Some marriages end because partners change and drift apart and even though one partner may initiate a divorce, there’s no clear ‘victim.’ Other marriages unravel dramatically, like coming home to an empty house and an eight-word-note or with the discovery of infidelity, addictions or other dishonesty. When one partner is the primary cause, the other partner may see themselves as a victim, wrongfully injured. The hurt and the pain that goes along with that colors the view of what is ‘equitable’ in divorce negotiations. While lots of people will be willing to offer their opinion about what to settle for, at the end of the day the choice is yours. You’re the one who has to live with that decision.
Debbie had been married for about six years when she discovered her husband had been cheating with men and women. They tried to work through that but then she discovered that children were also involved. That was end of her marriage and although her attorney told her she was being too nice, Debbie wanted to take the high road in the divorce. Here’s Debbie:
There was about a year during which he was fighting me for the house and for money, that kind of stuff. I’m a social worker, he was in and out of jobs so it’s not like we had anything to really fight about.
The last time I saw him was when I packed up his stuff. I never threw his things out, I almost wish I had. You hear all these stories about women who throw all their husband’s stuff out in the front yard. I never did that. I was very calculated. I packed things up for him, made sure he had dishes, gave him all the stuff that was his. He came to get them and I did not see him again after that, other than in the hallways of the courts.
My attorney said I was way too nice. He said I should keep everything and not give my ex anything until the court said I had to. However, I felt strongly that his personal stuff should be his. I could have played hardball and made him buy new clothes etc. but I thought that route wasn’t in anyone’s best interests. I purposefully tried not to do hateful things like calling or harassing him. I did my best to treat him with respect, even though some may argue he did not deserve it. I did not compromise what I needed and wanted but I was civil.
I was willing to offer him supervised visitations with our son but because of the issue of him with young boys, I obviously didn’t really want him with my child alone. At one point, I got a letter from his attorney saying that he had no desire to see his son at that time. That was really good but heartbreaking at the same time. It was good because I knew he wasn’t safe to see his son, but it just absolutely broke my heart that a parent could do that.
I always was proud that I did not sink to the levels my husband did. I took the high road never wanting my son to be able to look at anything I did and think that I was unfair or mean to his dad in anyway. It served me well because I never regretted any of my actions. Taking the high road pays off in the end.
The Divorce Coach Says
Debbie could easily have taken a different path, arguing that her son would understand well enough when he was old enough. I think many people would have forgiven her for throwing his belongings in the yard. Yet, I think using her son’s future approval and understanding, as her measuring stick has allowed her to conduct herself in way that is true to herself and that I believe is contributing to her healing.
I think Debbie’s social worker background has probably helped her also. She saw her husband as two people; the man she fell in love with who was the center of her universe, and the man who was addicted and couldn’t fight his demons. Her compassion for the sick person helped her to treat him with respect and in turn helped her to be a woman of dignity.
Her husband later committed suicide and seeing both sides of him meant very mixed emotions for Debbie which she shares in the next segment.