Can it even be argued that bashing an ex is not one of the most fulfilling things in life? It might be better than counseling. This is especially so if that ‘ex’ did something especially nasty. Lying, cheating, or as I recently saw in my inbox, sleeping with your parent, almost necessitates throwing the person under the bus. But besides the therapeutic benefits, it can be a great way to bond with someone new. Because chances are they have a few of their own ‘ex’ stories to share. Upon learning you are not the only one cheated on – or whose ‘ex’ slept with one of your parents – it is like the doors of heaven start swinging open, and stars begin moving into alignment. That person inches a bit closer to ‘perfect.’ We all know the importance of finding things in common. Sharing our war stores in this game of love can often be magnetic.
This is especially true when it comes to divorce.
When the Queen and I learned that our former spouses were both Jewish, our connection amped up. Another piece fell into place. We both had an entirely different and new outlook on each other because it felt we were now playing on the same team. We had formed a deeper bond by sharing unique experiences of being married to similar people, such as our first lox and bagels or visit to a Synagogue. It started to feel more like us versus the world.
Yet while it may be fun to spend hours over lemon drop martinis sharing the dirty details of past relationship or marriages or how bad an ‘ex’ was or how the divorce was mostly the other person’s fault. The truth is, we get so caught up in that moment that many miss the real gift that comes from asking the question…
‘Why did you get divorced?’
We should understand from the beginning, that for the vast majority of people their answer will fall somewhere along three lines: (1) a lie, (2) partly a lie (3) watered down so much it borders on a lie. I have yet to meet one person, ever, who answered this question truthfully from the beginning. The real reasons usually come piecemeal, if they come at all, and only after enough time has passed, there is little chance the other person runs off after learning the truth.
I had created a canned answer to that question, a narrative formed in my mind that boiled it all down to simply – ”I was cheated on.” I had mostly turned an entire ten-year relationship and marriage into a catchphrase. In those few words, I threw down the victim card and did my best to deflect any suspicion from myself. Because to be honest, even the vilest will garner some sympathy at being on the receiving end of an affair. Being cheated on is one of the few sins we can still universally agree is wrong. For a few, learning that someone is the victim of infidelity makes them more attractive. It becomes their chance to play the Good Samaritan.
After spewing out my well-rehearsed cookie cutter answer, I would usually launch into the somewhat sordid, and mostly embellished, details of how it all happened, while staying well clear of any guilt I may have had. What my ex-wife did was horrendous. She cheated. Case closed. Why bother with any of my mistakes. But it would have been easy to blow up my entire charade with a straightforward question:
‘If your former wife was asked this same thing, what would she say?’
It would have been a fumbling attempt to prove that, while not perfect myself, I was nowhere near as guilty. Yet the lid would have been blown off the whole thing and my answers would have demonstrated my immaturity. But it never once happened. That Kool-Aid was swallowed without much hesitation. It was the same for the Queen and would be time before I was able to share with her all the details, or in other words, the whole truth for my divorce.
I have written before that how a divorced father talks about his former wife is perhaps the very best way of measuring the type of man he will be. A divorced father who habitually lays all the blame for his failed marriage on his ex-wife is a man who has not moved on from that failed relationship, and the next woman to come into his life will almost inevitably suffer similar consequences. Or perhaps worse, end up being painted with the sins of that woman. Until a man can answer that question with acknowledging his own shortcomings and the parts he played in the failed marriage, no matter what the other person did, he is not someone ready for another relationship.
It is important to not take the reasons for a man’s divorce at face value. No marriage succeeds, or fails, in a vacuum. There is always more than one character in these dramas. Dig deeper, this is what dating is for, to learn and discover. And until you are convinced that he has been honest, and by honest, I mean that he has taken responsibility for his parts, no matter how big or small, then he is someone whose heart is still broken. And unfortunately, that heart may end up breaking yours.