When we are too close to something, sometimes we can’t see it. Sometimes we don’t want to see it. Sometimes we don’t want to see it so badly we convince ourselves it isn’t there.
As I listen to yet another friend speak through her tears, I am reminded of this very thing. As she shares with me what is going on in her world, and asks me what I think, I am careful to do way more listening than speaking. At this very early stage, that is what we need: to be heard.
She shares with me the “reason” her husband is giving her for leaving and the promises he is making to take care of her and their children. She shares many details and feelings and tears.
When I briefly share a few similarities between my experience and hers, she immediately gets defensive. So I listen some more.
She shares that she doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t know what her rights are, doesn’t know how to find answers. I refer her to an attorney for legal advice, or legal aide. She needs to know what she is in for legally. She then shares that her husband has told her not to get an attorney, they don’t need one and they just costs lots of money. Hmmmmm.
She shares that she doesn’t have a job and hasn’t had a job since their oldest child was born; she has no income on her own. When I ask how she will pay for things like rent, groceries, etc., she says her husband assured her he will pay for those things. I take a moment to remind her that he wants out, he will say anything to get her to let him out. Again, I suggest she get legal advice.
I asked her about the kids. Does he want shared parenting time? She says he will want to see the kids, so he will want joint custody. I explain the difference between parenting time and custody. I explain that my ex wanted shared parenting time even though he didn’t spend “his” time with the kids. She gets very defensive, she says well her husband loves his kids, so he would never do that, unlike my ex.
This is where we see being too close causes us not to see.
In the most loving, compassionate way, I explain to her that my ex loves our kids in his own way, which is totally different from mine. And no matter how much she thinks or even knows that her husband loves his children, divorce changes everything.
I would love to be able to tell you, believe your husband in what he promises. I cannot. I have seen way too many go sour. Your husband may believe he is keeping all his promises, and doing what is right by you. But divorce changes everything.
I ask, how will she pay for gas in her car? Going for coffee with a friend? Taking the kids to dinner?
She is not sure she understands my questions. So I rephrase. Are you going to ask your husband, soon-to-be ex-husband, for money when you want to do those things? She is stunned, has that deer in the headlights look. She had not thought about that. Her husband keeps telling her she doesn’t need to go to work right away, but she should start thinking about it, again stating that he made a promise (in their wedding vows) to take care of her and he says he still plans to do that, just not as her husband.
Well that is all fine and dandy, until you do something to upset him, or he finds a girlfriend. Then, believe me, he won’t be so inclined to take care of you. Plus, you have now just given him carte blanche over your life; he is in control of you and your life.
My prayer is that her husband holds true to the promises he is making her, that their impending divorce remains amicable, that they are able to make decisions in what is best for the kids together, even though they are separate.
Perhaps I sound bitter and “man bashing.” I am neither, just a realist. I have experienced and have witnessed more than I ever wanted, and from that is where my advice of caution comes.
Just be sure to protect yourself, both legally and emotionally. You now must rely on yourself, perhaps for the first time ever.
Don’t take everything at face value during this very difficult time; do your own research. Do your homework and be prepared. If nothing else, have someone you trust be your sounding board and do your best to listen to their take on your situation. However, always seek true legal advice to be safe. We may think we know what we are talking about, but it won’t stand up in court!