Welcome to the Blog of William J. Burrows
It's been some time since I first published my website back in December. I'm not a web programmer, so I was relieved to finally have the site up and running without any significant issues. I then turned my focus on submitting my book proposal for Super Dad to prospective publishers. Randi Kreger recently shared with her online group a selection of the rejections she received before she finally found a publisher for Stop Walking on Eggshells, so I know it takes persistence. I'll keep everyone informed on my progress.
But I never intended this website to be static. I always wanted to share my experience. So, I decided it was time I work on my first blog post. I suspect many of my entries will be about the many mistakes I made over the years. But as I always remind the support groups I moderate on Zoom, take what works for you and leave the rest.
So here it is, my first Blog post.
Codependency, Moral Beliefs, and Divorce
One of the biggest decisions I've ever had to make was whether to divorce Lindsey. I asked myself this question many times over the twenty-three years we were together.
Two years after we got married--two years of living from crisis to crisis--I painfully considered my options. There were a million and one reasons why divorce seemed to be the right decision: Nothing I was doing seemed to help; Lindsey's behavior was becoming increasingly irrational; one doctor even advised me to get out of the marriage as things would never change. There was essentially only one reason not to divorce her--I believed marriage was for life. I believed I had a moral obligation to persevere, to make my marriage work, to save Lindsey. But I was a broken man--I saw no way to make things work. So, almost two years to the day, I decided to ask Lindsey for a divorce.
It was obvious Lindsey knew what I was going to say. Before I could get the words out, she told me she was pregnant. Suddenly, my reasons not to divorce her doubled. Not only did I believe marriage was forever, but I also believed children have a right to be brought up by both parents. And so, I never asked her for a divorce. Instead, I chose to persevere; to throw everything into my marriage; to make it work.
Was It the Right Decision?
I've learned that dwelling on decisions I made years ago usually results in some degree of torment, shame, regret, and guilt. So instead, I focus on the fact the decision was made, and there's nothing anyone can do to change it, least of all me. I can, however, reflect and look at the facts so I'm better equipped when making decisions in the future.
The fact is, I was never able to save Lindsey. If anything, her dysfunctional behavior has improved since our divorce because I'm not there enabling her. We have four children together. I could never regret having them--I love each of them with all of my heart, regardless of how they might treat me. I stayed with Lindsey for their sake. All four ended up experiencing different degrees of BPD traits. All four have suffered periods of depression. All four felt the need to step in to save their mother when I ended the marriage.
What If I'd Known About BPD Sooner?
I was married twenty-two years before I heard the diagnosis of BPD. I've often wondered if things would have been different had I known about BPD when we got married or when the children were born. I could have learned healthier ways of improving the environment. We don't really know how much of BPD is genetic and how much is environmental. I do know our home environment was toxic, it provided the children a full-time lesson on what not to do. They learned from their mother's BPD behaviors--like manipulation was an acceptable means of getting what you want. They learned all the unhealthy dysfunction--like negative behavior got my attention; their mother had to be saved from herself; positive behavior was rarely rewarded.
I've learned so much since the onset of the crisis years. My second wife and I adopted my nine-year-old grandson. There is no doubt in my mind that he has benefited from an environment of validation, limit setting, where positive behavior is rewarded, and love is unconditional. He has ADHD, and at least two generations of BPD behind him. Who knows if this healthier environment will overcome any genetic predisposition for mental illness? I have to believe it tilts the odds in his favor, whatever the future holds.
Morality and Guilt
For years, I lived with the guilt of finally insisting Lindsey and I get divorced. Shortly after the divorce became final, Lindsey contracted MS. My eldest daughter, Dawn, found it hard to forgive me for "deserting" her mother, leaving Dawn to take care of her. She said,
"You should still be with her. You should be the one taking care of her, not me."
She outgrew that feeling, but it still stung to know she felt that way, even for a short time.
It was a slow, long journey to forgive myself, to realize my moral objectives, at least in my case, were misplaced. I put far too much weight on them. I think the final step in forgiving myself was when I became a Catholic. To marry my second wife in the church, I needed a religious annulment. Any Catholic will tell you, it's not a simple process, you must prove your marriage was invalid, at least from a religious perspective. It didn't help that my ex vigorously fought against it. However, the facts spoke for themselves. Her mental illness, the speed in which we got married (seventeen days) made it an open and shut case. The tribunal wondered,
"Why did you wait so long?"
The answer? Because I felt I had a moral obligation to stay, first for Lindsey, then for our children. And yet, here the weight of the Catholic church was telling me that I had been wrong.
Of course, each case is unique. The basis for each person's moral beliefs varies, so I repeat what I said at the start of this post, take what works for you and leave the rest.