There’s direct evidence that I was a crap husband and that my ex-wife made the right choice in ending our marriage.
I left her alone and crying in the hospital the night our son was born. Fact.
When given the choice, I often chose myself and my preferences over her and her preferences. Fact.
During disagreements between us in which I felt confident in my beliefs, I treated her as if she was wrong, and as if her ideas or beliefs were stupid. Fact.
Because my ex-wife is female—and in my life experience, I’d seen mostly women handling the lion’s share of household tasks and childcare like laundry, dusting, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, decorating, and basically everything related to caring for babies and small children—my general behavior and state-of-being in our marriage was one of passively leaving most life and household management tasks and decisions to her. Men go to work, mow the lawn, take out the trash, and do the “big” jobs! Women do the rest, and it’s totally fair. Even if that’s not, and never has been, my actual belief, my actions—the direct evidence—reflected that. Fact.
My ex-wife is an attractive woman. Always has been. I’m a red-blooded male with the same primitive sex drive and cliché wants and interests as any male caricature depicted in cinema, music or advertising—or the same as most of the guys reading this, or the ones you know. Despite that, there were various phases throughout our marriage where my behavior communicated sexual disinterest in my wife. Fact.
Every Yin Tends to Have a Yang
Of course, there’s also direct evidence that I was—if not a superstar husband—a pretty good or decent one.
[NOTE: Let’s pause for a minute to acknowledge that we’re wading precariously into a neck-deep pool of relativism, and that the “direct evidence” referenced here—defined as “evidence that directly proves a fact”—probably is not ACTUALLY direct evidence in a legal sense. I’ll appreciate whatever latitude you give me here.]
I loved my wife. Fact.
I (given my then-limited understanding of what healthy relationships are made of) tried to put my wife first. In most situations in which I didn’t perceive Right vs. Wrong to be a factor, I went along with whatever she wanted. If I wanted to buy something expensive and she didn’t, we didn’t buy it. If she wanted to spend more money on something than I would prefer, I tried to be cool about it. I wanted her to drive the nicer of our two vehicles. I was happy to hand over to her all of the money I earned at work. We fortunately were never faced with such a terrifying scenario, but I believe with all of my heart I would have taken a bullet for her or otherwise chose certain death if it came down to my life or hers. Fact.
I was pretty nice (though I now understand it wasn’t, and could never be, enough). Friendly. Fun. Polite. Courteous. You know, in all of the surface-level ways we can be those things with people (even though there’s a Continental Divide-sized difference between “common courtesy” and the type of thoughtful, mindful courtesy one must have to foster love and healthy relationships.) I am what I believe most people would generally describe as a “good person.” Fact.
I am not a criminal or con artist. I did not try to manipulate my wife or otherwise knowingly behave in ways that would bring her harm so that I might benefit. When I asked her to marry me, and when I said “I do” 13 months later, I was quite sincere in both desire and intent. Fact.
I wanted our marriage to last the rest of our lives. I wanted to have at least one more child. And I wanted her to feel loved and wanted and secure, and for us to grow old together watching our grandchildren play in the backyard. Fact.
The Evidence of Feelings
None of us are perfect. Not as people. Not as couples. No marriage is perfect. I grew up learning that marriage was a commitment for life—a sacred one. Something spiritual. Something much bigger than our individual wants.
There will always be good and bad. And some might say my marriage was par for the course, and that there was sufficient direct evidence that I was a good guy and husband, and that my wife was selfish and/or “wrong” for choosing to end our relationship.
Every day—including right at this moment—wives and husbands are evaluating their marriages and lives, taking in all of the information available to them which is guiding their thoughts and feelings regarding the health of their relationship.
When people are deciding whether to stay married or get divorced—both of which are scary and stressful to think about in a suffering marriage—all they have to go on are their feelings and beliefs.
Evidence. Facts. We like to think they add up to what we KNOW. But what we “know,” is nothing more than our collection of beliefs, which may or may not be accurate (because we’re wrong a lot).
But the most powerful and important thing is our FEELINGS—which is probably a hard thing for all of the Spock-like emotionless Vulcan logic cyborgs out there to accept.
I’ve always been someone who felt. But it never made sense to me to let our emotions be our Life Compass. If we always acted on our emotional impulses, we’d all be road-rage monsters, child abusers, divorced or never-married, unemployed, and all kinds of other less-than-ideal things.
Facts aren’t feelings!
Facts AREN’T feelings. But the hard truth is, in real life, it’s how we feel in any given moment that tends to dictate what we do, what we think, how we speak, treat others, and ultimately guides most of our decisions. Ask anyone in the funeral industry how much money they’d lose if their customers weren’t highly emotional while grieving the loss of their closest loved ones when facing expensive death-related financial decisions.
For the same reason we will fork over tens of thousands to honor our deceased loved ones even though most of them would rather us spend the money on something more objectively practical, we will uproot our entire lives by ending our relationships because of our beliefs about our spouses and how those beliefs make us feel.
Circumstantial Evidence Doesn’t Lie
One of my childhood best friends—an attorney—said that to me yesterday.
He didn’t mean that circumstantial evidence can’t be misinterpreted or misused to paint a false picture in a court of law. He meant that direct evidence can sometimes lie in ways circumstantial evidence cannot.
But let’s not confuse courtroom procedure with what most of us experience in our daily lives.
Neither O.J. Simpson or Casey Anthony were found guilty in court of the crimes they were charged with. But the circumstantial evidence in both cases is so strong that I’m pretty confident speculating that almost everyone you know assumes the guilt of both accused murderers.
Circumstantial evidence is evidence that indirectly proves a fact. It requires someone to make inferences based on incomplete information. The guilt or innocence of people are decided both in and out of court all the time based on circumstantial evidence.
It is circumstantial evidence that ultimately convicts us in our relationships and foretells their imminent demise.
When a wife discovers her husband looking at porn, she might feel like her husband thinks she’s ugly or as if he wants whatever’s on that screen more than he wants her, even if it isn’t true.
When a wife wants to have sex with her husband, but he declines, she might feel rejected as if he’s no longer interested in touching her when the real truth is he got himself off in the bathroom 20 minutes earlier fantasizing about her, and now physically can’t, even though he wants to.
When a wife finds a dirty dish sitting next to the kitchen sink, she might feel as if her husband doesn’t respect her since it appears he—at best, thoughtlessly; and at worst, intentionally—left another chore for her to do.
When a wife wakes up on her birthday, or a holiday, or her wedding anniversary to discover her husband did nothing—no plans or gifts to acknowledge it in any way—she might feel abandoned and unloved since it might appear that he doesn’t value her or their marriage enough to have put any thought into celebrating the occasion which might feel particularly meaningful to her.
I BELIEVED I was a good husband. I can point to all kinds of direct evidence to demonstrate that.
But it was the circumstances that found me guilty in her mind of being a shitty husband.
And that’s exactly what I was—a shitty husband.
I wasn’t a bad guy. I was just bad at marriage, and didn’t have enough respect for her, myself or our marriage to identify the problem and work hard to turn things around until too much damage had already been done.
The jury of one found me guilty, and sentenced me for life.
Not because of a bunch of things we can touch, taste, or see. But because of circumstantial evidence.
Because of the stuff we can feel.
And for everyone who values lasting marriage, we should work harder to recognize just how much that matters.