When you’re trying to make sense of the end of your marriage, you might ask, “Whose fault is divorce?” but it really isn’t that simple.
Today, I’d like to introduce you to my next guest, Bill who is a longtime supporter of this blog. Bill and his wife were married for 23 years and had three daughters who were all in their teens when Bill and his wife separated. With hindsight, Bill sees many of their problems as connected to his wife’s mental illness but he also recognizes that his co-dependency played a role. Here’s Bill:
I think a lot of times the different perspectives are that there’s one fault or another in a marriage and I think that it really doesn’t always have to be that way.
I think that my ex—I say this with trepidation, because it sounds like sour grapes, but I really believe deep down she’s mentally ill. I think she’s bipolar.
I sort of know that she’s bipolar, because I know that she had been seeing, off and on, mental health professionals our entire marriage and she had been on, sometimes, pretty strong medications, other times less so, depending on her life situation.
I think probably, we reached a point in our marriage where we were growing in different directions. She started to go through menopause. She was having some really significant career issues. She has a Ph.D. and has filled some pretty high level positions, but was really, really struggling.
We had a daughter who was going through a lot. Our oldest daughter went through some tremendous stresses and strains, tried to commit suicide. So, there was a confluence of lots of different issues that was really tearing the marriage apart.
I was the primary breadwinner. I’m an MBA and I’m a vice president in a health system and so I was just trying to keep it all together, hold it all together. Believe it or not, she’s the one that said, “I want a divorce” and it crushed me. It really, truly did.
It’s pretty clear in the rearview mirror, in hindsight, but she’s got, I think, some pretty significant bipolar issues. She’s back on her medication. She’s back stabilized, if you will, and I think she regrets a lot of it. I think she feels like she’s destroyed the family and to a large extent, she has.
But I’ve moved on. I am no longer under the co-dependency aura, if you will. I’m no longer the, “I have to be the white knight and shining armor.” It’s painful in a sense that I don’t get to see my kids as often or I don’t get to take care of them in a way I want to, but they’re older and they understand. They just want to make sure that I’m happy, which is satisfying. But still, it’s tough to not be around them all the time.
The Divorce Coach Says:
Asking, “Whose fault is divorce?” is a sign that you’re trying to make sense of why your marriage ended and that’s a good thing. Understanding this will help you avoid making the same choices again.
However, I prefer not to use the term “fault” for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because blame and judgment are closely associated with fault and assigning either of those is rarely constructive or conducive to learning from the situation. The other reason is that as Bill’s situation shows, there are often multiple reasons for the breakdown of the marriage and it’s hard to pinpoint a single or sometimes even a dominant reason.
I do believe it’s helpful to identify all the causes of stress between you and your spouse and it’s hard to do this when you’re in the midst of divorce. Hindsight is always helpful. Do this too soon and you may not be able to see how you contributed (such as the co-dependency aura and knight in shining armor that Bill mentions). It can also be hard to see how your relationship dynamic contributed.
If your list of causes of stress is lopsided towards your spouse it could be a sign that you’re not accepting responsibility for your own behaviors or that you’re not being objective, that you’re still grieving. This is where a divorce recovery group or a coach can be helpful. Hearing or reading about other people’s stories is also helpful – use my Story Catalog to find situations similar to yours.