You know when a bunch of women in an office or church seem to announce that they are pregnant, and someone says, “Must be in the water”, and you’re like, “Please don’t let that water come near me.” Well, recently, every time I turn around, I hear about some woman getting blindsided by her husband with divorce papers. Each story is more disturbing than the next.

“We were laughing and joking last night. And today, I get served papers.”

“I know we had a bad argument 2 weeks ago, but I thought things were fine. Who knew he’d be the one to open the door for the police and take my daughters.”

Each story I hear is more heartbreaking than the next, and all I can do is wonder:

“Did they really not know what he was capable of?”

and

“How far am I from getting blindsided myself?”

The sad truth is you really never know. There is a level of complacency that settles in after you’ve been married for a while… and “awhile” is different for every single person. Eventually that complacency leads to neglect and then regret. We’ve all heard of the 7 year itch, but for some people, that itch starts before the first anniversary. Still others make it beyond the 20 year mark, and as soon as the kids are out of the nest, someone starts leaning on the ledge getting ready to fly.

Perception is another real problem. It seems like these women who have been blindsided weren’t picking up on the signs that their men were posting all over the place. Maybe from the inside of the marriage, his actions or statements didn’t seem aggressive, but everyone outside could see that things were more than a little off. I heard of one guy moving 3 states away, and because he visited every month for 3 years, his wife assumed that they would remain married indefinitely. Sure, who among us doesn’t crave an empty house once in a while, but wouldn’t we all get suspicious when our mate moves to another state?

Perception is a funny thing. There are times when I’m in conversation with the person to whom I’m related by marriage, and I am baffled how his perception of a statement or a situation is so vastly different than mine. Here we are — two relatively intelligent people with 3 degrees and many life experiences between us — and we can look at the same television program and take away two opposing messages. We don’t come to the same logical conclusions, even though we would both insist that we are using logic. And I know that we are not the only couple in the world like this.

Let me be clear… I am not trying to build the case for blindsiding my husband or for him to blindside me. I know that if asked, we would both agree that we love each other, and want to be together. But didn’t all those other couples say the same thing? I suppose there are people who walk down the aisle thinking that they don’t want to be with the other person, but those folks shouldn’t be surprised when things don’t work out.

I have a godson who married the wrong person. They don’t even seem to like each other, and every step of the planning process was like climbing Everest, and every single one of us at the wedding knew we were watching a relationship destined for nothing but misery. I was, perhaps, the most vocal in my disapproval, and even though I was wedding coordinator, tears poured down my cheeks as I directed the bridezilla down the aisle to my child. When the officiant asked “Is there anyone here who knows a reason why these two shouldn’t get married, please speak now or forever hold your peace”, all eyes turned to me. But I remained silent, and like everyone else, wondered why they were doing this. At least neither of them will be blindsided when this union ends. They know what they walked into.

But these women I’ve heard about recently, they simply did not know who they married. One said she didn’t even know this man, in reference to her husband. I guess evil is easy to conceal. Or perhaps the desire to be married trumped the desire to be happy since so many women were taught that they were one in the same. Thank God my mother didn’t do that. My parents made it clear in my childhood that they would never push their children into marriage. Even though they have a beautiful marriage, they have seen a great deal of unhappily married people, and they never wanted that for their children. They always said, “Make sure you marry the right person.” That’s great advice, but it’s still ambiguous. Right for what? Right for the bank account? Right on paper? Right for the 20s? Right how?

Over 15 years ago, I was dating a man (let’s call him JD) that I just knew I wanted to marry. Despite being a different race and religion than me, I believed in my heart that we were meant to be together because we clicked so well so quickly. We had what I believed to be an intense, once in a lifetime love for one another, and that no matter what paths we traveled, whether separately or together, we would find our way back to each other eventually. We went through several small breakups, but managed to somehow reconnect and rekindle our romance. Then one morning, after kissing each other goodbye for the day, something in JD switched, and within 4 hours, completely out of the blue, he ended our relationship, saying, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” I was completely blindsided, and I knew that it was not like one of our previous breakups. I knew it was over and there was nothing I could do. It took me 2 years to finally accept in my heart that JD really was not the right one I was meant to be with.

I remember the pain of being blindsided. I remember sitting on the couch for 3 days, not eating, not sleeping, just crying and wondering what I had done wrong. JD was not my husband, though. He hadn’t put a ring on my finger, and he hadn’t stood in front of God and country to pledge his love for me. We hadn’t tied our money together and we didn’t have children, so even though I know what it feels like to be blindsided, I cannot imagine what these women I’ve learned about today are enduring. I cannot imagine the betrayal, the theft, the lies, the madness to which their husbands are subjecting them. These women have to prepare to fight for their finances, fight to see their own children, the homes they created, and more simply because the men they married have chosen to subject their families to unbelievable turmoil in an effort to get rid of their wives, and they have chosen to end their marriages like cowards. And make no mistake, they are not cowards because they no longer wish to be married. They are cowards because they smiled in the faces of the wives, and they went about their business as though nothing was wrong only to have a process server be the first person to let their wives know they were about to lose everything.

I hope these women can move beyond their hurt and disillusionment, and stand up and fight. I hope the cowards don’t win. And truth be told, I hope that I never have to endure what they are enduring.

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