When I’m interviewing a guest, I usually start by asking them to give the background to their marriage and divorce, just basic details like how long they’ve been divorced, how old they were when they got divorced, how many children they have and so on. The question that most people struggle with is the length of their marriage. Technically, that would be from the wedding date to the date of the final divorce decree but sometimes there was a long period of dating before the marriage or periods of separation before the divorce. Sometimes the divorce is preceded by years of struggle that barely resemble a marriage.
That’s true for my current guest, Grace Adams. She wasn’t ready to see the telltale signs of a troubled marriage and when she was finally confronted, she still wanted to save her marriage. Here’s Grace:
At the rehab center, a patient’s last week there is family week and the family comes in. It was there that my husband confessed to me that he had been having an affair for many, many months. We had three kids, I wanted desperately to save the marriage … I kept picturing myself telling the kids we were getting a divorce and I just couldn’t stomach it.
So, I decided, and this is probably part of the preacher’s kid “I can save the world” mentality,
“I can do this on my own, I can make him love me again and save this marriage.”
We stumbled along for several years, and there were signs that he was cheating and he didn’t break up with that girl right away, he went back to her a few times. It just wreaked havoc on my self-esteem because I knew he was out with other women and I felt there was nothing I could do.
I told my sister that I knew I needed to divorce him but I just couldn’t do it. When she asked me why not, I said I didn’t think I could survive on my own. She said,
“But you do it anyway. You do everything now anyway.”
And she was right. I took care of the house, the household finances, the kids, everything so that he was off running around doing. He was not accountable at all.
At the rehab center, they told me,
“You cannot manage your husband’s addiction. You have to let him manage it,”
and he just kept pounding at rehab that I was too controlling and he didn’t want to be married to me anymore. So my response was,
“Hey, I’m not going to try to control you, I’m not going to even ask where you are at night because that would be controlling.”
I swung so far the other way, in my knee jerk attempt to save the marriage, that he wasn’t accountable at all. I wasn’t accountable for the big amount of our wealth but I was accountable for the smaller household stuff,. He was accountable for all the wealth and nothing else. So there was no balance at all in our relationship, finances or anything, in any way, shape or form.
Then in November, 2005, my daughter who was fifteen at the time came into my bedroom one night. I was actually in my closet, packing to go on a trip, and she walked in and said,
“Mom, I have to tell you what I just found on dad’s computer.”
He had given her his computer and asked her to go upstairs to see if the internet was working. She had gone up and hit his favorite page and it was a vasectomy reversal site. The man had had a vasectomy reversal, trying to get his girlfriend pregnant, while he was still married to me. My daughter crossed her hands over her chest, cocked her head sideways, looked at me and said,
“How much more are you going to take?”
It was then that I realized I wasn’t doing anyone any favors by trying to save the marriage. I was teaching my kids that you just take it, you just let people walk all over you, don’t stand up for yourself, I was teaching them that their dad’s behavior was OK, I was teaching them so many bad lessons in my thinking that I was saving the marriage and helping them. I filed for divorce the next day.
The Divorce Coach Says
A number of my guests had husbands who struggled with addiction problems (April’s husband chose drugs over their marriage, as did Antonia’s) and they’ve all told me that it’s impossible to work on relationship issues until the addiction issues have been treated and Grace is right, the person who has to lead that effort is the person with the addiction.
The other truth that rings out in Grace’s story is that you cannot save a marriage single-handed – it requires the commitment of both spouses. Clearly, Grace’s husband did not want to be married and yet it was Grace who had the courage to end their marriage. Her realizations are what I want to scream when I hear people arguing that divorce is only acceptable under certain specific circumstances, mostly typically domestic violence or that marriage is forever and you need to stay married for the sake of your children.
Photo credit: Marshall Astor