Case Study #1 - 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'sparents 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!"
Case Study #2 - Marilyn
Marilyn has been married four times. In her late 60s, she has a Ph.D., teaches writing classes and the occasional management seminar. She and her current husband are now retired and blending their responsibilities for children and grandchildren with community activities and interests. She comments about her current marriage, "Got it right this time!"
Marilyn, who grew up in a rural area of upstate New Hampshire, was the eldest of two children who lived with happily married parents. The family was active in church and had cousins and friends who lived nearby. She comments, "I had a very happy childhood. We had a comfortable, upper-middle-classlifestyle with lots of freedom, some responsibilities, and many activities outside of school. We did change schools often because of the redistricting that went on, but we stayed in the same house."
As for when Marilyn's first boyfriend appeared on the scene, she recalls, "That was in the fifth grade. I actually had several proposals from boys I walked to grade school with. I was quite impressed with that! Dating, and my first serious romantic relationship, came in junior high."
Marilyn was engaged for the first time at age 19, and married at 20 -- interestingly enough, she was one of the last people in her high school class to marry. At the time, the qualities she was looking for in a marriage partner were: ethnic, religious, and educational similarity, attractive, common interests. But at 19, she had a pretty vague idea of what an "ideal marriage" might be -- equal partners, mutual support, lots of friends, activities we could do together.
Her first marriage lasted 18 years and, as Marilyn remarks, "I spent years and years trying to make that marriage work. So I experienced a lot of guilt feelings about the fact that I was unhappy. Basically, my first husband was a nice, responsible man. In fact, we're still friends, and the kids love him. But he's a scientist and not in touch with ordinary reality. I was often lonely, and the loneliness led to my fooling around. But then I would feel so guilty after doing that, I knew I would have to leave the marriage in order to be able to live with myself from a moral point of view."
Marilyn continues, "After my first divorce, I couldn't wait to get into a more positive relationship. In hindsight, what happened was that I rushed into a second marriage, with someone I thought would be fun. It turned out that he was an alcoholic, and the alcoholism ultimately took his life when he was just 48. We had been married for 14 years. Before he died, he really did a lot of damage -- to me, to the kids, and to our budget."
After her second marriage ended with the death of her husband, Marilyn never said to herself, "I'll never remarry." Instead, she just vowed to do better next time. "Now I was very sure about what I didn't want: addicts, and absent-minded, physically absent scientists. What I did want was a good companion, a real partner."
"Shortly after my second husband died," Marilyn goes on, "I met a widower who worked as a manager for one of my client companies. He was bright, attractive, ethical, and interested. We dated for a few months and then had a small family wedding. It was 1995; I was 53."
Relating a shocking turn of events, Marilyn says, "We left for our honeymoon in Cabo San Lucas, and had a magical five days before my new husband died of a massive heart attack."
After that completely unforeseen event, Marilyn was in shock for a while. When she decided she was ready to date again, she knew that her goal was still to find a life companion and partner, but preferably a healthy one. She dated about eight men before becoming involved with the man who is her current husband. They married in 1997.
Marilyn now has this picture of what comprises an "ideal marriage": "For me, an ideal marriage means putting your partner's interests above your own, at least part of the time; being with each other's friends and family; taking a lively interest in each other's health and happiness; building memories together; planning a future together; and working together for the community, the church, and the environment. The list of attributes I used to have for an ideal husband have evolved into some non-negotiables and a lot of negotiables that make up the ideal marriage."
Marilyn and her current husband have an activity that they call "earning martyr points" -- for engaging in, or tolerating, any activity one partner dislikes but the other partner likes. This is not a formal process with scorekeeping and figuring out how much a certain "sacrifice" is worth, but just an opportunity to become more aware of the other partner's likes and dislikes. The martyr points are now more of a joke, used to ease tension when one partner is making an unreasonable request of the other. Sometimes one partner will do an activity alone or with friends, if the other one really does not want to participate. The couple also makes an effort to find activities, such as tai chi, that both of them enjoy.
"And," she adds meaningfully," this is the magic element to an ideal marriage: Give each other a lot of space and trust."
Case Study #3 - Vincent
Vincent has been married five times. Now in his early 60s, he is a retired college professor and author who holds multiple B.A. degrees. Vincent owns a private practice in the healing arts on the West Coast. His two grown male children live in other parts of the U.S. He says of his current relationship, "It is perfect. We are similar in our likes and habits, despite a significant age difference."
Raised by happily married parents in a lower-middle-class background, Vincent hasa younger brother. They had a stable life, insofar as they stayed in the same home and the boys went to the same schools. However, Vincent describes his childhood as only moderately happy, since his mother and father were quite strict with their children.
When did he have his very first girlfriend? "I was 14; the relationship lasted about a year." Vincent recalls that his first romantic experience took place at age 17, and his first serious romantic relationship occurred the following year, when he was 18. That relationship led to his first marriage, at 19 1/2. "We met in community college. I wanted to be responsible."
But that first marriage ended in a couple of years because Vincent caught his young wife cheating on him. Despite that unhappy discovery, he was not disillusioned about marriage, and in fact was open to the possibility of remarrying.
And he did remarry, at 23, but that wife turned out to be mentally unstable and a crack addict; he divorced for the second time. Soon after the divorce, he started dating again; one woman he was dating had a young child whom Vincent had grown very attached to (he admits, "I actually fell in love with her boy and wanted to help raise him"). He proposed to the woman, and they got married. Although that union did not last long either, because his wife was an alcoholic, Vincent adopted her 6-year-old boy. When his ex-wife decided to move to another state with her older child, but not with the younger boy, Vincent became a single dad.
After his third divorce, loneliness was a big factor in Vincent's decision to start dating yet again. This time he was 32 when he married, and that marriage lasted for 20 years. Then "mutual disillusionment" set in. After being involved in a bad motorcycle accident that had taken him six years to recover from, he rethought the basics of how he wanted to live. Although his wife assumed that Vincent would continue to be a hard-driving corporate business owner, which he had been when they met, his idea of what was important to him had completely changed. His choice was to lead retreats, establish a private practice in the healing arts, and live a more or less contemplative life. So it became quite obvious that the couple was interested in following completely different life paths. Eventually, they divorced. And this time, Vincent was single for eight years before he married for a fifth time.
Vincent says that actually he has always been looking for these attributes in all his marriage partners -- honesty, intelligence, sincerity, humor, and sexual compatibility. But it wasn't until his current marriage partner that he found that entire combination of attributes in one person.
Calling the relationship "a miracle" and "delightful," Vincent says the couple has their own private "sign language" that they use at a party, for example, to alert the other partner -- from across the room -- that it's time to go home. And they have a process that he calls "Mind Meld," where the couple literally "puts their heads together" and then tap their hearts, to show that they are in sync.
Vincent met his current wife through a mutual colleague, and remarried, for the fifth time, at age 60. It's this marriage that, he says, is really "ideal." He explains, "Sometimes couples have complementary styles -- as in, opposites attract. But this is so much better, because we are very similar in our outlook and our tastes -- we even have the same songs on our iPods! After learning so many lessons from past relationships, this relationship seems effortless. We have clear, open communication, a joyful energy, a strong friendship, and a spiritual connection that is very blessed."
Case Study #4 - Evan
Evan has actually been married 14 times -- but...and here's the surprising part...each of those 14 times, he's been married to the same woman!
A 40-year-old speaker, best-selling author, and global entrepreneur, Evan is indeed very happily married; he and his wife have two children and a stable relationship. They have simply chosen to affirm their love (in an unusual way) by renewingtheir vows annually, each year in a different state or country.
"I was 26 when we first got married," Evan recalls, "and that's when we decided to remarry every year in a different location. At that time we had no money and no idea how we would pull off our imaginative idea. We just made the decision, and then found a way to make it happen."
So far, some of the places the couple has been married are: at the Versailles Garden in Paris; at a 300-year-old windmill in Germany; in the water, surrounded by dolphins, at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas; on the beach in Washington state; at the Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas, where they were King and Queen; on the beach in Maui, Hawaii; and in a little church with a great view in Park City, Utah.
Evan explains further: "One year my bride chooses where we will remarry, and the next year I do. Half the fun is just planning the whole adventure. This year, for example, we've decided to renew our vows in a hot air balloon over Santa Fe, New Mexico."
Most of the couple's friends and family are very, very excited and supportive about the annual renewing of vows. "In fact, they sort of live vicariously through us," Evan observes. One friend, though, when he learned that Evan and Susan will do their ceremony this year in a hot air balloon, remarked, "My marriage is definitely going in the opposite direction from yours!"
Usually a pastor officiates at the annual marriages for Evan and his bride, but one year they asked a good friend to preside over the ceremony. "It was a blessing, to him and to me," Evan comments.
So far there have been no complications, from a legal or tax standpoint, to the annual vow renewals. "We have our original marriage license from our first wedding in our home state, California. So we don't apply for paperwork in other states because we're only renewing the original vows we made."
Evan was born in California to parents who divorced when he was about 4 years old. After the divorce, during the week he and his brother stayed with his mother and went to his father's house on the weekends. "I had a great childhood," Evan recalls, "but I didn't know how much damage the divorce had done until I was in my mid-30s. I had really needed a father figure when I was a kid, and my dad simply wasn't around." Evan's mother never remarried; his father remarried, then divorced, and is now married for a third time.
Evan and his brother grew up in a very happy, middle-class background. "We had the stability of staying at the same school. Mom moved to a condo about 10 miles away from our original home, and she made sure we were loved and very well taken care of."
As a young person, Evan had his first romantic experience in high school, and his first serious romantic relationship a few years later, when he was 19. "The woman I was involved with was a little older, more established and much more mature than I. Thank goodness this situation did not lead to marriage! The relationship was founded only on physical pleasure, and that only lasts so long."
When Evan was younger, the attributes he was looking for in a marriage partner are not necessarily what he needs and wants now, at 40. "My bride and I have grown together, and that's good, to be in a mutual growth process."
As for his picture of an "ideal marriage" before he got married: "I definitely did not want to be one of those guys who get married and then become fat and miserable. I knew that I wanted to live my dreams, and also to live 'happily ever after' with my wife."
Now, Evan says he has a new picture of what an "ideal marriage" is. "My bride and I still live 'happily ever after,' but the seasons of life are constantly changing -- what with raising children, moving, career demands. So I think that an ideal marriage is something that responds to the changing seasons of life. After you have children, everything changes! We don't have the same quantity of time to spend with each other that we did before the kids came along, so instead we focus on the quality of time we can spend together. We didn't want to look at each other after the kids are grown and say, 'Who are you?'"
Case Study #5 - 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."
Case Study #6 - Perry
Perry has been married seven times. The owner of a music production company (with a separate day job), he's in his early 70s and lives in Idaho. His four grown children, "who are all very successful and have well-adjusted lives," live elsewhere. Perry adds, "I am not against having more children, but there is a lot of freedom in being an empty nester."
As the oldest child and only boy, he grew up in a middle-class home with both parents, and three sisters. "My parents were very much in love, albeit very different types. They were married 62 years!" In retrospect, his stable childhood (he attended one school system from kindergarten through 11th grade, when he left school) in a suburban neighborhood was quite happy.
"I was the apple of my Father's eye," Perry recalls. "My Dad and I did many activities together from the time I was 6 years old. Dad was a model airplane pioneer, and is in the Radio Control Model Airplane Hall of Fame. It was a challenge trying to understand his electro-mechanical techno language (Dad had a genius IQ), but we complemented each other in many ways. Before radio control, we flew control line, where the planes go round in circles and the pilot controls their movements with his hands and his wits. I was a very good pilot; Dad was not, but he was a great builder and mechanic. So I did the competition flying, and he was the mechanic. We did very well, and filled the attic with trophies and other prizes."
Perry continues, "I was an above-average student, and lettered in baseball and swimming for three years. I started working part-time from age 12 on in my Dad's home-based business, and went to work full-time at the end of my third year in high school. I had a thirst for building my own business at that early age. Then I was in the Navy for six years, beginning in 1958."
On the subject of girlfriends, Perry recalls that he dated many girls from age 12 on, but met his first "steady" girlfriend when he was 14. "This established a pattern of monogamous relationships that included intimacy," he remarks. "And that pattern has continued throughout my life." Perry also notes another pattern in the type of woman he has chosen for his wife: "I have married three addicts, and have been in serious-enough-to-get-married relationships with two more addicts."
Perry was 17 when he married for the first time, 27 at the time of his second marriage, 31 for his third marriage, 37 for his fourth marriage, 39 for his fifth marriage, 47 for his sixth marriage, and 63 for his seventh marriage.
His first wife and he parted and reconciled several times, but divorced after three years of separation. When their two boys became teenagers, his wife couldn't handle them and willingly gave Perry custody. "That was the best move for everybody," he believes.
After each divorce, he usually didn't start dating until the divorce was final. "That was my time to reassess, regroup and reshape myself for the future," Perry observes. Interestingly, after four out of the seven divorces, he married the very first person he dated. The time between his divorces and remarriages mostly varied from six months to a year.
Perry always had a picture of an ideal marriage in mind, and still does, although it has been slightly modified over the years. What attributes has he been looking for in a partner? "I am seeking someone who would make me feel complete. She will be a supportive woman who wants to be my partner in all things business, and has a solid understanding of her sexuality. A high libido is desirable."
Why did Perry want to be interviewed for this book? "My experiences may help someone to keep on keeping on. It has been the most difficult thing for me to do, to make a lasting marriage. But I know it is the best way of life and I will not give up the search for the woman who wants what I have to offer. Satisfying each other's wants and needs is what builds intimacy and love in a marriage."
In his late 30s, Perry was baptized in a church. "Oh, there are still mountains to climb and valleys to traverse, but my life now is better than it's ever been. I trust that the Lord, in His own time and wisdom, will send me the woman that I have been looking for… for 60 years."
Ever the idealist, Perry comments, "I have a picture in my mind of saying to a prospective bride, 'I want to marry again, but I don't want to fail again,' and hearing her say convincingly to me, 'I won't let you fail.'"
Case Study #7 - Jack
Jack is a 62-year-old retired engineer and an Army vet who had two tours in the Vietnam War. He is originally from a small town in Oklahoma, but now lives in Panama. He has been married and divorced four times. Interestingly, his picture of what an "ideal marriage" was -- before he took his first walk down the aisle -- was based on his parents' relationship and values. His mother and father were married 65 years, "the most wonderfully affectionate, sensual, loving relationship I (and many of my friends) have ever witnessed," he observes.
He grew up on a cattle ranch and farm, the youngest of three children in an affluent family ("although we did not know we were well-off early in our lives"). Jack was in and out of schools as a child. "I was a problem child, was arrested many times for violence, theft, auto theft, and drunk and disorderly conduct. My parents could never understand why I was this way." As an adult, however, he earned two college degrees. "I have never been able to satisfy my need for more education," he remarks.
Jack's parents created a generous, kind atmosphere in which all the children could experiment and explore at their own pace. He recalls, "My parents were not doting. Their philosophy was to allow us to fall down and learn to pick ourselves up and get going again. They never interfered with a fight or a problem, but rather, taught us to resolve these issues on our own. I remember Dad saying once, 'Learn that failure is a more probable eventuality, and that as long as your parents are there to help you understand the mistakes you make, we can help you get back on your feet and learn from the experience. We cannot do this when you are an adult.'"
Regarding when Jack had his first girlfriend: In the fourth grade, he kissed a girl in class and then ran away because he was afraid of her reaction. He and that same girl actually dated later, in high school. When he was 16, he experienced his first serious romantic relationship, but it did not lead to marriage because he found out that she was simultaneously having a relationship with one of his friends.
At that time of his life, Jack was looking for someone who had a similar emotional and economic upbringing to his, as a possible marriage partner.
The first time Jack married, he was 18; the second time, 32; the third time, 48; and the fourth time, 53.
His first marriage ended because he is an alcoholic, and "My wife had enough and told me I had a choice: the family, or the bottle. I woke up one day after my first divorce and finally realized what I had thrown away: a loving wife, four kids, and a lifestyle most people would die to have. I decided that for Christmas that year, I would give up smoking, drinking, and drugs." And, since Jack got sober, "my first wife and I have remained good friends."
After his first divorce, he became reacquainted with his childhood sweetheart. They were married after two years of courtship and one year of living together. But then...Jack found out, quite by accident, that his second wife had over 14 affairs in the 12 years of their marriage. "This came to my attention because the state I was living in mailed me a questionnaire about my sexual partners. I discovered that my wife had a sexual relationship with a man who had AIDS; the state was developing a database of people with potential problems." This led to their divorce.
After his second divorce, Jack found a woman he thought had the qualities he was looking for. He hoped that the cliché "Third time's the charm" would be true. But...the marriage lasted only 80 days. The divorce, however, took four years to finalize.
His soon-to-be third ex-wife told Jack that he could not trust his brother, who had managed his investment portfolio since he was 23 years old. "My brother's education made him a much better and more effective portfolio manager than I, but I determined never to allow a relative to have access to my investments, and ended up losing over $2 million in my third divorce."
When Jack was divorced for the first time, over two years went by before he remarried; he was working in the Middle East and wasn't involved much with dating at that time. Only six months went by before he remarried after his second divorce, four years after his third divorce, and he started dating a year after his fourth divorce, as "I felt I needed to get back in the saddle quickly before I became embittered."
One of the major negative influences in Jack's early life is that he was sexually abused at age 11 by a schoolteacher. He never spoke about this experience until he was in his 40s, but the experience "led to a lifetime of disliking myself, and never being able to emotionally bond with any other human beings, including my siblings and my parents."
In his later years, Jack has been diagnosed as bipolar, diabetic, as having acute chronic pancreatitis, and recently, Parkinson's disease. He comments, "This means that my life will be challenged again, and I will probably be a burden to any future spouse. This may prevent me from looking for another relationship."
Jack says he does have a new picture of what an "ideal marriage" is, but that "it would require several pages to describe what I now understand is perfect for me."
Case Study #8 - Karen
Karen has been married eight times, although she has had seven husbands -- she remarried her 5th husband a year after they were divorced. Now 65 and happily married for ten years, she is a minister and lives "in paradise" -- in a town right on the beach in southern Florida.
Her family included an older brother and two younger sisters; the children were raised in a middle-class home. Karen's parents never divorced, although only one was actually in the house while the kids were growing up. As she recalls, "My father spent most of my life in VA hospitals and nursing homes. Mother sought her companionship from another man during all the years my father was sick. My father died in 1998; mother and her companion are still together -- she's 87 now, and he's 85."
Karen considers her childhood to be moderately happy. She describes herself as "a loner, a dreamer. I internalized everything, and didn't usually share my feelings or thoughts with others, because it was obvious that nobody felt or thought the same way I did." Karen continues, "I always saw myself as an 'observer.' I enjoyed that role, and decided that most people were creating their own soap operas. I always believed I could become better than I was. Also, I was never looking for bliss in a relationship, just passion."
In the third grade, Karen had her first boyfriend. She came home from school one day wearing his ring on a chain around her neck. "My mother almost died when she saw that," Karen remembers. Her first romantic experience, and her first serious romantic experience, was at 14. "At that time, everything was serious to me. I was devastated when the boy broke up with me, but I quickly found another boy -- even better -- to take his place."
Karen married for the first time when she was 17 and pregnant; they lived together for nine months. "At the time (1963), abortions were not an option, and being an unwed mother was sacrilege. I decided to divorce him when it sunk in that if I weren't pregnant, he never would have married me."
She was 22 at the time of her second marriage, and describes herself as "wild and crazy. We lasted a year." Karen married again at 27, "still wild and crazy, but he was even wilder and crazier. We lasted three months." She married for the fourth time at 32. "This was pretty much a carbon copy of the previous two marriages. It also lasted three months."
Interestingly, after her first divorce, Karen was open to remarrying. "I didn't believe then, nor do I believe now, in mistakes. Everything that doesn't kill you makes you stronger." When she divorced a second time, she was still open to remarrying. "I feel, 'If at first you don't succeed,...." Even after she was divorced for a third time, she took a chance on a fourth marriage because, as she admits, "I am the eternal optimist."
Contrast Karen's positive attitude about the possibility of having a better marriage with her sister's truly fatal attitude about marriages that end in divorce. One of Karen's sisters literally gave up on living, and eventually died, so humiliated was she that her third marriage had failed.
Marriage Number Five took place when Karen was 36. "This time, I married someone totally different from my normal 'type.' It lasted for two years." Then, when she was 38, Karen remarried her fifth husband. But, after six months, "I felt like I had dug a grave for myself, and was suffocating." Divorce soon followed. At 41, she married her sixth husband. Trouble ensued. After 8 years of marriage, her parting words to him were, "I love you very much," while his parting words to her were, "That doesn't mean anything to me, because you love everybody."
Karen notes that she found her calling as a minister during this seventh marriage!
At 55, she married for the eighth time. "When I met him, I had been divorced for five years and was seriously intense about my 'mission' to start my church. I wasn't really looking for a husband; I was actually looking for someone to 'partner' with me in starting the church."
"Frustrated, tired, and discouraged that my vision was going nowhere, one day I said to myself, 'The heck with it. I'm going dancing.' I went online and found this guy's bio on Yahoo Personals. We went dancing on our first date, and it was as if we'd been dancing together all our lives. Dancing made our hearts sing."
"When the band took a break, we walked over to a quiet spot. I asked him what his purpose in life was. He answered, 'Duh, to have fun!' What a concept! Something shifted inside me. It was like a rocket being launched! His penchant for having fun was not the only thing that attracted me, though; it was his total acceptance of me, with my seven divorces, bad credit rating, and tendency to stretch the truth. I so appreciate him, for the total love that he exemplifies."
With the exception of her seventh marriage, Karen started to date immediately after each divorce. Then after her seventh divorce (sixth husband), she stopped dating, and socialized only with her ex, who was still her best friend. However, as Karen notes, "He stopped being my best friend when I dated and then married my current husband. Now, he won't even speak to me."
Before her first marriage, Karen had no picture of an "ideal marriage" in mind, "...other than watching those stupid sitcoms on TV. For sure, I knew I had never seen an 'ideal marriage' in real life." Nowadays, Karen remarks, "I don't have a 'new picture' of an ideal marriage. I think it's what I've been asking for my whole life, but didn't know it."
Here's how she describes her ideal marriage today: "Two people (non-gender-specific) who allow each other to grow, in their own way and in their own time. No one can hold anyone back from their purpose in life. But if their purposes are at odds, divorce will be the natural course of evolution." She addsa wise observation, "No one's self-esteem should be attached to another human being!"
Case Study #9 - Connie
Connie has been married six times. She observes wryly that her husbands who were supposed to be the most likely to succeed, the ones she had married for all the right reasons, lasted only a relatively short time. But the husband who was supposed to be the least likely candidate for a lasting, compatible marriage is the one she's been married to happily for over 25 years! Connie is in her early 70s and lives near Miami, Florida, with her husband and two sons.
She was born in Pennsylvania and lived with both parents in a stable household. Connie was an only child, but her parents adopted three girls, her younger sisters." My mom was only 19 when I was born; she was a kid herself, and we used to dress my dolls together and set them in a row on the sofa."
Connie continues, "My childhood was so happy, I believed that life was a combination of Disney World and Mayberry, USA. There were nice kids I played with in my neighborhood. I loved our huge, old house with about 18 rooms. My grandmother and grandfather lived in the other half of the house, and were a daily part of my childhood. "
She recalls, ""It seemed we were always having parties -- Halloween, sleepovers. And I remember that my mom baked for months preparing for the Christmas holidays. In the summertime, I used to walk to a beautiful park called Buhl Farm Park. I would play tennis, swim in the pool, go to the swings, and visit the Sunken Garden, which was full of flowers, cat tails, and water lilies. Until I got to high school, I thought we were very rich. We owned our own home, had a nice car, and went for rides on Sunday. It was all good."
There was a surprise turn of events that upset the traditional "happy marriage" picture, however. When Connie was about 40, her mother suddenly left her father and ran away with a farmer who worked as a skating guard at the local Skating Alley. They moved to Alaska, and lived happily ever after!
Connie had her very first boyfriend in the 5th grade; he was a romantic, held her hand and walked her home from school. Her first serious romantic relationship came in college. She got engaged to her friend's older brother; he was a veteran , an all-star basketball player for the state and the college, and was getting his Master's degree. But then "I broke it off. I wasn't in love with him, and I didn't think he was really in love with me, either. Also, my mom objected to the potential marriage."
Connie was married for the first time at 21, but got divorced after she found out her husband had sexually molested a child. She always thought she'd remarry, and at 34, she did. But it didn't last; "I kept thinking that I'd keep trying marriage until I got it right. Life is too hard to live alone."
Why did she decide to remarry after her second divorce? "I think I was both in heat and insane!" And so, at 38, Connie married for the third time, and "just thought that this time it would be right and lasting -- as I had thought for all of my marriages." Soon after -- in fact, a year after -- her third divorce, she took a chance on a fourth marriage. "This marriage was like a business deal -- I wanted his insurance and airline passes, and he needed the insurance I had through the airline I was working for. (I workedfor Pan American World Airways for 37 years.) We married legally, but never lived together. It's true that this was really my most successful, and least stressful, marriage of all!"
They eventually divorced, and she married for the fifth time at 45. After that marriage ended in divorce, she married her sixth husband when she was 48; and that marriage is going strong 25 years later!
Connie was actually dating and going out before each divorce was finalized, because "The marriages were over long before the actual divorce took place. The ink on paper saying the divorce was official meant nothing to me. To me, the divorce happened when I separated from my husband. My motto was, 'Do it right, or do it to someone else’.”
As for what attributes Connie was seeking in a marriage partner she reflects that, "I wasn't that well-organized in my younger years, either intellectually or emotionally, to have a set of preferred attributes. Other than good sex, I didn't much care."
What is Connie's picture of an ideal marriage now? "Well...I really don't think such a thing as an ideal marriage exists, except in the movies or in fiction novels. I never had an ideal marriage myself, until now, because something was always missing. But the marriage I would consider ideal would probably have these components: sexual compatibility, humor, being best friends, enjoying unbroken trust, and true compassion for each other. All of that equals love to me."
She has very definite ideas about what's great in her marriage now. "That we never argue, never. Oh, sometimes we disagree, but it never reaches the stage of being an argument. We laugh out loud a lot, and support each other when comfort when disappointments come. That's so wonderful!"
Case Study #10 - Sam
Sam is a 75-year-old retired engineer, a homeowner who lives in New Mexico and does computer repair work as a hobby. Although he has not been in a committed relationship for 27 years, he's been married eight times -- and six of those marriages happened in one very busy decade, the 1960s!
Sam comes from a middle-class home in California; he was raised by parents who divorced during World War II, when he was seven years old. He remembers his childhood as being "not too pleasant, as I was tormented by an older brother." Sam also comments that neither side of his family was good at keeping in touch with each other. "Probably until I was in my 40s, I had met a total of exactly three relatives."
His first girlfriend, Marylou, was in his sixth-grade class. "We took dance lessons together." His first romantic experience was three years later, in the ninth grade.
Sam's first serious romantic relationship was in 1969, and it truly was serious -- "We thought enough of each other to start a family, and so we got married. I was 24 years old." At that time, the main attribute Sam was looking for in a potential partner was someone who enjoyed a physical relationship as much as he did. And his view of an ideal marriage then, he says, would have been based on the iconic Cleaver family from the popular TV show Leave it to Beaver.
But Sam's first divorce occurred just three years after the marriage because "I could not handle family life."
However, at no point did he ever tell himself he would never remarry again -- here's proof: Sam was married the first time at 24; the second time at 27; the third time at 29; the fourth time at 30; the fifth time at 31; the sixth time at 32; the seventh time at 34; and the eighth time at 44. His philosophy has always been, he says, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."
When he decided to take a chance on another relationship, he sometimes married the first person he met after a divorce. He remarks, though, that while he started dating "very soon" after each divorce, the old and new relationships never overlapped. Sam explains, "I never cheated on a wife or a girlfriend. I always had one relationship at a time." Interestingly, the time that elapsed between his divorces and remarriages varied wildly -- from mere hours to years!
After his second divorce, when his ex-wife was committed to an institution, Sam recalls that "I wound up getting married rather quickly to a dancer from Caesar's Palace. But we decided after just two weeks that neither of us really wanted to be married. So I got divorced for a third time. Then eventually I met my fourth wife, and the whole process started all over again."
At this point, much-married Sam observes amusedly, "The most long-term relationship I'm hoping to find now is a maid who will come in and clean my home regularly for over a year!"
Case Study #11 - Jennifer
Jennifer, who is 57, has been married and divorced three times, lives in Australia. "I consider that all my relationships have given me training and education. I truly have a double degree from the University of Life: A Bachelor's in What Not to Do, and a Ph.D. in Divorce," she says, laughing.
Presently involved in what she terms "a weekend relationship," Jennifer is a homeowner. She's self-employed, full-time, in the field of applied positive psychology. Her work is mainly aimed at helping people quit smoking cigarettes, deal with addictions, weight management and removing phobias. The tools she uses include NeuroLinguistic Programming, Hypnotherapy, Emotional Freedom Techniques, and Intuitive Counseling.
Her six children, three girls and three boys, live independently. Their ages range from 27 to 39, and their occupations range from environmental regeneration to personal training to IT adviser to communication systems to legal aid to retail homeware sales.
Jennifer was the youngest of five children brought up in a lower-middle-class home; the family mostly lived in small country towns or on farms, but the children had the stability of never having to change schools. Sometimes the calendar was filled with enjoyable family parties and happy family-oriented holidays, but there were also a lot of stressful and anxious times.
"My mother was passive-aggressive and my father was depressive; there was a lot of bullying and hitting within our family," Jennifer recalls. Her parents argued a lot and actually separated on several occasions. "Actually, there was a lot of anger from each of my parents toward their own parents, and toward their siblings, too. Stress seems to run in the family." After 49 years of marriage, all the strain between Jennifer's parents culminated in one final separation before her father died.
Her very first boyfriend came along when Jennifer was only 6 years old, and she had her first romantic experience when she was about 12. Three years later, when she was 15, Jennifer experienced her first serious romantic relationship, but the boy broke up with her a year later.
Starting when she was only 10 years old, Jennifer already had a picture of an ideal marriage in mind: "A trusting, caring, sharing relationship where the couple is both friends and lovers. Ideally, you are each other's strength, rather than each other's weakness, which is usually what happens later on, unfortunately."
Even as a teenager, Jennifer began looking for these attributes in a potential marriage partner: supportive, interested, financially secure, happy. She hoped eventually to be in a relationship where she and her mate could "laugh and travel together."
Jennifer was 17 at the time of her first marriage, 28 when she married for a second time, and 49 when she married a third time. In her first marriage, she had three children by the time she was 21; her first divorce occurred mainly because her husband "was violent toward my toddlers, and abusive toward me." At the beginning of her second marriage, three children were born within two years. Her new husband was only 21 when they married, and found himself with a total of six children (her three from her first marriage) within eighteen months. "Wonder why this one didn't work very well?" she laughs.
But Jennifer never ruled out marrying again. In fact, when she married for the third time, the couple invested in a home together, hoping that the marriage would last.
She started dating again between two weeks and two years after each divorce; the time that passed between her divorces and her remarriages was anywhere between three and fourteen years.
One of her most "useful" relationships happened between her second and third marriages. "I dated a real estate agent and farmer who had lost almost everything through a divorce. He introduced me to his wealthy family members, who owned very large farms and diverse businesses. From this I came to understand how hard so-called successful people work, and the risks they take, to become wealthy. And also how simply they lived on a daily basis."
"Even more importantly, this man taught me to observe life, and to understand a common-sense approach to problems. He opened up my mind and my eyes to the real ways of the world, the total reverse of my small-minded expectations."
Having thought long and hard about what goes into an ideal marriage, Jennifer says from the perspective of an older and wiser person, "We marry what we are subconsciously comfortable with, which reflects who our parents are. Such arelationship is good when it works, but not so good when it is the exact thing you are looking to escape from -- your parents' marriage! This self-perpetuates the cycle, and ends in creating our worst fear, and ultimately, divorce."
She reflects further, "I kept marrying versions of my father -- basically a spoiled, selfish man who wasn't interested in working toward my ideal relationship, which involves trusting, caring, and sharing."
"Now why did I do that?" she asks, then answers quickly, "Well, because such a man is a lot of fun to start out with. And he is usually successful in his career, so the financial stability is also there."
Jennifer hasn't taken a chance on a fourth marriage, but certainly hasn't ruled out that possibility. She believes that her ideal marriage, which she pictures as "brighter than ever," may yet be on the horizon.
Case Study #12 - Don
Don is a 70-ish, university-educated sculptor and writer who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has been married and divorced five times.
He was raised in the Midwest, in a stable and loving family with one younger brother. His parents were married for 59 years, until his father's death.
Don experienced what he describes as "an ideal childhood, for which I am eternally grateful." His parents, who owned and operated a textbook store, were part of the "hard-working middle class." He grew up in a great town with opportunities for education and jobs, a beautiful landscape that included creeks and meadows, chances to participate in sports, and lots of potential girlfriends.
Don's first girlfriend, and first romantic experience, happened in junior high school. The high school years brought his first serious romantic relationship, but he didn't marry the girl because they were just too young to make the commitment. Also, he had no clue at that point what attributes he was looking for in a potential marriage partner, and just a vague idea of what marriage was about, from observing his mom and dad.
Don was married the first time at 21, the second time at 35, the third time at 45, the fourth time at 56, and the fifth time at 60 -- at which time he remarried his fourth wife.
When it became obvious that his first marriage was not working, Don initiated the divorce because attempting to live together had become such a rough experience. "We were great friends before we married, but could not seem to understand how to manage 'being married.' In fact, after our divorce, we remained great friends."
He admits, "I did not truly fall in love until after my first marriage was over. And until you do truly fall in love, you don't really know what it is...." Don says he loves being married, and so never vowed not to remarry after his earlier marriages fell apart.
His second marriage included a son, and a comfortable home. But his wife wanted to pursue a dancing career that was impossible to achieve, considering where they were living. "I was devastated by this divorce, although it did nothing to diminish my respect for marriage as an institution," he reflects.
Don would have been fine just living together with the woman who became his third wife. But she was much younger than Don, and being married was something she had dreamed of. So he was "talked into" marrying her.
After his third divorce, he fell very deeply in love, which led to his fourth (and fifth) marriages -- to the same woman.
Don started dating anywhere from three months to six months after each divorce, but he never married the first person he dated. There was a span of 14 years between his first divorce and second marriage, 5 years between his second divorce and third marriage, 6 years between his third divorce and fourth marriage, and 9 months between his fourth divorce and fifth marriage.
After all these experiences, does he now have a new picture of what an "ideal marriage" is? He says thoughtfully, "Each marriage must have its own dimension, created by each couple to fit their individual circumstances. Certainly, a spiritually based love is the magic ingredient. Also, sensual chemistry is one of the essentials, along with mutual respect, fun just being together, lifestyles that fit together easily, goals that are mutually understood and supported, and the ability to make each other smile easily and laugh together. You have to trust and believe in each other, for sure."
He adds, "You must share a relaxed yet responsible economic vision of the life you want. These are my ideals, along with the ability and willingness to change together, in a world that is spinning forward at the speed of light. Today is the day, this is the moment we live for. So be kind, compassionate, generous, and live in gratitude. Never take anything precious -- like love -- for granted."
Case Study #13 - Valerie
Valerie, a Minnesotan, is 67 and an author; she has also completed training as a Stephen Minister. She has been married three times -- first at the age of 16, then at 36, and then at 44.
Valerie is the oldest of three daughters. Her father was in the Navy for 20 years, so the family moved around frequently. "I have no high school graduating class reunions, and no childhood friends who knew me 'when,' but all that moving and going to different schools means that I have the ability to accept change and be flexible." She describes her family situation when she was growing up as lower-middle-class, but "we knew how to save, and so we were comfortable, even in Navy housing. "
Valerie remembers her childhood as being only moderately happy, because "My Dad was away so much in the Navy when I was a young child, we never bonded. And since my Mom always had my younger sisters in tow, I spent little time with her. In the past 25 years, my Dad and I have had a much better relationship, although I feel more like his younger sister than his daughter."
The theme of not being close to her family continues as Valerie observes, "Because I left home and married when I was 16, I've never had the close relationship with my siblings that I desired. Our life experiences have never coincided, nor have we lived in close proximity. At times, I feel that I am an only child, even though I have two sisters."
As for Valerie's parents, they have been married for an astonishing 68 years! However, when asked if they are happily married, she comments, "I think that for sure they have had their peaks and their valleys. For example, on the eve of their 65th anniversary, my dad unexpectedly said to my mother, 'You know, we really are incompatible.' And truly, they are as different in personality as two people can be. Yes, they love each other and are devoted to each other, but remember that they come from a generation that believed in hanging together, no matter what. Really, I do think that they each would have been happier with other partners."
In the seventh grade, Valerie had her first boyfriend. "He was very sweet and was the eldest child, like I was, so we always had younger siblings bothering us as we tried to talk." She had her first romantic experience at 14, when her Dad was stationed on Guam. "I met a young serviceman with a James Dean type of personality -- aloof, kind of a bad boy demeanor. Don't all women want the challenge of turning a bad boy into a good guy? He became husband number one when he was 20, and I was just 16 and a senior in high school. But I never felt that I had missed out on teen activities by marrying so young."
What attributes was she looking for then in a marriage partner? "Someone who thought I was really special -- unique. I know that need arose because I did not receive enough attention from my Dad. I also wanted a husband whom I could talk to about everything, and that wish came true."
That marriage lasted for 15 years -- "I have never loved anyone so totally as I did my first husband. But he traveled two-thirds of the year for business, and, eventually, I found out that he had become involved with a former go-go dancer, and was living with her part of the year, in California! He asked me for a divorce, but I was in college, planning to get a teaching degree, and mothering three young daughters. Although I tried hard to turn things around, after a year and a half, during which time he chose not to see his daughters, I realized that the situation was not going to change. So I filed for divorce."
She notes, "I was the token divorcée in my neighborhood! I was ahead of the pack in this realm, because nobody in my circle was divorced. For over a year, many of my neighbors did not even know that I was divorced. Certainly my daughters told no one."
Valerie liked being married, being part of a family unit and going to family gatherings. "I think desiring this type of lifestyle was a direct result of missing out when I was a child. We never lived near family, never enjoyed the extended family events. I really envied people that." So she was definitely open to the idea of marrying a second time.
After Valerie became a teacher, she met another teacher, who also had three children. "Six kids, all matching in age. It was like the Brady Bunch personified! Our friends and colleagues were delighted, ecstatic for our relationship. But the day we got married, I had a gut instinct that the marriage was a mistake." Sure enough, less than two years later, her new husband was caught kissing a young woman at school. He and Valerie then moved to an island where he had found a teaching job; but within a few months, he became involved with another teacher there. Enough was enough! Valerie took her children, returned to the States, and got divorced.
A few months later, feeling lonely, she decided to call a man she had dated briefly a few years ago. He had never married, and she just needed a friend. They went out and talked, but that was it. Seven months later, they met again, and "things just seemed to click. I was reluctant to marry, but he said he would only stay in our relationship if we married. He had become a wonderful friend, and I did not want to lose him. So I said yes." This third marriage, "while not perfect, has been a good relationship. We give each other leeway and we support each other in many ways."
"What I see as an ideal marriage now is a partner who helps me accomplish my goals, who lets me be independent and is comfortable with our spending time apart. It's more about friendship and companionship than it was in my younger years."
Case Study #14 - Gloria
Gloria, an American who lives in New Zealand, has been married and divorced four times. She is 59, has three grown daughters, and is a homeowner. At present, she is a parole officer in the Department of Corrective Services.
Gloria was born in Illinois. The middle child in a "good, stable" family of four children -- one brother, two sisters -- she was born into a middle-upper-class home. Her parents appeared to be happily married, and are still married today. But, as Gloria recalls, "Dad was very involved in politics and big business, so in hindsight, that life was probably not so great for Mom." The family moved several times because of her Dad's business ventures.
Her childhood was happy "until I became pregnant at age 14 -- I was molested by a relative. Of course, this threw everyone's life into turmoil. The event was not properly dealt with in the early 1960s; no one knew quite what to do. I think I healed from the whole situation faster than the rest of the family; they carried it with them for quite some time. Going through the experience actually made me quite strong and independent. I learned to cope." Gloria's baby was put up for adoption; in later years, she met her daughter and is in contact with her.
Gloria remembers very well her very first boyfriend. "I had a crush on the neighborhood paper delivery boy when I was 13. He shared the crush, and it was sweet."
Her first romantic experience as a young person occurred when she was 18, after she had finished high school in Miami and moved to New York. "We were supposed to be married, but my father intervened and talked us into waiting. I was a flight attendant at the time, and he was at university. We became separated by distance; then my employment came between us. I got caught up in the stewardess lifestyle of the 1970s -- sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll." But, she adds..." I am still in contact with that guy."
Gloria married for the first time when she was 23, the second time at 24, the third time at 27, and the fourth time at 30. "Obviously, I didn't think about what attributes I was looking for in a marriage partner. And I did not have a picture of an 'ideal marriage' in mind."
In fact, Gloria married the first time "so my boyfriend could get free air travel. My second marriage was a 'green card' marriage to a Norwegian friend, my third marriage was based on sex and drugs. When I was a hippie stewardess in Miami and San Francisco in the late 1960s and 1970s, I just wanted to have fun and experience life."
But after each divorce, Gloria never vowed not to remarry. In fact, how long after each divorce did she start dating? "Not long -- probably by the time I reached the next layover city." Gloria describes her fourth marriage as "the closest I had to a 'proper' marriage. By then I had left the airlines, decided that I should stop doing drugs, and ought to settle down with a nice, normal man. We were married for nearly 20 years, and have three beautiful, nice, healthy daughters. My ex and I remain friends, although he has re-partnered with a woman who is much more suited to him."
Gloria's fourth husband's family owned a 2,000-acre sheep and wheat farm in the Hunter Valley of Australia, where the couple moved after marrying in the U.S. They arrived in the middle of a very bad drought. Her husband and his father asked Gloria to help them feed the sheep, since there was no grass in the paddocks.
"My picture of "feeding the sheep" was that we would be feeding lovely little lambs by hand. What a surprise!" Gloria recalls. "As we were throwing bales of hay from the jeep to the sheep, they were actually falling over dead because they were so sick. This was my introduction to farming life. Some years were better, some worse, but always interesting. The best part was that my daughters had over two thousand acres in which to run wild. And they did."
Does Gloria now have a new picture of what an "ideal marriage" is? She says thoughtfully, "Maybe, but I would not take the chance again. After my fourth divorce, I re-partnered, and was in that relationshipfor nearly six years. It was a lovely, caring and romantic relationship; however, he was younger than I and decided that he wanted to have children. He had to follow his heart." She describes her current life: "So now, I'm enjoying being with me -- for the first time in my life. No boyfriends. Part of this may be cynicism, part fierce independence, and part not being prepared to give my heart again."
Case Study #15 - Pam
Pam has been married and divorced four times. A resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, she is in her 50s and is a Director at a high-tech company in Silicon Valley. She has no children, is a homeowner, and has been in a committed relationship for seven years. Pam is also...the author of this book!
Pam was born to very happily married parents who met at University. She was the second oldest child, and had an older brother and a younger sister. Pam was five when her mother suddenly died at the age of 33 after heart valve surgery. Her father decided to move the family from their home in Indiana, back to Western North Carolina to live with her paternal grandparents "until Dad could re-establish himself. It was going back home for him again, which was not his choice and under very sad circumstances. He had always wanted to move beyond his small-town, Depression upbringing and had been successful in doing that. But now, he felt like he was coming around again full circle and starting over. Incidentally, my Father and Mother were totally in love, and Dad was devastated by Mom's death." He always claimed everything was coming up roses for them until the Fall of 1958.
Two years after he was widowed, her father remarried, to a woman from his hometown whom he had known in high school. They had two daughters right away, and Pam's much younger half-sisters "loved me and accepted me”. My closeness with my half-sisters brought me closer to my stepmother." (Pam's stepmother passed away at 59, so her father was widowed twice, "but had two good, but very different, marriages.")
Pam describes her childhood as moderately happy, because "Although my Dad and second mother worked hard to provide us with security, I still missed my 'Mommy' throughout my childhood. My happiest times were when I visited my real mother's parents, my aunt and uncle, and my two first cousins -- girls-- for three weeks every summer. It helped me feel close to my mother and I identified with her family."
As a child, Pam was a very good student and made lots of friends. She was even elected "Halloween Queen" of her first-grade class. She played sports, took up the clarinet and taught herself to play piano. "In my own room at home, I played in a sort of make-believe world. Although I hoped to be a missionary, schoolteacher or actress someday, I wanted to be a wife, first and foremost."
Her family experienced another extreme upheaval in 1968, when Pam was 15. Her Dad had a career opportunity in Manhattan, New York and moved the family from North Carolina to "an upper-middle-class suburb of Long Island, where , as a naïve Southern teenager in a new cultural world, I was definitely a fish out of water." Once again, as when her mother suddenly died, Pam was thrown into a traumatic situation where her future was unknown. Her parents "were too busy raising kids and trying to make it in the competitive New York area to give me the attention I was seeking, once we moved from North Carolina to New York."
Pam "always had a boyfriend or was on the search for one" -- perhaps to pay the attention to her she felt she was missing at times. "I remember that my first interest in boys surfaced when I was only five years old, in Indiana! I was aware of my femininity and my attraction to the opposite sex even then, and was forever on a mission to be coupled. My first established 'boyfriend' was Randy, in first grade, in North Carolina. Then, in junior high school, I had my first romantic experience, with two different boyfriends."
She recalls, "My first serious romantic relationship was as a sophomore in high school on Long Island. By the time I was 17, my boyfriend who was attending college away, had given me a 'pre-engagement' ring. We decided to get married the summer I graduated from High School; I was 18. Two hundred people came to our wedding!"
What attributes was Pam looking for in a marriage partner at that young age? "A father figure, a good provider, emotional security, and stability."
Her young husband was considerate and kind, but was a professional student. He was academically absorbed, and had interests that didn't interest Pam. She started focusing on ways to get attention outside the marriage through her part-time modeling career, socializing with friends and otherwise staying active outside the home. Confused and feeling disconnected to her husband and the marriage, she left him mostly out of boredom. "The failure of that marriage was mostly mine, but I have forgiven myself and moved on."
Four months after her divorce became final, 25-year-old Pam married for the second time, to a man who was finishing law school. She met him at the law firm where she was working. "He was a self-centered only child from older parents. His family was very well-connected and doted on him. The marriage from the beginning was imbalanced, as I was treated as "less important". After a tumultuous six years, I left what appeared to be a comfortable, high society lifestyle and started over in one-bedroom apartment with no furniture, no transportation and a $17,000 per year salary.
Nine months after she left her second husband, Pam found a job in Marin County, California, and moved there. One Friday afternoon a dashingly handsome typewriter repairman came into her office and within a few weeks, they had moved in together. Three years afterwards, they bought a house together and got married. Pam was 37. But five years into the marriage, as her husband's harmful behavior escalated, Pam planned her imminent departure. However, one day, within 45 minutes, Pam was forced to escape ill-prepared. She simply grabbed what personal belongings she could and left their home.
After her third divorce, she reconnected with a longtime family friend, a "gentle, soft-spoken, rock of Gibraltar-type gentleman who seemed like the right next suitor for me.” She literally talked him into marriage when she was 43, before she realized that we had some issues that were irreconcilable. When she divorced him, at age 47, she believes he was somewhat relieved in a way, as marriage was somewhat of a burden on him.
Pam says she has "managed to stay unmarried for 12 years, due to one reason: Two of the three men I have dated in that time have been 'unavailable.' The first guy swore he would never marry for a second time and the second was a playboy who casually talked marriage, but didn't mean a word of it. The third gentleman and Pam have been in a wonderful seven-year relationship and don't feel the strong need to get married...but may someday.
Pam's advice to readers who would like to break the destructive "marry-go-round" pattern is..."Date unavailable men...for a long time!" (Justkidding, of course).
After each of her four divorces, Pam started dating immediately (sometimes, even before the divorce was finalized). And she usually married the first person she dated after her divorce. "I wanted to be part of a union...the whole husband/wife thing. I always expected to be married. I liked the status and the 'false security' of marriage. And, I guess I decided I would keep doing it until I landed the right partner, or the right partner found me."
Pam's new picture of an ideal marriage involves "mutual respect, true equality, interest in each other's welfare, good mental and physical energy, intellectual connection, similar values, good listening skills, ability to be non-judgmental and supportive of each other's goals."
And Pam's answer to whether she would marry again? Not surprisingly, “I’m open to it, but it isn’t a necessity in order for me to feel fulfilled in life.”