I met a woman yesterday at a kid’s birthday party. I’ll call her Mary. Mary came in with two beautiful daughters, who were seven and three years old. She impressed me as a tall, shapely, attractive woman, wearing a sexy opened dress, but with a slightly sad and disconnected expression. I immediately separated her from the others, because she did not have that peaceful look of the mother-hen spending a pleasant afternoon sitting out at a kid’s party. Her rather reveling dress and constant clutching and typing on her phone were dead giveaways. She must be having an affair, I thought.
After the party was over, it came as a nice surprise that the very woman I was so intrigued by happened to need a ride home with her girls and just happened to live in my neighborhood. I gladly offered to get her home, and asked how she got to the party in the first place, since it was quite a far shot from our hood. She declared, “My ex husband drove us here, but he would not take us back.”
As soon as we settled into the privacy of my car she literally spilled out her story. She went right into an unprompted monologue. “I am divorced, you know!” In her voice I felt the urgency; she needed to share, to get a shot of relief, support, and validation in my eyes.
Her tone reminded me of a confession at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, very a matter of fact, somber, and regretful, as she continued with no interruptions:
“He had an affair. This was three years ago. Imagine, he left me only four months after I gave birth to our second child. I was in a very vulnerable state. I gained a massive amount of weigh. I was 200 pounds, bloated from the childbirth. I had just returned to work then, and I was really stressed, still breast-feeding my daughter and even my best friend’s son (his mother did not have any milk). I was breast feeding at home and pumping at work. Then, he just walked in one day and said he did not love me anymore, did not want to live with me, so he packed his bag and left.
I was devastated, at first, as I tried to understand what happened. What have I done wrong?”
At this point, I felt a chill going down my spine as I remembered this time in my own life… after the birth of my first child. Moving around in a daze without sleep, pumping at work, driving home in mad traffic – it was hell! This became merged with the stress of a separate instance in my life, some years later, when my husband declared that his life did not turn out as he envisioned, it was all my fault and as a result, he HATED me! My heart was going out to her.
“Later, in a few months, I got a glimpse of a text message on his phone and I finally pieced it all together – he left me for a woman working in his office. The office, that I worked so hard to help him get off the ground, and the very woman whom, ironically, I myself helped to hire. He is a such-n-such-professional, and the other woman clearly only wanted him to get the partnership in the business. I myself was, at one time, going to go for a graduate degree, even passed the prerequisite exam, but he discouraged me! He said, ‘We do not need two professionals in one family.’
“Now, he owes me everything! Of course, I am ok now, just a few months after he left, I was already in a relationship. I have friends, my life is better now. I have a lot of options now. I can go on vacations with kids and without kids. When we were married everything was monotonous, dull and only about the children. We went out on a date only once a year for our anniversary.
“His affair ended, by the way. She threw him out. He crawled back to us after two years. Statistically, affairs last two years on the average, (she looked at me convincingly and divulged knowingly.) He wanted to try to get back together ‘for the sake of the family,’ and even moved back into our apartment. It lasted a week, then I kicked him out! The damage was already done with the kids and in my heart when he left. By then we had become strangers. Not only was I not at all attracted to him, I could not even stand him in the house. Now, he lives alone; he rents his own apartment three blocks away. Now he realizes that no one really needs him and he is bored and unrequited. Now, he is all about children and family. I kept all the friends, they were all on my side (she said this with especial personal pride) and he is all alone!
“It has been three years and, get this, we have not finalized our divorce yet. But it is really over of course. He is just scared to pay out a big chunk for my portion in the business, so he is just dragging it along. It is ok I guess,” she concluded. “He pays me sufficiently now and he is really helping me out big time.”
She finished with a reassuring crescendo. Who was she trying to convince? Me? Herself?
As she laid it all out, she seemed to be almost on an autopilot. She has probably told this same story before so many times, to friends, neighbors and even perfect strangers willing to listen.
Why is she doing this, you ask?
She thinks everyone can see her problem, and she feels a compulsion to defend herself from their “judgment.”
She thinks it is her mission to convince all others that she she is really 100% right, and that he (her ungrateful, cheating, monster of an ex) is 100% to blame. And from the first glance, and according to the canons of the marital laws, it would certainly seem so. If we try to look deeper, no one knows the whole story, except maybe their therapist. In a family break up, and even a betrayal, there is no right and wrong – no winners and losers – there is just a story of two people and their lives. Somewhere they lost it, perhaps got lost themselves – this is life. No use crying over spilled milk.
You will say, “Well, this woman has told you exactly that – she is fine! She is better off now!” Yes, but I did not ask, and did not need to hear the gory details in order to support and accept her. She does not have to defend herself or hide behind a tower of her story which seemingly protects her while it keeps her hostage. I want her to free herself from her own judgment.