Without fail when I meet a guy who’s divorced, he refers to his ex as a “psycho” and when I meet a woman who’s divorced, she refers to her ex as an “asshole.” So either there are an excessive number of assholes marrying psychos (quite possible) or there are two sides to every story (even more likely). Also, worth considering, divorce often brings out the worst in people so it’s likely that asshole-ism and/or insanity can emerge in that process (hopefully the conditions are temporary).
“The truth shall make you free, but first it shall make you miserable” – Gestalt therapist Barry Stevens*
It’s easy to feel like a victim. To tell a story of our own rightness, virtuousness and moral superiority. I have hung my own hat on the notion that I am the good guy. That I have done the right thing. But, I cannot in good conscience tell the lie that I did not contribute to the disillusionment of my marriage. Just because I thought I knew what would make my marriage and family life better and I can identify all the ways my ex “dropped the ball,” doesn’t mean I was right.
For one thing, it is explicitly clear in retrospect that my idea of what a successful marriage was differed from my ex’s all along. I can see how we missed each other so many times. When I was trying to connect, he was distracted and fed up and vice versa when he was trying to connect. I was more concerned with our marriage and it’s viability than I was with his feelings. I was impossible to please at times. I was resentful that he wasn’t intrinsically motivated to do the things that I thought were imperative (that’s just scratching the surface of what I consider “my faults” and Lord knows I’ve got plenty of his to highlight another time).
Overall though, I look at my ex now and I see someone who I think didn’t feel that he could fully be himself within the confines of our marriage and family life. I see that he tried, he pushed himself to the limit at times to make it work. And I did too. If I told our story one way, my ex would come off as an insufferable asshole. And I guarantee that if my ex told our story another way, I would come off as a raving psycho. And, it just occurred to me that maybe we are just another coupling of asshole and psycho who finally combusted!!! More likely, we are two people who came from different backgrounds who had no clue how to maintain an intimate partnership while managing all of the stresses and nuances of family life.
Acknowledging my part in the failure of my marriage, though painful, has come naturally to me. I’m kind of obsessed with taking responsibility. And I do think that that has led to a fair amount of misery. But, I’m convinced that honesty is the best policy and that if I resist the black and white of blaming, I will emerge from my divorce a better person. I sure as shit hope it doesn’t bite me in the ass in legal proceedings where it seems pitting sides against each other is just part of the adversarial nature of the beast. I will have to defend myself and my rights without demonizing him … Am I being naive? We shall see. Regardless, once the dust settles, I’d like to think the blame game will be over and in summarizing our divorce we will respectively tell others “we tried and failed to make our marriage work.” That is, after all, the truth.