Thoughts by Richard Bleil
A friend of mine is in the beginning stages of a likely divorce. Full disclosure: I am not a trained therapist, marriage counselor, grief counselor or anything of the sort, but I can speak from the experience of my own divorce, and I have a pretty good ear so I can also throw in a few lessons I’ve learned from other friends as well. Knowing that divorce is an all-too-common occurrence, and is almost always devastating, I thought I’d put this blog together, offering perhaps just a little advice and some comfort. Or maybe not, but I’m hoping it will be helpful for at least somebody to read.
Like many divorces, this one involves children. Let’s be honest about this; divorce is difficult for children, and it’s natural for any parent to worry about their children. Unfortunately, there are those who stay together for the sake of the children, but this is not always the best choice. I’ve known too many women who stayed with a man who was emotionally or even physically abusive, and frequently had affairs as well. The problem with staying like this is that it trains girls that this is how they deserve to be treated, and boys that this is how you treat women. This just isn’t healthy. It’s difficult to know in such a case what, exactly, is better for the children. None of us have a crystal ball, so will it be less devastating to stay together and try to feign a healthy relationship, or is it better to show them what they should not put up with? The point is this; nobody knows. Nobody. Not you, not your spouse, not the grandparents, and certainly not those arrogant enough to judge whatever decision you make. My best advice is to take the path that you feel is the best and ignore judgment from others. They’re not in your situation. Don’t worry about it you’re making the best decision or doing the right thing; you’re making the best decision that you can with the information available to you, and that’s all anybody can ask.
When a spouse, usually the man but in my case, it was my wife, has an affair, it’s all too easy to turn the blame for this inward. I have too many friends who wonder how they failed, or why they are not enough, or what is wrong with them because their spouse went outside of marriage. Here’s the answer: there is nothing wrong with you. If your spouse has an affair, it’s their failing, not yours. Speaking as a man, it’s common for men to have a “wandering eye”, but any man who succumbs to temptation is weak, and has failed their spouse, their marriage and their children. It’s the fault of the one who had an affair for not being strong enough to resist temptation, or to be shallow enough to have a desire to pursue the “chase”. You are enough, you always were, and you always will be. Never doubt that.
Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. I can’t explain why, but men just don’t like losing. Even if he is the one who has an affair, and even if he wants the divorce, it’s our ego that will turn us into a jerk. Even if we are the one who wants the divorce, we’re still losing, even if we are already with somebody else, and because of that ego we can never admit that we’re the one at fault. I really wish I understood this better, but even when already living with somebody else men just turn bitter and angry, and we tend to lash out. I guess I was different, so there are exceptions. I gave my wife everything, with the only condition being that she owes me nothing, nor I her, from that point forward. I intentionally wanted an easy divorce, and I gave up basically everything not so much for her, but for the sake of her children (all from her first marriage, not mine). Of course, I can only speak of what to expect from men because it’s my own perspective. I’m sure women are not exactly dainty flowers through the process, but I can’t speak from their perspective, and anything I experience from my wife I cannot generalize to all women.
Mostly, take care of yourself. Be sure you have a strong support network for emotional and physical needs. Reach out to them and be as open and honest with them as you can, especially with your needs. Be sure you have shelter, food and the necessities for yourself and your children if you have them. Don’t forget that emotional needs are every bit as important as physical. Get hugs, see friends, and ask for help. If you suffer from depression, be sure to have somebody who is willing to be your ear. I asked my friend to promise that if she feels like she might do herself harm that she would call me (or somebody else) first. It’s good to have an accountability buddy. Even if she never takes advantage of my offer, I’m hoping she at least knows that she is not alone.
You’re strong. You can get through this, and you will. There’s something better for you on the horizon. Unfortunately, there’s a swamp of ugliness between you and that horizon, but you’ll get through it.