Case Study #5 for Ring EXchange book - Barbara

Barbara has been married five times.  A 60-year-old tech writer with degrees in Engineering and Biblical Studies, her hobbies are "spending time with kids and old people."  She is originally from New York, but now lives in California.  Barbara has been happily married to her fifth husband, who is ten years younger than she, for sixteen years.

During her childhood, Barbara grew up in a middle-class home; she has one brother.  Her father was a factory worker, and her mother was a seamstress.  "There was a lot of hurt, because my father was abusive to my mother. And I remember them fighting all the time."  Her parents divorced when she was 9, and her mother's economic status rapidly went downhill, from middle-class to "poor."  Barbara only saw her dad a couple of times a year, and that made her sad, because she missed him.  She and her mother and brother always stayed in the same town while she was growing up, but relocated to different homes several times within that town.

At the age of 11, Barbara was sent off to work as a tailor's apprentice, and stayed at that job until she was 16. Child labor laws were certainly ignored at that New York tailor's shop. The tailor abused her sexually for years, but Barbara did not tell anyone about it for a long time.  The abuse, however, caused her to have many fears and feelings of guilt that stayed with her. 

For part of each year, Barbara was sent to live with her aunt in Bermuda, where she was quite happy.

Her first boyfriend in junior high used to eat lunch with her in the school cafeteria.  In high school, Barbara dated a football player -- she was a sophomore, and he was a senior.  The first time Barbara married, she was 19 and in college.  She had a son, who is now 39, with her first husband, but the couple divorced two years later.  She was 22 when she married the second time, and the union lasted for eleven years.  Her third, very brief, marriage was at 35.   Barbara's fourth marriage at 37 also produced a son, who is now 22.  Each time she was divorced, it was her husband who filed;  Barbara was the one who packed up and left. 

When she met the man who is now her fifth husband, she was sure she was "done with marriage."  But he convinced her to think otherwise.  The night before they were going to get married in 1995, her husband-to-be was under the impression that she had been married once or twice before.  He definitely did not realize that she had been married four other times!  Barbara was afraid of what he would say when he saw all four of her previous last names on the application for the marriage license.  So, hours before they were about to head to the marriage license office, she "came clean" and told him the exact number of her previous marriages.  He was cool with the disclosure, assured her it was okay and that everything would be just fine.

Here is a humorous example that clearly shows how considerate and thoughtful Barbara's current husband is:  "We went to a dear friend's wedding.  We had been there since early morning, helping with preparations, and now we were sitting at the wedding reception.  Lovely music was playing.  My husband invited me to dance, but I quickly declined.  He gently asked, 'Do your feet hurt?'  I nodded yes.  My feet were in undeniable pain.  I was wearing gorgeous, but very uncomfortable, high-heeled shoes."

"As soon as I nodded yes, my sweet husband unbuttoned his jacket and pulled out a very pretty pair of ballet slippers that were the exact color of my dress!  My mouth fell open in surprise.  He tenderly put the slippers on my feet, and we danced like a couple of teenagers for the rest of the night."

Before she got married for the first time, Barbara had no clue about what an "ideal marriage" might be like.  Now that she is in a very happy marriage, she says, "I finally know what it's like to be loved, cherished, and respected. "  Her picture of an "ideal marriage" these days is very specific:  "Two people who are already happy, satisfied, mature, thinking adults, but who could be happier if they were married.  It's so important to listen to each other, to respect each other, and to promote each other's best interests.  Do what you can for each other."