Saturday, May 11, 2019

I’ve tried to be a better version of me, but along the way I neglected something really crucial

As I’ve lived my life, I have tried to become a better version of me.  It may sound corny, and I certainly don’t claim to be perfect, but I have tried to be a better partner, a better friend and a better father.  In many ways I believe I have succeeded.  I feel like I didn’t have the best role models growing up.  My parents were good people in their own ways, but they were terrible as a couple and weren’t always the best parents either.  I don’t want to bash them, because I loved them both, but mistakes were made.  Unfortunately, it took me way too long to realize just how dysfunctional my role models were.  By that time lots of damage had already been done.

My first wife came from a similar place and I cringe at how clueless we both were trying to make a way-too-early marriage and parenting stint work.  Amazingly, we are still friends and we managed to raise two functional and indeed pretty awesome children to adulthood.  In part this was because we had some even more problematic models of relationships/parenting that pushed us to do better.  I can remember thinking – “I will never do that!’ and this experience prodded me onto a path of self-improvement.  I can say that I left my first marriage in an almost knee-jerk response to my own parents staying together in a terrible marriage “for the sake of the kids” (See my short movie Snapshot).  Looking back, it was likely not the best choice but at that time I felt like anything would be better then ending up like my parents. 
I certainly tried to improve in my second marriage - I was much less judgmental, more forgiving and, I believe, a better partner and parent.  But it wasn’t enough.  That marriage ended as well, despite my improved but imperfect efforts.  I certainly regret that my failure had a negative impact on my kids.  It was apparent at this point that I had a “type” that I was attracted to and this “type” wasn’t always the most emotionally healthy women.  The awareness was there but I just thought that I had to do better….

When it came to my third marriage, I really felt like I had improved myself as much as I could - the best me I could be.  I really was a much better partner in so many ways.  I supported my wife emotionally and did all I could to help her reach her dreams.  I was devoted and forgiving - I was patient and kind and loving.  I put all my best efforts into making it work even after there were obvious problems. 

If you have read this far you can probably guess the issue I neglected and the outcome.  My third marriage was a disaster and the issue wasn’t what I did or didn’t do in the marriage.  The issue was who I selected as a partner – the same issue I had all along but never fully appreciated.  What I neglected to understand was how the dysfunctional role models I grew up with had impacted, or perhaps you could say, imprinted upon me the wrong criteria to select a partner.  
This YouTube video is a great summary of these issues:

It’s been a drawn-out process to fully accept just how damaged my last wife really was and how my efforts to be a better partner actually played into her issues and allowed a nightmare to go on far too long.  I believe it’s also fair to say that not everyone makes the same effort at self-improvement.  One thing I have noticed recently is how rare real change is – people are remarkably stable, personality wise, over time.  It’s not that people never change, as I believe I have, but it’s a lot rarer than I would have guessed. 
Unfortunately, this knowledge doesn’t leave me in that great a place – yes, I am a better partner than I ever was, but I seem to be attracted to women who render my efforts useless.  One therapist suggested that my last marriage was probably doomed from the start.  I really don’t know how to fix this problem and I wonder if I will ever find the right partner….