Saturday, May 28, 2011

Black, Divorced & Virtuous: Can a Divorce be a Success?

Black, Divorced & Virtuous: Can a Divorce be a Success?: "A friend of mine recently told me that marriages have hard times but you have to work through them and keep going. I wisely agreed and conti..."

Can a Divorce be a Success?

A friend of mine recently told me that marriages have hard times but you have to work through them and keep going. I wisely agreed and continued listening without giving any advice. This friend went on to say that all relationships experience some rough patches, but its up to the people involved to work it out, between the two of them, and not let what they want dissipate because of a mountain or a molehill. I thought he was preaching really good. I said, Amen.

He had the right to preach this sermon. His relationship has been through more than some rough patches, it has been through barbed wire and back again, and he has been willing to work it out. He got me to thinking, wondering if maybe I should have been more willing to work it out, per se, when my husband was a repeat offender for the umpteenth time but with evidence suggesting he was escalating his carelessness in offensiveness.

I sat down with myself and some coconut yogurt plus Jesus and said 'self, rehash the situation'. I am a forgiving person. Incredibly so. I have forgiven my ex-husband for the atrocious behaviors and painful scars he wrought upon me and my children. We have a great divorced parent relationship even today. Yet, I realize that had we not separated when we did, he would not be in the redeemed state that he has found through Christ Jesus right now.

I had to recalculate. As a Christian there is only one viable reason to leave a marriage: adulterous behavior to which no reconciliation can be had. My husband had been forgiven for his cheating several times and not only did his ways remain intact, they escalated. He had two children outside of our marriage. I ceased sexual activity with him, and sought separation. All in line with the Word of God.

Sometimes a kid doesn't think the candy store will ever close. Even if it closes they believe it will open when they through a tantrum, or wait out the renovations. But sometimes the sugar just needs to be cut out of their diet so they can get well. That was the case with him. He needed to lose everything he had so he could finally call on the only one he knew who could help him up from the bottom he had reached. Jesus.

That was a long climb back up. One I didn't get in the way of with my enabling Spirit. At one time, this man ran hard for the streets. Now he runs hard for Christ.

I couldn't have fixed him. Only God could do that. Once he felt fixed, he remarried. Here is a crucial lynch pin. It takes both parties in a marriage to make it over hurdles and through mountains. If one is going a different direction, it's a done deal.

But God's promise is to continue the work He began until the coming of Christ Jesus, so He kept working in my ex husband, and he grew past that point of unwise decisions and sitting amount the counsel of unwise people,

Now, we can work toward raising our children as divorced parents in the love of Christ. Of course it is not magic - he still has character flaws and I am still perfect as I always was...but since he can see that better now everything works more smoothly. Just kidding. The relationship is different but it is overshadowed by the wisdom of Christ Jesus.

So, after all of that reflection I decided that my friend was right. Some marriages do succeed at overcoming many hurdles, especially when both parties are in the fight. Yet, while some marriages don't make it through the storms of life intact, they can still make it through successfully if the end result is salvation, which is God's intended goal for all of His children. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Beautiful People or Let the fake ones go

Initially, I was bereft at the thought of losing Aunts, Uncles, cousins; even one of my closest friends’ who was my sister-in-law in the divorce action. I was risking relationships that had been cultivated with care because of something perpetrated by my ex.

Truthfully, the magnitude of the impending loss kept me in the marriage longer. I just didn’t want to lose my family - for my sake and the sake of my children.

Have you ever been in a really good phone conversation and the call drops, but the other person doesn’t call you back? The conversation never gets finished, but it was a good conversation. That is how some of the familial relationships ended. I was in what I thought was a relevant personal relationship with some people that just abruptly ended when the ink dried on the divorce papers.  

I consider these folks to be the Beautiful People from Nikki Lynette’s song. You know the kind – smile in your face, all the time they try to take your place? Yes, some of those.

However, there are a few people with whom the relationship changed, but only because it became more certain. My husband’s family knew what he was doing before I did. There were those who neither appreciated nor condoned it, and continued to love and encourage me as a divorced parent.

Those are the relationships I treasure, and intend to expend more energy and time cultivating anew.

I had several very close personal relationships that ended bitterly. I learned from the experience that real relationships grow through adversity. If somebody is not in it for you, they really are against you.

For awhile I felt like Vickie Winans’ singing – I been lied on, scorned, talked about sure as I’m born….I wanted to tell some people (and probably did) that they were truly the spawn of the enemy. 

The Word say be either hot or cold, because lukewarm is still sending you to hell. Make up your mind which way you are going and go hard in that direction. Lukewarm people are haters in disguise. They will make you stronger. Let ‘me go. You have been through enough not to have the support of someone you loved who called you friend.

Take solace in the fact that the beautiful people are all over the place like freaking reject-thriving bloods sucking western Somalian mosquitoes being pretty on the outside and horridly ugly inside. They are not your enemy as much as they are the enemy of themselves. Remove yourself ( and your children) from any endeavor with these people for the time being.

Increase your time spent cultivating right relationships with those extended family members you get to 'keep' in the divorce. Keep your eyes wide open based on the experience you are having. People will show you who they really are.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Black, Divorced & Virtuous: Go Swiftly, Maria, into your future

Black, Divorced & Virtuous: Go Swiftly, Maria, into your future: "When I first heard the news of Maria Shriver's separation from Arnold Schwarzenegger. I was momentarily shocked. This was not a couple I ev..."

Black, Divorced & Virtuous: Go Swiftly, Maria, into your future

Black, Divorced & Virtuous: Go Swiftly, Maria, into your future: "When I first heard the news of Maria Shriver's separation from Arnold Schwarzenegger. I was momentarily shocked. This was not a couple I ev..."

Go Swiftly, Maria, into your future

When I first heard the news of Maria Shriver's separation from Arnold Schwarzenegger. I was momentarily shocked. This was not a couple I ever considered headed for break up. Initially, I was surprised that these two were in a relationship, but their grace and symmetry wooed me and the rest of America. They became a poster-child case for opposites that do attract and a love that makes both parties greater. This was one for the books. What could have caused it? Why would it happen? It took a few days for that part of the bombshell to hit the media.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decade old affair with a staff member which produced a child, now aged 10, has me thinking out loud. If you haven’t heard some tidbit about this matter, you must be under a rock. Stick your head out for a second. 
Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a statement about the separation between he and Maria Shriver
The divorce industry means a lot to our country. It has ramifications way beyond one household at a time. Our legal system is good at teaching people how to get divorced. Wouldn't it be great if somebody taught men how to stay faithful or not get married, thereby promoting the sanctity of marriage? 

None of us can know whether the Schwarzeneggers’ relationship can withstand this betrayal.  What dictates the quality of life after this moment is the manner in which the whole affair is handled. We don't know the dynamics at play because we are not privy to their most intimate personal relationship. Nor should we have that license.  Yet we speculate.  

Some suggest that Shriver should not leave the marriage. The child born out of the affair with a staffer is 10 years old, and he made a mistake. If he hadn’t told it, she still would not know. Men will be men and boys will be boys.

Is there validity here? Look how many marriages end in divorce. The divorce rate was 3.4 divorces per 1000 population in 2009 (Divorce Statistics and Study Blogs). While that is fewer than the loudly touted 50% (propaganda), according to an ongoing poll in Divorce Magazine, the biggest reason both parties cite for divorce is infidelity. Why should Maria be any different from another woman, ending a marriage because her husband is a cheater and a liar? This 
was not the first time the Terminator had been accused of straying outside of the gate.  Any person who has the proclivity to engage in sexual activity with another while in a covenant (contractual), monogamous commitment will do it more than once. At this point, Maria Shriver’s mind may be besieged by the idea that the Terminator is a terminal cheater, and a prolific liar. 

Consider the biblical instruction that some men should not marry; some men will never father a child; while still others need to marry. In my mind, those that need to marry are not the ones who fall in love, but the ones who think having sex is next to breathing oxygen. And they need to be satisfied with the woman they have.  Maybe money, power and ...well you know the rest, went to Arnold's heads just like they do many other men. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. 

Next consider the number of children born outside of an established marriage, bastardized by the instant gratification of a dishonest man. Think about the burden on the wife to maintain a constructive family life if she stays in the marriage. She now has a whole other family to incorporate into her once simple lifestyle. She will have to be in relationship with the child and subsequently, with the whore. I mean the woman with whom the indignant ass - I mean, husband cheated. That's a lot to ask one woman to bear, while the man benefits from the complete arrangement.

The mistress will be vilified in more places than this post, and even more so because American’s love Maria Shriver and the Kennedy family et al. Already, questions are flying about why she was able to keep her job, with the full knowledge that she was raising the child of the Governor. How humiliating and hurtful it must be for Shriver to realize she has been looking at her husband’s concubine on a near daily basis for 10 years.

When Schwarzenegger finally made his own statement, days after the initial announcement, Shriver was not standing next to him holding his hand to show the nation she approved of his debauchery.  It riles me to see the wives of sports figures, politicians’ and actors suffering through the degradation of the public witness to their humiliating betrayal and sometimes, sheer stupidity, standing by this errant corrupt man. 

That hot mess just solidifies the right of men to play and not pay. Bull slobber. While I am not encouraging any woman to leave her husband, because marriage is sacred, I do want women to consider themselves. Steve Harvey said men treat you the way you allow them to treat you. If we stop allowing childish behavior to define adulthood by accepting the consequences of a cheating spouse, maybe we can teach a new generation a new way of living in a committed relationship.

I'm just thinking out loud. What are your thoughts on the matter?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Black, Divorced & Virtuous: Child Support is not just a check

Black, Divorced & Virtuous: Child Support is not just a check: "Way before the day you decide divorce is the only option, you need to consider how to best help your children grow through the rancid relati..."

Child Support is not just a check

Way before the day you decide divorce is the only option, you need to consider how to best help your children grow through the rancid relationship you are terminating. Now. more than ever, their has be a plan for how to raise the kids together - even apart. It will take both parents to get these kids to adulthood with minimal scarring from our adult shenanigans. If you can't make a plan together, somebody had better take the reigns. Helping the kids through this climactic time and then helping them stay emotionally and mentally healthy should be a top priority.

It's not all cotton candy and iced tea. We don't always agree on the same techniques or punishments. I don't always feel like I have to involve a person who is not present in our lives 24-7 in disciplinary, educational, or spiritual decisions. I have had to learn what information should be communicated between divorced parents regarding children. Is it necessary to call when I am going to Urgent Care with a feverish 7 year old? How about when the teenagers feelings get hurt by a mean girl at school? Is it important to share with the non custodial parent that the kids got punished because they didn't do as told? This is a whole new area of communication, and one upon which to tread lightly.

We both attend school events, both make pop-up visits at the school, and have a personal relationship with our kids. I, more so than he, since I am the custodial parent. He rarely misses a day of  talking with them for at least 5-10 minutes on the phone. We live on the same side of town, which makes it easier for us to be divorced parents. 

On the flip side, I am the one up at night with the sick kids; up all night with the science projects and studying for tests. Because I am the custodial parent, I am always the one who helps with homework and undertakes summer plans. I also am the parent who assumes the bulk of the financial responsibility. I pay for private school, summer camp, incidentals during the school year (where do they come up with some of this stuff? Lab fee, 800 school trips, 3 day camps?) I have a small support group and great godparents who help to lighten the burden, but it is mostly mine.

The court only reinforced what the ex and I determined was acceptable for child support. We decided that for the first two years, I would accept the minimum amount of child support to help the ex get on sound financial ground. He had the bulk of the debt, had to establish a new home, and had to find relevant work. It wouldn't help our kids for him to be arrested every 3 months because he couldn't afford to pay an exorbitant child support and take care of himself simultaneously.

He is also always available to his kids by phone and for the most part, in person. We don't have a set visitation schedule, and I have full custody. That was the only thing I wanted in the divorce - full custody. Approximately 3 weekends of the month, our son will spend Saturday after 4:00 p.m. until Sunday around the same time with his father. Our daughter, the teenager, is not as apt to spend physical time with him out of my presence. She is still not too swell on this new wife, and is determined her father is 'spiritually blind' and 'will come to his senses one day'. But if she wanted to spend that time with him, she could. Neither of us is going to force her to be in a physical situation that is unnerving to her. The oldest lives in another State, but he could call his Dad at anytime.

I don't know if our case is peculiar, but I can't understand how it will benefit the child or the parental ex-spouse if the payer of support is in jail, or if his or her license are suspended so they cannot get to work. I can understand the anger and bitterness one might have at a parent who has not helped raise the kids financially, but I don't see how it helps to belittle, degrade or persecute the non paying parent. Regardless of whether you act a fool, you will still be raising these babies on your own. Wouldn't it be better to let all the negative steam out and breath in the golden light?

When you realize that your anger is not about child support, nor is it about the kids, you can let it go and start working toward being the best parents possible. That work takes a lifetime and both of us are growing constantly in parenting skills. The fact that we are able to work together meant that I had to take a good look at myself and figure out what needed to happen to enable me to table the attitude and put in work. It took a lot of forgiveness, gratitude, and determination. OH, and prayer. 

I knew that I had enough to be upset about without adding a deadbeat to the pile. Some people would balk at the amount I agreed upon, given what the court would have established. I found out that money is not the only form of child support, and sometimes it is the least important type. I have about 8 months left in this agreement, and the agreed upon request for a raise in child support will be sought. But the most important outcome of the whole situation is that we both support our children, faithfully.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Black, Divorced & Virtuous: Hope Floats

Black, Divorced & Virtuous: Hope Floats: "Definition of RELATIONSHIP An interpersonal relationship is an association between two or more people that may range from fleeting to end..."

Hope Floats

Definition of RELATIONSHIP

An interpersonal relationship is an association between two or more people that may range from fleeting to enduring. This association may be based on limerence (an involuntary state of mind which seems to result from a romantic attraction for another person combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one's feelings reciprocated.); love, solidarity, regular business interactions, or some other type of social commitment. Interpersonal relationships are formed in the context of social, cultural and other influences.

 Dependence, alliance, kinship. 2. Affinity, consanguinity. 
To be in relationship with a person, you have to accept all that they are and LIVE with it. You cannot change a person. They are who they are, and if you believe you are going to change them, walk away now. What that sounds like and what it means are two different things. I had an associate who got left on the editing floor in the rewrite of my life story, and her tag line always said “The only person I can change is me.” (It really was just a line, but that is another story for another day).

There are real and defined reasons why we can’t change each other. We have a habit of not looking further than what is in front of us, when we are each a representative of our life experience.

Every single one of us is shaped by our past. We begin our emotional and mental shaping when we come into this world. According to research, the first three (3) years of life is the most critical to the intellectual and emotional development of a child. During these first three years, 75% of brain growth is completed. What happens in those years provide the building blocks for emotional and intellectual growth throughout a child's primary life. Most children learn by experience first, then by instruction. 

Things that happen in our lives affect our personal definition of love, how we learn to give and receive love, and how we communicate and share in all kinds of relationships. 

Every partner I will ever have comes with this package. I can’t alter how they have been socially, emotionally, physically or mentally shaped. If that development was extremely scarred and irreparably marred, I need to determine whether I am going to be what my Pastor calls “a project chic”. Am I going to take on this other person as my full time project that will fail because I am not the maker?

We make the mistake of thinking we can do supernatural work in another persons life, or we don't even consider the fact that this kid was developmentally raped and pillaged and the best spoils were taken by the perpetrator. What is left is this adult who is unable to relate well in interpersonal engagements.

Some of the very things that we are attracted to in a mate are the things that should make us run. In laymen’s term, if he had a bad childhood, reveled in it as a youth, rebelled against it as a teenager and young adult, and then you met him? 

1.    Take the time to know that about him before you get all caught up in planning a life with him.
2.    Take a good hard look at who he is and who you are. If he wears his pants sagging WITH a belt on, goes to church on historical holidays and is reticent about that, leaves you in a heartbeat to go with his friends, and needs a lot of forgiveness over small issues – he is still going to be that way after you apply your love all over him like it is the healing balm of Gilead. It is not.
3.    If you still decide this is the one for you, get your prayer clothe out and keep it on at all times and do not cease to pray for God to send a visitation of the Holy Spirit to him, because that is the only way he is going to change. A popular idiom says that still waters run deep. You might need to get you a piece of steel for when that deep overflows. I’m not advocating violence, I am just saying.

Not a person alive tries to better them self for the sake of another person and finds success. That endeavor has to be taken by an individual for their own sake to result in any permanent change. 

In the relationship with my ex, I also had my mind set. I am the youngest of 7 girls, and a Daddy's girl. Princess like behavior. Spoiled by many, generally adored. My parents were the only one in our huge family with all girls so that gave us all Princess status with the extended family. 

Another of my shaping factors is that being the youngest of all these girls, I had a big easy chair with popcorn front row seat to interpersonal relationships between men and women. I watched intently. I believe you can learn by the mistakes and the successes of others.  

You can become jaded by the mistakes and successes of others, too. I have a high tolerance for b.s. as long as my needs are being met, and I have a tentative love ability. I do not trust easily and never completely any man outside of my God and my Daddy. I find all other men to be capable of idiocies unimaginable which they can justify in their own sphere of being. This doesn't only extend to men, but mostly it does. 

No matter how wonderful a man may be, I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. (What the haystackwithaneedleinit

In any event, after the relationship with my husband snuck up on me, I looked at that man (and it took me a long time to gift him with that title…all boys don’t grow to be men, even though they  have the title) and said I didn't want to change him. What I meant was I want him to be changed because he wanted to change. It took me a long time to realize that. We call it loving someone and wanting the best for them. 

I thought I knew him (it was the pheromones); I just didn’t know what it was I should be trying to know about his past. Even when I did see the patterns emerge in his family history, I somehow thought he was different than his ideological make-up. I figured he had made it this far left of the blueprint, he could make it all the way. It wasn’t until well into the marriage when I realized he could no more escape generational curses than he could change himself without an impetus. Even given that, he would have to know what to become in his changing effort. He couldn't change with out personal desire and a lot of hard work. He couldn't change for me - he had to do it for himself.

Some people may hit rock bottom before they seek to change their reality; some may just hit rock bottom and stay there. I found out that there was area for change and improvement in me. Go figure.  I wanted that change so I sought it through God. Though I am still a work in progress, hope floats.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

THAT'S your advice?

I find that well meaning people offer me advice regularly now, about how to get my life back together, how to get a new husband, how to be a single parent, how to function. Well, on just about anything from the size of my waist to the style of my hair. I'm feeling rather amused by some of it today, and glad I know whose report to believe.

I wrote a poem about it. Wanna hear it? Hear it go:

Thank you girl, for all that you told me
Well meaning advice that would definitely set me free:
Break out his windows, terrorize his trick
Set fire to his clothes, hit him hard in his upper lip
Don't let her have him, hold on to what's yours
He'll be back, things will be fine, y'all need to get on one accord
Are you gonna be there to bail me out of jail
when the police come and arrest my out-of-order tail?
Although you gave it from your heart, your advice equals
one big straight-up #fail

Thank you, boy, for all the comfort you provided
Dinner dates, Late night phone calls, til my angst had subsided
Thank you for pointing out to me what a fool he could be
While you were rubbing my shoulders to a Isley Brothers medley
But my answer is no, laying down will increase my problems, not fix this.
I need healing, not the Marvin Gay kind, so you won't be able to hit it.

Thanks, Sister Deaconess, for your gossiped prescription
I should take care of my 'business' and then maybe he would
focus his attention
at home,
where I need to stay sometimes and be a wife to that man.
Yeah I heard you, talking
loud as only you can.
Can you tell how sorry I am to let you down on your summation?
Just be glad I'm saved too, so I don't rare back and bash your face in.
I repent, what I meant
that your words don't ring true. I can tell
I don't see a husband running around you.

Thank you Pastor, and wise counsel,
for just taking your time
to listen to me, hear what was inside, and look hard at what I believe.
For praying with me, crying with me,
and holding me up while I reached higher
For holding me down on those days
when I seemed incredibly lost and so tired.
For covering my kids,
And holding their hands
While they gained understand
For bearing my cross when alone I walked
and the crowd ranted beside me.

Thank you God for never leaving me,
shaping me into more of what I can be
Moving me forward, giving me your Word
which manifested in earth all eyes with vision
can look upon and see
I am a survivor, nay a proverbial woman
walking in victory!

©Elizabeth Towns 2011