I can’t tell you the sequence of behaviors and decisions that transformed a happy marriage into a vicious struggle. It can be rather difficult to create a real timeline based on rewritten emotional memories. But, symptoms of a very unhealthy marriage are blatantly present now. Most likely, negative personality traits and poor decision making created the environment that destroyed their love and replaced it with a negative spiral. Let’s take a look at where Alice and Aaron are currently holding as they fight each other in negotiating their divorce.
Nations at war love to have allies. So do spouses. They may recruit friends and family members to their cause. Sadly, although child warriors are illegal, they remain popular in certain circles, like ex-loving partners who are not acting in their children's best interests. Let's remember, children's healthy development requires them to be able to look up to both their mother and their father. Conflict between parents should stay there.
However, betrayal and pain can lead a parent to forget what is in the best interests of their children. Instead, a spouse may try to turn them against the other parent. Being preferred to one's "evil" ex must be a strongly validating experience. So, Alice may say to little Sandy, “look how Daddy is behaving. He’s being so irresponsible!” And little Sandy is torn between taking Mommy's side and losing her father or betraying Mommy and earning her wrath by defending Daddy. Yet, this sad reality will not stop Alice from adding, “your daddy is causing us so much unhappiness. What a mean man!"
Was Aaron always as self-centered as Alice declares? Perhaps when Alice was dating Aaron, she didn't take the red flags seriously. Or, maybe Aaron transformed into a terrible person over time, revealing his real nature. Or, alternatively, maybe the picture presented by mom is not so accurate. Each case is unique. And maybe Aaron is simultaneously playing the same game, trying to pry the children away from their mother.
But, regardless of whose version of reality is accepted, the children lose as they are torn between their need to love and look up to both parents and the demand that they take sides. Their lives will be affected. Their stress levels will go up and they will feel less secure and perhaps quite adrift with no anchor.
A deteriorating marriage continues to reshape the space around it. Even time is not immune from its influences as pleasant memories of times past are forgotten. In their place, hints of what was to come continue to surface. Formerly beloved spouses who had committed to loving and cherishing one another are now officially enemies. Every interaction further cements that Alice and Aaron hate each other. And the huge gaping chasm that separates them is, unfortunately, large enough for their children to fall into and get lost in.
By this point, it is very difficult to imagine that when Alice and Aaron were dating, they would be busy anticipating the pleasant niceties that they could do for each other. They delighted in each other's company and even looked forward to doing chores if they could be shared together. Alice would smile and give Aaron a look which made him feel very needed and important. Her coy manner was very exciting for Aaron. His desire for her was magnified by the energy she gave off.
Aaron was thrilled to be with Alice. He wanted to take care of her and love her forever. But, he was also brought up to focus on his own needs. Once the relationship was cemented, he went back to his original priorities. He assumed that he could continue to receive his wife's warmth and love without having to invest himself.
Children were born. Financial needs increased. Alice's demands on Aaron's time and energy increased as well. He feared that he could no longer take proper care of himself. How a couple deals with the challenges they face determines the trajectory that their marriage will take. Especially when stress is experienced, faulty behavior patterns surface. Aaron began to speak condescendingly to Alice. Her pain ate away at her feelings of love.
She started to look for weaknesses in his armor. It wasn’t difficult to see where Aaron was limited. So, Alice launched into her attacks of Aaron and started to destroy his confidence. Yet, for a while, they persevered and life continued its daily dysfunctional grind. Until…
Rose entered the picture. She was a piece of work. The only thing that was important in her life was her own happiness. Someone else’s holy union meant nothing. Why should it as her own didn’t. So why should she care about Aaron’s?
Rose knew from her own experiences that you can’t have a happy marriage by attacking your spouse. So, when she met Aaron and realized that he could give her what she wanted, a young handsome man to make her feel sexy again, she wooed him with attention, respect and affection. She actually wasn’t behaving that differently than Alice had in the beginning.
Yet, her attention and approval were enough for Aaron. He was so hungry for approval that before long they were sleeping together. Alice wasn’t stupid. She could feel something had changed. And so she reacted by doubling down on her disapproval of Aaron. The marriage was essentially over. Aaron needed one more push, though. That came when Alice found out about the affair. She was so hurt that she went ballistic. Now, Aaron had his excuse. After all, how could he live with such a nasty woman?
Guilt? Yes. There was some on Aaron’s part. But, he felt justified in his actions. Rose? She was happy. Alice? Her health deteriorated from the agony of being betrayed. Could their marriage be saved? Well, that depends on what the truth was?
If Aaron was the horrible verbally abusive, mentally ill person that Alice described, then probably not. Was he? I don’t know. Was Alice always so bitter and negative about life? I don’t know that either. Were their children suffering? Unfortunately, the revelation of the affair was not only devastating on its own, but the children were being used as pawns more than ever.
If you ask whether Aaron’s behavior was acceptable, I can tell you that it wasn’t. He needed to address the issues in his marriage. If they were irreparable, then the marriage should have been terminated with good will and the best interests of the children. That might have meant staying together as friends until the children were older.
So, are there lessons that we can learn from this terribly sad story? Can Alice and Aaron's struggles teach you anything that may help you in your marriage? Here are some points that I think we should all remember:
- A wife needs to keep looking at her husband with eyes that say, “I want you.”
- A husband needs to always speak to his wife as though she were precious.
- A couple needs to look at challenges as being external to their love. A home is a refuge from a hostile world.
- Each spouse needs to keep building their partner up and creating positive feelings in their children towards both parents.
- Adult issues belong with adults.
- Don’t forget that your marriage is a holy union.
- Continue to work on your own issues so that you are a blessing to your spouse.
Now, here are some absolutes of life:
- Love is precious.
- Guard your marriage and keep it strong.
- Selfish people are on the lookout for marriages in trouble. They will not think twice about taking advantage of your challenges for their own benefit.
- When your marriage is going through a rocky stage, take care not to accept fulfillment elsewhere.
If you see your own marriage as suffering from any of the issues mentioned above, you and your beloved need to sit down and plan your way to a healthier future. Please.