…but can you handle the truth?

A blogger friend recently wrote a poignant post about the examination of a marriage, as seen through the rear view mirror, receding into the distance.  Part of his post was about his on-going confusion and frustration stemming from his “runaway wife’s” refusal or inability to provide him with any solid reasons for her seemingly abrupt departure from the family.

Because I was suffering from terrible insomnia one evening, I posted a comment to his post that was so long that (as he later joked), I should have just written my own post and been done with it.  He was right, as he often is, and so I am now taking that comment and expanding  on it here.

If you read enough about divorce, you quickly discover that many left-behind spouses feel that they have been summarily abandoned by their former husbands or wives, with little or no explanation provided.  Even when reasons are offered, they are frequently labeled too mundane to have prompted such a grave move as divorce, and the abandoning spouse is seen as avoiding or withholding the “truth.”  The left-behind spouse feels certain that if he or she could simply get at the truth of why they have been left behind, somehow the whole predicament will make more sense and hurt much less.

I have watched friends and acquaintances who have filled the dismal role of the left-behind spouse grapple with their feelings and attempt to move on.  Indeed, I can see the obvious benefit attached to discovering a truth that suddenly removes the nagging uncertainty and deadens the raging imagination of horrors that plague the mind when it does not have a solid answer that screams “TRUTH!”

But there are a ton of assumptions built into that concept that the truth will set the mind free and ease the heart’s pain.   And not all of them hold up under closer examination….

Assumption #1.  Their truth will make sense and have value to me.

When I talk to people who feel that their spouses have suddenly and unjustly abandoned the relationship, I frequently hear them insist that they want to hear the “real reasons” for their spouse’s departure.  Digging a bit further, I usually discover that reasons have actually been provided, but they don’t seem serious enough to justify the departing spouse’s behavior or, most commonly, they “just don’t make sense.”

I would argue that most departing spouses likely have provided some or most of the truthful reasons for their leaving. I keep waiting to hear a left-behind spouse explicitly say, “I don’t want those reasons; I want the real reasons,” because I’ve heard so many variations on this theme.  The idea here is that the departing spouse likely has shared most of her reasons for leaving, but they aren’t good enough or grave enough to register with the left-behind spouse.

I, for one, can say with complete confidence and incredulity that I told my ex-husband as early as the first two years of our marriage that if he continued treating me the way he had begun to, I would be “gone in ten years.”  At the time, I was pulling that time frame out of thin air, but I did, in fact, end up leaving just before our 11th anniversary. Despite repeated warnings and tearful pleadings on my part throughout the years, he maintained his condescending nature and dismissive attitude, and then proclaimed loudly (and to anyone who would listen) that I had “left suddenly, and without warning or explanation.” I still cannot fathom how he has fashioned his truth from the reality we shared, but he has. So, I have to suspect that lots of other folks do something similar, too.  I suspect there are a plethora of marriages out there in which the departing spouse complained to the left-behind spouse of things over the years that the left-behind spouse dismissed or overlooked at the time.   Maybe she displayed patterns of disappointment over things in her life or their  marriage that seemed to the left-behind spouse (and probably to lots of others who knew her) to be trivial and therefore not something he need really worry about.  Meantime, her fatigue, disillusionment, and frustration was building.

I also do not doubt that most departing spouses hold something back.  I suspect that the biggest reason that they don’t ‘fess up to their complete and true list of reasons for leaving is that they are fully aware that those reasons will be judged, deemed insufficient, and the grounds for a debate with the spouse they have already decided to leave. This is probably a reasonable expectation on their part, as the party left behind usually does think that the reasons for the split are not valid or justifiable.  (Admittedly, it is the rare instance when one spouse comes home and says, “I think we should divorce and here are my reasons,” and the other spouse says, “Yes, you make some excellent points.  I agree.  Let’s get on with it.”)

It’s entirely understandable that the departing spouses aren’t eager to engage in a game of  To Tell the Truth with their left-behind spouse when it is likely to result in their reasons being diminished or mischaracterized.  After all, we all know that “truth is relative” in some regards.  I think it’s interesting how individuals — and sometimes even couples jointly — massage the truth to help it fit their personal constructs.  An interesting and obvious example of this is an affair:  when an affair has been discovered, but the couple is still working on the marriage, the truth of the affair is typically minimalized as “a symptom of a much bigger problem.”  But, when a marriage ends and an affair is part of it, the left-behind spouse frequently blames the affair (and the other adulterer) as the whole problem.  I don’t quite understand the logic:  why is it merely a symptom if you’re working on the marriage, but the “obvious” or “clear” (and presumably complete) reason  for the marriage’s collapse if you’re not?  But again, truth is relative…

In the age of no-fault divorce, a spouse can obtain a divorce over his or her partner’s objections, essentially making a unilateral decision to end the marriage. The other party has absolutely no say in the matter.  Given that I don’t believe that marriage should constitute ownership or control of another person, I find myself having to support this notion, despite its obvious pitfalls.

But here’s the crux of it:  the departing spouse does not have to prove his or her case.  He does not have to convince anyone that his reasons are good enough.  Indeed those very reasons — the entire truth of them, if known — might not be good enough for his left-behind spouse, his extended family, their mutual friends, or anyone else, but they don’t have to be. They only have to be good enough for him.  Is that sad and frustrating and bewildering to the left-behind spouse?  Yes, of course.  But in the end, that might be preferable to the whole truth…

Assumption #2:  I want the whole truth.

When a left-behind spouse imagines the reasons that her departing spouse is actually leaving, she usually focuses on things she can change and not things that are inherent in who she is.  I think this is a very natural way for our brain to protect us from potential pain.  It is so much easier to imagine that he is leaving because he hates that you leave your towel on the bathroom floor, than to think that it’s because he’s decided you’re not actually that smart.  So when left-behind spouses are aggressively seeking the truth, they are understandably doing so from a posture that the truth will be things they can work on and will want to change; most people do not imagine that it’s going to be some harsh truth that they cannot, in fact, change.

I think that sometimes the reasons, if provided in a forthright and honest fashion, would be so brutal, so painful to inflict, that common decency holds the departing spouse back. We all think we want the truth, but some truths are so terribly difficult to recover from that the damage caused would be arguably worse than the vague uncertainty.  For example, how many people would truly want to hear, “I realized that I married you for the wrong reasons” or “I was never physically attracted to you and was just a really, really good faker” or “I’ve completely lost respect for you as a person and can’t love someone I don’t respect”? I’ve heard these reasons from people who’ve left and who have chosen not to reveal them to their exes. Revelations such as these could positively devastate the left-behind spouse’s sense of self and self-worth, which seems a cruel parting shot.  They also could make the divorce proceedings far nastier than they need to be, and the irreparable damage could undermine any attempts at future co-parenting.

Indeed, it might be the long-term effects of those words that prompt the departing spouse to be so circumspect….

Assumption #3:  I can handle the truth.

So, let’s say that, for argument’s sake, the departing spouse chooses to ignore her therapist’s advice and reveal to the left-behind spouse that she is leaving because he is the world’s worst lover and she’s decided to finally have an orgasm after 40 years on this planet.

[Anyone who thinks he’s going to receive that truth with maturity and aplomb should contact me about some lovely Florida real estate I have to sell.  It’s not swamp.  Really.  I swear.]

Exes understandably believe and insist that they would ultimately benefit from the cold, hard truth, and I’m quite sure some (like my blogger friend who inspired this post) probably could.  But I don’t think most people could actually handle a truth such as these examples with any degree of grace or retention of self-confidence.  And it’s really not so surprising.  Divorce is gutting for so many reasons, but when you discover that the love of your life thinks something so terrible of you, it’s capable of smashing your self-confidence to levels from which it may never fully recover.

Take my parents, for instance:  In the face of her constant and abject pleas, my departing step-father had the fortitude to explain to my mother that he realized he’d married her hastily and based on lust more than love.  (This was, to be honest, a truth evident to all of us — including me, at age 13 — when they first married.) My mother repaid him for his honesty by hating him viciously for almost 15 years.  His words haunted her in ways that I’m sure he hadn’t expected, and he paid dearly for them.

Certainly there are some people who are mature enough and confident enough and objective enough to stomach even the worst realizations about their own marriage.  But I must argue that most people would not. Most people would be more like my mother — furious and hurt and determined to make the divorce even nastier than if the truth had not been revealed.   She wanted the truth, she was sure she could handle the truth, but it nearly destroyed her.  And the damage it did to me and our family is a whole post on its own.

No doubt the truth is a dicey thing.  Most of us have this tenuous love/hate relationship with it.  All of us like to think that we can handle it and benefit from it and be better for it.  But can we?  Really?

Being left with your heart shattered positively, absolutely sucks.  It feels horrible and unfair and devastating.  I have often said that during a divorce, people become their basest, worst selves, and some of those selves are pretty terrible.  Is it any wonder, under those circumstances, that some people faced with harsh truths handle them imperfectly?  And is it any wonder, under those circumstances, that some people guard them so carefully?  Very few people are at their best in the midst of pain at its worst.

I think the bottom line is that we all say we want the truth.  We all think we can handle the truth, but in actuality, not everyone who claims to want the truth really wants the actual truth.  Sometimes we only want a truth we can live with.

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19 Comments

Filed under dating, divorce, healing, marriage, personal growth, relationships, single mom

19 responses to “…but can you handle the truth?

  1. So very true . Especially under #1. My ex actually just simply madfe up in his mind that he had no reason. you know…kinda sorta forgot that I had warned him for eleven months that the physical abuse and cheating wouldn’t continue. Just kinda sorta put it out of his mind that he even did those things…then told the world that I did them. Yes insane. Simply insane but I do hear this on a much more normal level from many.

    • Part of me can understand how folks re-write their history, especially in the midst of pain (or, as in your case, loss of control of a situation they’d controlled!). I even found myself, during my divorce, having to actively remember the things about my ex that I liked, lest he become frozen in my mind as this money-grabbing, pompous ass he was being.

      I don’t understand the chronic not-listening thing. It is so confusing to me that anyone thinks that they can dismiss their partner’s feelings and needs year over year and preserve a healthy marriage. But then I wonder, sometimes, if I was every guilty of the same thing… I would dearly love to be a fly on the wall sometime when my husband tells his intimate version of our marriage. I’ve heard some stories (some of which I would agree are true and some of which are mind-boggling mischaracterizations of things that happened), but they’ve all be second- or third-hand. Would love to know what his “Story of Us” really is now….

  2. You make a lot of very valiant points. I just coached a couple whose wife was saying the same things to her husband for 15 years and he tuned her out and explained to me that his wife was just being difficult and that she was chronically afraid where he was not. I was able as a man to tell him that she had very valid complaints and if he did not resolve them she was going to divorce him. I gave him the analogy that it is like changing your own oil in your car and then pouring sand into the filler hole afterwards. For some reason that analogy resonated with him and he opened up and she gladly paid me my fee of of $100 an hour.

    John

  3. Mmm, something troubles me in this post. If you ex-husband had a condescending nature and dismissive attitude, why did you ever think it was a good idea to marry him and have his children?
    I’m stabbing in the dark here but, when you warned him to stop, did he realise which behaviours were hurting you, were you able to work out together what dynamics in your relationship brought these on and how to stop them? What did you jointly do about it?
    I can see your point about telling the truth, but think that deeply, pain and the refusal to acknowledge your spouse’s truth may come from the feeling that it devalues what you shared.
    Also, disagreements about what may constitute reasonable grounds to leave a marriage may come down to different conceptions of what a marriage represents, and how far you are both willing to go in your commitment.
    I certainly realised (too late) that my ex and I had differing views on this: For him (whose parents are divorced) the fact that so many marriages end in divorce is just a fact of life, something ok, whereas I really did not want to become a statistic and was ready to go pretty far to save my marriage. Then again, my model of a marriage comes from my parents who’ve had some serious ups and downs at times but did not give up, have recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary and are just so grateful they did not give up at the time.
    I’m not saying one conception is more right than the other, they’re just different. And I wish I’d known about this before we committed to one another.
    I realise that I have just been rambling on, and that I am mildly off-topic, but your post struck a sensitive chord I guess and made me react in that way. I hope it’s ok! 🙂

    • Of course it’s okay, Lady E! 🙂

      My husband’s nature was not nearly that bad when we first were dating and getting married. I think that is often the case — we think we are marrying one person, and we get another. Plenty of people end up divorced because the person turned out to be someone they didn’t really know (as in the case of my mom’s whirlwind courtship, rushed wedding, and brief marriage to my stepdad). After we were married, things changed, in part because (as he later realized in therapy) he saw marriage as a lifetime contract with no escape clause, so he had no strong incentive to amend his behavior if he felt my concerns were unjustified or invalid. He is right in that he did not have to change for me; but I also did not have to stay with him if he was to be that way. He forget the second part of that sentence and ended up divorced largely because of it.

      As for his reactions to my warnings, my ex acknowledges now that I had stated my concerns clearly and consistently from early on; he just thought I was “wrong” to feel that way and so he ignored me. His idea of working on it was for me to get therapy to straighten myself out, because there wasn’t anything wrong with him. 🙂 In my experience, the idea of “jointly working on it” usually comes down to one party waiting for therapy or discussion to convince the other party that they’re wrong for feeling as they do. He would have talked to me endlessly about my concerns, but the result was always the same. He realizes that now and I can see him making some efforts with his girlfriend to be different, with varying degrees of success in that regard. But I credit him enormously with trying. Even if it is too late for us. The best any of us can do is try.

      I absolutely can see that left-behind spouses want to hang on to their idea of their marriage and what it was and what it meant. Having that “truth” altered because the departing spouse doesn’t share that same conception is painful, indeed. For my mom, my stepfather was the love of her life and made all her dreams come true; but she never rose to that level for him. He loved her — briefly — but it was not, for him, the same love affair it was for her. I’ve had to tell her (a lot) that just because it wasn’t that for him doesn’t mean it wasn’t that for her. It simply means it wasn’t a shared experience. There is nothing wrong with her seeing their relationship as magical and special and transcendent, because for her, it was. That is her truth. But that is not his truth. I was a teenager living in that house, and I saw everything, including what no one else saw. It was obvious to me then that they were having different experiences of their marriage. I realize now, after listening to other people and experiencing a failed marriage myself, that this is often the case, especially at the end.

      I think that assuming that people who leave treat all marriage as disposable is convenient and not often true. I stayed as long as I did, and endured the years of tears and depression, only because I do believe in marriage and I was determined not to end up divorced. And that is a story I hear from a lot of men and women who are divorced. I talked to one friend yesterday who is trying desperately to hold on until the children are older, but his depression is getting so bad and his wife (who is basically a nice person) is so determined to maintain the status quo, I pray that he doesn’t do it. When one party is perfectly content with the union the way it is and sees no true incentive to make changes, the other person is left with two choices: stay (and be miserable) or go. “Ups and downs” are one thing, but an absence of love is another thing entirely. I suspect that if you — or anyone — had stopped loving your husband, the thought of staying with him forever would have created the same pain. Forever is an awfully long time to share a bed and a life with someone you don’t love. Marriage may be a contract, but, as any good attorney will tell you, every single contract ever written can be broken. It may be costly, but it can be broken. And, given the nature of the heart and love and relationships, I wouldn’t want to go back to a time where that wasn’t true for marriage.

      Thanks for your comments. 🙂 Sorry if this post caught you on an “off” day. 😦

      • I think that deep inside we probably agree…It does sound like somehow, your ex hubby missed the boat, he didn’t change in time to save your marriage, when he was given plenty of time and opportunities to do it and so he lost you. It’s kind of fair enough really.
        And it’s clearly illustrated by the fact that he is aware of the danger of loosing his new relationship if he doesn’t watch his behaviour (he has an incentive now).
        But in many cases, I am not sure people give their spouse, their marriage as much time and opportunities to improve as you did. It certainly is my experience anyway.
        Have you learnt anything from your first marriage’s failure? What will you do differently this time?

        • Yes, Lady E., I’ve learned an absolute TON from my marriage’s failure and I’ve had nearly 3 years of therapy to help me dissect it, examine it, catalog it, and learn from it. 🙂 Some pretty serious research! Lol…

          Many of my lessons are too personal for public posting, but most of them can be summed up simply: I have learned not to settle. Not to talk myself into anyone or anything. That no one who claims they love me should be allowed to diminish me or ask me to give up so many people and things that are precious to me. That love is not ever about control. That if I do not feel seen and heard and valued by my partner, then I need to find a new one. Because you shouldn’t have to fight every single day to have your voice heard, your needs recognized, and your concerns valued.

          As for what I’d do differently, I already am. Since my separation, I have figured out what I really need in a partner and who I want to be that relationship. I am picking totally different men. I am behaving differently with them. I am having relationships that look and feel completely different from my marriage. The problems that I am struggling with now are of a completely different variety than what I faced in my marriage. They are not easy, but they don’t feel hopeless, like that did. I have a long way to go to be the partner I want to be, but I am much closer to that goal than I was before.

  4. Very well thought out….and a very open mindset to consider all of this.
    I will probably formulate a much longer response to this ..but, we all experience things in different ways.
    One of the problems (not necessarily in your case)…is th expression of a problem without specific articulation of it…or expressing it in a way that clouds the issue such that it can not be heard, especially when one expresses a want/need that is at the same time in direct contrast to what they say the problem is.
    Another aspect is the left spuse simply being lied to…but “expected” to know what is going on and then being resented when they are working only on the information that they have. Happened a lot in my case.
    RE: marriage vows. On one hand it should be the “right” of an individual to singularly disband the union. On the other hand, once the vows were taken, there were promises and committments made. The law (where I live anyway) tends to view marriage as a financial contract in some circumstances but not allow it to be broken because one party decides to change it. AND….even though they make a unilateral decision, they may not suffer any financial damage and in fact can be excessively compensated simply because they change their mind. There seems to be no concept of “injured party” when viewing the contract …which means one person can lie, cheat, break the very sacred emotional vows, and suffer no consequences. So although I agree with much of your well thought out post…I struggle with the areas around the vows and commitmment that are sometimes unilaterally broken.
    In my case, the “truth” keeps evolving in X’s mind. Yes, we acknowledged that there were some issues and miscommunications, but when I am told about certain reasons, they are often based on assumptions rather than reality and the reality can never now be known because of the deceptions that took place from which those false assumptions arose.

    • LFBA, I think that a lot of the miscommunication in a marriage is much like the miscommunication in any relationship of any sort: people tend to hear what they want to hear, what fits with their own constructs, and disregard or diminish the rest. One party might think they have been so clear and the other party sees the issue clear as mud.

      Lies, of course, are another matter, and not what I would categorize as miscommunication. The intentional effort to deceive is very different, and there are certainly those who do so throughout the relationship, with no conscience or regard for their actions. I think more common, however, are those spouses who tend to deceive once they are on their way out the door of the marriage.

      With regard to divorce laws, I’m sure that this is another “hot button” topic wherein there is considerable disagreement about what constitutes “excessively compensated.” I’m also sure that there could be a pretty robust debate on the issue of whether someone should be subjected to “financial damage” because they fell out of love. Centuries ago, the scarlett letter laws permitted public floggings and some folks felt that even those laws didn’t go far enough….

      Commercial contracts usually do allow for some compensation for a broken contract, including, depending on the nature of the contract, a penalty for damages done intentionally. Love isn’t business, though, and most of us don’t enter a marriage these days as a business partnership, so the analogy tends to collapse on itself for those reasons, I think.

      The general consensus emerging in our society seems to be that relationships are complicated and risky at best, with no guarantees of any sort, and so “injured parties” are not to be compensated for the vagaries of the heart. The no-fault law is based on the premise that it took both parties to get the marriage to the point of failure, that even situations involving obvious “fault” are generally derived from existing issues within the marriage, and that judges should not be ruling on the nuances of intimate relationships. It is imperfect, for sure. But better than the alternative anyday, in my opinion.

      Thanks for taking the time and sharing your thoughts. Always interesting!

      • I see I made a typo above…This statement ” financial contract in some circumstances but not allow it to be broken because one party decides to change it” should have the ‘not’ removed and read ” financial contract in some circumstances but allow it to be broken because one party decides to change it”

        So TPG you appear well versed in the law as you articulate it so well!!
        The value of excess compensation is of course debatable and each party will have an opinion. In my case…we entered into certain business/debt arrangements …and those decisions were driven BECAUSE of X’s first affair. When she went back to him, her expectation was that she got a share of the gross, took none of the debt and received spousal support and compensation on top of it….all the while decrying that she wanted to be independent and claiming that although she would be poorer she would be happier.
        So in my view, that was excessive. Her attorney of course was all for it. The fact that she could unilaterally break our agreements after promising that we were in it together, and that she understood the work it would take to make it viable…and that we took all of this on to accelerate some processes because that was one of her complaints for the rationale for the 1st affair is to me an egregious “contract” violation. In the end, she an her attorney had to re-think her demands and effectively settled for my standing offer on the table which was “walk away. if she takes no financial risks she is not entitled to any financial gain” and the gift of a 7 figure debt absolution was huge.
        I don’t think people should remain together just to be unhappy. But the vows mean to me that you fight for it and you work for it and you give it the best shot…otherwise what do the promises mean. If the courts want to take the stance they do, and i understand the reasons why, then maybe we should have forced pre-nups too laying out the guidelines and these should be mandatory.

        • I absolutely don’t take issue with your characterization of your own situation or the fact that your wife’s demands were possibly excessive, but I think it’s important to recognize that what she asked for and what a court would have awarded are likely too different things. If she could have gotten what she was asking for, more than likely she would have pursued a judicial remedy rather than accepting your offer. So, in your case, the law actually worked as it should – it forced a settlement that was fair and left both parties feeling like they had been shortchanged. (One of the Supreme Court Justices once said that if he made a ruling and both parties were bitter and disappointed, then he probably got it about it right. 🙂 ) So, the fact that your wife made a demand that was unreasonable wasn’t the fault of the law, but of her own line of thinking, it would seem.

          As for forced prenups, research has demonstrated that people in love cannot be forced to be rationale. They will still do stupid things, but then it will just include signing papers that they shouldn’t and divorce lawyers will have more to litigate. The prenup avenue was certainly available to you when you married your wife (as it was for me — I offered to sign one and my then-fiance said no), but it sounds like you didn’t choose to exercise that right, probably because you were in love, right? 🙂 You also could have executed a marital agreement (similar, but during the marriage rather than “pre” the nuptials…) at any point in your marriage, including after her first affair. But you didn’t. And neither do most other people. I think most of us act on faith, and, when it’s warranted, that’s part of what makes love so wonderful.

          I understand you wanting — needing? — to think that if only you’d had an enforceable prenup or some such thing that your marriage could have been saved, but if the love is gone then the will to work through the issues is gone, too. And no prenup or counseling or fault-based legal system is going to change that. Ireland didn’t have legal divorces until 1995 and that didn’t stop people from leaving marriages or living in a miserable co-existence. It is impossible to remove or control for all the conditions that undo marriages, thereby guaranteeing that our spouse will love us forever as they promised. I read a lot from folks insisting that “If only this…” or “But for that….” their spouse would still be there, but I think the really painful truth is that the only “this” or “that” that matters is the simplest one: if your spouse still wanted to be with you, he or she would be. There is a lot of rhetoric around whether people give up too soon or don’t fight hard enough…. I think most of us fight pretty hard for that which value; but we can’t force someone to value us. We simply can’t. It’s hard for most of us to imagine that someone who seemed to love us so dearly and deeply once might not love us at all anymore, but it happens. We all know it can happen; we just don’t think it can happen to us. Maybe some of those reasons for love’s death could have been avoided… or maybe the love didn’t have what it took to survive a lifetime.

          My grandparents had a lifetime love. They were simple, uneducated people and they fought sometimes like cats and dogs, but they loved each other — deeply and truly, mind and body. I’ve seen what I want. And I’m glad that I didn’t sentence myself or my ex-husband to something so much less, because I think we both deserve more.

          You do, too. You won’t find it looking back, LFBA. But I think you know that. Good luck. 🙂

          P.S. — I’m a lawyer by education but not career at the moment. Don’t hate me for it. 🙂

          • Hi TPG. I was not meaning to imply that a forced prenup would have/could have saved our marriage. We did not do it because in some respects it is planning to fail and after affair #1….the only way to trust is to, well, trust.
            YEs…I agree, that people fall out ot love. But given work, time, understanding etc…they also fall back in love and most succesful marriages have seen both those sides. That to me is the committment. Nope…we can’t force it. Neither though should we deceive the other about it.
            In my case, the financial settlement worked out ok. But, there would not have been anywhere near the hardhsips encountered it deception was not a part of her operation. Even (as she has sometimes claimed) she was deceiving herself, it ain’t fair to me. But, life is not usually fair and I accept that.
            In many cases I have seen though, there were what I consider excessive financial gains to the person that did cheat, lie and deceive. True…they may have had their reasons…but part of that contract is fidelity. If you want out, get out before that betrayal.
            I have known a lot of good ethical lawyers…and a person’s occupation/training is (almost) never a reason to hate!! 😉
            Your thinking is very rational here…and almost zen like. Are you sure you are not a closet buddhist??
            Peace to you.

            • Hmmm… I think that there are only three points that I would make in response:

              First, some love is definitely capable of being re-lit. I strongly agree with that. But not all. Surely you’ve loved women other than X… and if you’re being honest, you’re probably aware that you have loved them to varying degrees in different ways. Most of those loves did not have the capacity, for you, of being lifetime loves. They might have been wonderful and special, but when you were over those women there wasn’t any going back. Love, like everything else in life, is subject to variety and gradations. We want to assume (need to assume?) that when we say “I love you” and our partner says “I love you,” it is because we are sharing the same experience and mean the same thing… but that is not always the case, is it? Not that we mean to mislead anyone, but just that with the benefit of hindsight, we can see relationships in which the love was very imbalanced or uneven in character. What applies to dating applies to marriages, too. Thus far, we have no litmus test for “true love.” And, unfortunately, people often mistake other feelings for love, or (even more common, I think) mistake a deep regard and friendship for true love. Then, later, when true love smacks them between the eyes, they go “OH! Is this what everyone’s been talking about?!”

              Anyway, my point is simply that it sounds likely — from what admittedly little I know — that you and X had different kinds of love for each other. Yours for her might be of the quality and depth that it could be reignited over and over again throughout a lifetime, but hers appears to not be.

              Which leads me to my second point. I may have some of my facts wrong here, and if I do, I apologize, but it seems to me that X had an affair 5 years ago (or thereabouts), but returned to you with what seemed to be a serious intent to save the marriage. But for whatever reasons, her attempts failed as she realized that she still loved J. It sounds as though, during that time, she was following the standard therapeutic advice of acting like you love someone and communicating your love for them in the hope that the mind (and heart) will follow the behavior….? So, apparently she spent some degree of time seeming to try to make things right again… And this is where I pose a tough question to you: Assuming that her love for you was not of the type or quality to last a lifetime, how long should she have worked at it before leaving? How long would have been enough? You clearly feel that she didn’t apply herself sincerely to the task, and I am in no position to judge so either way, but I do wonder if any result, other than her falling madly back in love with you, would have been acceptable in a larger sense. Obviously, you love her and want her to love you back, but how long should she have spent figuring out that she didn’t?

              Finally, my last point is this: my mother likes to point out to me that she sees lots of older folks in her retirement community who have been married for 50 or 60 years (or more!), but quantity does not necessarily relate to quality. Just because a couple has been married for a long time, we cannot assume that they have a happy marriage by anyone’s standards (including their own, sometimes!). Of the marriages that I know intimately enough to admire for their quality, many of which have lasted 15-20 years, none of them have ever fallen out of love with their partners. They have argued, been hurt, not liked each other much, even separated, etc. But actually fallen out of love? No. (And, yes, I’ve been nosy enough to talk about this with people when I was doing the postmortem on my marriage….) So I think it’s important to consider not only whether a couple weathers the storms, but how they emerge on the other side. At least it’s important to me. Because I’d rather be alone than have a roommate or a permanent FWB or a business partner in my bed.

              And, yes, I’m a little bit Buddhist, in all honesty. But I’m a little bit of a lot of things. 🙂 Good luck and thanks for sharing the thoughts!

              • TPG. You make so many valid points. I have given out a lot of information on my blog, but not all….but I can tell you that many of the points above were discussed between us after her 1st affair with J. She was give the opportunity to leave with my help and blessing on a few occasions but she chose to stay because she said I was the one for her and the best man she has ever known…and she claimed that she was deeply in love with me. So, either those were lies or she is now revising history.
                X suffers from some insecurities which led her to many false assumptions and these are some of the things that helped her fall for J. Also though, J actively moved her in that direction by playing on her own self doubt and magnifiying small things. Whereas once she bragged about certain parts of our relationship, she now denegrates those same things.
                But the most maddening and heartbreaking thing at the same time….is that J is a Mike.

                • Well, LFBA, if she is indeed with a Mike, the repercussions of her choice will cause her more pain than you could ever inflict, nor would probably hope for (even in your angry state). If J is a Mike, then I actually feel sorry for X, despite what she’s done. Because the bottom will fall out of her world one of these days and she will find herself more hurt and damaged than she ever dreamed possible.

                  Good luck to you, and remember that her path is her own. You can neither change it nor should you judge it, if you believe Buddha’s teachings. It isn’t one thing or another, it simply is.

                  • The only true judgement I have is with the deception, subterfuge and the way it has caused so much damage to others. Had she been true to her word, allowed therapy a chance etc., all of this would have been much more tolerable. But in that sense…you are right, I am lacking in my buddhist tendencies, hence the call-sign of LFBA, The complete detachment of Buddhism to me though is also one of it’s drawbacks.
                    Thanks for the discussion and your wise insight.
                    Peace to you.

  5. mysterycoach

    I love what you write. I enjoy your musings and how you articulate them so well… 🙂

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