Divorce often comes as a surprise to one half of the relationship. Oftentimes an unhappy partner or spouse will “blindside” their partner and surprise them by asking for a divorce. This leaves their other half in sadness but mostly shock.
In a previous blog I wrote about Sudden Divorce Syndrome, I wrote about how women are by and large the ones that instigate a divorce. Although it might appear to her spouse that’s her decision is sudden, it’s actually quite the opposite. She feels that her ongoing attempts have fallen on deaf ears and her decision to divorce wasn't sudden at all, but a slow burn of a marriage that has become unhealthy and unfulfilling. Yet, I was quickly reminded that many men who try – very hard and diligently - to salvage their marriage, work equally hard at the marriage and continue to show up, only to find themselves still blindsided by their spouse.
Here are a few of their stories (names and identifying information has been changed to protect their privacy).
Bill : I was blindsided because my wife was simply emotionally dishonest. I tried to address our issues in the marriage, but she never was interested. Even when I asked her directly what was wrong, what was bothering her, she refused to answer honestly. I was shocked to discover an email while I was away from work saying that she didn't want to go on any longer and did not love me the way I needed to be loved anymore! I couldn't believe what I was reading. Prior to receiving that email, we had recently spent time traveling. She often professed her love for me through giving me cards. So, of course I never thought the relationship was ever that bad; I never expected that she would simply ' up and leave.' But she did. Shortly thereafter, I found out that she had been having an affair for almost a year and a half and, when asked, she simply lied. Just like that. I didn't see our situation as not paying attention to each other’s needs. I just felt used.
David : I am now divorced after almost 17 years together, 12 of which we were married. I was definitely blindsided and shocked by her decision to divorce. I had no idea that she was contemplating divorce. Actually, no one did – not our family nor our friends. Everyone was shocked. However, my spouse claims there were plenty of hints. To be honest, there were hints that I ignored, but certainly "hinting" is not clear communication. I – nor should anyone – be expected to read someone's mind. If someone is contemplating divorce, why can't they be upfront and honest about it? Why can't they say, "I'm hurting so much I can't continue in this relationship as it is now. If things don't change I want to divorce." Clear and unambiguous communication would get a partner's attention and provide a chance for the marriage to survive. Planning an exit strategy in silence and dropping a bomb provides no hope for the marriage to survive.
Saul: My attorney and a few friends told me that, in most divorces, there is one spouse that is well ahead of the other – both emotionally and mentally. They have had time to think about what they want. It’s how couples start to uncouple. This often means that they go from fine to divorced with little warning. The unexpecting half is left stunned that the other isn't willing to make any effort to save the marriage. It happens to both men and women. The one who is ready always has justification. In my case, my wife was having an affair, which, as it turns out, is pretty common – quite the blow to my ego. Things had not been great for a while. She might self-justify her behavior, but I certainly don't see her as the noble wife who'd tried everything and then gave up. It makes sense now that a once dead bedroom became alive again and she became more pleasant to be around and interested in me. It was all just a cover.
Paul: My wife totally blindsided me. I consider myself a very communicative person; I address things head on and always asked her to make it clear if something was bothering her as well. However, she apparently held everything in until one night I asked what was wrong. She crushed me. We spent time together always and she always acted happy. We spoke about moving to another city and starting a family. I believe she may have some mental issues that I know about in her past and what she has gone through, which may be part of it. We dated for 8 years and were married almost 6. We were high school sweethearts. I even went away to college for four years and it worked being apart. So her asking for a divorce simply made no sense. I did everything and showed her I loved her every single day.
This was more than being blindsided - I felt enormous shock and disbelief. It took me a long time to wrap my head around what had actually happened. It took a long time to heal and move on.
It says a lot about a person who is able to sit down and explain why they want out of the marriage than it does to up and leave without an explanation. Not getting the 'punch line' makes it that much more challenging to overcome. And, people want and need the punch line. Getting an explanation helps provide clarity and hopefully a better understanding. But, many people are not able or willing to do that.
That’s unfortunate because divorce is hard enough.