1. Not leaving
It was her third consultation meeting. She was in my office both a year and two years ago. In each of the meetings she talked about her successful husband and his infidelities. Apparently, she caught him more than once and he, of course, denied everything and claimed that she was paranoid and crazy, threatening to leave her if she did not stop snooping on his cell phone. She came to consult with me on how to prepare herself for divorce.
At the first meeting I thought she would come back a week later to file claims and seize jurisdiction. A year had passed. Apparently, they went on as usual.
Fearful that he would divorce her, she stopped going through his stuff but found equally creative ways and knew exactly what he was doing and with whom. She stopped herself from acting on it and did not say a word until she found in her car, which he used while his car was being serviced, black lace panties that were not hers. She could not forgive that and made quite a scene. He, of course, categorically denied it again, called her crazy, claimed that it must have been dropped by one of their 23-year-old son's girlfriends and cautioned her not to embarrass him by asking about panties. Finally, he threatened that if she did not "get off" of him, he would divorce her.
“Why don’t you initiate the divorce?” I asked. “Obviously, you know the truth. You know he's cheating and you know when and with whom he’s doing it. Why do you stay with him?” She cried and said she was staying for the children, to keep their beautiful family and not shatter their world, that she was scared of the financial impact a divorce would have, afraid to be alone and that in spite of his cheating she still loved him.
This week she came for a third consultation. It turned out that this year was not easy. She began to track his credit card and found out that for every gift he bought her there was one for his chief mistress. She also knew that the chief mistress was not the only one, that he had relationships with other women and that he was insatiable.
Two months ago, he infected her with a sexually transmitted disease. When they went to the doctor together he, of course, denied it and even accused her of infecting him but both of them knew the truth. This time he did not threaten her and she did not make scenes. She said that it took her two months to decide that this time it was final and that she was not staying with him.
When we came to the subject of their children, she was tearful again but insisted that this time it was final, asking what needed to be done to get started. When I explained that we must submit a request to settle a dispute in order to start the process of ending this long saga, she said that she would regroup and get back to me in a few days.
We both knew in our hearts that until he initiates a divorce, she would not leave and that we would probably meet again for another consultation next year.
2. Dad's hobby
He filed a divorce claim with the Rabbinical court, intent on embarking on a hostile divorce war. At the rabbinical court hearing this week, he arrived with tight black jeans, a ball cap and sunglasses that hid red eyes, but not from fatigue. In the hearing he started off aggressive but the judges silenced him and asked for the cause of divorce. He claimed that she was a serial complaint-filer who had already sued him in the past, that this time she had decided to throw him out of the house, screaming at him, calling the police and filing a false complaint. The police arrested him and kept him away for 30 days and so he wanted a divorce.
Even before asking for her response, they asked her if she agreed to divorce and she happily agreed, telling them of a life with an alcoholic who smoked drugs on a daily basis and two little boys who have already realized that when Dad drinks he cannot pick them up from afterschool classes and would call their mom to then come get them. She described how when the alcohol made him aggressive he would smoke a joint and relax. She said that it was very difficult for her all these years, but that she stayed for the children and indeed, whenever she wanted to leave, he persuaded her to stay.
When one of the boys’ teacher called to tell her that in a classroom conversation about hobbies, her son said that Dad's hobby was to disassemble cigarettes and re-assemble them and sometimes to even smoke a cigarette in a bottle, she knew she had to put an end to it.
When she begged him to stop drinking and smoking, especially around the children, he was already after a bottle and a half of vodka and completely flipped out. She took out her cell phone and recoded him waving a joint in front of one of their kids’ face, invading her space and threatening “take a video! I've been smoking for 20 years and you will not change me, got it?! And if you do not calm down immediately I'll finish you off." On the recording, in the background of his screams, the children can be heard shouting “Daddy, stop it! Daddy, stop it! Mommy, stop recording!”
When the policemen arrived, they saw him and immediately understood the situation. When he denied things, the recording of him waving the joint over the boy’s head and threatening to finish her off was enough for them to remove him from there.
I'm not sure that despite everything she would have had the strength to end things, but when he filed for divorce – he decided for her.
3. 60% are sinking
He was the third man that day who came for consultation about the possibility of reducing child support payments. He felt great injustice because of the divorce agreement he signed three years ago, which was before the change in child support rules that eased the burden on dads. He described a normative family, both parents with jobs in high-tech and 12-year-old twins, who had reached a divorce agreement after a short mediation process.
It all went smoothly, as he described it. She bought the house from him, they split their bank savings and agreed on a child support payment of NIS 4,000 for the then nine-year-old twins. It was clear from the start that they would have joint custody and that the twins would stay with each of them exactly half of the time. He said that throughout the marriage they acted with equality so it was only natural that they should continue to do so. The meticulous equality of course stopped when the question of child support arose.
Three years ago, it was clear that despite the joint custody and similar salaries, he would have to pay her child support up to the age of 18 or until the end of 12th grade, whichever is later, and one-third of the amount agreed upon during the kids’ army service. He said that you didn’t have to be a mathematical genius to understand that this was about half a million shekels being transferred from him to her during those years.
He said that he heard that new winds were blowing nowadays, that if he were to divorce today, he would probably have paid a three-digit amount if at all and asked if the clock can be turned back, i.e. apply the current legal situation to the three-year-old divorce agreement. “We are the generation that went through the desert and never arrived at the Promised Land, the land of equality in child support,” he said bitterly, “it is not fair.”
When he was explained the chances of suing and the legal chaos over the question of applying the new legal situation to previous agreements, he decided to wait until the legal situation was clearer. “Is there a chance she would agree to reduce child support without a legal procedure?” I asked. He smiled sadly and said that he was the one to initiate the divorce after deciding he wanted to get out of the ‘sinking’ status. She took it hard and he was sure that those child support payments were her little revenge on him for breaking up the family unit. He said he thought they could be good friends, but that those amounts passing meticulously every month from him to her poisoned their relationship.
“So, what do you mean by ‘sinking’?” I asked, and he explained his theory on marriage life. 10% of the couples are in love with each other even after many years together, these are the lucky ones. 30% divorce, that is the known statistics. 60% are sinking slowly in their armchair, losing interest in the relationship, living parallel to each other, some of them cheat and some simply come to terms with the situation. “I did not want to be part of the ‘sinking’,” he explained quietly, “I got divorced.”
It was the end of a long day and I was left wondering whether the only way out of that situation was to divorce?
The moral of the three stories –
Go to therapy – if you are in a bad relationship, if you know in your heart that something bad is happening at home or if you are just slowly sinking.
Go to therapy – because good treatment will cast you a backbone, redirect your inner compass and help you understand what needs to change in your life. Perhaps you will realize that what you need is couples therapy.