NOTE: If you read this post prior to 10:50 pm on Sunday 12/3, I want to note that I have made significant changes. I may have come to an inaccurate conclusion that the author is also a life coach. I realize in doing so, I sort of shot much of the premise of this post (the parts about the author’s identity). Hence the multiple changes. ~ pk
Do a “Don’t Should on Yourself” search on the Internet and you’ll find plenty of anti-“should-ing” graphics.
My academic background is in mental health. Therefore, I am an advocate of the fact that there are very few instances in which the word “should” is a fit for a constructive outlook, especially if we are using in retrospect to define how our lives could have gone differently.
After reading a recent Modern Love column in the New York Times, however, I can’t help thinking the author is going to say “I should have known” someday.
A Marriage Ends
The column I can’t get out of my head is An Optimist’s Guide to Divorce. Synopsis: The author fell in love with a married man; the man left his wife for the author; the ex-wife is a saint for “the grace and maturity she has displayed” as she welcomed the new love interest into their family’s life, paved the way for an amicable relationship with the young children, and took the high road.
The Gaping Flaws in This Situation
Here are the challenges I see. I can only call them as I see them.
Author: “He wasn’t a creep or even a cheater.” Time proved her wrong about the cheater part.
Writing “he wasn’t a cheater” after his infidelity led him to leave his wife is disingenuous at best.
In the article, the author discloses that she has Bipolar II disorder.
I just can’t help thinking the new guy’s move on this woman was more about him than her. She talks in the article about her proclivity for getting into unstable relationships. I can’t see how this is that much different. Maybe he wasn’t taking advantage of her exactly and maybe he didn’t have enough awareness about mental health to stop himself. I’m not sure, but my sense is that she is a victim here.
When the ex-wife-to-be (Beka) invited the author to dinner (a precursor to eventually meeting the kids), Beka handled it with aplomb, grace, and courtesy. The guy? “…he drank nonstop.”
So many red flags about this. So many.
The author spends a paragraph discussing how hard the three of them have worked to make this situation palatable for the children (the girls were seven and three at the time of the breakup). She says, “they have never reproached their father or me for the immeasurable disruption we have caused to their lives.”
They aren’t teenagers yet. That’s all I have to say.
The Beautiful Aspects of this Situation
I do love the fact that all of the adults display so much love and unconditional positive regard for the children. It appears they also all conduct themselves civilly in front of the children, which is also an important building block.
I know so many people who put the children first in the way they relate to their former partners/the parents of their children. What a gift that is to model those priorities.
This is Not a Guide to Divorce
The title of this piece (An Optimist’s Guide to Divorce) is (to me) a misnomer. Who is the optimist?
I suppose the author pictures herself as the optimist. She discusses how meeting the two daughters made her glad she had never had children herself, writing her initial relationship steps with the girls were, “as if I had been saving my maternal love for [names].”
What? I will be the first to admit I have felt maternal love (in spades) for children who weren’t my own. I can see feeling maternal love for the children of someone I fell in love with who weren’t my own biological children.
I suppose the thing is if I felt the author had the capacity for maternal love she would have curtailed this whole thing earlier, realizing the disruption it would cause.
If I Had a Crystal Ball
Obviously, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I have enough life experience to say that there is a possibility getting involved with someone who left his wife for her *might* end up with the author herself acknowledging….
“I should have known.”
This post was inspired by the Mama Kat prompt: “Write a poem, post or story where the last words are ‘I should have known.’”
(Also, I really want to hear the ex-wife’s version of all this.)
Editor’s Note: Right after I pressed “publish,” I found this piece that summarizes comments to the original piece, shares the editor’s insights, and includes a quote from Beka. I still stand behind everything I wrote above, but I think this is an important piece of the entire puzzle.
Beka (according to the follow-up NY Times piece): “I wanted to do what was best for my girls. And, honestly, I didn’t want to be one of those women who was defined by her divorce — and end up bitter in the end. Josh and I have managed to maintain our friendship through it all, and Elizabeth and I developed one as well. Now, my sweet girls have even more people to love them, and they adore Elizabeth. Most of my family and friends have had a hard time accepting it, but I think it was one of the best decisions I could have made.”
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.