The Go Ahead

Restored Post from March 2012

My wife, Maureen, posted the following blog on her page at which is another terrific page, a lot of mental health insight, from the perspective of being married to someone with schizophrenia.

I’m taking more time off on this end, as I write my memoirs and some other “bigger” projects. –JH

The Go Ahead

Jonathan talked to me yesterday, told me not to worry about hurting his feelings when I was writing, told me to be as honest and upfront as possible.

So I will.

I met Jonathan online October 1, 2006. I edited his screenplay Angst, which was a coming-of-age story about a boy with Tourette’s. It was sweetly and poignantly written, and I think it was probably right about then that I began to fall in love with him.

When he started flirting with me online, that was harder. He was – still is – significantly younger than I am. I have issues enough with my looks without subjecting myself to such a young man, who undoubtedly would prefer, firm, taut skin; no gray hair; no crow’s feet; no lines around the mouth.

Besides, someone so much younger would never have the same frame of reference. He’d never remember The War in VietnamFeel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie. We’d be communicating at different levels constantly.

Having a younger man, Mom, is never what I wanted. And yet like I told Jonathan, men my age – and probably because of Wight Dad slashing all your clothes with a knife, sitting outside the window, that knife in his hand, daring you to come out, and then Bill’s constant insistence that I was fat (read: unlovable), and Grandpa Foley, and Bob – probably because of all these men my age or older, who scared me (traumatized me) to the extent they did, it probably made a great deal of sense for me to be with someone younger.

Jonathan never scared me. The age difference, which at times means I am more like a mother to him than a wife and I have always been a pretty confident mother, meant that I didn’t go in that direction of fear and possessiveness (I still have bouts of jealousy, and they are pretty unlovely.) But, analyzing that age difference leads me to believe that there were reasons for it that benefited us both.

So there was that. The amazing age difference.

And then there was the incredible difference in economic background. Jonathan had a friend Linden at the time who advised Jonathan strongly not to tell me of his financial background; Linden, a friend from when Jonathan was at Choate (a private boarding school in Connecticut, a school I had never heard of), told Jonathan that letting me know that Jonathan was rich would mean that he’d never know whether I was with him for his money or for himself.

Turns out that question is really complicated.

If Jonathan did not come from a wealthy background, I never would have met him. If he hadn’t had the financial resources he did, his schizoaffective disorder would have manifested to such a degree that he would have been either on the street or in some sort of halfway house, and if he’d been on the streets, given who he is, which is a man pretty much lacking in aggression, lacking in the ability to sustain confrontation, he’d have been dead.

So when Anne asked me if I’d have gotten with Jonathan if he’d been poor, I told her exactly what I’m saying here. It’s a question that can’t be answered.

Would I still love Jonathan, would I still be with him if he had no money now? Yes. Unequivocally.

Yet, that said, the reason I am with Jonathan now, Mom, is that when we patched things up in April, Jonathan was more honest than anyone I’ve ever met. (And that’s a huge part of his appeal. At least for me. I’m not saying that Jonathan is incapable of lying, but I am saying he is incapable of subterfuge and manipulation; his mind doesn’t work that way.)

When he asked me to come back – and I will fill you in on all that happened when I filed for divorce at a later time – we were at the Super 8 Motel  that was practically next door to Intel and overlooked an oil-stained parking lot. It was, in other words, the diviest of dives. Creepy beyond anything I’d seen. Way creepier than that motel you took Anne, Lisa, and me to when you left Wight Dad and parked in back and spent the entire time peering through the draperies, so convinced Dad was after us. Way way creepier. (But not as scary, Mom, because Jonathan didn’t keep looking out the window, sure that someone was after us. I know you were young at the time, and I know fear is sometimes pretty hard to hide, but your fear was amplified in me. Look at it: if the adults around you are terrified, then, if you are a kid, that terror becomes even greater because it means the adults aren’t going to be able to protect you. Sorry, that was an aside.)

But there Jonathan and I were in that creepy Super 8 Motel, and the thing was, I’d never fallen out of love with Jonathan, and I’d never fallen out of lust. I liked having him touch me. His touch is very gentle. And he was lying in an unmade bed – I wasn’t staying in the room with him – and I kind of sidled up to him, told him I’d never stopped loving him, dragged my fingers across his face, down towards his chest, kind of inclined my head, asking if he wanted to go to bed, make love.

Kind of a normal activity for a man and woman, especially for ones who’d been married. Even the Catholic Church sanctions sex between a married heterosexual couple.

But Jonathan acted totally surprised, acted as if I’d asked if he’d like to go rappelling off the side of Mt. Everest. He was that surprised.

“Oh no,” he said. “I don’t want an orgasm, but if you want one, that’s okay, I can do that.”

There are a couple ways to respond to that, Mom. I could have felt insulted that I was somehow not pretty enough, not appealing enough, but I’d just lost 22 pounds, I was wearing size 2s, I felt pretty enough for just about anyone. Maybe I could have felt rejected and hurt.

But Jonathan’s immediate, uncensored, and completely exuberant response made me laugh. Out loud.

I pulled back from the bed, told him, “no thanks.’

“It’s no trouble,” he said, still in that honest, no-holds barred kind of voice. “I really don’t mind.”

How to explain to him his ‘not minding’ and his assuring me ‘it was no trouble,’ were not erotic turn-ons? I couldn’t. I just started to laugh. Genuinely. Not to cover up any hurt. I simply laughed because Jonathan’s unthought out reaction was one of the reasons I’d fallen in love with him. There was no filter, no stopping to consider how his words could have affected me. It was like when Kimberly, at 6, told me she didn’t want me to lose weight because my stomach felt just like a great big pillow.

I can’t help it, I laugh at that particular type of honesty. It’s certainly not intended for anything other than sharing the truth. It’s not set up to hurt anyone’s feelings. It’s truth that is spoken uncensored.

And I laughed.

And later, in that same dingy motel room with that horrible blue, green, and gold swirled rug that had gum or something worse embedded in it, when Jonathan asked me to come back to him, and I asked whether he wanted a wife or someone to take care of him, and he hung his head, wouldn’t look me in the eye, and said, “Someone to take care of me,” I asked him where that left me.

He dropped his head lower, mumbled that he didn’t know.

It was the most honest any man has ever been with me, and it was probably the most honest Jonathan’s ever been with himself.

My opinion? Based on having been with Jonathan since the end of 2006, I don’t think he’s capable of having an equal kind of partnership, the type of partnership found in some – not many but some – marriages. I don’t think that if I were to get sick that Jonathan would be able to coordinate my health care.

I can’t imagine you know anything about the DSM, Mom, which is what psychiatrists use in order to diagnose patients. It’s an axis type of approach, so, for example, a person could have on Axis 1, which indicates a biological condition something along the lines of schizophrenia or Tourette’s, and on Axis 2, they could have Depression (you may need to check what’s on Axis 2); however, Axis 5 lists what’s called the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF), and it indicates how well (or badly) a person would do living on his or her own. The highest Jonathan’s been that I’ve seen is a 50 and the lowest I’ve seen is a 25. Both those numbers, even the 50, indicate he would have a lot of difficulty living alone.

He has trouble because of the schizoaffective.

But I’m off topic. I was talking about his asking me to come back. When I asked where that left me if he was looking for someone to take care of him, he didn’t have an answer. Actually, I didn’t have an answer.

And then he added, “Besides, even if we get divorced again, at least this time, we know how to do it.”

Do you see the appeal, Mom? I mean, nothing Jonathan said was meant to seduce or cajole me, and if anything, it could have blown up in his face, but there is something about such unrestrained honesty that I have a hard time not appreciating.

So that’s it, for now.

Crazy People by Maureen Cooke:



About Jonathan Harnisch

Author | Mental Health Advocate | Schizophrenia | Artist | Blogger | Podcast Host | Patent Holder | Hedge Fund Manager | Film & TV Producer | Musician
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