to leave.

I worked on myself, trying to improve the relationship, so I could perhaps avoid making the decision. But even my changes could not stir mutuality.

Eventually, I could say that I wanted to leave, but I could not envision a day. There was plenty of self doubt, ambivalence, and blind hope to keep me from making the decision.

My wife's separation ultimatum called my bluff. I had to confront myself and face down the fear that I might betray my integrity. I felt more internal stress than I could ever remember feeling.

I responded by collecting my thoughts and then presenting them to my wife. I described my situation as clearly as I could, with as much compassion as I could muster.

From her, I asked for clarity of purpose, not mandatory change. She responded by falling apart and attacking my words. This was no change from the way she has handled difficult matters in the past. She said she wanted the stress to be gone. She was not growing, and she didn't want to grow.

I did not get the closure I had hoped for, but her attacks on my reflected sense of self did not shake me. I was no longer dependent on her for validation. She was free to make a choice. I was going to make mine. From that followed peace. I have transcended my anxiety.

As painful as the process might be, I am prepared to disclose to my wife at our next joint session that I no longer wish to remain in this union.

Attention Passengers for this Important Announcement... The Shuffleboard Tournament Begins in 15 Minutes

Have the T-Shirt asks:
Ummm, did ya sink? :P

You don't hear Celine Dionne playing in the background, do ya? ;-)

Looks like we had the tinfoil hats cranked to 10, because no major announcements took place. The meeting was just a discussion of how chairs should be arranged on the cruise ship.

The main motivation for this big meeting was that the CEO and CTO were supposed to head out next week to the West Coast to talk over their deal with the angel investor friend. But earlier that afternoon, they found out he's still tied up with merger and acquisition stuff, so he won't be available for meeting. They'll be in town next week after all.

So what did happen?

My coworker and I briefed the CEO on what we had been working on the past few weeks and the status of our efforts.

The CEO complained about not being able to find a local person to produce a polished user's guide for the product. She blamed it on the lack of software companies in the area. I suggested that they put out some feelers at the two or three big computer book publishers in the metro area to see if they know of someone between projects.

The CTO gave my coworker and I a list of things to work on. Sounds like he's wanting to start testing the product now so that he can get a version rolled out to a semi-paying customer.

No word regarding venture capital other than the CEO had e-mailed out the answer that the she had asked the CTO to prepare.

The CEO said that her contact with another company with whom they're supposed to be striking a deal hadn't returned her calls at all this week.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Meanwhile, Back at the Titanic

The two founders are out to lunch right now at separate locations. When they get back, we're supposed to have a meeting.

My coworker and I have been speculating on what's happening. A month or so ago, he said he'd ride this ship until it sank. Now he's getting the itch to buy a house, and he wants to know whether that's going to be a wise move given the circumstances.

We know that our CEO was supposed to meet earlier this week with the friend of the company's angel investor, but that meeting got cancelled because the friend got tied up with some other business dealings. We also know that the CTO had lunch with the founder/executive VP who quit at the end of last year.

We think that the friend of the angel investor is intent on buying the company and making it the IT services provider for other companies that he's acquiring. The intrigue is that the friend of the angel investor is based on the West Coast. So are all his acquisitions. If the sale completes, where does that leave the company? Here? There?

We've been watching the CTO's behavior, since he has a desk in the same area, and he appears to be doing anything but stuff related to our core product. Yesterday, he cleaned out his briefcase, reorganized papers in the conference room, and shredded some things. Moreover, during lunch earlier this week, he told us that the CEO would rather see us go the VC route rather than buyout.

Today, we heard the CEO tell the CTO that someone they know who has been working with VCs said that the local VC has "gone dark", but the other VC out east wants to know if our software would be of use in some areas. This seems to suggest that the buyout is far from a done deal. Another question is whether the CEO and the CTO are even on the same page as to the company's disposition.

Maybe we'll find some answers from this meeting... Maybe.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Postcard from the Past

Updated 6/22/2007 at 11:00 a.m. to include reference to old posting.

According to my Sitemeter logs, a visitor to this blog stopped by shortly before 9 a.m. today, using an IP address that is believed to be in the vicinity of Altoona, PA.

Altoona is one of those meccas that rail enthusiasts love to visit, for it was home to a massive locomotive shop owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR). There is quite a railroad museum there. Nearby is Horseshoe Curve. The grade is such that helper locomotives are placed at the end of freight trains to provide tractive assistance.

I visited these places in August of 1984 and took several slides. The image shown here was taken at a public viewing area at the heart of the curve. If you click on the image, you can get a higher resolution version.

Although not nearly as busy under Conrail as it was under the PRR years, the curve saw quite a bit of traffic, enough to warrant three tracks. Multiple trains, as seen in this photo, were a common sight.

For a high school age boy who was used to seeing no more than five trains a day on his hometown rail lines, this was heaven, teeming with trains. Although the dress blues of Conrail's locomotive fleet were no match for the PRR's Tuscan red beauties, I was happy to take whatever I could find.

Almost 23 years have rushed by since I clicked the shutter and created this photograph... 23 years! I remember my father jogging up the long battery of steps to the the viewing area with such ease. At the time, he was a year and a half younger than I am now.

About a month and a half after this photo was taken, my father would announce his plans to remarry. It rocked my world, and I responded by regressing and cutting him off emotionally. In the days to come, I will be shaking up my world in an even bigger way. It will be a test to see whether I have truly matured since then.

Update: I just realized an amusing, if not eerie coincidence. The lead unit on the front train in the photo in this post is Conrail 5036. If you go back to the February post "Ghosts from Hobbies Past", the lead unit is Conrail 5046. They were taken in two different locations a little over ten years apart.

A Clip Appropriate for Today

Updated 6/21/2007 at 10:41 p.m. to correct the link to the video for "A Fine Fine Day".

As a diversion from the general pensive ponderings in this space, I offer up a sample of cheezy 80s music video footage. Behold, Tony Carey's "First Day of Summer".

Personally, I liked the video for "A Fine Fine Day" better. Extra points if you remember his angry paean to the breakup "I Won't be Home Tonight".

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What if Roles were Reversed?

Law Girl poses a good question in a comment:
If the two of you had made the decision that she was to be the primary wage earner, and she were to relocate for her job, would you go?

I have no doubt that I would answer "yes" to that question. In fact, I have answered "yes" to that question under weaker circumstances.

We moved to the city where we currently reside about seven years ago. We didn't move here because of a job. We moved here so that she could be close to her best friend.

At the time, we were looking to move from a rental into a house. I had just reached a decision regarding the ultimatum over having children. I was getting a promotion at my employer, with a good increase in pay. The debt management program we had been in for the past three years would be completed in less than a year.

The question was: "Where were we going to throw down our roots?" Over the past year, we had been making trips on the weekend to visit with her best friend and her husband as they went through a difficult time with their newborn baby. My wife thought it would be best for us to be closer to them. Me, being the passive, keep-her-happy type at the time, agreed to this arrangement.

As part of a promotion with my employer at the time, I negotiated a telecommuting arrangement so that I could work offsite. That spared me the trouble of finding a job in market that was lean. In the process, I sacrificed upward mobility within the company, and I placed myself in near total professional isolation.

All other issues aside, if she was the one bringing home the bacon, and it required her to relocate, I would be following along.

Why is She Crying, Anyway?

In a comment Emily writes:
Did you ever think that your wife is weeping uncontrollably, unable to take in much information, because she knows that you are planning to leave her? Because her marriage is failing? Being distressed and unable to take in and process information is pretty natural in the circumstances.

I don't believe this for the following reasons:

  • She has used crying, along with table turning, to shut down discussion of difficult subjects even when there was no fear of divorce. Over the years, I've seen her mother and father use these techniques to manipulate and crush dissent, so I believe that this is a continuing pattern.

  • Up until the counseling session, this was the first time that I said I was open to dissolving the marriage. I may have thought about it and blogged about it, but I haven't said anything to her that would indicate that I wanted to leave. Over the past two years, whenever discussions got tense, she was the one who would play the divorce or separation card to shut down the argument. In the late 90s when we were in strong disagreement over whether to have children, she was the one threatening to divorce me if I didn't come to see things her way. Late last summer, before we went into marriage counseling, she suggested separation. Finally, when it came down to the decision of choosing a job a couple weeks ago, she said that it was either the local job or separation.

But the thing is, these are problems that you should be working on together. You should be seeing a sex therapist together, to find ways that she can be more comfortable with touch.

We've been through individual and couples therapy on this subject. The couples therapy, which you can find detailed in the July and August archives, didn't get anywhere. The therapist's mindset was "don't violate her comfort zone and just be happy with that". The problem is when the comfort zone is that restrictive, what's the point, anyway?

She saw an individual therapist for a couple months regarding the sex issues for a couple months but then quietly stopped going. It wasn't until mid-December, when I was looking over some insurance statements from my own therapy and asked how her therapy was going, did she come out and say that she wasn't going anymore. She didn't start seeing a therapist again until April, when we had a big falling out over my rejection of duty sex.
You say that you want a passionate marriage. But passion is created between two equal people. It isn't created by sucking up to her for years in the hope that it will get you laid. It also isn't created by one person demanding more passion from the other with abandonment as the consequence of not complying. These are both extremes.

I'm not threatening abandonment as a consequence of non-compliance. By saying, "If you take the job in the desert southwest instead of the local one, we'll just have to have a separation because the girls and I are not coming along," she was the one threatening abandonment for non-compliance.
In trying to resolve very real problems, you are going about them the wrong way and your wife feels bullied and manipulated - just like you used to feel. People who feel that way aren't able to give a very warm response. They get frightened and defensive and even less able to grow.

I have been trying to communicate with her using non-inflammatory language. I've kept my own emotions in check. I've tried to be understanding of her anxiety. I have not tried to force her to do anything against her will. There have been multiple times where she's tried to brush off my concerns by saying that I'm just an unhappy person and need to go on medication. To me, that's emotional abuse.

I also don't believe that people are less able to grow when afraid. The absence of anxiety instills a feeling of complacency and makes a person less likely to change. Anxiety can be a driving force to grow because it forces you to the realization that the price of not changing is too high. That's the basis for Schnarch's writings, and I believe it's a much more realistic picture of how relationships work than most of the standard relationship counseling books.

The key is what drives the anxiety. It would not be healthy for me to demand that she "fix herself or else". Instead I worked on myself on a couple fronts. One was that I tried to be more motivated in doing things in areas where I wasn't the high desire partner.

The other was to face down my fears of inadequacy and take proactive measures to advance a career that was quickly becoming adrift. When I began to realize that I had marketable skills, they just weren't that marketable here, I began to self validate. That resulted in me going through several non-local job interviews. Her anxiety started to kick into high gear when it became apparent that the better offer was non local and would require us to relocate.

By refusing to relocate and demand a separation, she was trying to shut down a growth process. In a way, she needed me to feel inadequate because that would ensure that I would take a substandard job, be it a maintenance programmer, a temporary contract job, or another startup which might go belly up.

The issue of relocation brings to the fore a question of commitment to the marriage. She said she didn't want to give up her "support network" of friends. To me, that sounds like she's picking her friends over the best interests of the family.

The best analogy I can think of is to imagine that we're on a sinking ship (both my current employer and my career within a couple years), and I've been running all over the ship to find a lifeboat. I've found two. One has plenty of supplies to get to land. The other one has some supplies, but it's not clear whether there is enough to live on, but her friends are on that one. She's telling me that she refuses to get on the boat with plenty of supplies because her friends won't be with her.
If you're not careful, 2am, you're just going to become another guy who, psychologising aside, gets rid of his wife because she doesn't enjoy having sex with him and spends too much. If you feel okay about that, then go ahead.

No, that's not just it. She refuses to grow in any meaningful way and will resort to emotional abuse, if necessary, to make sure that she doesn't have to. The only way that system works is if I choose to stay in that system.
But what if you had more joint sessions looking for solutions, with a bias towards staying together? I'm not talking about you just giving in, I'm talking about genuine compromise and joint effort between two equals who have made a commitment to each other and have children to consider.

Unless there is some sort of last minute conversion on her part, I don't see her willing to work on compromise. It's almost been a year since we started marriage counseling, and she really hasn't put much work into it despite many opportunities to do so.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Discussing the Joint Session with My Therapist

I had an individual appointment with my therapist late this afternoon.

I started off by saying that I felt like yesterday's joint counseling session really address the subjects that I covered in my opening remarks. I added that I was surprised that my wife's therapist focused in on money for so long at the beginning.

My therapist explained the discussion on money was meant to provide both therapists a glimpse of how my wife and I communicate on a difficult subject. It could just as well have been something else, such as sex. She noted that money is usually an easier subject to bring up than sex, which was the other big area of contention.

I asked my therapist for her take on the session. She said that it sounded like neither of us had faith in the other to work on the relationship. That we seemed to be watching each other for signs.

I brought up my wife's crying at the beginning of the session. The therapist brought up a speculation that she made in a private session long ago. She thinks that my wife is driven largely by feelings rather than intellect. The crying, she said, was probably an indication that she had been overwhelmed by the information that was being communicated in the opening remarks.

I said that I know it was a lot of information, but I had tried other ways to reach her. For example, when I put together the discussion on money back in October, I did it in written form. She didn't respond well to that, either. The therapist said that written form probably would overwhelm her as well.

I asked my therapist how one gets through to someone who is so emotionally based. She said the information has to be presented in very small parcels, letting the person explore the feelings that he or she is having before moving onto the next point.

According to her, emotionally driven people attach feelings to incoming information, and their reaction isn't just to the information, but all of the other feelings from similar past experiences. She likened the feelings to a string of beads.

She said although a feeling based person couldn't process information as quickly, once the information was processed, it was usually done more thoroughly.

She also said that attempts to neutralize the content of a message, like removing accusations and judgments, wouldn't help because the emotionally driven mind colors the incoming information anyway.

I asked her whether she thought my wife's tears may have been manipulative, a way to shut down a dialogue she doesn't want to have. The therapist didn't agree. She speculated that if she was trying to manipulate, it wasn't at a conscious level.

I expressed disappointment that we didn't get anywhere closer to understanding what my wife's motivations, be they to get me to cave in or let me be the one to end the marriage. She said my wife probably doesn't even have a clue about her motivations.

I asked the therapist whether there was anything I could do to help prepare for the next joint session. She said that I probably should say to my wife that it was unclear to me where she stood with regards to this marriage, and that I needed an answer.

She added that I might want to make it clear that even in the off chance that I didn't take the job out west, that didn't mean that I necessarily wanted to stay in the marriage. Although the move out to the Silicon Valley spelled an end to the marriage, a decision to stay here might mean the end to the marriage as well. She brought that up because she thought that my wife would backslide if she didn't have some clearly specified conditions.

She said that my wife's therapist requested a copy of my opening remarks, so I sent my therapist a PDF of the original document. I suppose that my wife's therapist will use that information in her private session with my wife on Friday.

All in all, this may be a moot point. I don't totally buy that my wife is so deeply enmeshed in her emotions that she can't think straight. I might do some research on this area to see whether the theory has any merit.

I notified the HR guy at the Online Payment Subsidiary of the Big Online Auction Company that I want to move forward with the next round of interviewing with the guys in the mobile division. My gut tells me that I belong there.

Let Her Cry

We had our joint counseling session yesterday. Both of our therapists were present. It didn't give me any real sense of closure, but my wife's responses were not surprising.

I started off by reading what I had written in the previous blog posting.

My wife responded by falling apart into tears. She said she was under stress, and that her suggestion that I negotiate for higher pay on the local job and use the extra money to spend time together was her way of trying to reach out.

Her therapist asked if there was any area in our marriage where we managed to find common ground. I said that the kids were the common ground, and that we were pretty supportive of each other's parenting. My wife agreed. We also agreed that the kids were pretty much the only thing we still had in common.

My wife admitted she made the McDonald's remark out of spite, but defended her remark about the bills. She then said that I hadn't put enough effort into helping her with the bills since our conversation about money last October.

That sent us off into a tangent. Her therapist used that charge to explore how our finances were managed. We retraced how the duty of bill payment had shifted back and forth between us over the years, with my wife taking over the responsibility in the spring of 2005. I had requested that she do that as part of agreeing to have some expensive remodeling work done to the house.

The therapist noted that we lacked any long term planning for where we were headed financially, and she said that it sounded like the communication on the subject was poor.

My wife backed herself into a corner, first saying that she wasn't to blame for the overspending because I gave my consent to several large purchases she made (e.g. swing set for the kids, new furniture, new freezer for the garage). Then later on, she admitted that she didn't communicate to me just how quickly our savings was dwindling because she thought that I would respond negatively. Then later, she noted that I spent very little money. In essence, she was saying that she was doing the overspending, she knew about it, and it was my fault for trusting her to do the right thing.

My wife brought up the issue of sex again, charging that whatever she did never seemed good enough for me. She defended herself, reiterating the position that she can't stand extensive touch from anyone, not even the kids. It gives her the creeps. She also said she couldn't stand sweatiness, either. Then she said that I "just wanted a whore" in bed.

My therapist suggested that she might need to work on learning to overcome that creepy feeling because her aversion to bodily closeness was having a hugely negative impact on the marriage.

We spent some time just talking about communication. Her therapist wanted to know if we put aside time to just talk. I said it had become very difficult for me to discuss points of disagreement with my wife because I felt like she tried to quash disagreement by manipulation or abuse.

My wife said that it seemed the only way she could talk to me about the job stuff anymore was through IM conversations while I am at work. Both therapists agreed that going the IM route was probably going to result in more problems than real-life because so much gets lost in putting an expression to text.

The therapists asked us what we hoped to get out of these joint counseling sessions, and the responses were very different. My wife said that she just wanted to get rid of the stress that all of conflict was causing. I said I wanted to get a clearer picture of where we were headed, because I sensed that we were headed in two very different directions at this point in our lives.

At some point during the session, her therapist noted that my wife's teary response to my remarks seemed to be out of proportion to what was actually being said, as if there was an emotional undercurrent being attached to my remarks to give them a much different meaning.

My wife looked very red eyed afterwards, and she was that way when I got home from work that evening. Aside a request to give the kids a bath, we really didn't talk much. I wanted to give her some space to process all that we had talked about.

I was disappointed because the discussion about money and sex seemed to be too little too late. I was hoping to get some sort of signal from my wife whether she was ready to confront herself, now that I was on record saying that I was willing to take the job with the Online Payment Subsidiary and go on without her.

In my gut, I don't believe my remarks wounded her as much as acted. The mixture of counter charges and crying is something I've seen before from her. I'm more immune to it now. The the therapist's observation about the intensity of the crying makes me believe that my suspicion is accurate.

I have another session this afternoon with my own therapist. We've also scheduled another joint session at the same time next Monday.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Notes for Joint Counseling Session

Here are my notes for the joint counseling session that will take place in a couple hours. It's not the "I'm taking the job and leaving, dammit" speech, but I think it's likely to push the discussion in a way that will be less hostile.

[begin quoted text]

After we completed marriage counseling last August, I started to take a hard look at my situation. Since then, I've come to some realizations about myself.

  • Decisions in my life have been driven largely by fear. Rather than asking myself what I truly want, I pick the option that entails the least amount of anxiety.

  • I had a very low image of my self worth both as a professional and as a husband. I settled for what I got and didn't push for more out of fear that conflict would result in abandonment (loss of job, divorce).

  • I tied my sense of self worth to what other people thought of me.

  • I believed that by keeping you happy by providing you with what you wanted, you would meet my needs voluntarily.

  • My reliance on you for validation fed resentment when I sensed you didn't find me sexually attractive. I took it personally.

  • Most of our sexual experiences lacked connection. I felt as if you were doing it out of duty rather than desire.

  • When it came between choosing between my marriage and integrity, my integrity lost out. I wound up giving up so much of myself that I feel that there is little in this marriage is me.

I chose to confront these things in several ways.

  • I made self soothing of my anxiety a high priority.

  • I tried to take my focus off of what I thought was wrong with you.

  • I tried to mobilize myself in other situations where I was the low desire person (holiday celebrations, painting, etc.).

  • I attacked the notion of low self worth on the job by interviewing for jobs that I once thought were outside my grasp.

  • I refrained from initiating sex when I felt like I was doing it to get validation from you. In order to stand on my own two feet emotionally, I needed to be willing to face the reality that you might not choose me.

  • I no longer considered my sexuality to be pathological, and I began to reassert my right to pleasure myself sexually.

In the process I learned:

  • The value of my skills is much higher than I once thought. As I opened myself up to the idea of interviewing nationally, a lot more opportunities presented themselves. My struggle to find a job here locally says more about the poor quality of the local job market.

  • I am quickly approaching a point in my life where it becomes much harder to get hired. I need to be very careful in my selection of jobs, keeping in mind the health of the company itself as well as the skills I pick up as part of doing the job. If I don't, I run the risk of becoming a dinosaur.

I currently have two job offers on the table. One is with (local startup), and the other is with (Payment Subsidiary). I believe that the (Payment Subsidiary)offer provides me a better set of growth opportunities, and it puts me in an area with a much more vibrant job market for my line of work. While there is a chance that (local startup) may succeed, the downside is that if they do fail, I will most likely be into my 40s, where the marketability becomes more difficult. I fear that the sight of two failed startups on my resume convey the image of someone whose career is sputtering.

I realize that the prospect of me taking a far away job has created anxiety in you. I don't take delight in it one bit. I know that your friends and relatives provide a support network for you, one that would be hard to replicate elsewhere. I realize that such a move would take the kids away from the grandparents. The fact that you said you wanted to separate if I took the (Payment Subsidiary) job makes it clear that you think moving would be a violation of your integrity. But I also believe that to take the local job would be a violation of my own integrity and would surely not be in my best interest.

I know that my refusal to give up a choice that causes you anxiety has caused you much frustration. Over the past couple of weeks, some of the things you have said and written have hurt me. You've tried to scare me with the threat of separation. You have ridiculed me by suggesting that I apply for a job at McDonald's. You have used guilt in the form of financial distress over bills. It's made it very difficult for me to be open about discussing this further with you.

When you have been conciliatory, most of the things you suggested involve either further sacrifice from me, like going back to school to make myself more marketable here, or are just superficial changes, like going out on more dates or playing Scrabble. I don't see a desire from you to confront yourself and grow. I don't believe that you are responsible for my happiness, but it certainly doesn't help my happiness to think I'm married to someone who won't work to overcome her own limitations.

The proximity of this session to Father's Day is bittersweet, because it reminds me that there is more to this marriage than just us. There are the kids. They didn't come into our lives easily, and it's hard for me to think of being away from them for extended periods of time. They don't stay small for long. I realize that in addition to the financial security they might gain from me advancing my career, they need emotional security, to know that they are loved by both parents.

I also worry that by staying here, I will stagnate and become resentful. Parents give up their lives freely for their children in split second decisions, but it is much harder to do so when the sacrifice endures for years. The act can give rise to bitterness, warping the character. I don't want my children to know me as that kind of person. I wonder whether the choice to stay just defers the development I've been trying to dodge for years. It could come back to haunt me through destructive behaviors later on through substance abuse or some kind of midlife crisis.

Both potential employers have been very patient with me in this decision making process. I have maintained contact with them to let them know that I am still considering. (Payment Subsidiary) has indicated that I could still hire on at either location, provided that there is an opening. So if I were to take their offer, I could go to (somewhere in the Silicon Valley) because the pay is much higher. I wouldn't be working in the same division because they have already filled their slots, but they said they would try to find an appropriate match.

If I were to take the job with (Payment Subsidiary), I realize that I would be starting over from scratch. That's a scary thing in itself, but it could be a good exercise in trying to define myself. Most of the things that I would take with me are things you probably wouldn't want to keep anyway, and I wouldn't want you and the girls to do without. I would make sure that the debts got paid off, and that you had what you needed to keep food on the table and a roof on your head.

I think that we need to have a discussion about why we're holding onto this marriage. Is it because we believe it's truly worth keeping, or is it because we're just struggling to keep up appearances for the foreseeable future? I'm at a point where I feel it is more for the sake of appearances. When you take away the pictures of the happy family and look within, there isn't a deep connection between us. I don't think it's because either of us is defective. We've grown to have very different needs.

[end quoted text]

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Father's Fears

In a prior posting, I talked about how it bothered me that I was going to make a potentially painful disclosure to my wife so close to Father's Day. This post digs a bit deeper into what's eating at me. This is a scattered collection of thoughts that somehow appear related in my mind. Bear with me, please.

Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too

-- John Mayer, "Daughters", Heavier Stuff

I am the father of two girls. The older turns four this Wednesday, and the younger turned two this past February.

They did not come into my life easily. For years, I struggled with the question of whether to be a father at all. Then when I decided to make the leap, I had to pass through the ordeal of eventually discovering that I was not fertile enough to make it happen by the usual and customary means. Our older daughter was adopted as a newborn, and the younger was conceived on the third attempt at IVF. Because I worked from home up through November 2005, I had the rare privilege of being very involved with their lives.

That level of attachment makes it very hard for me to reduce my involvement in their lives voluntarily. I can make do the best I can by keeping in regular contact and coming back to visit frequently, but it's still not the same. I don't believe there is a way for me transcend that pain and still remain human.

ABC's Good Morning, America recently ran a segment on the impact that fathers have on their children. If you subscribe to ABC News Now or are a Comcast High Speed Internet subscriber, you can access the clip from here.

The interview includes some sound bites from Wall Street Journal columnist Sue Shellenbarger, who writes about work and family issues. Some of the ideas covered in the clip are discussed in a little more detail in a column that ran a few days ago.

The key idea behind the clip and column is that fathers contribute in different ways to a child's development. Some of the key points:

  • Language Skills: Fathers tend to use bigger words around the kids rather than baby talk, contributing to a wider vocabulary and language skills.

  • Life Lessons: Fathers are more likely to push kids toward independence.

  • Rougher Play: By engaging in rougher play, they help teach kids how to deal with frustration.

The segment wraps up by saying the most important thing a father can do is to "love mom." A father's positive relationship with mother gives the child a sense of security. It was this part that really skewered me in a sore spot, because I have struggled with feeling defective about no longer wanting to work on this relationship.

The inner mature voice tells me that it's not worth wasting energy on a relationship that is so adamantly one-sided. By refusing to live in reality, I condemn myself to stunted growth and bitter resentment. I am already feeling it happen, and sooner or later, I fear that it could taint the interactions with my children. Cutting loose now, and being honest about it, might well be the most loving thing I could do.

There have been a number of blog postings on the topic of fathers that have caught my eye and have resonated with me, and I'd like to comment on them.

The first is a post at Have The T-Shirt, where the author writes about her boyfriend's emotional state after having talked to them on the phone.

It was his daughters on the phone and he chatted with both of them, catching up on all the news. He asked them both if they would like to come to my dinner and their responses were what we expected. They made plans to see him on Father's Day and he found out his youngest is leaving for a week long camp sometime on Sunday as well, which means he won't be able to see her next weekend either.

They exchanged I love yous and he hung up the phone. He excused himself saying he 'needed a minute'.

I could hear him in the bathroom blowing his nose and sniffling and when he came out, his eyes were red.

I went to him and hugged him and he cried, tears rolling down my neck.

"I'm sorry, it's just that hearing their little voices (which is so cute, cause they don't have 'little voices', they're young adults, but to him they are his babies voices) well, it just tears me up. I miss them so much and it hurts to not be a part of their lives anymore."


Most of all, the overwhelming feeling I had was that I wish his daughters could see him now; crying, broken, hurting. I suspect they haven't a clue. I fear their mother has reduced him in their eyes to being an uncaring, unfeeling asshole of some sort. And as Jeremy said, "B is just not an asshole Mom." I'm not foolish enough to think he is totally blameless, I'm sure he's made mistakes, as we all have. But it is very difficult when you have someone broadcasting your mistakes 24/7 (his ex) and not tempering it at all with the things you've done right.

Her account and interpretation of the scene illustrates one of the fears I have about moving far away -- my wife will be the one to shape the image of me in their eyes. No matter how much I try to keep in touch and be a part of their lives, my time with the girls will be framed by my wife's unfiltered opinions.

At some level, I can deal with my wife badmouthing me. It's unrealistic to think that she will emerge from this without some form of lingering anger at me, and if I were to let that shape my actions, it would be emotional fusion.

What does worry me is that her remarks will make the girls feel like they weren't worth loving. I know what that feeling is like, and it can (pardon my language) fuck up one's existential equilibrium.

While the world is asleep
You can look at it and weep
Few things you find are worthwhile
And though I don't ask for much
No material things to touch
Lord, protect my child

-- Bob Dylan, "Lord Protect My Child", The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3

The next posting comes from I Don't Know; I Hope So. In her posting dedicated to her father, she writes:
but most importantly, my dad is someone who i never doubted could beat the crap out of an intruder. that might sound funny, but i think that was the thing i appreciated most about him when i was little! i always felt safe and never worried about anything happening in the night, because i was quite confident in my dad's ability to protect us. and that is ridiculously important to a little girl. i remember sizing up my friend's dads and every time thinking my dad is so much stronger than him.

I don't think her remarks sound funny because I recall reading things elsewhere where grown women express similar expectations of their men. I tried tracking down one of the posts, but Google didn't help me. To paraphrase the remark, the woman wrote that she and her friends looked for a man who was "willing to kill" for the sake of their defense.

My older daughter has the bigger sense of fear right now. Last Halloween, she started to grok the notion of ghosts and their ominousness. Combine that with an interest in old Scooby Doo episodes, and you can picture what bedtime is like these days. I've worked really hard to let her know that I understand her fears, and that I'm there to protect her, regardless of whether she chooses to believe in ghosts.

We also have this little routine just before I turn out the light where I call in Buster, a 60 lb. yellow lab mix of a family dog, and ask him to check for ghosts. He looks around and wags his tail and then looks up at me. Then I tell he, "He says there's no ghosts."

From this ritual has sprung a mythos about the protective powers of Buster. We have a little give-and-take story that goes like this:

me: What happens when Buster sees a ghost?
daughter: He shows sharp teeth.
me: And what does he do with the sharp teeth?
daughter: (giggling) He bits 'em in the booty!
me: What does the ghost say then?
daughter: He says, "Ouch!"

At this point, she's laughing, and her fears are far far away.

The theme of security from father reminded me of another, more disturbing post from a few months back at Have the T-Shirt, where she talks about sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather.

That post really hit home with me on the question of whether to leave. Although I don't forsee my wife seeking the company of another man in my absence, she might be the type to do so just to ensure financial security. If I were far away, I would be limited in what I could do to protect my daughter. If something were to happen to either of my girls, I think I would beat myself up with blame.

I wasn't there that morning
When my father passed away
I didn't get to tell him
All the things I had to say

I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
I'm sure I heard his echo
In my baby's new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

-- Mike & the Mechanics, "Living Years", Living Years

Finally, a posting at For a Different Kind of Girl writes about her father's stroke many years ago, and the circumstances under which it took place.

My own father had a stroke in November 2001. He's still alive, but his physical abilities on the left side of his body are severely impaired to this day. He was left handed, so he was no longer able to enjoy one of the passions of his life, playing guitar.

As the reality of the stroke's severity set in, I grieved. My father and I had been through a long, slow, thaw since his decision to remarry back in 1984, and because we had moved closer to where he lived a year before, I looked forward to strengthening our relationship.

I had hoped part of that would have included attending a performance by the blues band he had been playing with the last few years. I had never been able to see any of the shows. I did get a chance to attend the last show before his stroke, at a street fair one month before. But upon arriving at the stage, I received word that the show had rained out.

I wonder what how my dad views that falling out, almost 23 years ago. We talked briefly about it in the fall of 1994. It was a moment of mutual forgiveness, but he really didn't open up about whether he had worried about the future damage in our relationship or whether they might one day heal as they did.

These days, he's a very loving grandfather, and I am grateful for it. For all of the anger I harbored at him during my teen years, he proved to be the most respectful of boundaries. He never tried to impose a vision on what he thought I should do or be. Yet somehow, I fear that the news of me leaving may hurt him, too.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Shut Up and Go to Sleep, Sentimental Geek

This is where the summer ends
In a flash of pure destruction, no one wins
Go nuclear. Nuclear.
The violets in my eyelids goin' red
Sentimental geek
Shut up and go to sleep

-- Ryan Adams, "Nuclear", Demolition

My emotions are in limbo today. I don't have much to offer in terms of either news or overanalysis. A lot of mental energy is being used on figuring out what I'm going to say in therapy on Monday (be honest, but don't let the wounded side do the talking).

It's hot here. Hot enough that the National Weather Service has been using an orange -brown icon in its local forecasts. You can see a copy of the image adjacent to the lyrics above. I affectionately refer to it as the "thermonuclear blast".

It is on such a nuclear day that I happened to stumble across an article in the New York Times profiling the life and times of Ryan Adams... prolific, caustic, troubled, and perhaps rebounding.

But, man, are some of his songs real keepers! "Nuclear" may not be his most critically acclaimed work, but it does merit the distinction of having chased away the showtune earworm that has gummed up my mind the past couple of days. That has to count for a lot in these troubled times.


Friday, June 15, 2007

You're Probably Wondering about that Phone Call

I had two phone conversations with people at the Online Payment Subsidiary of the Big Online Auction Company. The first was a half-hour talk with a department manager, and the other one was a followup with the HR guy in the company's southwestern desert offices.

The department manager told me about two different groups that were in need of developers. The first, located in the southwestern desert, deals with optimization of the backend payment. The second, located in the Silicon Valley, deals with making all of their services available via mobile communications (e.g. cell phones). Both sounded very interesting, and indicated as much to the manager. He said he'd give me a few days to think about my preference. Sometime before the middle of next week, he said that I should contact the HR guy to indicate my preference.

When I discussed the interview with the HR guy, I learned that there might be a snag, should I pursue the backend payment opening. Since it is located in the southwestern desert, the group with which I originally interviewed would need to give their okay, since they technically still have dibs on me. That's good to know because that means I have one sure offer and two other possibilities within the same company.

So the decision making process goes as follows:

  1. Pick a location: Silicon Valley or southwestern desert.

  2. If the choice is Silicon Valley, then I will undergo another phone interview with the technical staff of the phone services team. Skip the next step.

  3. If the choice is the southwestern desert, I will need to decide whether to stick with the original group who made me the offer or go with the backend payment guys. If it is the latter, I'll need to get the blessing from the former, and go through a similar phone interview as the last step.

  4. Accept the offer.

  5. Give notice to current employer and get ready to roll.

This is sounding good.

Pressing the GUILT Button

On IM this morning...

wife (6/15/2007 10:09:35 AM): are you sure the (local startup) offer is still available to you if you want it?
me (6/15/2007 10:10:20 AM): Yes. I received assurance from (the manager) yesterday that the offer is still on the table.
wife (6/15/2007 10:11:23 AM): did he give you a date yesterday because i didn't realize you had talked to him
me (6/15/2007 10:11:42 AM): He called my cell phone yesterday afternoon to touch base.
wife (6/15/2007 10:12:35 AM): so did he give you a date that they needed an answer
me (6/15/2007 10:12:55 AM): He told me to take my time.
me (6/15/2007 10:13:18 AM): I think they're more afraid of losing me than anything.
wife (6/15/2007 10:16:21 AM): well could you let me know soon if you are doing anything with either job because I am going probably going to need to watch (best friend's autistic daughter) more [1], sell more on (Big Online Auction Company), or work some more hours to get more money [2]. we had $$600 extra that had to come out of our money in the past 5 weeks.
me (6/15/2007 10:16:47 AM): $600 ?
me (6/15/2007 10:18:30 AM): I see.
me (6/15/2007 10:18:34 AM): That's not good.
wife (6/15/2007 10:18:59 AM): so it had to come from somewhere so now I am trying to get other things current.

[1] -- Earlier this year, she received the credentials necessary to provide some form of respite care, and gets reimbursed by the state at an hourly rate.

[2] -- She works about 10 hours a week doing database cleanup work from her laptop on the couch while watching TV.

[3] -- The collection is for the cost of cryopreservation of embryos that we had fertilzed in 2004 as part of an IVF/ICSI. The clinic now charges a yearly rate for storage.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Inspiration from Blogging Elsewhere

Taken from a June 13th post at Emerging from the Other Side, on the announcement of the author's plans to divorce.
As i told a very very good friend earlier, i feel an enormous relief, despite being absolutely petrified. And as another good friend one said to me, with a wisdom that belied her years, "courage is acknowledging the fear, and then doing it anyway."

I only hope i can live up to that.

I second that sentiment.

A Phone Call from Yesterday, A Phone Call For Today, A Phone Call for Tomorrow

I just returned the phone call to my contact at the Online Payment Subsidiary of the Big Online Auction Company.

First the bad news, since we last spoke, the positions for which he had made a referral have been filled.

Now the good news. He said that another two openings are coming up in another division, adding that it would require me to "ramp up" some because the skills aren't quite the same as the position that I was originally offered. He said that they were open to hiring an experienced developer who had the desire to learn it. The pay and benefits would remain unchanged for the position.

We set up a time for me have a half-hour conversation with the manager of the department. It takes place sometime mid-day, so it will line up well with a lunch break.

On a side note, I also received a phone call from the local startup to see whether I was still in the market. The manager said that there was no rush on the offer deadline, and if there was anything they could do to help me make the decision, let them know.

How To Tell You're Living in Your Head Too Much

Tunes from Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals start popping in your head and won't go away.

For some reason, the song "Could We Start Again, Please" has taken up residency on the mental hi-fi.

My contact at the Online Payment Subsidiary at the Big Online Auction Company tried to call me last night, and I missed the call. In the voice mail, he said he had an update on things, but didn't go into specifics. I intend to call him later this afternoon, given the time difference between here and there.

Why does a decision like this fall so close to Father's Day?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

2am Gets a Reality Check from Readers and Wife

The comments from my last post seem to be in agreement that any hope for a last minute turnaround is pure delusion at this point.

After reflecting on the feedback, and taking into account an interaction today with my wife, I am convinced that the readership is on spot on.

I've taken positive steps toward pursuing my career goals. I need to keep pushing in that direction, and use the upcoming joint session to communicate that intent clearly and respectfully.

This morning, as my wife was getting ready to go to her individual therapy session, I gave her a heads-up that my therapist had proposed a joint session and that her therapist would probably ask her for what time worked best.

She responded with snideness in her voice, "What are you going to do at that session, finally tell me your decision about the job offer?" I refused to say exactly what I wanted to discuss. That brief exchange spoke volumes about the lack of respect that she has for this process.

I think that doing this within the environs of the counseling session will reduce the likelihood that she will fall back on direct emotionally abusive tactics, but I suspect that she will try the "fall apart" card because that is her weapon of last resort.

I will not back down, nor will I seek to invalidate her. This is not about me proving her wrong. It's about acknowledging what is real: We are in two separate boats, drifting in very different directions. I cannot continue to track her course and expect to grow professionally at the same time. For the sake of my own well being, and the future financial well being of my children, I need to go my own way.

My Therapist Makes a Suggestion

I had my weekly appointment with my therapist yesterday. After discussing the climate with home life and job search, she asked me to tell her what I thought was going on with my wife.

I said that I believed my wife was taking one of the following strategies.

  1. She doesn't want to give up on the marriage, and she figures that from past experience she doesn't really need to give much to keep me in line. All she has to do is throw enough emotional abuse to get me to fall back into line.

  2. She really doesn't care about fate of the marriage, and is using the dilemma to get out of the marriage while looking like a victim.

I said what was missing in my wife's comments was any positive statement about preserving the marriage. Rather than saying something like, "Stick with me on this, and I'll do my best to make this better for both of us." She was saying, "Why don't you just do take the local job, maybe go back to school so that you can find jobs here, and ask for more money so that we can do more of the things that I like to do?" There was no sign that she was self confronting or expressing a desire to grow, let alone foster a deeper relationship between us.

My therapist sensed that it was this confusion that is keeping me stalled at making a decision about the job. I said that was a big chunk of it, because if the first speculation was accurate, there might be a ghost of a chance that she still might self confront makes some changes.

She wondered if there was a way that I could discern between which is the truth. I said that only way I could see would be actually telling her that I'm taking the relocating job (regardless of whether it is in the desert or in the Silicon Valley). Her reaction might give some clues, but even then it could be an act.

She suggested that we have a joint session, just as we had discussed in early April when my wife demanded that she come with me to my therapy session. During the session I could spell out clearly in a safe environment what I wanted to do with the job offer and give her a chance to respond. Perhaps finally just spelling it all out would get at the truth of where she stands.

My therapist e-mailed me last night with some times that she and my wife's therapist would be available on Monday next week. That may well be the point where I move past the gridlock.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Never Underestimate the Importance of a Supportive Spouse

On IM this morning...

wife (6/11/2007 10:22:08 AM): also do you think you will be making a decision (about the job) this week. you didn't tell me when you thought you were deciding
me (6/11/2007 10:22:58 AM): I don't know. I would like to make a decision sooner rather than later. But I really don't know.
wife (6/11/2007 10:23:17 AM): i can call and accept for you if you want :-)
me (6/11/2007 10:24:12 AM): Thank you for your offer of assistance, but I need to make this decision and be okay with it.
wife (6/11/2007 10:24:49 AM): but just think of the relief you would have once the decision is made, so i would be happy to assist you :-)
wife (6/11/2007 10:26:10 AM): is anyone in the office
me (6/11/2007 10:26:43 AM): Yes, (coworker) is here.
me (6/11/2007 10:26:53 AM): (CTO was online ever so briefly this morning.
wife (6/11/2007 10:27:04 AM): i can find mcdonalds phone number and get you a job there
me (6/11/2007 10:27:25 AM): Gee, thanks.
wife (6/11/2007 10:27:46 AM): it wouldn't be that hard of decision. because they have them worldwide
wife (6/11/2007 10:28:19 AM): maybe you would be happy there

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Update on those Videos

Updated at 4:16 p.m. on 6/9/2007 to include phone call.

Updated at 6:12 p.m. on 6/9/2007 to include video sale.

Well, my wife and her best friend set off for the video store to sell that massive collection of VHS tapes. No word on whether they were able to sell them or how much they got if they did.

They've been gone for a couple of hours now. I know that in addition to the video store visit, they were supposed to be mailing out some things that they had sold via online auctions, and they were talking about going to Target. I've got kid care duty while the young'uns try to nap.

Update: My wife called about 15 minutes ago (4:01 p.m. by the caller ID) to let me know that they still needed to go to Target, so I have no idea what else they've been up to.

Update: My wife and her best friend returned shortly before 5 p.m. They said that the guy at the store was "very nice" to them. He gave them $35 for the whole collection.

I speculated that they may not fetched as high a price because of the decline in VHS media. These days, they probably don't move as swiftly as DVDs. The best friend disagreed, saying that the store was selling used tapes at a rate of buy two, get one free at $14.95 a piece.

I suspect that the video store will fetch a healthy profit on the goods.

Words of Reassurance

Stuff you probably won't hear from your standard marriage counselor:
What behaviors are predictive of divorce when couples reach critical mass? One partner tries to stop the process rather than go through it: he refuses to grow and tries to undermine the other's differentiation via argument, abuse, withdrawal, or "falling apart." Basically, he is trying to overpower the process of differentiation inherent in the system of marriage. His strategy of "I'm not growing and neither are you" is inherently doomed. (David Schnarch, Passionate Marriage, p. 372).

Friday, June 08, 2007

Questions You Hope You Never Have to Answer

My wife called me late yesterday afternoon to ask me a question. She had been helping her mother clean out her mom and dad's garage, and they had run into a problem for which she hoped I could find a solution. Was there someplace they could take a collection of around 200 used VHS adult videos?

The videos belonged to her late brother, who passed away in the late summer of 2003. They were in my mother-in-law's possession because he had been living with his parents, never having moved out after graduating from high school. He kept a steady job and helped keep the bills paid. Indeed, I suspect if he had moved out, his parents would have been homeless because of the way his dad mismanaged the household finances.

But, there they were -- a huge stash of X-rated vids, lingering in storage for over three years. I suspect that there were two separate forces that kept them around. First, his mother was so devastated emotionally by his death that she could never bring herself to throw anything of his away. Second, I recall my wife saying that prior to his debilitating stroke in the spring of 2005, her dad was hoping to make some extra money selling them off.

So, I sat there, brainstorming. They didn't have any more room in the trash for the tapes, and they really wanted to get rid of them because they suspected that one of our nephews, who is 16, would be all to happy to sneak off with a few. I said the only places I could think of would be pawn shops and maybe adult video stores. She then asked me to call around to a few places in town to see if they would take them.

So I fired up the web yellow pages and found the three closest pawn shops to our mailing address. Nope, they wouldn't take them. So I called an adult video store. The man who answered the phone said that if we brought them in during the day, there would be some guy who would pay us cash for them.

So I called my wife back, and she seemed unhappy with my findings. She didn't want to have to go to an adult video store. Moreover, she wasn't going to let me go to the store because of my past issues. She then wondered if she could get her best friend to go with her while another friend watched the kids.

She then said she'd feel weird doing that because all of the videos were girl-on-girl, and she was worried that the guy at the store would think that she and her friend were "together". I said something like, "I'm sure he'd be extra friendly to both of you." In the darkest reaches of my mind I was really thinking, "He wouldn't be the first person to think that."

Feeling a Little Better Today

By the early afternoon yesterday, I was feeling so nauseous, I called it quits and headed home for the day. I wound up sleeping most of the afternoon and evening. My wife had taken the kids down to her mom's to help with cleaning out the garage. They did not get home until the late evening, and both kids were in a state of meltdown. The younger daughter woke up shortly before midnight crying, so I fetched her and soothed her back to sleep. It took over half an hour to get her fully calmed down. She hasn't been that way for a long time.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

How am I Feeling? (a Dennis Miller moment)

Over the past 18 hours, peace of mind has been as brittle and unsustainable as a early 90s Serbo-Croatian cease fire.

Is the anxiety based on something real or imagined? When you're in this deep, sometimes it's hard to tell.

What is certain is that this morning, I woke up with a case of lower gastrointestinal distress of the liquefied kind, and I'm hoping that the loperamide HCL kicks in soon.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

It's Life, Jim, but not as We Know It

The HR guy has replied with a mixed bag of news. He checked with the Silicon Valley offices, and it turns out the group with whom I was offered a job has no open positions, but there are two other divisions that may be able to use me. He said he would need 48 hours to get my resume vetted with them, and then there would be a phone screening if they were interested.

Wheels are Turning

Overcoming a massive load of anxiety and a headache on the side, I just made the call to the HR guy for the Online Payment Subsidiary offices in the desert Southwest. I explained my situation, and I apologized for the delay in the process.

I asked if he could contact his counterpart in the Silicon Valley to see whether the offer out there could be resurrected. He said he understood the situation and that he would be happy to check into it.

He added that he couldn't make any guarantees because it would depend on what the requisition list was like out there, but that he should be back in touch with me within a couple of hours.

I feel like I'm pressing the plunger on a TNT detonator.

The Bargaining Continues...

To my surprise, my wife resumed seeing her therapist yesterday, now that the therapist is back on network. She sent the following IM this morning.
Wife (6/6/2007 9:10:50 AM): i talked in therapy yesterday about some stuff. how would you feel asking for a few $1000 more from (local startup) and decide to take that job, the extra money would allow us to be able secure babysitting and be able to do more things together that would give us some time together just us. we could do the shows again, maybe dance lessons, just more freedom to work on us. it is just some stuff i talked about in therapy

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


The Drunken Housewife writes:
Basically she WILL pick her two best friends over her husband. That's established. You are supposed to accept that reality and forego career advancement so that she can remain with her two best friends. That's a huge concession to make on your part; does she realize that?

I don't think she does, since our relationship has been grounded on the assumption that I will eventually concede whatever she wants. That's just the way things have always been.

But DH's remark begs another question... While it would be nice for the beneficiary of a concession to be aware of the concession's magnitude, it is ultimately the conceder's responsibility to decide whether that concession violates personal integrity.

The world is replete with people who forsook their wedding vows when times turned for the poorer. My wife may well be one of the rarities who chose to do so for the richer. Screaming "You are a fool!" at her at the top of my lungs probably won't change her ways. I need to ask myself, "Am I the greater fool for having tolerated it for so long?"

Tomorrow, I'm calling the HR department for the Payment Subsidiary to see if they will reconsider me for the offer in the Silicon Valley. If she's staying, I might as well go where I really want to be.

Should All These Things Make Me Happy?

A tune has been playing through my head. I found the lyrics and pulled them up and found this nugget that captures my nagging doubts so well...
I think I might know
What I really want
But is a brighter discontent
The best that I could hope to find?

-- Submarines, "Brighter Discontent", Declare a New State!

That nagging little voice that says, "What if your choice doesn't lead you to where you're hoping?" I've been countering that voice with, "That's part of living life. At some point you have to make that leap of faith to grow." Now if I can only truly make that mantra integral to my existence.

Separating the Questions of Career and Marriage

Reader sixdegrees writes in a comment:
It strikes me that you are still entangling the decision to move with the decision of what to do about your marriage. (quantum entanglement, anyone?) I think pulling these strands apart will help clarify the situation. My own reading is that you have already come to the decision that you need to divorce your wife. And you have come to the decision that you need to pursue other career options beyond your current job. These are separate decisions and should be kept so, in my opinion.

It would be nice to keep those decisions separate, but unfortunately, the decisions are not made in a vacuum.

I believe that the career question is the more urgent of the two, and needs to be answered first. The urgency is driven by two things: my employer's financial state and two very attractive job offers on the table.

My current employer is in an even creakier state than I once thought. During a working lunch on Friday, our CTO explained that they were working on a deal with a friend of our (cover your ears, Drunken) angel investor to help get some income going. The deal would be a consulting arrangement, wherein the two founders would come in to provide IT advice on acquisitions. Moreover, it was revealed that our angel investor had been providing "incremental financing", meaning just enough to keep the payroll met, for some time now.

You've already read about the two offers ad nauseum, so I won't rehash them again.

The question of divorce is important, but not something I would treat as a time-sensitive issue as I would the career decision. However, as we learned last week, my wife wants the two linked in some way. She used the term separation, but I believe she's saying, "This might as well be a divorce, but I don't want to have to go get a job so I have my own health insurance."

Over the weekend, we had another conversation, where she took a more conciliatory tone.

She apologized for being so angry with me on Tuesday. The said she didn't want our marriage to end.

She questioned whether I had thought the remote job offer through, making the case that by the time one subtracted out the cost of me keeping a residence out there and frequent trips home, we wouldn't be that much better off.

She said that I would miss out on the girls, and it would be tough for me to leave each time. She said she saw that with her preschool mom friends' kids, when her husband goes off to work his remote contract security guard job.

She also said that there wouldn't be much room for "alone time" (read: sex) when I was home because the kids would want so much attention.

She said that she didn't think I understood how much she needed the support of her friends.

She offered to see if one of the dance school assistant instructors could babysit for us a time or two a month so that we could go out for a few hours.

She also suggested that we find some activities to do together to foster a connection, like read a book, play Scrabble, or even start going to church.

She also asked whether I could go to back to school to take some courses that would allow me to find a job that I would be happy with here in our current location.

Most of the stuff she talked about was things I could change about myself. There wasn't any really anything new brought up or any real changes offered from her end.

In some ways, it almost seemed like she had moved from Anger to Bargaining on the K├╝bler Ross grief cycle.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Trip to the Attorney's Office

I had a consultation with a family law attorney up near my office. I'm still a little stressed, so this may seem a bit scattered.

The thing that struck me was her reaction as I tried to explain my situation with the job. I had prepared for some sort of "What is wrong with you?" response. What I got instead was a look of disbelief about my wife. The reluctance to relocate, combined with the threat of separation, didn't add up to her.

She didn't buy the, "I'll lose my support network" defense my wife was peddling. I said it was tough for me to grasp as well. I had thought it might have something to do with my wife's upbringing, because relatives typically did not move far away. I also said that she seemed to have "an unusually strong bond" with her best friend. She hooked into that, asking me to clarify. I told her that I didn't have definitive proof, but it seemed that she placed a higher value on their friendship than she did our relationship.

She didn't seem surprised about my difficulty finding jobs in this area, and she even articulated a lot of my worries about my career without me bringing them up first. She seemed to understand where I was coming from and didn't fault me for wanting to take the Online Payment Subsidiary job.

Regarding the question of support. There's no doubt that I'd have to pay child support because I was the major breadwinner of the household. Based on the pay out West, I used a calculator at a state government website to estimate that it could be on the order of $300 a week. She said that a judge probably wouldn't be sympathetic to my wife regarding spousal support, since she is able bodied and has employable skills.

She said that moving out of state would not adversely impact the nature of a separation or a divorce, but it would most likely limit my rights to influence certain decisions, such as religious upbringing, education, and medical decisions.

I asked about the likelihood that my wife would have a case for abandonment, if I decided to move unilaterally. She said as long as I was sending back money to pay the bills and provide for them, there wouldn't be a case. She said I didn't look like the type who was trying to keep money from his wife so he could afford a Porche and a bimbo.

She recommended against filing for a legal separation because in our state, such decrees are valid for only a year. After that, the separation needs to be either dismissed or rolled over into a divorce. You can't renew the separation indefinitely. Another thing that would make a separation undesirable from my standpoint would be that it might give my wife an extra piece of leverage for continued spousal support after the divorce.

She made a good impression on me, seeming concerned about my well being (I probably looked pretty shaken at the time). I also got this vibe that she could be fierce in the courtroom if this got ugly. I don't want to go to war over this, but if my wife decides to go for the jugular, I may need that kind of representation.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Dark Times Call for Even Darker Humor

Just don't say I'm
Damned for all time

-- Judas Iscariot, "Damned for All Time/Blood Money", Jesus Christ Superstar

Still carping from his latest spurning, the Drunken Housewife's personal demon stopped by my house last night for a visit, offering some help for my two-choice dilemma. His selling point was, "If you can't please everybody, why please anyone?"

I politely told him that I wasn't in the market for a dilemma dodge and sent him out for a night on the town with my own demon. Just to spite me, she donned that killer black miniskirt and thigh high boots for the affair. My demon returned the next morning looking a little worse for wear. Serves her right.

I'm holding off on a choice until sometime tomorrow evening. By then I will have met with legal counsel and had one more therapy session.