Jun 02 2016

Divorce Separation Blues

“It is odd to me that more songs aren’t specifically written about divorce, considering how painfully common the event has become. In this particular case, the idea for the song came along as a yodel, which I have no explanation for, except that I am a sucker for a sad song presented in a relatively bright or conversational way,” – Seth Avett in an interview with the Huffington Post.

 

Permanent link to this article: https://www.rhinoblues.com/thoughts/2016/divorce-separation-blues/

Jun 02 2016

Data visualization nerdery

I follow a blog that looks at the way folks visualize data. Its called Flowing Data.

In a post today they link to a post by Robin Weis where she has tracked every time she cried over the span of 589 days (Feb 20, 2014 to Oct 1, 2015). The full post is here: Crying. One of the more interesting visualizations (which is also interactive on the full post) is partly shown here:
Crying

Breakups and relationships were the root of 63% of the total cries. The data spanned the majority of a year-long, long-distance relationship, the entirety of a breakup, a little bit of dating, and the very beginning of another relationship. The breakup was a terrible mess during which I found out that my ex was actually married, and the lies and trauma caused 40% of my total crying.

She also has a great post visualizing 8 years of dating (with little notes on each relationship/first date): 8 Years of Dating Data

Permanent link to this article: https://www.rhinoblues.com/thoughts/2016/data-visualization-nerdery/

Jun 01 2016

The Science of Happily Ever After

This article from the Atlantic popped up in my Facebook feed earlier this week: Masters of Love.

It covers some of the research by social scientists relating to the success of marriages in response to rising divorce rates beginning in the 70s. In the first section of the article, the research of Psychologists John Gottman and Robert Levenson is reviewed. In their study they brought newlyweds into the lab and observed how they interacted with each other. They also hooked the couples up to electrodes to measure and record the body’s response to their interactions. Six years later, they brought the couples back in to see who was still together.

From their data, they grouped the couples into two groups the masters and the disasters. The masters were still happily together after six years, while the disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy. In their observations of the disasters, the disasters looked cool and calm during the interviews, however the electrodes told a different story of what was going on physiologically. Their heart rates were quicker, sweat glands more active, and blood flow was faster. The data pointed to a conclusion that the more physiologically active a couple was, the quicker their relationship deteriorated. The masters had a lower physiological response and were able to maintain warm and affectionate behavior even when they fought. This helped create a climate of trust and intimacy that made both partners more emotionally and physically comfortable.

In a follow-up study, Gottman and Levenson set up a lab to look like a bed and breakfast retreat and invited 130 couples to spend a day at this retreat. In this study, they observed the couples go about what they would normally do on a vacation. In this study, an observation would come that be a key indicator on whether or not a relationship would thrive or languish. Throughout the day, partners would make “bids” for the others attention. “For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife—a sign of interest or support—hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.” In this scenario, the wife can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband. These interactions had a profound effect on marital well-being. The couples who had divorced by the six-year follow-up had “turn toward” bids only 33 percent of the time. Those that were still happily married had “turn toward” bids 87 percent of the time.


One of my goals as I move through the process of my divorce is looking at ways that I can improve myself and the way I will interact with a future partner. There was a time in my relationship/marriage with A that I was definitely in the “turning away” camp. There was at least one stretch of time in our marriage that it might have been pushing it to get up to the 33 percent of time for “turning towards.” In that time, the seed was planted that would eventually lead towards the pending divorce. While I did make an effort to improve my moments of “turning towards” during and after a period of couples counseling last summer and fall, it was perhaps already too late even at that point. The seed had been sown.


The article goes on to talk about the habits the masters have. How they are looking for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. In doing this they build a culture of respect and appreciation. Disasters end up looking for their partners mistakes. This behavior ends up building a culture of contempt and ends up being the biggest factor that tears partners apart. They give their partner the cold shoulder – deliberately ignoring or responding minimally – thereby damaging the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and not valued. This ends up not only killing the love in the relationship, it makes it harder for the partner to fight off physical ailments (such as viruses). In this culture of contempt we miss around 50 percent of the positive things our partner is doing and see negativity that isn’t there.


This paragraph reflects where I most contributed to the downfall of my marriage. I was guilty of this for far too long, creating an environment where…while love may have still been there…its hold was tenuous. I had killed enough of it that fighting for what remained became difficult. Stepping outside of comfort zones to have difficult discussions took more energy then it should have. It was easier to let the feelings of contempt to control our thoughts instead of the hard work of focusing on kindness and generosity.


So as I look to heal from the trauma of divorce and eventually to opening myself up to a new relationship it is important that I take lessons like this to heart. I need to focus on being someone who “turns toward” those bids for attention from romantic interests, friends, and really just people in general. I don’t want to be someone who’s heart is ruled by contempt. Kindness and generosity sound like a better way to live life.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.rhinoblues.com/thoughts/2016/the-science-of-happily-ever-after/

May 31 2016

on building new routines…

A lot has happened over the last week. We found a new housemate and got her approved with the landlord. That was the number one task on my to-do list and a big weight off my shoulders. I’m excited for her to move in, she manages a nearby wine shop, and seems like a lot of fun. I think we’re going to have a pretty good house between the three of us there.

Over the long weekend, I had a friend visit from the Seattle area. She’s someone I’ve known since high school and is going through period of change and discovery of her own. It was nice to have late night conversations talking about life, love, and finding direction. She might not know it…but our conversations definitely gave me stuff to think about as I contemplate the next steps in my life. For me, one of the best things about her visit was just having someone over to continue the process of making memories in the house that belong just to me.

I’ve explored places to build new routines over the past week or so as well. I’ve rediscovered a coffee shop that will be a great option for weekend morning coffee outings. It opens early and is close enough that I actually even want to bike there (there are actually a few places in that neighborhood that I hope to spend some time at this summer). I started meal planning again this week. While I’m already off schedule because of a great BBQ with some of my soccer family, I had actually planned for that as well by not specifically planning things later in the week. It’s still going to take some getting used to planning meals for one (and especially improving my veggie intake) but I’m starting to return to normal.

I did buy myself a present over the weekend:

Living the hard life

A post shared by Ryan Gillespie (@rhinoblues) on


My current housemate has a similar hammock, and it looked so comfortable I just couldn’t pass up the great deal on Amazon when I saw it on Saturday. It arrived on Monday (yes Amazon has the USPS delivering on holidays now too) and I spent a good few hours reading and napping in it Monday afternoon. Its going to be great having it this summer, both for back yard relaxing, and hiking/camping.

So what’s next? Now that finding a housemate is behind me, my next goal is working on improving my job/career/financial situation. My current position is through a temporary agency and I am definitely underemployed in it. The company my assignment is at is also still trying to figure out its structure after being acquired last year. While there is a lot of confidence that the jobs will stay here in Portland, they could just as easily be absorbed by another site elsewhere in the US. Like most everything else in my life, I’m looking for stability (at least as much as possible), and I just don’t feel comfortable yet at my current assignment. I also need to find a position where I can get decent health insurance in my own name (as my current health insurance will go away at an as of yet unknown date). Beyond that, I’m not entirely sure what I’m looking for. It’ll be something to concentrate on in counseling over the next few weeks.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.rhinoblues.com/thoughts/2016/on-building-new-routines/

May 23 2016

one month after

On Thursday, it’ll be a month since A left. It would still be another week before she officially said she was done with our marriage, but when she left on the night of April 26th it was already over. So where am I in this journey a month into it?

I can honestly say, I’m doing ok now. The initial shock and anger has waned. As I’ve said over multiple posts, I am still grieving the loss of the companionship, plans, and dreams we had; however I’m no longer grieving the loss of her. Really the most frustrating part of this process is that she seems unwilling to participate in it. I guess it makes sense though, she made a decision to cut and run from our problems, why should completing our divorce separation be any different? In the end its only going to make the divorce cost us both more money and emotional energy. For someone who wants out so bad, it seems like an odd way to handle things.

As for me, I continue to work on the things I was already working on before the events of the past two months surfaced. I’m continuing to see a counselor to work my way through the feelings resulting from the collapse of my marriage. I’m at a point now however, that I’ll finally be able to work with him for some of the reasons I originally chose him. I’m working on figuring out ways to improve my career opportunities and financial stability (one of the things my counselor specializes in). I’m continuing to work on improving my general health as well. As I re-learn planning and cooking for one, I’m trying to be conscious of what I’m eating (and how much). With the month of reduced appetite due to the relationship stress, my body has gotten used to smaller portion sizes, and that’s not a bad thing.

I’m looking forward to what life has in store for me after all this is done. There is still a lot of work to do to get there and it’s still stressful. I’m going to come out of this a better person though. I have faith that when the time is right, I will find a new partner and it will be even more amazing because of the things I’ve learned from this relationship (both the good and bad). One question people have asked me recently is “Do you regret marrying A?” Despite how everything turned out, I do not. Based what I knew then, I have no regrets and would do it again with the same information. I loved her with my whole heart and I still do have love for her. I really do wish the best for her. Yes, she broke my heart. Yes, she left without even trying to make things work. But I loved her until the end. I will cherish the memories we had together. My marriage has made me a better person and it will make my next marriage or partnership all the better as a result.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.rhinoblues.com/thoughts/2016/one-month-after/

May 20 2016

letting go…

It’s a strange thing, learning how to emotionally detach from a person. It’s like those weeds, where if you don’t get all the roots, it’ll just come back. Except you don’t want to pull the roots out at the same time. That would be too painful for the soil that is your heart. That is what I find myself doing this week though. Learning how to let go. Pulling out those remaining roots that didn’t come out originally. Resisting the urge to try to find scraps of her new life online.

This week I’ve been letting go…of A…of anger…of partnered life. Some of it has been easier than others. Letting go of the anger and of her has been easier than letting go of partnered life. I struggled being alone at home this week (with the exception of last night, I was home this week). But I forced myself to live in it. I could have run over to a friend’s house one of those nights but I need to relearn how to be ok in that space. I’ve got a ways to go in that department. It’s tough to erase five years of shared space overnight.

I’ve been obsessively refreshing social media this week. Craving connections to try to fill the vacant space A once occupied. Looking for people to chat with on Hangouts or Facebook. Hoping to fill time with a friendly conversation or even just reading their tweets/posts/pictures. There are all these things that I want to share with someone. Stupid stuff mainly…stuff you only share with a partner. I hear things that my first instinct is “I can’t wait to tell A about this.” Those are roots that remain inside me. Those stubborn roots that just won’t let go. Those things I won’t share with anyone else and now not with her either.

One thing I really want is for friends to come over. For some of my closest friends, this is hard as they are tied to their own homes because of kids, pets, or lack of easy transportation. I understand this and I don’t have any negative feelings towards them about it. I just want to take back my house for me. Have folks over for a game night. Host a fancy cider tasting night (I’ve got a bunch of limited edition small batch ciders from a local cidery). Create memories that make this space mine (well along with my other housemates).

I worry (and get anxious) about being too needy for my friends (and other acquaintances) as I go through this process. They’ve been great, but I know it can be hard to have to listen to the same sad stuff all the time. I try to be mindful of that though. To make sure I’m engaging in what is going on in their lives (and I really do want to know what is going on in their lives) and not just focusing on my divorce and how I’m working through it. I’ve got friends who are out of work and struggling with their job searches. I’ve got a friend struggling with a recent move (and a job search). Its important for me to listen as well.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.rhinoblues.com/thoughts/2016/letting-go/

May 18 2016

How To Be Alone

found via PostSecret FB:

 

This is something I’m having to figure out again. Eight years in a relationship. Five years of living together. Done in what seems like an instant. I was talking to my mom last night and I told her “in a way, its like A died, at least in regards to me.” Only it might be more difficult than if she had died, because she’s still around. I could easily run into her (especially since she moved somewhere right next to where I am often). I imagine she’ll do everything she can to avoid me if she sees me based on how she’s acted since she left, but the possibility is there nonetheless.

I’ve been alone before. Its ok to be alone. Its just something I have to get used to again for now.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.rhinoblues.com/thoughts/2016/how-to-be-alone/

May 17 2016

the hardest part (at the moment)

Today I went to my attorney’s office and reviewed and signed the paperwork. That signature was harder than I thought it would be. This is really happening now. I know it is the right thing. I wouldn’t go back even if A knocked on my door and said she’d made a mistake. “Yes, you did make a mistake,” I’d say before closing the door. Officially filing the divorce papers makes it real though.

The hardest part of this process has been how quickly it happened. On April 25, while I knew we had some serious things to attempt to work through, I was still happy with our relationship (outside of those serious things). By April 27th, she was not only gone from the house, but no longer speaking to me. How it went from something where we talked pretty much every day for the past eight years, to her not speaking to me at all (unless absolutely necessary). Its those moments I’d rush to share with her that I’m no longer allowed to do. I also still care for her despite all the pain and heartache she’s caused. I want to know that she’s doing ok. I assume since she was the one who decided to leave and who already had someone else’s arms to fall into, that she is doing ok. But I can only assume…I can’t know anymore.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.rhinoblues.com/thoughts/2016/the-hardest-part-at-the-moment/

May 15 2016

a day beyond…

On Saturday, A came and got the rest of her stuff from the house with her mom’s help. I had asked my parents to come up to support me (and serve as witnesses if she tried to claim something happened later). When she walked in the door and immediately threw a little fit, it was exactly the piece of closure I needed. I didn’t need any further explanation or conversations about what could have been different. It was done. It had been done for a long time, she had just been too afraid to say anything about it.

That was the thing in the end. She was too afraid to talk about her feelings. In our conversations (and fights) over the last two months she talked a lot about finding her voice as she’d been working with her therapist. It was great that she was finding herself and learning about her voice. I asked her about it, I practically begged her to tell me about it. But those conversations were still too hard for her. It was much easier to have those kind of conversations online, one step removed from reality. That was the reality she wanted now. Something that could be both real and not real at the same time.

Eventually she begrudgingly participated enough so that we were able to divide the majority of the household property. I created an inventory and had both of us sign it (along with a parent as a witness). Only one item remains in dispute to be determined. When she drove away with the last of her stuff to take to her new apartment it was like a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I could at least glimpse the other side of this mountain.

I’m going to be ok. Its going to be ok. I still fully expect to have moments of sadness, loss, and grief. Those moments are not for her though. They are for the hopes and dreams that we had shared. There has been a death for those things and I am still most definitely grieving them. But the beauty of dreams is you can have new ones. Hope will return alongside those dreams. Someone will be there to share in them. Openly and honestly.

Her things are out of my house. Her presence will linger a little less each day. Soon paperwork will be completed and the last things that bind us together in the physical world will be done. That small piece that will always remain will be all that is left.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.rhinoblues.com/thoughts/2016/a-day-beyond/

May 11 2016

one week after…

The past week has been a roller coaster of loss, grief, sadness, abandonment and anger. The ground beneath my feet doesn’t feel solid. I’m craving some sort of stability when nothing is stable at all. There are so many emotions, questions, and just things to do. Its all a bit overwhelming. Anyway, buckle up…this is going to ramble a bit.

I’ve reflected a lot on what went wrong. I’ve looked back to see the signs I missed or ignored that this was coming. I’ve questioned if there was anything I could have done to change the result. The last two months were tumultuous for sure, but if I’m honest I don’t think there was much that could have been done to change the end result. We might have done counseling for a few months or longer…but I’m not sure it would have made much of a difference.

There were signs even before the events of the last two months that she knew the decision she was going to make soon. That she was looking for an “out” even before this started. Even thinking back on the conversations we had over the past two months…there were things she said that make more sense in the context of how things ended. In that she was right when she said it wasn’t about what was going on that was the real issue. Perhaps the situation was just the “out” she was looking for. I obviously can’t know that for sure (especially since she’s no longer speaking to me directly), but that is the feeling I get. It doesn’t feel to me like she ever really came back from the struggles we had the previous summer. There seemed to be a lot of focus on the things that hadn’t worked and not on the things that did (at least that’s the impression I felt from the words and actions of the past few weeks). I hope that one day she’ll be able to remember the good things and not just a mistake that she made. I’d like to remember the good things and not think of our marriage as a mistake. It was something amazing that happened and something that came to an end. In the end…this will be better for both of us, A. has grown into a different understanding of what she wants from a relationship and unfortunately she was unable to talk to me about it before it was too late (again at least from my perspective).

I wasn’t perfect. I failed in many ways as a husband. There were many times I didn’t do my best (or even a token effort). Our relationship ending isn’t all on A. I definitely had a hand in creating the environment which allowed things to fall apart. I’m going to have to forgive myself for that. It’ll be part of the process of relearning how to love again.

Now we both have to deal with the aftermath of last weeks decision. The painful process of splitting up a household made more difficult by A’s refusal to communicate directly. Decisions about who gets what and how to handle exchanges while the emotions are all still very raw. The first of these exchanges will happen this Saturday and I’m incredibly anxious about it. She’ll be there with her mom and I’ve asked my dad to come up as well (because I don’t feel comfortable being there alone with them).

Finances are a big stress point. Divorce is expensive. Attorneys are expensive. With an already tight budget, I’ve got to squeeze more out of it. Ultimately I need to figure out ways to make more money soon. I’m not sure my current life is sustainable without it. This was something I had already planned on dedicating focus on. I picked a specific therapist because career and financial therapy was an area he specialized in. I had done this before I found out what was going on. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to focus on that as much yet…as my time with him has been focused on the relationship problems and then its ending.

There are other things as well…I’ve got to find a third person to move into the house. A’s decision to end things also has a very tangible effect on our housemate that moved in right around the time this all started. If we can’t find someone to fill A’s spot in the next month…our housemate will be responsible for having to pay more rent than she originally agreed to until we can. We have both failed in our housemate in that sense.

Logistics aside, there are the unexpected emotions. I don’t have any interest in going back to the relationship. I’m eager to finish this process as quickly and amicably as possible so we can both move on in our separate ways. But its the unexpected emotions that hit you in the face. Things like when you are told or find something that I would have immediately wanted to share with her. Or when I’ve woken up in the middle of the night and instinctively move my leg over to feel her touch that isn’t and won’t ever be there again. Yesterday, on the way home, I drove past the park we got married and tears welled up. These “certain small things / touch nerve-lines to the heart / and bring back with color and force / all that is utterly lost” as O’Donohue says in the poem in my previous post.

I told A. early on in our relationship…when I realized I was falling/had fallen in love with her that no matter what happens, part of me will always love her. She may have left two weeks ago, and officially left our marriage one week ago, but that part of me will remain with her. I hope you find what you are looking for A. I hope you achieve all your career dreams.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.rhinoblues.com/thoughts/2016/one-week-after/

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