1. someone to run with
She finished the Tel Aviv Marathon a year ago with tears. Not because it was hard, not because she ran all of it alone and not because she felt sorry for herself. The tears just flowed down as if her soul were demanding that her body recognize the insult. The insult of a woman whom the whole world loved and appreciated and whose husband was the only one who did not. Not only did he not show love or appreciation, he did not pay any attention to her. They were a model family – an accountant and a math teacher, with a fancy apartment in a northern neighborhood on the outskirts of Tel Aviv and two well behaved blond daughters. But at home she was being humiliated. He was speaking to her like a master to a slave, and usually forgot to keep it concealed in the company of others. Her parents were horrified and her father scolded him when he could no longer hear the disparaging tone the husband used to admonish his daughter on silly little things, as if waiting for an opportunity to humiliate her.
When she began jogging, the situation worsened. At first, he mocked her slowness, then criticized her Slimness and finally accused her of neglecting her daughters and of being a poor mother. At some point she decided to write to him what was in her heart. In a long, gut-wrenching letter (I read it and cried) she asked him for a bit warmth and support. Between the lines, she begged him to turn his heart, open his eyes and see what was going on around him, and particularly – see her. He took the letter, put it in his bag and said nothing. He expressed his reaction without words, i.e. – he just stopped talking to her. For two weeks. Long disregards and silent treatments have always been an inseparable part of the long-term psychological abuse he had put her through and which has been hidden behind an enlightened façade of a handsome and charismatic accountant. That is where she broke down. In tears she told me her story and said “I just wanted someone to run with, not on the running track, but on the track of life.”
She would not let an emissary hand him the envelope but did it herself. She went to his office and handed it to him. He was shocked. It never occurred to him that she would ever disband the family and thought that everything was permissible for him. In the evening at home he begged her to change her mind, promising to change, to run with her, to support her, to put her on a pedestal. “Why don’t you give him a chance?” I asked, “Maybe he really got the blow he had to get to get him back on track?” “I cannot,” she said, “For so many years he had erased my feelings for him, that there was nothing left. I do not believe him that he can change from within, it’s over.”
When he realized that his pleas had been rejected, he returned to himself in a second. “Who would take you?” He asked her. “Have you seen what you look like? You won’t have anything to eat.” He conducted the negotiations toward the divorce agreement with a clenched hand, repeating over and over again the mantra that divorce was not a picnic and that she was living in fantasy land. In the end we managed to reach an agreement that both of them were willing to sign and eventually divorced amicably.
This week she called to tell me that for the Tel Aviv Marathon this year she didn’t run alone and that she met someone to run with, to share her life with. She told me that she had forgotten long ago and now remembered again what it felt like when someone appreciates you and thinks you’re amazing.
The moral of the story –If you manage a relationship without boundaries and think that everything is allowed, consider that one day you will find yourself facing someone who will tell you it’s over.
2. Not leaving the city?
They divorced 8 years ago when their son was two years old and she caught her husband having an affair with a 20-year-old girl. The divorce process was long and exhausting. Neither of them was willing to give up a dime and any of their principles and were depending on judicial decisions for almost two years until they realized that they’d better reach an agreement and stop letting the judge lead their lives. In the years since the Great War ended, they had waged a cold and quiet war. They did not exchange a word and did not compromise. He did not pay any unusual expenses without it first going through the execution office and she did not give up a dime and demanded that he pay half of every tiny expense with pedantry that could drive him insane.
In the meantime, they both remarried and started new families. When she decided to move, he thought it was an excellent opportunity to harass her, and filed a motion for a restraining order forbidding her to transfer their child, even though the divorce agreement allowed her to do so. “He would not run our lives,” she said. “I’m moving and the court can decide whether my child goes with me or stays with him.” The hearing on the motion was set for a relatively distant date and in the meantime, she moved. Without hesitation she left the child with him since an injunction was issued. Apparently, she knew what she was doing. A week later I got a call from his lawyer. Stuttering, the lawyer explained that her client’s second wife was “not prepared” for accommodating the hyperactive child in her home. The apartment was relatively small and there were two other children living there. “Please have him returned to his mother” she asked. What about the injunction? It was dismissed by consent.
The moral of the story – beware of what you ask for … you might get it. In other words, before you ask for an order from the court in order to harass the other side, think carefully about all the implications, and what would happen if you accidentally win.
3. Sealed with tears
This week, an agreement was signed on two different continents. Technology allows you to print the agreement, sign it in tears, scan and send it in an email in seconds, even if you are thousands of miles from the mother of your children, who has just signed it in Tel Aviv. This happened after three years of mutual bloodletting, thousands of documents, 8 lawsuits, vicious decisions toward both sides, and particularly a lot of strong feelings that ruled this case from start to finish. However, what’s interesting is how the case started.
They were in mediation that moved in the right direction but was relatively slow because of the many “mines” that were scattered along the way. They found it difficult to agree on almost every point but in the end, they agreed on almost everything. For the last session he came with his older sister, the one who protected him at school from children who teased him, and became a sharp-tongued commercial lawyer who kept protecting her brother now, or that’s what she thought she was doing. Within half an hour his sister dramatically tore up the draft agreement, blew up the mediation and sent the couple to an all-out war in court. A war that escalated with every judicial decision, in the courtroom of a judge who not only did not try to help the couple, but it was clear that he enjoyed seeing them fighting. Despite the batteries of lawyers representing both sides, it seemed that the battle was between the woman and her sister-in-law, the lawyer, who did not know how much they resembled each other, a resemblance that brought them to fighting with no end in sight.
Then she found a reason to threaten her sister-in-law with reporting her to the bar association and asked her to stop representing her brother in court due to a conflict of interests. This was a serious appeal, and the husband’s sister did not attend the hearing, and even called in an attempt to convince the woman to withdraw her allegations. As expected, she encountered an impenetrable wall. It was the end of the war, which the husband would not manage without the close accompaniment of his sister. Intense negotiations that began without expectations, continued in conference rooms, in mails, texts and shouting matches over the phone, concluded this week with court approval for a divorce agreement, signed by a judge who failed to conceal his disappointment. The sister-in-law who initiated the war but also was decent enough to thank us for finalizing the agreement, appropriately summarized the case – “I hope both sides are equally disappointed with the outcome and if that’s the case, the outcome was a successful one.”
The moral of the story – do not let someone close to you manage your divorce. With all their desire to protect you, you may find yourself defeated from all sides.