Dealing with a Major Personal Crisis

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The personal account below is not posted in Main or Discussion directly but here because it contains personal details the author does not want to be directly trackable to himself via a trivial Google search. The author is aware that linking and wiki functions allow to make this connection but assumes that this will more likely happen only by persons who know him and his story anyway. Please respect this wish and don't mention the authors name in a link to this page. You are free to cite parts of this as per this wiki's license. You may of course make typographical corrections or add/correct links and references.


Dealing with a Major Personal Crisis

My future ex-wife and I parted after 15 years. We did so in a successful and rational process. This is not a post to cope with the situation. Everything critical is resolved. This is a success story of rationalist and other methods applied to the most demanding situation I ever encountered. I post this because I want to share methods that worked (for me) and lessons I learned that may help other rationalists in more or less comparable situations.

Outline of the post:

  1. Background - what made this parting hard and surprising but also understandable and a success.
  2. Crisis - how the crisis started and progressed, what was tried, what failed and what worked.
  3. Catharsis - how the turning point changed everything; what was instrumental at that point.
  4. Parting - what disentangling a complex relationship entails and how new perspectives present themselves.
  5. Divorce Pragmatics - what organizational and legal troubles to expect
  6. New Directions - how I found my new own way

Each section contains personal accounts, approaches tried and the results, lessons to be learned and the resources and references I used.

Comments are addressed here.

Background

Our relationship built on the common goal and vision of a large healthy family. It started out with risks: Her depression and her doubts whether we were made for each other. My inexperience with relationships and my (over-)confidence. Our largest assets were mutual truth, openness and honesty. I have had no relationships before and was deeply in love (and still was up to katharsis). She has had some relationships before and didn't exactly fall for me but gave in to my courting.

What we did right:

  • We built a large healthy family.
  • We dealt with our relationship issues openly and quickly.
  • Her depression disappeared over the years - by therapy, compassion and patience.

What might have be questionable:

  • We put a high emphasis on security.
  • We presented a strong picture of unity (one voice, one goal, one rule set) but never fully resolved internal stresses.
  • We didn't put enough time and energy into our relationship but put family first.
  • We planned and got four children (this isn't questionable in itself but unusual and adds additional stresses).

State before the Crisis

The overall relationship was stable and we didn't have signs of marriage breakdown - at least none that I am aware of. She might tell otherwise as she claimed at some point that our marriage was in a continuous decline. There were ups and downs and one-day conflicts but nothing persistent. If I gave you our family diary (about-weekly entries) you wouldn't predict breakdown. On Fathers' Day a few weeks before I got a family song lauding my role. The only critical sign that in retrospect indicated trouble was a resurfacing phase of depressedness that led her to displacement activities (like TV, chocolate). We were in a family therapy which she had started to address her general dissatisfaction with her/our life.

Lessons

  • The absence of problem indications doesn't mean that you are secure.
  • Take prolonged depression as a warning sign of suppressed issues.
  • Write a diary

Our familiy therapist recommended to write down hopes and goals for our relationship which prompted me to do this in depth. It was the start of a large file of events and thought I'm using right now to write this post. It began as follows:

My wishes and goals
I want a secure and whole family.
I want a good long term relationship with my wife.
I want to realize my projects.

And I began to write down facts and preferences about each point.

Continue to part two: Dealing with a Major Personal Crisis/Crisis