I AM JUDGY ASSHOLE AND I APPROVE THIS STORY
This is the story of our good friend JudgyAsshole’s divorce. Let’s start with some back story. Mr. JB hired JA to work on contract on a special project and it was basically just the two of them getting the project put together. Because I had just given birth to MissBossyPants, Mr.JB and JA did a huge amount of the work at our home, so Mr. JB could be around to hold the baby and fetch snacks for our other two children while I managed to sleep for a few minutes at a time. JA spent many, many hours at our kitchen table before I was even aware that he existed. It was all just a blur, but when I finally came back up to a reasonable level of consciousness, I discovered that JA had become a member of the family.
And he was great. LittleDude, who was only three at the time, absolutely adored JA and they played many hours of hockey in the house using sponge balls shaped like apples. I was a little nonplussed to find that the game basically consisted of JA firing the sponge balls at LittleDude’s head while LittleDude scrambled out of the way and did his best to return fire, but they both seemed to love the game so I left them well enough alone. That’s how boys play. JA is also very good at putting on fairy wings and coloring with PinkyPinkyPie and he is an excellent tea party guest. To this day, he will regularly leave our house covered in glitter and the sticky residue from hockey tape.
In other words, he is a family man waiting to happen.
When we first met JA, he was married to LuLu, a PhD candidate and by all accounts a lovely woman. We saw very little of LuLu as she was deeply involved in her doctoral work and always seemed a little stunned at the chaos and noise of our home. Mr.JB and I tried very hard to include LuLu in our social life, but she really wasn’t very interested. She had other priorities, and fair enough. But you can see where this is going, right?
LuLu and JA had been highschool sweethearts. They both left for college, reconnected and subsequently married while both were still very young and unsure of what their plans were. JA comes from a fairly loud and boisterous home, and his parents are fun, laid back people accustomed to the noise and messy shenanigans that come with having three children, two cats, a hamster and fairly low housekeeping standards. Mr. JB and I adore JA’s parents and our families fit together very well.
LuLu is an only child and she comes from a very small family that enjoys evenings spent quietly in one another’s company. Mr. JB is also an only child with a very small immediate family (no cousins or aunts and uncles close in age), so he appreciates the fact that LuLu got overwhelmed by us rather easily.
After spending so much time with us as a family, I believe it became clear to JA and to LuLu that they both preferred their own family of origin. LuLu found our house crazy and threatening and JA found it felt just like home. Despite being married for five years, they had no children, owing mostly to LuLu’s career plans. JA slowly came to realize that if he DID have children with LuLu, it would likely only be one, and that child would grow up clean, polite and quiet. Nothing wrong with that (Mr. JB grew up clean, polite and quiet and he turned out just fine), but it was not the life JA imagined for himself.
Now here is where the story gets interesting. JA could have sat down with LuLu and explained all of this to her. That he wanted a big family that spent lots of time together not caring about how trashed the house was getting and instead made popcorn and watched Beauty and the Beast again. He could have said he wanted a wife who would be at home. He could have said he wanted to work and pay for a life they could both enjoy living. He could have said they had different values and wanted different things and they needed to find partners who shared those values.
But JA is not stupid. He knew that it would be pretty devastating for any woman to hear that her husband was leaving her because she was not very maternal or loving or caring. That would be a wicked blow to her sense of self, and JA had no interest in hurting LuLu, he just wanted to move on and find a wife who would build a life with him that they both wanted to live.
So what did he do? He cheated on her. Like crazy. Had a lot of sex with a lot of different women. And didn’t take any particular precautions to hide it. It took LuLu a long time to figure out what was going on, but she was deeply involved in her own life and didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to what JA was up to. JA spent even more time with our family, having dinner with us while his wife stayed in the library. The more time he spent with us, the more certain he was that he and LuLu needed to part.
Eventually, LuLu figured out what was going on and that was the catalyst that triggered the divorce. She was furious and hurt (but not as hurt as she would have been by the truth) and magnificently self-righteous. JA let her keep everything in the house, their mutual friends and most of all, he let her keep her dignity and her sense of herself as a woman. JA’s marriage didn’t end because he cheated on his wife, he cheated on his wife because the marriage had ended, and he needed her to see that. JA gave LuLu the moral high ground. He took 100% of the blame, and let her walk away, faultless and innocent.
And that makes JA a pretty fabulous guy, in my mind. Once, LuLu ran into Mr.JB and some other friends at a bar, and she lit into him about JA. “You have no idea what he did to me,” she hissed at Mr. JB. Oh honey. Yes we do. We know exactly what he did to you. And you don’t understand at all. LuLu is livid that we are friends with JA. She would like to see JA alone and miserable and completely socially isolated, which is a sad accomplishment many women achieve after a divorce. Obviously, that isn’t going to happen, but how nice that LuLu wants such a thing, no?
Oh, and what is LuLu’s PhD in? Psychology. She’ll probably end up a relationship counsellor. Ain’t life a peach?
Because this is a small town, the story of LuLu and JA has made the rounds, with LuLu cast as the irreproachable victim and JA as the faithless slut. And he takes it. JA met a woman who had heard his story from a friend of a friend, and she expressed her concern about getting involved with JA because “once a cheater, always a cheater.”
Really? I wouldn’t be so sure. Things are not always what they seem. One day JA is going to find a woman who takes a closer look at what happened, and when she figures out that the faithless slut of a husband is actually a knight in armor, she’ll keep him for her own (or at least try – JA is not easily kept).
It’s a very popular story, isn’t it? The blameless woman? The incorrigible man? Most divorces are initiated by women, but men almost always get assigned the fault. Divorce is an unhappy situation. The end of a marriage is always sad. When there are children involved, it’s absolutely devastating (and if JA had had children, he would NEVER have even contemplated divorce). Men are left without access to their children, financially ruined and socially isolated. Part of that is because as a culture, we are so ready to blame men for relationship failures. Women are assumed, automatically, to be better at relationships than men, and if something happened, it must be the man’s fault. That allows us to justify the shattering consequences of divorce on men, to ignore the unfairness of how assets are divided, to pretend that men aren’t deeply, often fatally wounded by the destruction of their family.
Another example of wanting to have the feminist cake and eat it, too. Men and women are exactly the same EXCEPT when it comes to divorce, in which case men are BAD and women are GOOD and men should just suck it up and get over it. Man up, lads!
The reality is always so much more complex. Part of the fun of writing this blog is to deliberately paint issues in black and white and line up on one side and ignore a lot of the nuance. But when it comes to the effects of divorce on men, there is no room for compromise. It’s an emotionally devastating experience, and our refusal as a culture to see that men are just as emotionally wrecked by divorce as women, our insistence that men just suck it up and get on with it and keep their emotions in check is quite literally a death sentence for far too many men. JA has good friends who love him dearly, and we have stood by him while he dealt with the aftermath of leaving his wife and ending his marriage, but not all men are so lucky, and plenty of wives will go out of their way to make CERTAIN men have no emotional support.
So the next time you hear a story about a cheating husband and a downtrodden wife who finally threw the bum out, listen very carefully. The facts might be correct, but the truth may be hiding. Look for it. It might be riding on a white stallion beside a knight, who is quietly taking the blame and protecting the Princess until the bitter end.
Things are not always what they seem.
Lots of love,