I recently heard a story I felt like sharing because it really struck me as something that might help people in coping with divorce.
I know someone who was married for several years with children. Towards the end of his marriage, he had a test that came back positive for cancer. When he got home, he decided to share the news with his wife, knowing that the reason for telling her was for practicality, (telling the kids, possibly having to take time off work, etc.) In other words, he didn’t expect her to run into his arms and cry and tell him everything was going to be OK. Their relationship had been so strained, that he pretty much only felt the need to tell her because she was still his wife. It was as simple as that.
When he told her the news, his now ex-wife was sitting at her desk with her back to him. Her response was very businesslike: “Can’t you see I’m working?” She said these words without even turning around to look at his face, to see the fear that was most likely in it. There was no, “I’m so sorry.” There was no hug. But instead she was cold and distant.
Here is the point, and what makes her reaction a good thing for him. Her heartless behavior in response to her husband telling her his test came back cancerous was actually a gift and here’s why. Soon after, the couple separated (and by the way, the guy’s cancerous thing turned out to be completely curable).
I bet it was ironically a great comfort to this guy that his wife reacted emotionless to his news. It validated two things: that the marriage was definitely over, but even more so, that her character was revealed, showing that even though she knew they were headed for a breakup, she could not find it in her heart to hug this person she just spent over a decade with and tell him “I’m sorry” or “Please don’t worry. It’s going to be fine.” Or, how about just turn around to look at him to assess the look on his face and make sure he wasn’t freaking out?
It is these kinds of “gifts,” as painful and cruel are they might be that can help people in coping with divorce because it solidifies the decision that splitting up is best.
Another example of a gift someone got right before her divorce: Someone I know was married to a drug addict. The night before she was moving out of their home, he came home very drugged up. Until that night, she had been unsure of whether or not she was doing the right thing. Maybe there was still a chance. Maybe he would get help. But when she saw the behavior, she realized he gave her a gift, so that when the moving truck showed up the next day, she didn’t have to second guess herself. Her soon-to-be ex helped her cope by showing that he had no plans to get help for his addiction.
Sometimes it is very difficult to see painful, scary or horrific acts in marriage as gifts: as fate that is brought to move the person along to a better place. It’s almost as if someone is banging you over the head with a heavy object to wake you up. The blow hurts, but now you are awake.
Next time you are having a hard time coping with divorce, see if you can remember a couple gifts your ex gave you. Forcing oneself to stare at the truth isn’t always easy, but I bet it will help you immensely.