Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Right Partner

You read much about male “midlife crisis,” but not so much about what happens afterwards. In my case, I got tired of the constant anger that developed over several years. I also tired of rampant spousal spending that made future retirement possibilities seem bleak, and I didn’t understand an environment where work, even housework, was not shared equally. I reached my breaking point after one of my daughters graduated from high school and the other was in her senior year. At the time, it seemed natural to ask, “Is this all there is?”

I wanted more of some things—more happiness, big dreams, economic conservatism, and some leisure time. I wanted less of others—less anger from my wife and teenaged daughters, less resentment, and less home workload, especially where chores could be shared. A person can work all his life, so focused on earning enough to survive, that he doesn’t focus on what he really wants from life. I was 49 and knew things had to change; I refused to spend the remainder of my life in a loveless marriage. My situation was driving me nuts, especially the walking on egg shells to avoid constant anger and even periodic physical attacks.

As I look back on it, I suspect there were legitimate reasons my household went so crazy. My teen girls were hormonal, and my ex-wife was probably in the throes of menopause. I did not consider the causes, only the results—it’s a male thing. I just wanted out of the nightmare, and after more than 25 years of marriage, I divorced.

My standard of living plummeted. I lost everything—the bank accounts, the land, the house, the cars, half of my retirement benefits for life…even my clothes. There is a down side to that, but there is also an upside. I was free, living in a small apartment where there was no anger, and I could start over. I had a great job and a Ph.D. No one could derail my future dreams; I was solely responsible for managing my future. I had nothing more to lose and everything to gain.

With nothing to lose, I was open to risk that would have been unthinkable in my prior life. I found a like-minded young woman, and we began dating. In the first three years of our courtship, I traveled to 23 countries and took her with me to twelve. During that time, we developed an ambitious plan to retire in ten years. We collected information on real estate and invested in property neither of us would have dared consider before our divorces. In short order, the risky deals began to pay off. We studied and invested more; we stayed true to our plan. As a result, we retired in less than ten years. We married after eleven years of working together as a team, and in July, we will celebrate 23 years together.

Did I find what I really wanted from life? Yes, but it was different than I first thought. Although I did not know it in advance, what I wanted most was a partner. Not just a girlfriend or a wife, but a partner in every sense of the word—someone who understood finances, taxes, investments, and the like—someone who would dare to dream big and work to make the dreams come true. Yes, even someone who would help wash the car and cut the grass.

Travel was not high on my list of “wants.” I had already traveled so much I did not care if I ever saw the inside of another airplane. On the other hand, I wanted more leisure time, even though I did not know what that meant. I hated business travel, but had never had a real vacation. My previous “vacations” were spent tending children and fixing broken items at my ex-mother-in-law’s home. Now, I learned to take cruises. I learned to dance. I learned to snorkel. I pursued skiing and water sports. I did things I could not have imagined in my prior life.

Finally, I began to appreciate art. I went to stage plays—even to performances of “Phantom of the Opera” in London and in Sydney. My partner and I went to art exhibitions and gallery openings. We began to collect art glass from all over the world. To facilitate our mutual appreciation of art, my partner designed our home to be a functional art gallery, and we surrounded ourselves with beautiful glass sculptures (see inserts).
So, would I do it again—would I change course at midlife? Knowing what I know now, I would make even more drastic changes. If I had the opportunity to live life again, I would choose my first partner more wisely. I am convinced that the single most important decision a person can make in life is the selection of his or her mate. With the right partner, all things are possible.

Now, if you want to read about the WRONG partner, try some of the Miss Havana Paranormal Comedy novels. You'll love them: http://www.amazon.com/James-L.-Hatch/e/B005CQB6E6.

Thanks for reading,
James L. Hatch


Tina Donahue said...

I have to agree that choosing a partner in life wisely is definitely the way to go.

I'm surprised your wife expected you to do all the housework plus work a regular job. Most of the time it's the other way around - the woman has two jobs (EDJ and home) while the guy has his career, beer, and TV.

In all fairness to women of a certain age - they were raised in a time when it was expected that men handled the finances. They weren't taught to be independent. My guess is, they were socialized to consider independence weird/bad/whatever.

Thankfully, we're past that stage.

I'd be interested in hearing what your wife considered lacking in the marriage. It does take two. Hope she's as happy now as you seem to be.

No one should stay with anyone if they're not happy.

James L. Hatch said...

Hi Tina. I can answer your question in part. My ex-wife's major complaint, at least the one I heard most often, was that I was never home. Work kept me globe hopping most of the time, and when I was home, I worked extreme hours. When I retired from the AF and joined Lockheed, it got worse. I believe she thought I was "retiring" when I left the AF, but in truth, I was only changing jobs--and that meant competing with lots of new people. There is a saying in the AF: "Officers compete." That is also true in civilian life. In any case, when I was home, she just backed away from everything, so I was left with almost all the "catch up" things AND the day-to-day stuff like cooking and dishes. That got old after many years. I really did need a true partner. I wish I had known what I know now when I was 23.

Tina Donahue said...

I know what you mean about wanting to have wisdom at 23.

To me, it sounds as if your ex was lonely. If you're raising two kids alone while hubby (or wifey) is busy with a career, it's like being a widow/widower or a single parent. Not easy and certainly brings out resentment.

It's sad that careers are all-consuming especially when they can't replace love. Lots of 40-50 year olds these days have been laid off with decades of part-time work to look forward to because of the economy. I'm sure they didn't plan for their lives to be this way. Think of all the lost time with their spouses/families that they'll never get back and all for a career/company that so easily abandoned them.

IMO, if you want an all-consuming career, you shouldn't get married or have kids. Kids need their parents around.

James L. Hatch said...

You are probably correct, Tina. A career can be tough on a family; however, it is also the means of support. It's a tough dichotomy. My only advice to others is to WAIT on marriage. The second time around, my current spouse and I waited 11 years. That was enough time to get to know each other. We were married by a JP in Dallas. Even he thought it was about time.

Fiona McGier said...

Just curious, are you still a part of your daughters' lives? If the divorce was so acrimonious, I hope you were able to salvage at least the "daddy" role for your kids. Since you missed so much of their childhoods, I hope you've been able to be a part of their lives now that you're so much more relaxed. Even my Dad, who was uncomfortable around children, managed to be nicer as a grandfather to my kids than he was when I was young.

People have to learn that you don't choose a marriage partner just because you want to have sex. Waiting until after marriage is such a disastrous thing to do. Sexual compatibility goes a long way to cementing a relationship. If you don't find out whether or not you're in harmony in the bedroom until AFTER you're married, then children come along, mortgages, and you end up with 2 unhappy people who are committed to someone they barely know, and don't really like much.

Religions, with their various prohibitions against premarital sex, have a whole lot to answer for in this, as in so many other arenas.

James L. Hatch said...

Hi Fiona:

Yes, my daughters and I are very close. I am also quite close to my nine grandchildren. In fact, after my divorce, one of my daughters (the older one) chose to live with me rather than stay with her mother. My ex and I never talked after the divorce. When it was over, it was over. Most of the bitterness was on her side. I more or less just roll with the punches and have always believed the best revenge is to live well.