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Making a federal case

Can I even get divorced? In Loving v. Virginia, Chancellor Jeffrey Atherton had to conclude that he lacked jurisdiction since the Supreme Court has now defined marriage.

The conclusion reached by this Court is that Tennesseans have been deemed by the U.S. Supreme Court to be incompetent to define and address such keystone/central institutions such as marriage, and, thereby, at minimum, contested divorces, …

In the decision for Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion that ventured into how people feel instead of what they are obligated to do:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people be- come something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death.

Since this is now the interpretation of the Constitution, I should have an action for failure to love, failure to be faithful and devoted, and failure to sacrifice. Now that the federal government has created a definition and listed components that create a marriage, there’s a problem. Although I support gay marriage (and civil unions between non-sexual couples, and anyone else who wants to enter into the property contract that I’m now in the middle of contesting), the Supreme Court did the good thing for the wrong reasons. They have no business telling us what to think or feel. Regulating behavior is not a problem, but telling us that we have to love each other to get married is none of their business. Many of my friends didn’t marry for love. Kennedy says they are doing it wrong.

I agree with Justice Roberts:

If you are among the many Americans – of whatever sexual orientation – who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.

I’d rather that the nine people on the bench, mostly from New York, mostly Catholic, mostly from New York, and mostly Harvard grads, stick to the law and leave social sentiment out of it. The States were mostly moving in the right direction and soon Congress would have to decide it for everyone. Yet, these cases jumped the queue.

People think Scalia is a dick, but he gets it. The Court has five Harvard grads, 3 Yale grads, and 1 Columbia grad. They are six Catholics and three Jews. Six are from either New York or New Jersey. Yet, people are happy that these people are defining our culture from their very narrow perspective:

Take, for example, this Court, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single Southwesterner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count). Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans), or even a Protestant of any denomination. The strikingly unrepresentative character of the body voting on today’s social upheaval would be irrelevant if they were functioning as judges, answering the legal question whether the American people had ever ratified a constitutional provision that was understood to proscribe the traditional definition of marriage.

So, if the Supreme Court is going to play this game, judges like Jeffrey Atherton should force their hand to define divorce too. Even though I think that the States are the laboratories of democracy, I hope whatever judge I get doesn’t want to experiment.

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I have a court date

My ultimatum went down to the wire, and a little over. I was ready to throw the whole agreement away and sell the house immediately, evicting my still-wife. I would also clean out all the bank accounts. It sounds extreme, but when you own businesses and are in a divorce, you have a huge exposure. People don’t want to do business with you because the money might disappear in the divorce. The longer this goes on and the longer I can’t enter into new contracts, the more harm she causes. I wouldn’t feel bad at all spending all the money we’re supposed to share. If she wanted her half, she’s had over two and a half years to settle this thing.

But now I have a court date. The curious thing about this is that she thought getting rid of me would solve her problems of getting stuff done because I was holding her back. Apparently not.

I think she thinks that if she delays the court date, she can delay the clock on having to refinance the property. The longer she waits, the more the property value comes up and the more equity she has to show the bank. She had asked to amend the agreement to get more time, and I was fine with that if she’d trade something for the benefit she wanted. She didn’t want to trade anything.

There’s still a chance she’ll somehow screw this up and try to push it into next year. If we miss this court date, I’m not agreeing to the settlement.

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There will no end to the questions

I gave an ultimatum, she appeared to stop stalling, but today there’s another problem.

This time it’s the question of who wants to be the petitioner. I’ve been adamant for two years that she has to be the petitioner. She has to be the one who forces the divorce, who asks the government to release her from her vows, and the person to break her promises to me.

Despite our marriage being over and there being no legal difference in who files, I care that I’m not the one breaking my promises or violating my vows.

But, she knows that. This has never been a question. But the lawyers get to have another couple rounds of email and she thinks she gets a little extra time.

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She accepts the ultimatum

She took a couple of weeks to respond, but she’s accepted the ultimatum. The settlement agreement we worked out a year ago stands and she says she will file this month for a court date in October.

I am neither happy nor sad about this. She could be stalling again. She has to actually file, and she has problems doing what she says she’s going to do. Why should this be any different.

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Divorcing the Good Man

Laura Lifshitz writes about her amicable but difficult divorce from the man who’s a good person:

I am indeed, fortunate, to have made the choice–it’s not luck, it’s a choice you make when you marry–of marrying and now divorcing a man who is a good father and person.

She mostly wants people to shut up about it. She emphasizes that they made this choice together, but she says in How to Have a Peaceful Divorce:

My ex and I get along and even from time to time hug each other, but sometimes he makes me sad. If he didn’t, we’d still be living together.

It sure sounds like there are some issues on her side. She attributes the way she feels to him, something my own wife has done. I because the scapegoat for all of her problems and issues. Laura says that if her husband didn’t make her sad, she’d still be with him. It doesn’t sound like they made a joint decision. It sounds like the same thing that happened to me: at some point you have to accept that your partner isn’t going to try to stay together and accept their decision.

That you go along with it doesn’t mean you decided it together. It can mean that one person decided and the other person can stop fighting a futile fight. That’s not a joint decision. That’s one person being forced into something they don’t want but still handling it like a mensch. She says he’s a good person and that’s what a good person would do.

She also indicates in the same article that she has problems with conflict and perception:

For a long time when we first separated, I panicked if things got remotely tense, feeling this huge pressure for us to be the perfect divorced couple all the time.

Earlier, in The Things Unsaid in a Marriage, she says:

I remember all the times he never said I was beautiful or attractive. I remember all the times he didn’t say, “I’m proud of you.” I remember vividly the times in which I didn’t hear I love you or didn’t here, “It will be okay.”

and

Sometimes, I would say something to spark an interesting conversation or perhaps a sexual invitation and it seemed to go unheard.

Really? I don’t know the story behind this and only have her story, but it sure sounds like she had some co-dependence issues here. She’s not complaining about what bad things he said. She’s complaining that she didn’t get enough praise. In other articles she notes that he’s a good father and a good person. Maybe he’s not a verbal person. Maybe she should give him credit for providing for his family.

Maybe there were times he didn’t know that things would be okay. Women project the duality of expecting their men to be men, but at the same time want them to be vulnerable. You really can’t have both.

I like what the Daily Mail quotes from prominent UK Labour politician Shirley Williams:

You’ve got to come to terms with that single question – what did I contribute to this? And only when you have the answer to that can you actually then seriously think about why you broke up.

You mustn’t kid yourself that you’re the one who’s been badly treated – you just have to understand how it happened.

and

It’s about being taken seriously and not being treated as an ancillary figure.

She likes to say that two people are at fault in a divorce, but she never cops to what she did. Maybe her husband had the same problem that I did (and came out in the marriage counseling). The complaints my wife had were how I was dealing with her misbehavior and irresponsibilities. That’s only a symptom of the problem. If she had stepped up to handle her life, I wouldn’t have my issue, and she wouldn’t have her problem with my issue. I don’t know, but I’m sensing much evasion on her part.

How would I tell someone who’s lying and cheating “I’m proud of you”? And then deal with that person who complains that I don’t say that?

But beyond that, when I praised genuinely praiseworthy results and intents, it’s not enough. The way to get more praise is to be more praiseworthy, not to lower the standards to the point where your spouse has to become condescending and patronizing to deliver undeserved praise.

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Divorce is always good news

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May 16, 2015 · 10:50 pm

The settlement is almost there, and the awakening dread

I think we’re close to a final agreement on the divorce settlement. It hasn’t been contentious, but I’ve been a bit careful about the language because I figure that my wife will misunderstand something and try to fuck me on it later.

I don’t have to appear in court, so I’m going to skip that. My attorney will take care of that. But, once the court approves the settlement I’m back to the problem that I think was the biggest part of the divorce: my wife does not take care of her financial responsibilities and doesn’t understand her obligations. Again, I’ve tried to make it very clear in the settlement what she needs to do so I can protect myself.

I haven’t spoken to her in over a year. Even though this is an “amicable” divorce, she hates me and still isn’t grateful for what I’m doing for her. I’ve reined in my attorney plenty of times where I could have been vindictively harsh in the terms. There’s no good that can come to me from destroying her to the extent of my legal rights. I think I’m already coming out of this process much better off than most people would have since I’m not making emotional decisions (which is different than not being emotional about it).

But, once divorced, I’m back to the stomach-churning process of dealing with my Ex and our shared finances. Imagine having to negotiate with a middle schooler who at once doesn’t understand the financial devices but also has a naïve (often liberal) belief in the way the world works. For things that don’t matter, like where to eat or what to watch on TV, there’s no real risk. When it comes to retirement accounts and how much money I’ll have this year to spend on food, it’s maddening.

So several months I’ve been at peace with the state of my divorce, but now that we’re close to the end it’s picking at old wounds. With some distance, especially emotionally, so things make more sense.

I think the last straw in our marriage was a Christmas trip she took alone that last year we were together. That would be our last holiday together. Her parents are divorced and geographically distant from each other. Normally, we’d visit both of them each year and switch up Thanksgiving and Christmas. In June, I had asked her who we’d visit when so we could buy the airline tickets. I asked her a few more times before she decided in November, but which time tickets had tripled and gone beyond what I thought we could afford at the time.

Her decision was to go without me, spending more on just her ticket than we could have spent for both of us. When she got back, she was chilly toward me in a way she had never been. She was physically repulsed by me, and I that’s the last time she allowed me to touch her. I think her family had worked on her over the holiday and that she had probably lied about the reason I wasn’t there during the holiday. She wouldn’t have told them that I tried to arrange it so both of us to go but she delayed until the last moment. I don’t think that she would have told them that she spent much more than I thought we could afford so that she could abandon me during Christmas.

But, I think the seeds were already there. Since I knew I wouldn’t be with her on Christmas Day, I had arranged a pre-Christmas the week before. We had hung stockings, gotten a little tree that we decorated, and had planned our own Christmas dinner.

Looking back on that now, I understand more about her behavior even then. I had quite a bit of fun filling her stocking (and the stockings for our cats!) with various trivial fun things, including citrus as part of a throwback to the days when oranges were treats. I was unable to hide my disappointment when I discovered on our fake-Christmas morning that she had done nothing similar. She said “I didn’t know we were doing that”, a bit flatly. And that’s the rub: unless I pushed and specified something she didn’t do it. I wasn’t hurt so much that she didn’t do the thing I expected, but that she hadn’t thought to do anything.

That she might have already divorced me in her mind might explain why her only gift to me was a three-ring binder. It was a step up from what you’d get at Staples, and I saw her intent to collect the photobooth filmstrips of us I collected. Still, it was a three-ring binder. My own gift to her had been an expensive bottle of scotch and special scotch tasting glasses, underscoring her latest interest, at once relevant and desired.

She had unwrapped her present first; I take care of myself last. That’s just me. But two things happened. I think she was embarrassed at her own lack of effort and thoughtfulness even before she opened her gifts, but my gift amplified her feelings of guilt and shame. Her reaction might have been worse than mine, even before I opened her gift to me. Her enjoyment of my gift was belayed by her own thoughtlessness.

I wasn’t able to hide my disappointment at her gift, something I regret but also see as unavoidable. It’s the irony of wanting genuine connection but realizing a well-executed lie would work better. I immediately saw her intent, but also recognized the last minute nature of it. I think I started to cry a little, and had to walk to the back of the house to get myself together. I knew I wasn’t that important in her life, and I’d always known that I think, but this was putting a big exclamation point on it. I wrote about that in Gifts, the Revealer of Reality.

What I saw most, though, was a reflection of myself. For her previous birthday, I had bought her a deluxe sheet-music binder engraved with her name and voice type. It had a place to hold a pencil even, as singers make frequent interpretative notes in their scores. It was admired by many other singers and conductors. Her low-rent tattered school binder was a bit of an embarrassment for a world-class singer. I think she mirrored that gift and might have noticed me looking for the missing inscription on the binder, realizing that what I had given her was personalized and what she had given me was off-the-shelf. But it’s also Cut off Culture: once they’ve made their decision, they don’t really care what you think. I think she was more upset that she didn’t get away with it rather than my feelings.

On her solo holiday trip she’d made the decision that we were definitely done. She didn’t tell me though. Still, she tried to get us into counseling. I think she only did that because she thought the counselor would tell me I was an asshole and that she’d feel better about her decision. It was definitely over when he told her she needed to start seeing a psychiatrist right away and that I was doing what I needed to do. In short, she had to face that she had severe problems.

This is the person I’ll have to deal with directly to split the remaining shared assets. We won’t have attorneys to mediate the actual settling of the accounts.

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