Where’s a Dick-Falling-Off Spell When I Need One?
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Burn.
He’s at it again. My ex is up to his old tricks and manipulations.
Just last week, my partners at the Witches-in-Print website were talking about holding a contest for the best spells our fans could muster. Someone suggested we be able to look through the entries to weed out any dick-falling-off spells. Frankly, right now, that spell sounds pretty good to me.
At one o’clock in the morning, just as I was logging off after a pleasant evening with friends, my twelve-year-old sent me an email from her dad’s house, where she’s frittering away the week. Frittering is apparently a common activity in her dad’s house, given the reports of his live-in’s 16-hour-a-day sleeping habits, but if his roommate wants to avoid my beautiful, sweet, wonderful kids by escaping into lala land, I’m okay with that. While my daughter was frantically emailing me her I-love-yous at such an ungodly and unsupervised hour, her dad was over at his female lover’s parents’ house for the evening—which I suppose accounts for the lack of leg hair reported in the bathtub this week.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not bitter. I’m just very, very amused by the tales I hear from his crib.
But I’m not amused by what my little girl tells me. Her dad has big plans to take her and her sister to a counseling session with him, and he’s mentioned nary a word of this to me.
He’s no stranger to counseling and neither am I. A good counselor is worth his or her weight in the proverbial gold. I know, because I had four good ones in the two years before I finally filed for divorce. They helped me deal with the codependency, the abuse, the depression. But counseling could only help me change myself. It couldn’t change him. It couldn’t save my marriage…unless I was willing to not save myself and let die everything that made me me.
When I was growing up, I was taught to snub counselors unless, of course, they were pastors of the local Baptist church. Then it wasn’t really counseling. It was just “guidance.” Like, from God. The prevailing train of thought was that you would pay for a shrink only if you didn’t have real friends or you were “un-churched”—a terrible word that somehow makes me think “un-earthed.”
So, at first, going to a counselor was hard for me. I did have friends. Good friends. Except that they couldn’t be objective. The simplest conversation about my home life would have them raging about having their ex-Special Ops friends take him to the woods, tie him to a tree, and beat the shit out of him. Shoulders to cry on were plentiful, but objectivity was in short supply. And that’s the way I like it with my friends. But I needed someone who didn’t know my husband and didn’t know the situation, someone who could walk me through the mine field of my marriage and help me see if I could save myself. That said, it’s interesting that the first three counselors I talked to— out of four—lost their objectivity rather quickly and were soon ready to recruit ex-Special Ops friends to join my friends’ exSpecial Ops friends and beat the shit out of him.
Two years before the divorce, I begged my ex to go to marriage counseling. He told me he didn’t have a problem. The problems were mine. He refused, suggesting we’d do that only as a “last resort.” (NOTE TO ALL MEN ON THE PLANET: If your wife suggests marriage counseling, you’re already at the last resort stage.)
A year before the divorce, he finally agreed at last to go to a counselor with me, but I would have to set it up for a time when he could go. I would have to be responsible for all the arrangements. Maybe he could see my counselor and explain his side of the story. It never happened.
A divorced man I had dinner with earlier this year— who’d been through months of marriage counseling himself— told me that if you need marriage counseling, you might as well forget it because if your failure to communicate is so bad that you have to have someone else to do it for you, your marriage is probably already over. Looking back, I agree.
My ex finally did agree to go to a counselor to address his abusive tendencies and control his anger. He offered it up as a great and desperate sacrifice after I’d told him I was leaving him. His first appointment took place while I was across town, at my attorney’s office, signing paperwork that said I wanted to dissolve the legal agreement that was our marriage. I’m told that’s when many men finally agree to counseling—after the wife has left.
I actually liked his first counselor, a retired Methodist pastor who had his own practice as a family therapist. I actually thought there was hope for our marriage because of the changes I saw and the recognition of his abusive patterns and his attempts to deal with the darknesses. Unfortunately, my ex ditched the pastor after the fourth visit, the one where the pastor told him to stop thinking of himself and to consider my feelings for a change.
Instead, he found a non-spiritual therapist who told him, after a couple of visits, that he was just fine and dealing well with life, what with his wife leaving him, and that he really didn’t need a shrink. I still wonder if my ex ever told his therapist he actually had flaws or if the focus was entirely on the bad wife.
But one thing we did agree on was to provide our daughters with counseling, if they wanted it. It took months but finally the appointments were set up with a female counselor at his therapist’s office through his employee perks. Both girls enjoyed the first meeting and got the chance to talk a lot. They needed it. The older girl had friends to talk to but kept much of her trauma to herself. She just wanted her feelings and opinions to be taken seriously, especially by her daddy. The younger girl had told practically no one about her home life. She just needed to vent.
The second visit was their last, though I was prepared for them to continue with therapy for the next six months or longer. Unfortunately, the therapist who was so willing to listen at the first appointment probably ruined their faith in all counselors after the second appointment. Both girls were adamant afterwards that they did not want another therapy session.
For the daughter who wanted her feelings taken seriously, she was told she was a typical teenager and she’d grow out of it and to just get over her feelings and stop being a brat.
For the daughter who simply needed to vent, she was told she just needed to swallow her anger and stop griping and to get over it, and that the counselor had met her dad and he seemed really nice and so my daughter must be lying.
So, almost a year later, they’re going to see a counselor—the Methodist minister—with their dad. Without any warning. Without any word to me.
There’s got to be a reason. Something isn’t going his way, and he needs to bring in the big guns to convince the girls to support him. Somehow his image has been tarnished and he needs a counselor’s help to polish it up with the girls or maybe even the general public. Or he wants full custody so he won’t have to pay child support. Maybe that’s it. Image or money—it must be one of those because those were the only two things that ever mattered to him.
Unless he’s really changed. Unless he’s really trying to fix his problems. Unless he finally is willing to listen to the girls and hear what they have to say and try to think of someone besides himself. It doesn’t matter as far as our relationship—our marriage is over and there will never be a reconciliation—but it does matter for the girls to work through their issues.
In those first six weeks after I filed for divorce, I came so close to reconciling. So close. In fact, I was so hopeful that I devoted more of my energy to his healing and his feelings than to my own. I wanted him to fix his problems. I wanted him to get better. I wanted him to make those changes and become a less isolated and more loving person who wasn’t angry with the whole world and especially me for reasons that I couldn’t figure out. I was far more interested in his fixing and healing than he was.
If any one thing convinced me not to reconcile, it was his refusal to let me begin my own healing process. He held on, refused to move out, refused to give me the time alone to think things through. It was the one thing I needed to figure out whether we could salvage our marriage if he simply got some help and let me have some time to figure things out. And I, more interested in his healing than my own, finally realized that I had to take care of myself for a change. Because he wasn’t taking care of me. No one else was. And it was no one else’s job but mine.
Just as it’s no one else’s job but his to fix himself and to fix his relationship with his children.
So I’ll hope for the best and that he’s sincerely wanting to change his life and how he relates to people around him and that this isn’t some new ploy to make himself look good. I guess I’m surprised that in spite of everything that’s happened, I still have a teensy bit of compassion, enough to hope that he really will get it together and have a good relationship with his daughters. That would be a wonderful thing, so they’re not one day faced with confronting a feeble and aged father and afraid they’ll give him a heart attack if they say anything to upset him. I can hope, can’t I?
Meanwhile, if anyone has that dick-falling-off spell, send it to me.