Phil refuses to accept responsibility for the divorce–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–The Long, Dark Painful Tunnel, Part 7

All weekend, though a commuter, Phil hung around campus and had long talks with me.  They seemed productive.  Once, Phil agreed to talk to my parents on the phone; they talked him into going with me to a counselor.

Dad told us to make out lists of each other’s faults, rather than letting it be one-sided, with only Phil telling me my faults.  I started work on mine, and asked Phil to work on his–though, truly, he already gave me a verbal one.

Mom told me what he said to her on the phone.  He told her I was so upset because relationships and break-ups were new to me.  She didn’t like this.  (It also wasn’t true: I was upset over the way he treated me, and it’s only natural to be very upset over a divorce.)

Shortly before we left for school, he seemed to brag to her that he’d had seven girlfriends before, and broke up with all of them himself.  (Of course, one or two of them broke up with him.)  She got a weird feeling from this, that he had something in mind.

She also felt he would throw a girl away when he tired of her–confirmation that he had the abuser trait, “unceremoniously discarding.”  She said, “Oh, so he was going to spend the summer here, eat our food, take our money, then take you back to school and break up with you?”

I don’t want to tell everything Phil and I talked about, just summarize a few important things.  Things he said made no sense, and I didn’t deserve the treatment I got that summer.

I didn’t intend to do the same things again that I had done wrong, but he had to change, too.  He had to recognize his own faults, just as I’d recognized mine.

He even blamed me for him getting a cold, though I didn’t give it to him!

He even said, “I think I’m still in love with Tracy,” even though he never loved Tracy and never even kissed her.  Back in January, if he’d loved Tracy, I would have backed off.  But he made it very clear that he felt no passion for her, was not attracted to her, just thought of her as a friend!

Now he was changing history and telling me he’d been in love with her?  What the HECK?  (See here for what really happened.)

By the way, that school year I heard Tracy got a boyfriend who did want to be with her.  She would have missed out on that if she’d been with Phil.

Phil said his brother Dave and his fiancée Pearl were acting like his parents, and probably headed for a breakup.  (That, though he may not have realized it, sounded like our own marriage prior to the divorce.)

To my shock, Phil had asked this same Pearl to go to dinner with him.  She “got very quiet.”

So a day after our separation, my husband asked out some new girl–who, by the way, was his own brother’s fiancée?

He said, “She’s giving, like me.”

Like him?  Like him, who wouldn’t do anything nice for me when I asked?  Who wouldn’t give me what I wanted or needed, no matter what?  Who’d give anyone a ride but me?

(I later learned that he’d been offering to drive groups to Fond du Lac to dance on the weekends.)

Who wouldn’t do foreplay when I asked, go to Sunday School with me even once, or go to the classes in that one evening service?  Who wouldn’t give me the right to have valid points, valid complaints about him?

And she’s giving, the one who accused me falsely, terrorized me for having no clue anybody still needed the shower, and called me a party pooper for not wanting to dance with a concussion?

In 1995, Sharon, Pearl, Chloe and Astrid held a Christmas party in the apartment, where they all lived at the time, since they hadn’t graduated yet.  I was with Cugan now.

Persephone (Phil’s girlfriend after me) came to the party.  She had broken up with Phil again.  I must have asked if Dave and his Pearl had gotten married yet.

“They broke up a long time ago,” she said.  “You didn’t know that?”

Nope, I was totally out of the loop of the O’Hara life by then.

“Phil tried chasing after [Dave’s] Pearl for a while, but she wanted nothing to do with him.  In fact, all the women have been staying away from him!

Just goes to show you that my complaints of Phil were real, not just me trying to make myself feel better with false memories.  If I were the problem and not him (as he tried so hard for so long to make me believe), then he wouldn’t have such a terrible reputation at Roanoke that nobody wanted to date him, even long after I left.


Back to September 1994.  I’ve heard that women who go through a break-up usually cut their hair, but I didn’t–especially after Phil kept badgering me to cut it.

I tried to talk to Phil over the next few days about setting up a counseling appointment, and gave him my list.  Sometimes he was mean, and sometimes not.  He also complained about my friends giving him nasty looks.

One day, we sat by the lagoon and discussed what would happen if we did get back together: I would have to give up my own ideas of what was right or what was moral, of how a proper wife should act, and take on his ideas, which were now far more morally questionable than before. 

He had no backbone for refusing harmful peer pressure, and wanted me to be fine with that, forcing me to compromise everything I believed in.

But I was desperately stupid enough now to give in.  The things he wanted made me lose even more respect for him.  From the outcome of this interview, it almost seemed he would consider getting back together with me sooner than the month he had mentioned before.

He also wanted me to consider sex with him without commitment.

Clarissa came over to visit.  We went to my tree to tell her about Phil breaking off the “engagement.”  With the new apartments over there and the trimming the builders had done, the tree was now out in the open and stripped of shoots and such.  I tried to sit in the tree, but it just didn’t work.

My tree!  My tree!  I used to wander out there, past the lagoon and the geese, sophomore and junior years, to sit in the tree and read and get away from the difficulties and pains of life.  During sophomore year, it was a release from the situations with Peter and Shawn.  I really needed it then.  But now, there was no tree!

Since I couldn’t sit in my tree anymore, I started wandering in the woods instead, and doing this more times in one year than I had done in the last three years put together.

Sharon pointed to her ring finger once and said, “Next time, get a ring.”

Sometime soon after the divorce, Phil told me he’d been bathing now–soap and everything–and brushing his teeth, so he could attract women.  Sometimes he even shaved.

He must have wanted to insult me, because he refused to do this during our marriage.  (I think my nose got immune.)  He also started watching a network for televised personal ads on S–‘s Marcus Cable.

Please bear with me: We’re now entering the longest, darkest, most painful part of this tunnel.  But at the end we’ll find sunshine.  And hopefully, the darkness will finally be purged from my soul so I can forgive.  [I wrote this paragraph in 2006.]

Tuesday, September 13.  I sat with Phil, Dirk and some other people at lunch, probably so I could tell Phil the time of our counseling appointment.  Dirk said with a sneer, “Here’s your list, Phil,” and handed him a small piece of yellow, lined paper.

I blanched: It was the list I gave Phil of his faults!  What a betrayal!  Not only that, but Phil now refused to see the counselor with me, despite agreeing to it before.

I soon learned that Dirk had been feeding him the line, “You should be able to work things out without a counselor.”  This is not true, and I did not appreciate this interference and sabotage of my attempts to work things out with my own husband.  And this is the guy who later said he rooted for me to get back together with Phil!  Sometimes counseling is the only thing to save a relationship, and it is certainly worth a try.

So Phil now had a minion who not only believed every bit of BS Phil told him about me, but poisoned Phil’s mind against every attempt I made to save our marriage!

Note this from Myndtalk’s “Emotional Abuse”:

However, if the abused person demands that the abuser participate in counseling or else–even if the abuser agrees to the counseling, it is likely to be short lived.

The abuser will be able to benefit from counseling when the abuser believes and acknowledges that counseling is critical to recovery.  Why?  Until the abuser owns the behavior and his/her obligation to end the abuse, the behavior continues.

Sometimes the courts demand counseling. Sometimes the legal weight of mandated counseling does have an effect.  Sometimes the awareness that a loved one will leave the relationship in one way or another will jolt the abuser into an acceptance that the behavior must stop.  And sometimes not.

Over the years, I hoped that Phil’s second wife, “K,” dragged him into counseling and changed him.  She seemed like a nice person; I always felt sorry for her, being trapped into a marriage with him by pregnancy.  (That could’ve been me!)

Cindy heard Phil yell at K the same way he used to yell at me.  From what K said to Cindy, Phil told K I was this wonderful wife who did everything he wanted (the exact opposite of what he told me about myself).  (So why did he divorce me, then?)

She tried to be like this vision of me, and admired me.  Cindy considered this Phil manipulating K.

I kept wondering when I’d hear of their divorce.  I kept wondering when I’d hear that he hit her or the baby, or both.  I kept hoping she’d recognize abuse if he continued to abuse in any way.

I kept hoping his kid wouldn’t grow up just like him and carry on the chain, which I’d always hoped would be stopped by him not having children at all.  (I told Peter I hoped that Phil would become a monk so he wouldn’t have kids or advise married couples.)

In 2007, Phil and K did divorce.  Phil got a disorderly conduct charge in the early 2000’s which involved a “victim impact statement” (I have no details of who or what.)

And of course, on his profile, he posted a whole description of the divorce, where he blames her for it, saying she was “not supportive.”  The same complaint he made of me later in September, as you will see.

Sharon said in 1996 or 1997 that watching him and his new fiancée K, was like watching him and me all over again, only worse because K lied about where she was when she missed Phi-Delt meetings for him.

K, who transferred to Roanoke after I graduated, became my “replacement” in my group of friends.  But when my friends called her this, they had no idea she would be my “replacement” in every way.

I bet Phil hated that each of his Roanoke girlfriends was in this group, with people he hated because they saw right through him.

Pearl wrote a long letter warning K not to marry Phil, but she didn’t listen.  In 1996, Persephone had finally broken up with him for the last time and told me,

“I didn’t realize how dysfunctional we were until all my friends starting throwing guys at me to date.”

But K did not have Persephone’s spunk, so she probably would not slap Phil back if he slapped her.  I always hoped that she got him into counseling.  After reading the above linked article, however, I began to fear for her emotional and physical safety, and for what was being taught to their children.

They had passed out of the lives of my friends and their alumni records were outdated, so I had no idea if she finally tossed him out on his abusive butt–until now.  Well, I don’t know if she tossed him out, but I do know they’ve been divorced since 2007.

But back to September 1994.  Phil rejected everything on my list.  I was expected to take everything he said were my faults, as gospel truth, and change; yet whatever I said, was untrue and he didn’t need to change at all.  

How dare I suggest that he was not perfect, that maybe he contributed quite a bit to our problems.

I heard nothing from him but defenses of even the most blatantly disrespectful things he’d done, such as passively-aggressively staying away from me after I said I needed milk and orange juice.

Instead of telling me outright that he couldn’t (or just plain refused to) make it that day, he left me waiting all day and night, wondering when he’d show up.  Yet even here, it was somehow “wrong” for me to complain about his behavior.

And his offenses, enumerated for you in the past several months of this memoir, were at least as bad as, if not worse than, anything I had ever done to him: He emotionally, verbally, psychologically and sexually abused me constantly, with the threat of future physical abuse and anal rape.

He also said Dirk called the list a stupid idea.

Which it was not!  My dad, my intelligent, my wise dad, suggested it.  He’d been married for over 30 years and had come through the inevitable rough patches with a stronger marriage; Dirk was a kid and had never been married.

I should think Dad would know what he was talking about.  This was an insult not only to me, but also to my dad.  (By the way, a marriage counselor also suggested it to Joe and Rhoda on Rhoda.)

Besides that, what gave Phil the right to call the list a stupid idea?  He gave me a verbal list of my faults, so I had just as much right to give him a list as well.

And I have since read advice similar to Dad’s in advice books and columns.  Phil listened to Dirk way too much, and Dirk was wrong about many things.  He was the classic case of a know-it-all who knows nothing.

I learned in 1998 that it’s common for abusive men to blame everything on the woman and take no blame for themselves.

If I had known this in 1994, perhaps I would have seen Phil for what he truly was, and decided to have nothing more to do with him.

As it was, in Spring Semester I termed him only “borderline abusive.”  I was thinking of physical abuse, and didn’t realize a man can be abusive in other ways as well.

This is a common reason why people don’t recognize non-physical abuse.  I also didn’t know that verbal and emotional abuse often lead into physical abuse.

Anyway, I went alone to what was supposed to be our first joint meeting with the counselor.  She was the same counselor I saw sophomore year.  I told her everything that happened.  When I told her the things Dad said, she said, “He sounds very perceptive.”

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound
January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995: