You have every right to be very angry

It’s a great line. It falls under the concept of allowing the other person’s feelings to be validated as real, and accepting that the person feels that way is a good step toward opening communication back up. But the next thing you do determines whether you really mean it or not. If you then let me express that anger and why I am angry and if necessary, explain what I’m not understanding or taking into account, then you really are following through.

But if your next step is to say you are very angry, refuse to make eye contact or listen to what is being said, and stop talking about the issue, then you really haven’t validated my feelings at all. You’ve closed me off and told me I don’t have a right to have feelings about whatever is happening to me.

And my first response is that Dave has no right to be angry about anything, he started all of this with his actions. And he should have known how Alison and the boys, and we would react, so he should have been ready for it. Besides, we’re just trying to talk to him, figure out what he’s thinking, and tell him why we think this is a bad idea.

A more tempered response is that he obviously can be angry, since he is. Perhaps he didn’t think it through and was surprised to find out that not only were people angered and hurt by his actions but actually expected him to talk about it and change his behavior. Preferably change his behavior enough to come home and live his life again. At least stand up and accept responsibility for his behavior and the damage it is doing and work with the people he is hurting to get through this.

But he is the one that opened with the line and then he refused to listen or to respond as if he really felt his son or wife or the rest of us actually had a right to be angry. Or at least that we had a right to express how we felt and why we felt that way and then actually get some useful response from him.

Over the past two days David has commented that his oldest son has been hostile on the 2 visitations and then indicated that he doesn’t want him on the next visitation as a result. Yet, this is actually one of the first people Dave admitted should be angry, and that time in the driveway Dave even said he was surprised the young man wasn’t even angrier than he seemed to be. He’s 15, a teenager, old enough to understand what is going on, and to feel betrayed by the man he called Dad. Like us, he wants answers. Yet when he has stated his feelings, Dave has accused us of coaching him, as if he isn’t capable of feeling this pain and anger all by himself. And when he expresses his anger that Dave won’t talk to or answer the questions of the younger boys, Dave calls it hostile and instead of talking to him simply states he doesn’t want him there.

David is a life coach. He’s someone you call up and work with to help make yourself better, achieve more, and live your dreams. There are things we hold on to, agonize over, and keep dragging around that a life coach has to help us realize should just be let go and walked away from. But there are also things we avoid, ignore, keep procrastinating about dealing with. Here is where the life coach guides you to stand up and face the situation or person or weakness or fear. David seems to be telling himself (and I supposed getting reinforced by someone) that he should just walk away from his family and the quicker the better. For an abused spouse, that may be the way to go (and you don’t leave the kids behind). But for a man to walk out because he wants to be selfish and wants to focus on his business, it is not right or profitable to avoid dealing with the pain and damage he leaves in his wake.

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The other side to the story…

…?

I’ve had a very few people say that perhaps we aren’t being fair to Dave, or that he doesn’t deserve they way we’re treating him. As people say, there are always 2 sides to the story.

I am not sure how what any of us have done is not fair to Dave. So far, Alison has asked him to come home, to see his boys, and to tell her what she did that was so horrible that he can’t live with her or talk to his boys with her around.

Anthony’s website has been from the perspective that as a Christian Dave once felt that what he is doing right now is very wrong. Dave has stated many times through his life that he would never divorce and that his greatest fear was his family breaking up like his did as a child. If we feel that he is doing something that he will someday regret, and if he can’t explain to us why this makes sense, we just don’t want to have him ask us why we didn’t even try to stop him. If what we say shames or embarrasses him, then I guess that shows he does still understand at some level that it is wrong to just walk out of a marriage and stop all communication with family. If he truly doesn’t care, and if the people he does business with don’t think his personal life should interfere with his business life, then he shouldn’t be affected by any of what we are doing. We aren’t trying to just shame him, we want him to rethink and see the results of what he is doing.

My blog entries are more sharing what I’m thinking and feeling and what Alison is thinking and feeling, but I think all of them have shown that we just want to know why he is doing this and that it hurts. I don’t actually expect them to affect Dave, but I do hope maybe someone else reading them will realize that this is a very painful thing to do to someone.

As for there being another side to the story, we aren’t hearing it. He won’t talk to his family (remember, he’s threatened by Anthony), or old friends, or his former pastor. I assume he’s talking to his business associates, but that won’t help us since none of them are likely to call up and help explain it to us.

He’s stopped posting on his blog and made a comment to his lawyer that his business is being affected. I had to laugh at that. Anthony’s website has had a total of 241 visitors in the past 3 weeks. I suspect many of those are people who follow Anthony on Facebook or Twitter, so people who have never worked with or known Dave. Family are seeing it, but those lines were drawn years ago I think. My posts have actually had an average of 20 visits, which I admit is quite a few more than I thought. Either way, compared to the 7,871 Twitter followers and blog followers that Dave has, we aren’t even a drop in the bucket. Searching for Dave Navarro (and skipping all those about the rocker), Rock Your Day or Launch Coach all bring up his sites, but the first 4o or 5 pages of results at least don’t bring up Anthony’s website. And I’m just not convinced that the people who do business with or follow Dave care about what he’s done.

So, let’s review what we’ve done – we’ve played with his sons, comforted his wife (and took her to the hospital when she was dehydrated), helped get her van fixed, run kids to a few events when she had to be in a different direction, and sat with Alison while she cries. Anthony and I and the oldest son tried to talk to Dave one night, and Anthony  made a number of phone calls one night while driving to Raleigh for another visit. (David didn’t answer.) And Anthony has put up a website that has been fruitless as far as we can see.

I guess we should have left Alison crying, called up Dave to congratulate him on such a stellar move, and gone about our lives.

This weekend at our house, I kept looking at the photos of my sister’s children. I never really understood why she walked out, or why she left her children behind when she did it. But we also jumped in to help that time. I helped take care of the boys, reminded Duncan (he was 1 year old the day after she left) that I was not Mommy, tried to coordinate visits and phone calls when she wasn’t nearby to visit. Again, I know there were two sides to that story, but I never really understood her side. I don’t know if she couldn’t express it in a way for me to understand or if I just haven’t experienced a relationship so stifling that leaving everything behind is the only way to get out, without turning to family for support. I loved her and still love her, but she seemed to be taking care of herself so I tried to take care of her boys. Partly because someone needed to do it, and partly because it seemed to be all that I could do for her at the time.

In an older time, when family wasn’t scattered all over the state or the country, sisters and parents and cousins would have done the same thing, it just wouldn’t get much remark. Family steps in to take care of family. The one who walks away and won’t talk is harder to take care of, sometimes all we can do is try to protect and love the ones they left behind.

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Theory number 57

As I’ve said, we do a lot of talking trying to figure out how Dave could do this after 10 years of marriage and seeming to be happy for much of that time. So, for all our Trek friends, this should be familiar. We have a theory that this is the alternate Dave and the real Dave, the nice, good, loving Dave, is trapped in some alternate universe. This, of course, started with the original Star Trek series in the Mirror Mirror episode where a transporter mishap swaps Captain Kirk and crew with their evil counterparts in a parallel universe.

Or maybe it’s really like the movie The Last Starfighter, and this is the Beta Dave filling in his place while the Real Dave is out fighting to save the Galaxy.

Yeah, sounds wild, but no more wild than thinking Dave would ever do what he’s doing.

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Losing your best friend

One thing David told the school counselor that first Friday after he left was that he and Alison were best friends. Alison agrees completely with that part, even if the rest of what he said doesn’t make sense.

Alison keeps saying that she misses Dave. She misses hearing him sing in the shower, trying to move around him in the kitchen, just knowing he is there. He would play lego with the boys in the morning before school or in the evening before bed. He would rub her knee when the arthritis flared up. He would rub her back when it ached, and hold her close while they slept. Just seeing him look across the room and even wink at her – she misses all of it. She misses hearing his voice.

Today while we were hanging around our house, Anthony kicked back and took a nap, which means he snored. That’s a familiar noise and the sound made Alison miss Dave even more. We have photos for the screen saver on the family computer here and we keep seeing photos of David with the kids and of their wedding. It is so nice to see the pictures of happier times, but it also feeds the question again “why is he doing this?”

I am growing a new and deeper appreciation of my husband through this. Sure, some of the things he does annoy me or even frustrate me, but under and around and through all that I do love him. I love hearing his voice, seeing him talk to someone, or help someone, or even napping on the couch. I know that anything I face he’ll be there with me, with words and actions and just his presence.

Alison is facing an incredibly hard time and she is having to do it without her best friend. The second hardest part of this, after not really understanding why Dave is doing this, is that she doesn’t have Dave’s support and encouragement and help.

As I have spent time at Alison’s house, I have missed having my husband nearby, but at least I knew he was still my husband, taking care of things at our house, and just a phone call, email, or text away until the next time we could be together. Alison has lost that, and it looks like it is a permanent loss. Right now communication between Alison and Dave is rare, formal, and focused on a specific subject. He doesn’t call her by name in the emails, and he doesn’t refer to her or her feelings or what she is going through. She has reread the text messages they exchanged from a few weeks before he left, and that is the last time she’ll ever have him tell her he loves her. Those impromptu conversations and expressions of love are ended, they won’t happen again.

Each time they communicate now, or the lawyers communicate, or the boys mention their Dad, or a friend asks how she’s holding up, it brings all the pain back to the front again. And with all of that is the question of whether Dave is missing his best friend. When he came to pick up the boys for the visit, did he avoid looking at Alison because he knew it would hurt to see her and not be able to talk to her? Or was it guilt that he is hurting her so deeply with his actions? Or because it’s easier to not get into the emotional side of this and just do the practical?

Where is Dave and what is he thinking?

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Suffering and Faith

Time to introduce you to a cool thing. I have referred to Tim Challies and his blog a few times already. This year he entered a venture to form a publishing company with the really neat method of a subscription service where you receive a book every month from their company, Cruciform Press.

The first book, last month, was Sexual Detox by Challies. The November book is Wresting with an Angel: A Story of Love, Disability, and the Lessons of Grace by Greg Lucas. I had read the excerpt and thought the book would be interesting, but admit that when I purchased my subscription I was really thinking about how much I will probably like the December book.

Then life took a weird turn on us and I’m sitting in Raleigh alternating between work and couch time examining the mysteries of Dave’s mind (it would be so much easier if Dave were on the couch talking to us). Every day I have more appreciation of how God has been preparing me for this. In August one of the speakers at the First Presbyterial meeting, Karen Kimmons, talked about the need to lean on Christ when events and troubles threaten to overwhelm us. She pointed us to 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

“…For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”

I appreciated how she explained that the popular verse 1 Cor 10:13 about God not tempting us beyond our ability is not talking about times of suffering. That’s when she took us to 2 Cor 1:8-9 and her story of experiencing such great suffering and learning to rely on God through it.

Then there was the book we used for the Beach Retreat the weekend before all of this happened. So many of those 10 chapters were useful. Of course,forgiveness and judging the actions of others, but the most useful has certainly been the chapter about how Romans 8:28 is used to blame God for everything, making it even harder to understand how bad things happen if God is in control. My notes include this:

it isn’t that the consequences of a sin since repented of, or an attack, or something bad will turn out to be a good thing. It’s that God’s will can’t be thwarted, even by this mess. Ultimately He prevails. He doesn’t cause it. He doesn’t use it. He overcomes it. Much better to have never sinned or been attacked.

As we have lived through the aftermath of Dave’s great sin in leaving his wife and family, we have turned to God and asked for strength and faith to believe that He will prevail and overcome this in the lives of Alison and the children, and to bring Dave back to a relationship with God, even if not back to his family.

So, back to Cruciform Press. I received the email that my November book was being mailed and then when Anthony drove into town for Thanksgiving Day, he just happened to bring it in case I wanted to take a look at it. Last night and this morning I read through it, praising God for His amazing timing and for being so Awesome!

The author of the story is a policeman with a severely disabled son, and he discusses the struggles, fears, and joys he has experienced over the past 17 years with his son. Page 14 touches on the same issue as above. People like to say “God will never place a burden on you so heavy that you cannot carry it.” His rejoinder to that is “My experience is that God will place a burden on you so heavy that you cannot possibly carry it alone….All the while He will walk beside you waiting for you to come to the point where you must depend on Him.”

Then on p87 “True desperation is always the most fertile ground for God’s grace to produce an abundant harvest of hope. And each time God has shown us His greatest glory, He has always first revealed our greatest despair.”

The story, the lessons learned, and the beautiful grace that Greg Lucas reveals through these pages are a gift. The reminders of the glory that is revealed and the grace that is given us during our sufferings has been timely balm for my heart. Lucas shares how his son’s handicaps have brought him into a much closer relationship with God, a daily dependence on His sufficiency. I laughed and mourned and rejoiced while reading this book. Just as I have done the past 3 weeks here in Raleigh. Life, especially in the midst of suffering, is like that. God is good, and God is ever present.

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I would never be one of those women

You know the type – stays in an abusive relationship because she doesn’t know any other way to feel loved. Lets her boyfriend or husband call her stupid or lazy and tell her that she’s no good and couldn’t do anything on her own, and eventually she starts to believe it because she hears it so often. The woman who won’t talk to friends or family because she’s embarrassed and ashamed that she ended up this way. Then he leaves her and the kids with no support, no job, nothing, and she says she had no idea it was coming. We see them, and the two conclusions are that some men are scum and we would never let ourselves get into a situation like that.

But I’m having to reevaluate that. Sometimes the guy isn’t obviously scum, he’s a pretty good guy. He isn’t perfect, but he wants to do a good job of loving his wife and children and providing them support. But life is hard and working for “the man” is depressing and the world sells us dreams of glamour and glory. So he works more hours, or a second job, to bring in more money. Or he starts his own business with dreams of being his own boss one day. There isn’t as much time for the family, but it’s only temporary. And if the wife nags sometimes about how much time it’s taking, reassure her that it will all be great once you get established, you’ll have plenty of time for the family.

In fact, he wants to do such a great job of taking care of his family, that he tells his wife to stay home and not work outside the house. Not necessarily from some male ego that she shouldn’t be contributing to the household, not even jealousy that she may want to talk to other people sometimes, but from some strong desire to be a good enough provider that his wife can (read should) stay at home with the kids and never ever have to work outside the house. This good desire gets a bit twisted when it ignores that the wife may need some external stimulation and exposure, and to use and build skills in a work setting. But the intention is to do what he thinks is the right thing.

He is working so hard to be the provider that he also blocks her out of the finances, reassuring her that there is money for what she and the kids need, so go ahead and buy things, without sharing any details of the good or the struggle. This is a form of protection that is really an insidious curse. Too many women have realized after their husband’s death that they know nothing about their current financial situation or how to make the day to day, short-term and long-term decisions that need to be made. A truly thoughtful husband would regularly discuss their finances, full disclosure, so that the wife is comfortable with how it is all set up in case she ever needs to do anything with it. I can’t relate to this one since I’ve run the finances in our house all our marriage, it’s just my gift and works out well for us.

But this man I’m discussing continues to make decisions on his own, often without soliciting or listening to his wife’s input. And sometimes life throws a curveball that scares him, be it an additional child or buying a house or taking a business to the next level, and instead of revealing all the fears and discussing the complexities and options and sharing that journey with his spouse, he makes abrupt decisions and brooks no discussion from anyone. When it turns out to be a good decision, this works out ok in the short-term but sets a bad pattern for the future. When it is a bad decision it builds a ball of resentment in him that he was forced to make this decision on his own and it didn’t work out.

On the personal side, he may find that discussions with his wife are uncomfortable. She tries to express her feelings and he only sees an implied attack in it, instead of realizing she is really being very trusting and vulnerable with him as she shares these things. Maybe she turns to him for help and he recoils in disgust at someone being so needy or imperfect. It isn’t that he doesn’t love her, just that he isn’t sure how to help her. Perhaps her weaknesses shine a light on his own weaknesses and no one finds that enjoyable. He turns from her in self-protection. Over time, instead of seeing her weaknesses as a special area for his love and protection, he finds himself wearied by the unrelenting need she has for him. Some of this he created himself, refusing her the opportunity for independence and external supports. But the cause does not matter, only the need to get away from it and the constant reminders that he hasn’t been enough for her all these years since she obviously still needs something.

But, this post is about the woman. She has tried to be a good wife, build a good home, and figure out how to meet some of her own needs. Her husband has reassured her that all her fears of a failed marriage are groundless and done his best to convince her by showing her that she doesn’t have to leave the kids to work a job, that he has the finances under control, that he can meet her every need. And she has found all of that hard to believe or trust, but tried not to question him too often, learning to believe him when he promises her that he will always be there. Perhaps he didn’t set out to isolate her, to make her question her ability to do anything on her own, to leave her with no skills or experience outside the house. Surely he did mean to keep his promises made to calm her fears. But life can be difficult, and sometimes the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence. Or maybe the grass just looks so brown and dry over here. So, one day he’s talking about replacing the carpet and hanging pictures, and the next day he announces that he’s leaving.

His words and actions prove to her that her fear of a failed family and a husband who would leave her was right all along. She is dependent on him for any support of her children or herself, but he’s proven that he’s not trustworthy. Now he is angry and he knows all of her fears and weaknesses because she’s been showing them to him for years. Somehow divorce usually involves the immature so the threats, stilted communication, avoidance behaviors all put the insecure woman at a disadvantage. Maybe it isn’t all mean on purpose, but it is easy to see how a man who used to say he loved you and knows your buttons could be pushing all those buttons now, maybe even without thought like siblings do so often.

I bet you assume this is about Alison and Dave. And of course some of it is. But I’m realizing this is my parents, my aunt, my sister, perhaps even Anthony and Dave’s parents. I’m still trying to understand how a family can end up here, at the bottom of a hole. I want to understand so I can help this family heal, so I can protect my own family, and the families that are dear to me.

And I have a list of men I’m revisiting every once in awhile to remind myself not all men are scum. My husband is at the top of the list, of course. Trent, Don (curmudgeon yes, scum absolutely not), Rick, Bill, Pastor David, Bryan, Jed, Clint, Uncle James, Jerry, Leonard, Mike, the HoJ…

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A tale of two brothers

Anthony’s parents split when he was still in school. His mom took the youngest brother and their sister away, leaving Anthony and Dave with their dad. Actually, Anthony refused to go with her, he knew she was wrong to leave and he didn’t want to go with her. He loved her and missed her and still cries sometimes about it, but he stayed to support his dad, and hoped that his mother would realize she was wrong and come home.

Things changed and Anthony and David were actually without a home for awhile, before moving in with their aunt and grandfather. Anthony stayed focused and got through high school and into college, and out of the house. Then he took care of getting David to a supportive home. What he thought was best for him. And Dave seemed to flourish there, graduating from high school a few years later with flying colors and a good network of friends.

When I met them, they were close but competitive, trying to one-up each other. That seemed to mellow as they matured, although they always enjoyed comparing notes and seemed to have some scorecard they were updating. They both loved computers, and then the internet, and all the gadgets. Dave pulled ahead in the internet marketing and Anthony loved that he could call up Dave and talk about something and pick Dave’s brain for knowledge and experience.

When Alison told us that David had left, we rushed up here. I insisted, I couldn’t imagine David doing this and I couldn’t let Alison go through it alone. The next night David came by the house and we knew it might be our only chance to talk to him. David seemed upset to see us, but eventually agreed to talk, outside in the driveway though, not in the house. We put on coats and headed out. David seemed headed toward his car, so I was a little glad Anthony had moved his truck to at least slow David down if he tried to leave. We just wanted to talk to him.

David turned around and actually started the conversation by stating that he understood why we were there and that he would be doing the same thing in our place. But he quickly moved into being angry that we were there and that we wanted to talk to him. Anthony tried to tell Dave that he was in (spiritual) danger, and we both reminded him that what he was doing was a sin and he should know better.

Anyway, after Dave’s non-explanation, Anthony went to move the truck so Dave could easily get out of the driveway. Dave wasn’t listening to us and he wasn’t clearing anything up, but nothing was to be gained from the stalemate. Anthony moved the truck and I went inside to get warm. A few minutes later Dave was still out there because Alison went out to beg him again to come home and work on their marriage. Finally we all left him standing there and he drove away.

That night Anthony put up his website letters to dave navarro where he posted pictures of Dave’s family to remind him of what he was leaving, and a letter asking him to do what was right and come home. Anthony posted a link to that website on his facebook profile and a few other people visited the site and wrote letters. Anthony has continued to post there, usually pulling words from David’s own business site or interviews and showing how his current behavior makes no sense in light of what Dave has always said.

Dave had a business trip in NY, so Alison and the boys came to spend the weekend with us, and while at our house Alison explained to the younger boys that Dad wasn’t going to be living with them for a while because he had to work, but that he still loves them and will see them as often as he can. While we’ve had conversations with Jacob (15), mostly to give him an opportunity to talk through his feelings, Alison is the only one who has said anything to the younger boys about Dave. Anthony and I don’t want to get into that role of talking about where Dave is or what he’s doing, and Alison has fielded the few comments that have come from them. The younger ones don’t have access to the internet so they haven’t seen the website. Jacob has seen it and doesn’t think it will help things.

Based on one face to face where actually I think Jacob and I did more of the talking, and the website that isn’t even on the first two pages of a Google search of Dave’s name or business, David has declared the house is a hostile environment and that Anthony is exerting some influence over his children to alienate them from their father.

Anthony has been in Charlotte most of the past week and David hasn’t spoken to his two youngest children in over 2 weeks so he has no idea how they feel about him. He has emailed Anthony to threaten that he’s engaging a libel lawyer (sorry Dave, it has to not be the truth to be libel) and gotten his lawyer to tell Alison’s lawyer that she needs to limit Anthony’s access to the boys. Here is a male role-model, being loving, faithful, (with an iPhone and iPad full of cool games), and a large share of Alison’s support base, and David wants to run him off. Why is David doing this to his brother and his wife and children? What are we supposed to think about Dave when this is how he reacts?

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Happiness is…

…not a goal.

I mentioned in an earlier post that Dave said he was leaving his family because he wanted to be “happy” and I could spend plenty of time talking about why I don’t care for that concept. My aunt caught it too when she read my blog and we talked about how happiness is not a goal. Happiness is fleeting, and a moving target. What makes me happy today (dessert) won’t make me happy later (when my pants don’t fit).

What is lasting is contentment and peace, and often we have to be unhappy for a bit to get those. We have to obey and do the right thing. This is why Dave and Alison have taught their children, and continue that work, to share, to play nice, not to call each other names or hit. But it’s like Dave has forgotten those rules from kindergarten and he’s throwing away so much that is precious just so he can be happy. But whoever or whatever is making him happy right now will not last.

Happiness doesn’t last. Contentment isn’t easy, it requires hard work at times. It involves disciplining the mind and emotions so the shiny new things don’t distract us from the path. And it takes courage. It is often easier to avoid the truth, or try to evade the consequences, or justify ourselves in some way. But that doesn’t work for the athlete, it doesn’t work for the scholar, and it doesn’t work for a person looking to live with integrity.

Definition of INTEGRITY

1
: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility
2
: an unimpaired condition : soundness
3

: the quality or state of being complete or undivided :

We all struggle with integrity. It is so easy to say one thing and do another without even stopping to realize we obviously don’t believe what we say because our actions show the lie. Sometimes it’s small things, like saying we really want to lose weight and then eating the dessert because we actually prefer the happiness right now over the future goal of weight loss. This is just one example of where it takes effort to find the motivation to live as we really want instead of giving in to our impulses.

But when we live with people, love them, trust them, we come to expect a certain level of integrity. When a man tells his wife that he will never leave her and that he doesn’t want his family to ever be torn apart by divorce like his parents did, that means you trust that he will work hard even during the bad times to keep that from happening. You don’t think he’ll just give up one day because he wants to go do something else and “be happy”. How can he really be happy when his actions cause so much hurt to his wife and children?

And the evidence from countless other similar experiences is that he probably will find that happiness is fleeting and then he’ll know regret because when trust is lost it is very hard to regain. When scars are inflicted, they can’t be erased. Anything built after this will be a little off, less than completely right. Sure, all our efforts are imperfect, but this experience will add another layer of damage.

Or perhaps he will never see that what he has done is so wrong. He seems to feel that he is perfectly in the right and any efforts we make to understand what he has done or to express to him our hurt and fear and disappointment is met with anger and draws comments from him about our hostility and interference with his life. I don’t understand how he can completely ignore the pain of his family, the hard steps he is making his wife take (the kind of hard steps you should have a loving partner to share the burden with), or the accusations and attacks against his own brother.

He has avoided any discussions as if he is too afraid of the conflict that might come up as he has to defend his actions against people who don’t wholeheartedly agree with him. He is distorting reality and using it to excuse his inexcusable behavior. And he’s breaking our hearts.

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On being a grownup

Sorry, I’m still living this so it’s what I’m blogging about.

The Tuesday that Anthony and I talked with Dave to ask him what in the world he was doing, he made some comment about he had to be the adult (or grownup, I don’t remember which word he used) because Alison wasn’t. But his behavior since 10/31 has not been very adult-like. He dropped a bomb and walked away and seems offended that we are still picking up the pieces.

First, even if he thinks this was coming all along, everyone else seems to be shocked. The responsible way to handle that is to bear the pain and agony of consistently telling his reasons and his thinking to the people that need to hear it. That includes his wife, the former pastor that is trying to contact him, and his family. (He doesn’t seem to have any current friends who aren’t in business with him.) He just has to keep saying it and looking us in the eye when he says it, or he has no right to be indignant when we refuse to believe him. David won’t look any of us in the eyes, he is angry that we want to hear him explain himself more than his short story. And what Alison, the counselor, and we heard was all different. Even if he actually said the same thing to all of us, it’s like visiting the doctor while he’s explaining that you have cancer and then he goes on to talk about the options and odds. You have to hear it repeated because your brain can’t process it all at once. It just doesn’t make sense that a man who declared divorce was a terrible thing and promised he would never leave his family and has notes all over the house about working to keep his marriage healthy would suddenly walk out this way. Alison is having to tell her family that they were right about Dave all along.

Second, if he actually loves his wife and children as much as he says he does, he would be with them. Not to give them false hope, but to provide his presence and comfort as they worked to absorb the fact that he is leaving. Dave was here a few times after he first walked out, but not to deal with his decision. He didn’t talk more to Alison or prepare to say anything to the kids. Then he worked on his business one weekend, let his brother scare him off the next week, and left for New York the next weekend.

Third, if he were an adult, aware of his weaknesses and needs, he would deal with why he has such a strained relationship with Anthony and seek counseling to work through it. They have always been a bit competitive as brothers, trying to one-up each other even in playing games. But over the past 10 or 15 years I thought they had moved beyond that to share more of their lives as men, husbands, father/uncle. But apparently Dave is still intimidated by Anthony so that just finding out we were here and wanted to talk to him upset him. Since then Anthony has put up a website asking Dave to come home and be a father and husband. The content is not threatening or designed to humiliate Dave, just to remind him and others that the public persona of his business is not consistent with the actions he is taking now. Dave, however, sees it and Anthony as creating a hostile environment.

Fourth, he would understand that all of this takes time and energy. Coming to terms with the fact that all the trust in the promises and faithfulness of Dave was misplaced doesn’t happen overnight. It takes even longer when Dave won’t talk or respond to queries about why he is acting so strangely. Dealing with the emotional upheaval of being abandoned in such a way takes time. But Dave seems to be in a hurry to get all the legal pieces in place, perhaps so he can quickly get back to focusing on his business.

Fifth, he wouldn’t rely on vague comments that there is more to the story. He walked out, telling his wife to take care of the house and kids and give him space. But every once in awhile he drops a comment (usually to their oldest son) that there are things he doesn’t want to have to say in front of him. If he loves Alison as he told the school counselor, he wouldn’t want to hurt her. Is he being childish throwing this out or is he setting some stage for later actions? Either way, adult behavior wouldn’t even bring it up as a ploy.

Alison begged him to come home, telling him she needed him to keep this family together and going. He asked what she would do if he were killed. This is a really childish comment, since the two are really not comparable. The tragic death of a parent in a loving relationship is painful and has lasting effects. But the damage done by a divorce, where one parent consciously moves forward with ripping everything apart for their own happiness is not at all the same. Sure, either way Alison would have to be strong and make it work, but in this situation David is still here and affecting the tenor of the whole situation by his presence or absence, and by his words and actions. And he is capable, if he were willing, of coming home.

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New game: what is David thinking?

We cannot figure out what he is doing.

He’s given differing excuses for why he has to leave. He told Alison he needed space and time to work on the business. He told the school counselor she was still his best friend, but they were too different. He told us the marriage was killing him and he had to get out to be happy (don’t get me started). He actually refuses to talk about it much and hasn’t spoken to Alison in a week. He was very angry that Anthony and I were here last Tuesday, or that no one warned him we were here before he showed up to take his oldest son to tae kwon do. But as we all said, he should have expected that we would be here and he had no right to be angry about this since he is the one that created the mess.

So, we sit here sometimes and try to figure out what is really going on with him.

The reason we have to do this is he isn’t talking to any of us. He had one talk with Alison that he was leaving, but his actions before and after didn’t ring true with that fact (until he walked out the door, of course). He had one talk with us but told us something different from what Alison remembered hearing and different from what the school counselor reported. Before and after the Tuesday talk with us, he wouldn’t respond to emails or phone calls from Alison or us or other friends reaching out to him. We’re left in the dark about what he is really thinking and doing. And what actions we do see seem so out of character that we don’t know how to interpret them. We find it difficult to take them at face value because that would mean we don’t know David at all.

The “he’s lost his mind” theory:

He has always been responsible and a stand-up guy. Not perfect, and like all of us there were things he avoided or wasn’t happy doing. But he did what counted and he promised his wife that he would never leave her or the kids. He knew from her background that she had a fear of that and he made a promise to her.

So, did something traumatic happen during his business trip to Vegas or there is some chemical imbalance or what?  Why would he do this after 10 years of consistently promising and being faithful? Why would he sabotage all the progress he has made with his wife and the example he has set for his children?

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The “he’s in trouble” theory:

When people hear what is happening, often the first response is to ask if there is a financial pressure. We keep looking and wondering if he lost money, invested in something, couldn’t cover the bills with his internet business, or something. Whatever it is, surely it’s easier to handle together with his wife.

Did he mess up some other way? An affair or other mistake or lapse in judgment? Still, it can be worked out. We can’t imagine anything so terrible that running away is better in the long run.

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The “he’s been lying all these years” theory:

David has always been fun, and smart, and reliable. His walk with God hasn’t been as close lately as in years past, but he has been on that walk. He seemed to love his wife and children in his words and actions. Sure, he could be selfish and not always as attentive or generous, but we all are like that, it is an ongoing struggle to overcome our selfish desires. David seemed to be aware of that and diligent about overcoming those areas of weakness.

David told us this was not “out of blue” like we all seemed to think. He didn’t really imply it was a recent development though, but something that has been there all along. Perhaps we believed the words and actions that indicated he was a loving and faithful man, while dismissing the words and actions that indicated he was troubled and self-centered as the anomalies. Did we have it backwards? Has he really been this self-centered all along?

His actions in how he has treated Alison, walking out without any effort at counseling or reconciliation, not telling her where he is, not calling to talk to the kids for 9 days (and counting), having his lawyer email Alison (spcifically at a time when she was home alone with no children to be strong for or to comfort her?) all indicate he can be cruel or at least is trying to purposefully hurt his wife and children. We would never imagine the man we know is capable of this so we have to search for other possibilities.

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The “Hollywood” theory:

Is he protecting the family from something? These are the wild theories when we are desperate for something that matches the character of the man we know. The misunderstood hero role, some reason he can’t talk and explain what he’s doing. We can’t really put stock in these, but they are almost a comfort as an alternative to accepting what is being revealed as the real Dave.

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We feel like we are going in circles most days. When we lack information and details the mind gets busy trying to find answers. It is amazing to see how we crave certainty and knowledge. And how we resist knowledge that may say something we don’t want to believe.

And the sins of the parents are repeated. David’s parents split up when he was a child and all four of their children have had struggles with relationships and their identity. Perhaps Dave existed all these years, putting up a good front, but struggling all along with unresolved issues from that time.

Alison struggles, as we do, but she knows that Dave, she, and their relationship can be fixed if he will come home and work with her. But if you haven’t seen examples of people working hard and making a success of a marriage over decades, how do you convince yourself you could be different? How do we reach out to him to try to help him see that it can be done?

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