Jeff met Marion when he was 28, and she was 24. He was at the start of his flying career, dreaming that one day he’d be a captain with a line in the largest plane in the fleet. That was a long way off, but it was his true north, and he did everything he had to, to realize his dream 25 years later. Along the way, he did what he was supposed to: bought a house and had his first child, then bought a nicer house and had two more children. He and Marion would sometimes get away for a two-day vacation without the kids, but their school and activity schedules and Jeff’s work schedule made it hard to have much time alone as a couple.
Marion held down the fort while Jeff was away on trips. There were the expected power struggles when he’d get back home after being away, and Marion had made decisions he wasn’t in agreement with. She ran a good home – he had to admit. It was beautiful, and the kids were doing well. He grumbled nonetheless, and she shrugged it off. She was told, “When you marry a pilot you get a part-time husband and father.”
He hated being called a ‘part-time husband and father.’ It enraged him. There was nothing part-time in his mind. He loved his family, and he was working the hours he did so he could provide the house, the cars, the schools, clothes, and lifestyle they’d come to expect. Why didn’t they appreciate how hard he worked and the toll it was taking on him?
With their youngest heading off to college in September, Jeff thought Marion would want to go on some trips with him. Over dinner on September 13th, Marion told him she wanted a divorce. He dropped his fork. “What!? I thought we were going to be able to spend more time together now that the kids have gone.” She explained that her feelings for him had become ‘part-time’ just like his presence in her life. She wanted a different kind of life, with someone who was more available than he was. Her lawyer was going to be serving him divorce papers soon.
Jeff was in shock. Why didn’t he see this coming? Was he that dense? Was he that bad a husband? He didn’t know what to do or think. He headed for his car, opened the door, got in and realized he’d forgotten his keys. He wanted to drive as far away as he could.
Jeff’s reaction was absolutely normal: we want to get away as fast as possible from the source of extreme pain. It’s our survival instinct at work. When we get distressing news, our reptilian brain takes over and our pre-frontal cortex, or so-called thinking brain, goes offline. We need others to help guide us and keep us safe during these times. Our judgment isn’t always the best, and we don’t know that.
It’s natural to do whatever is most expedient to change the situation and make the pain go away. It’s so tempting to go to any lengths to end it fast only to regret it once you’ve come back to their senses. Resist that with all your might. Get support. Get wise counsel and proceed strategically, not emotionally.