There once was a woman with Caribbean blue eyes and blond hair; gorgeous. I know, because she came to my office. I have been to the Caribbean Islands and there seen, with my own drab hazel eyes, the ethereal, blue crystalline waters. The memory of them shot to my mind as I shook her hand. I was to become—as lawyers usually do—her confidant, so I eventually asked her if she wore contacts. “No,” she said, “They’re ‘real.’” Her indulgent smile told me that I was not the first to ask.
Naturally, she was there because of her husband of almost twenty years. He had openly moved in with another woman several weeks before. She came to me because the previous night he had broken the lock she had changed on the front door and come in on her in the middle of the night. He said he was there to get his clothing, but he had been drinking. A fight ensued. she was badly shaken up. We got a protection order and filed for divorce.
We were both relieved when he hired a competent lawyer. Things settled down. Our short initial hearing approached. Rebecca and I met on the Friday preceding the Monday hearing to outline the things we asked of the Court .
On Monday, when I met her at the Courthouse, her first words were, “John has been calling all weekend. He’s unhappy. He does not want the divorce. I want to give my marriage a chance.”
I talked to her about it, never one to squelch the chance to save a marriage. As we talked, here’s where our discussion went:
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She is a very “spiritual” person and does not believe in divorce: “What God has joined together…” Besides, she is very “forgiving” (read, “noble”) and can understand how they got here. Really?!
The Caribbean waters became murky, surreal. I told her she needs a therapist. She says she can’t afford it…
Up walked John and his attorney.
“So,” I began (admittedly a bit harshly) “John, you don’t want this divorce?”
“No, ma’am, I don’t want to rush that at all.
Whoops! My lawyer ears pricked up. This sounded a bit hedgy to me—I would have expected something a bit more emphatic, perhaps like , “Rebecca is the love of my life and I was about to eternally screw up…” I probed.
“So, you want to return home?”
John ever-so-slightly stiffened. “Well, I’m considering it—I just don’t want to shut off any of my options.” And this may have been the starkest truth I got all morning.
My client, unbelievably, beamed as if to say, “See, I still have a chance…” We all four discussed the fact that he was still living with another woman, which in most circles does not bode well for reconciliation. Again, a slight stiffening as he explained that he knew “they” weren’t “ready” for him to be at home, so that meant, of course, that he had to take the time to find another place to live yadayadayda.
My client seemed okay with this. I was aghast. I pulled her around the corner for a little privacy.
“Don’t you see,” I implored, “This is all about him—he’s just keeping all his ‘options’ open—he was truthful about that. You are his wife. Do you want to be one of his ‘options?’ Do you want to wait and let him decide whether or not he wants you or her or both of you? I think he’s enjoying this while you’re in pain.”
And here is the surprising thing I heard next: He had been married before, and she and he had begun their affair before he left his wife. She knew he was a cheater—she was one, too. She just never—in a million years—thought he’d cheat on her. Their love had been soooooo thrilling…(I felt all that “sanctity of marriage” stuff leaving the scene).
She had suspected other women since their marriage—this is just the first time he’d moved out. She felt she “still had a chance” to keep him…it is a bad thing when a lawyer is rendered speechless.
We all came to agreement on the bill-paying. (Thankfully there are no kids) We told the Court and left. Our clients would not join us two lawyers in the elevator, hanging back together—I saw them holding hands as the elevator door shut. I looked at opposing counsel who shook her head and said, “Sick.” I asked if she thought we should have told our clients not to go have sex. She answered that the admonition would not do any good. I concur.
I know what John wants: Variety. “Options.” He told us.
My question is, “What does she want?”
And if she “wins him back,” what has she won?
Is there any relationship worth this? -C