Divorce: What’s the other side of the story?

Years ago, a couple I knew got into difficulty after four years of marriage. The guy, a buddy from high school, talked to me several times and gave me his side of the story. It sounded bad. It sounded unfair. How could she be like that? Out of the blue, I had a chance to hear her side of the story and discovered a completely different aspect to the marital discord. Had my friend been lying to me? Had he been twisting the facts in his favour? Was he so buried in the trenches, he could no longer objectively see the big picture including his partner's view of the world?

I have jokingly referred to this incident over the years when I say that if anybody tells me they are getting a divorce, I am going to head for the hills and I'm not coming back until the divorce papers have been signed for at least five years. It is a tumultuous process. I would label it as one of, if not the most momentous event of anybody's life. However, stats are stats and my own divorce lawyer told me that in his experience, 90% of all divorces end in mutual agreement. In other words, he would qualify only 10% of his divorces as being confrontational and hence, difficult. I don't think he explained if mutual agreement meant the two parties continued to talk to each other or not ("I've gotten over my divorce and have forgiven the bastard/bitch."), but he himself was divorced and once told me he and his ex-wife were flying to New York together for the weekend to visit their daughter. That seems not just civilised but amicable.

In the past three years of blogging, I have read a number of personal stories about divorce. For the most part, these stories have been penned by women. For the most part, these stories give me their side of the story. I never hear what's happening on the other side of the marital divide. In my blog: "Two-thirds of divorces are filed by women", Willard F. Harley, Jr., Ph.D., clinical psychologist and marriage counsellor, points out that while there are many of the reasons for divorce such as physical abuse, infidelity, alcoholism, or criminal behaviour, the number one reason for a woman filing for divorce is neglect. Neglect? As I asked elsewhere, if at one time the guy was starry eyed about his wife, why is he now bored with her?

What's the other side of the story?

I have heard about the financial struggles when a spouse doesn't support their ex-partner. I have heard about the narcissistic behaviour of the ex-spouse. I have heard about the confrontations with the ex-spouse about co-parenting. What's the other side of the story?

Divorce: your spouse has lost his (or her) mind
Not every person is the same. Not every couple is the same. Not every divorce is the same. Nevertheless for me there seems to a common thread to many if not all of the stories. You don't really know what's going on in the mind of your spouse.

In the 2010 book "This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness", author Laura Munson (my blog: Laura Munson: Save a marriage by doing nothing) recounts how her husband announced one day that he no longer loved her. Her response was that she didn't buy it. The truth seems to be that her husband was suffering a major personal life crisis brought on by a career failure, an excess of debt, and the fear of losing their farm. She let him work things out and after four months, he came back a renewed man. And a little contrite apparently.

Some of the comments to a newspaper article about the book condemned Ms. Munson by saying she was a doormat and she should have booted him out from the beginning. Obviously if Ms. Munson had followed their counsel she would now be divorced and she wouldn't have a book. Nevertheless she fortunately took another approach based on a more correct assessment of the situation and her bet paid off.

The question here is whether anybody truly knows what's going on in the head of the other person. If a marriage heads south, what's the reason? The real reason?

my blog: Why did that @#$%^* bastard divorce me?
I can't help thinking that there is more to this story than he's a @#$%^* douchebag. I'm certain that there are some truly bad people out there. Adolf Hitler was a bad man. John Wayne Gacy, the American serial killer who raped and murdered 33 teenage boys, was a bad man. I just find it hard to believe that every single @#$%^* bastard one day decides to leave his wife and children, ruin his reputation, besmirch his good name, alienate his kids and turn himself into a "bad man" just because he's a douchebag. He actually wants to be bad man as opposed to being loved and admired? Really?

I would now refer back to Gary Neuman's 2008 book "The Truth About Cheating: Why Men Stray and What You Can Do To Prevent It" in which the author states that 92% of the men he surveyed said their cheating is not just about sex, 88% said the other woman wasn't better looking or in better shape and 48% said cheating was about an emotional disconnection from their wives. What? Just what the heck is really going on? Does anybody really know? After all, if you have no idea what the problem is how do you fix anything?

People seemingly go bats**t crazy and or become belligerent because they feel trapped. They see no way to escape. It doesn't matter whether this is true or false in your eyes, in their eyes it just feels that way. Obviously not every marriage can be saved but it's certain that if you can't identify it, you ain't gunna fix it.

my blog: Michele Weiner-Davis: The Divorce Buster
Her conclusion is that a sense of hopelessness about the marriage leads people to part ways. She points out that we are not born with the knowledge of how to be a partner in marriage and why would we hesitate to acquire such knowledge if it would better our chances of remaining together. Learning communication skills and better understanding your partner can represent a plan of action or a new path to follow in the future which can give hope to a hopeless situation.

Final Word
Then again, at the end of the day, does it matter what the other side of the story is? You hurt. Your spouse wants to leave or has left. You hurt. Now you've gone from being part of a couple to being on your own and having to do everything, earn a living, run a home, and possibly parent children, all by yourself. Did I mention you hurt?

Nevertheless, I am always going wonder what the other side of the story is. Most of the stories I've read have been written by women. It's the woman's perspective on divorce. It's her take on her own divorce. What's the other side of the story? Of course, after all is said and done, we all have to "deal with it." There is no choice; we all have to move on. Nevertheless, I still remain curious as to what the other side would have to say about it all. Would knowing that have prevented the divorce? Would knowing that have helped both sides in working out the issues? Maybe yes; maybe no. I still wonder what the other side of the story is.

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