50 | Working the Problem

That her mother had just started working again, part-time, when this happened. That her mom was the disciplinarian; she was the “Catholic martyr.” That her mother was the only Catholic in the family. That her mother believed everyone who didn’t have Catholic beliefs would go to hell especially for having an abortion or cohabiting prior to marriage. Progress Report by ACSO Investigator Liesl McArthur on Interview of Lynn Frye on 09/10/06

[The deferring style of solving problems correlates] significantly to a lower sense of personal control, lower self-esteem, less active planful problem-solving skills, less tolerance for individual differences, and a greater sense of control by chance…. [Deferring] seems to be part of a passively-oriented life style in which individuals rely on external structures and authority to deal with problems which they are less able to resolve. Kenneth Pargament, Religion and the Problem-Solving Process: Three Styles of Coping, 27 Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion 90 (1988)

[T]he Catholic church holds that God converts a heterosexual relationship via the sacrament of Holy Matrimony into a divine, eternal union that cannot be dissolved by human action…. [D]issonance between the reality and expectations of sanctified family relationships may trigger feelings of spiritual failure, thereby exacerbating individual and relationship maladjustment. Annette Mahoney, Kenneth Pargament, et al., Religion and the Sanctification of Family Relationships, 43 Review of Religious Research 3 (2003)

We weren’t all like Betty. Agnes Burke, 2008

Kenneth Pargament is a psychology professor at Bowling Green State University. He studies how religion affects how we solve problems and cope with stress. Pargament has identified three problem-solving styles: self-directed, in which we take responsibility for solving the problem; deferring, in which we defer the responsibility to God; and collaborative, in which the responsibility is actively shared.

Duane’s and Betty’s styles were diametric. How they approached problems may shed light on why Betty became increasingly rigid in her beliefs, how trapped Duane felt, and why he was attracted to Barb Dean.

As an Ayn Rand devotee, an engineer and an efficiency expert whom his kids called Mr. Work-the-Problem, Duane was clearly a self-directed problem solver. He was so loath to rely on external assistance that he couldn’t bring himself to trust his doctors (“I had a bypass which I didn’t need”) or Jim Blake, the private eye who was responsible for his case being dismissed in 1973. In 2006, Duane recalled Blake as some guy who had a silly theory about tree bark.  

Betty’s style was at the opposite end of Pargament’s spectrum. Raised by her devout Catholic mother Cundy, she believed her duty was to raise good Catholic kids. Betty’s religiosity brought Cundy’s approval. The elaborate Easter dresses and bonnets Betty made for Jan and Lynn, and the jaw-droppingly glamorous outfits she wore to church, also speak to social gains. But her orthodoxy had a price.

Marrying a Protestant-turned-atheist required Betty to wed in a Denver chapel instead of a cathedral or a Kansas church. Duane, too paid a price: he had to sacrifice his religious views for hers. After two daughters in three years, Betty conceived a third child he didn’t want. She miscarried and had a breakdown. At the psych facility, visitors were warned not to bring religious tracts. After she was released, she promptly became pregnant with Doug. When she conceived Greg, Duane got a vasectomy.

Whatever competence Betty had going into her marriage was relentlessly undermined by Duane (These are my guests. You will treat them right!) and his mother Lolita (What hideous drapes!). He agreed to raise their kids Catholic but was dismissive of her religion (he could be so hateful about meat on Fridays, Jean said) and picked fights about it with Dick Brickell.

And Betty was failing in her duty to raise good Catholic kids. Eldest daughter Jan got pregnant out of wedlock. Golden boy Doug renounced religion and refused to attend church. Unbeknownst to Betty, Lynn was cohabiting with her boyfriend in Boulder.

As Betty turned increasingly to religion to cope, her world shrank. She couldn’t turn to anyone for help—not even Jean. The night before she was killed, she dealt with her problems by launching into a crying jag. According to Duane’s confession, when she started crying again the next morning it was the last straw.

Barb Dean was no fashion plate, but she was president of the University of Illinois Accountancy Club. While Betty’s world was crumbling, Barb could sit in a booth in a Mexican restaurant with Duane on a Friday night, have a drink and laugh. When was the last time he and Betty laughed?

Betty’s belief that marriage was sacred put divorce off the table. Her duty was to give birth to and raise good Catholics. Duane’s was to be bound to her in sickness and health. At The Red Lion Inn after her murder, his resentment at his lost opportunities gushed out.

The day I testified in the cold case. Betty’s sisters Agnes and Thelma were in the front row. When I left the witness stand, Ag hugged me and whispered in my ear.

We weren’t all like Betty, she said.

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