Case Study #1 for RingEXchange book - Sally

Sally has been married four times.   Now in her 50s, she is a cyber crime expert and describes herself as "married yet again, but I'm sure this is my last marriage."

Sally's  parents divorced when she was 8; she was one of four children. "Although I remember my parents fighting when I was small, even then I kept hoping I would have a happy marriage one day,"  she recalls. Right after divorce proceedings started, her Mom moved Sally and her sister from New England to Southern California, to be near a good friend.  The three moved around quite a bit and finally settled in Oxnard, California, where Sally went to school from 4th grade through high school.   "Mom would be in a good mood one minute, and a bad mood the next.  I think she was bipolar, but back then it wasn't cool to have a mental illness, so my sister and I dealt with her as best we could."

Sally continues, "My childhood was slightly unhappy.   Before the divorce, we were upper-middle-class, but in California we were on welfare.  I had hand-me-downs and homemade clothes.  I was also sick a lot.  But I became an honor student, a science fair winner, a total nerd.  I was bullied a lot and didn't have too many friends.  Then I skipped my junior year in high school , and in my senior year, I was chosen class secretary, wrote a column for the local newspaper, entered a beauty contest, and was on the drill team.  That year, I had a lot of friends!"

Looking back at her history of relationships, Sally says her first kiss was in the 4th grade.  The boy (now a man) who gave her that kiss contacted her a year ago and asked if she remembered; she didn't!  In elementary school, Sally recalls sneaking out of class to kiss "older" boys who were in the 6th grade.  But in junior high school, she had her first serious romantic relationship, with a tall, handsome, blond-haired boy.  When they went to different high schools, they parted ways.  In high school, Sally briefly became engaged to someone else -- she says her mother was NOT amused by this.  But in senior year, that boy moved to Oklahoma and they broke up. 

After Sally moved back East following high school graduation, she worked at a local restaurant and "had a huge crush on the guitar player in the house band." He was a few years older, and they started dating.  Within a year, they were married by a justice of the peace, with a formal church ceremony "for the family" about a month later.  Sally was 19.  "I had no idea what attributes I was looking for in a marriage partner.  I was young and foolish; he was in a rock band.  Need I say more?"  But then reality set in:  Sally got sick of being on the road with the band, and she and her husband realized that they had fun but they weren't really in love.  Three years later, they split up, amicably.  "We really did remain friends," she comments.

After this, Sally decided she wanted to eventually find the perfect man who had a good career, and have the traditional "little house with a white picket fence."  At 26  -- she had been divorced five years earlier -- she married again, but..."He kept his alcoholism hidden very well.  Also, it turned out that he'd cheated on me, both before AND after our marriage.  Four months after we got married, we left a Halloween party and went home.  He was drunk, began to slap me around, and then tried to strangle me.  I told everyone I was NEVER going to get married again!"

But then..."A friend was singing with a house band and asked me to come to her opening night.  I told her I thought the bass player was cute, and she introduced us on her next break.  He was handsome, funny, and caring.  We became a couple soon after that.  He asked me to marry him five months later, and I did.  I was 31 years old.  He was the first person I dated after I got divorced from my second husband."

Sally goes on, "Then he joined the Marines.  And that's when my life changed.  He had dark moods when he'd get really depressed, but we tried to work through them.  After he got out of the Marines, he went into his family's business.  But in 2006, his dad got cancer.  My husband started drinking every day and ended up in the hospital himself.  I wanted us to see a marriage counselor, but he wasn't keen on that.  We had been married almost 20 years, and I hoped we could save our marriage."

And then, "I had to go to a speaking engagement in New York.  His dad had died the day before.  When I got home, I discovered that my husband had killed himself.  I was devastated."

"About a year after this happened," Sally recalls, "a friend who worked for a dating site kept telling me I was too young to be alone.  So I finally relented, signed up, and eventually met my current husband through the site.  I married him in 2008, when I was 50."

What does Sally now think an "ideal marriage" is?  "Actually, there is no ideal marriage," she says.  "Yes, I finally do have that little house (but no white picket fence), stepkids (who don't live with us), and a dog.  But it's not perfect.  He sometimes does thoughtless things, but I've come to realize it's because he's a man, and they're wired so differently from women.   I've grown to appreciate his good points, such as when he picks flowers from the garden for me, or when he made a wood table and carved 'I love you' with a heart on it for me.  We do have a lot in common, he makes me laugh, and sometimes we get along so well, we say we must be from the same family."

In closing, Sally says, "If I were asked to give advice to someone about to get married for the first time, I would say -- I hope your marriage lasts a long time, but if it doesn't, it's not the end of the world, no matter how bad it seems at the time.  Give marriage another go!"