Perhaps living alone, somewhat reluctantly at that, has led me to take a critical look at relationships of my past and present, trying to make sense of them while I can still make sense of anything. This introduction is meant as fair warning; if you don’t want to witness me delving into those murky waters, read no farther. This and the next two entries will look at three separate areas of my meaningful connection with other people, and the discoveries I have come across concerning them during this summer of rumination. The three segments will concern, first, my three marriages, and those I will discuss in this blog after laying out an introduction sure to send most of you to the exits, if you aren’t there already. Second, in the next blog, I will talk about non-marriage relationships with women, current and past. In both blogs, I feel I have uncovered patterns to which I am susceptible that have led to the massive and incessant failures they represent over the space of a lifetime. The final blog will reveal a lovely surprise I have uncovered in my life, and not a moment too soon after all the horrors of the first two episodes. If your reading survives the first two, I hope you’ll find the third a refreshing note of optimism. It feels that way to me. One other thing worth mentioning is that I have recently begun to reread Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, his greatest work in my opinion, and one I taught in the Rockhurst University Ethics class when I was an adjunct there from 1993-95. My rereading began only after I came to the conclusions this blog lays out, so I did not look for explanations in Aristotle and try to shoehorn my life into his narrative. Rather, after working things out that will come in the second and third blogs, I was reminded that Aristotle had vaguely the same kinds of things to say about relationships in Books VIII and IX of the Nicomachean Ethics. My ideas had a bit of a Kantian shading to them, but it does seem to me that those two philosophers have more in common than Hackett Publishing Company. The conclusions I arrived at are mine, but Aristotle helped me see how they fit into a broader explanatory pattern that is both satisfying and alarming. Okay, fasten your seat belts, as Bette Davis would have said. At least I didn’t marry her.
I have married three times and divorced three times. Or, at least, I think so. My first wife was a legal secretary in LA at the time we needed to make it official so she could marry again. However, later searches, both Internet and through private papers, fail to show that any divorce was ever filed for or obtained. I may have been a bigamist until she died and left me a widower less than 5 years ago, while I was at the time married to someone else.
In looking for patterns concerning why these marriages were doomed from the start, as I now think they were, some elements seem to defy any kind of pattern. Three different races: white, black, and Asian, in that order. Different parts of the country, and of the world, represented. Religions? Bland undifferentiated Protestant, shit-kicking African-American, and Buddhist.
But one fact emerged in my thinking and remembrances that refuses to be explained away as something else: each of them was trying to escape something in their present life, and I represented a way out. That’s it. That’s the whole thing. But there are some nuances lying beneath the surface that have a bit of explanatory power, I believe.
Each of them was escaping something different: an oafish early spouse, an abusive family member, a failure in both business and marriage. I knew all these elements of their lives, and sympathized completely. But I chose to think that what was important was who they were escaping to, and not what they were escaping from. And that choice, concocted out of vanity, wishful thinking, and selective blindness, all on my part, led to a decision to marry that seems now something of a bridge too far. In each case, it took a few years for the truth of this to bubble to the surface of our relationship, leaving an algae bloom that would no longer support life. As an aside, I don’t want to see that last sentence appear on Facebook in a collection of horrible inadvertent metaphors. What I mean is that I don’t, with the most recent exception, think there was deception on the part of my wives concerning their actual motivations and goals. There was probably gratitude and relief when we began a life together, and that may have been a masquerade of love or commitment, or a benign glimpse into a future together. But when they put the past securely behind them, they looked at the present and, sadly, it contained me. I may have been an improvement, but I was not what they truly wanted, and at that point, it was over.
This is not a problem I know how to solve. Maybe I won’t need to. But there is a deep vein in me, coming, I am sure, from my father’s influence, that needs to try to improve people’s lives. For those three women, marriage seemed to be the ultimate way to achieve that, and they were very cooperative. This same scenario, only slightly altered, appears in the next blog, but with a somewhat more cynical, if not sinister, side. Okay, so I’m just pimping the next episode; it may not be as sinister as all that. It is only in the third blog that this pathetic and destructive pattern gets broken, and it is wonderful. Please stay tuned.