I am inspired by one of the couples I am divorcing in July. This is what they have: debts, a looming foreclosure, potential bankruptcy, 1 working vehicle (unregistered), 3 surviving parents (none of whom are helpful), one angry sister-in-law, 2 known affairs, raging alcoholism, and two young children.
Only one spouse is capable of earning a consistent salary, and it is not a very large one.
They do not have enough income between them to pay rent right now, along with their other bills, so they are forced to continue cohabiting in the house that will be foreclosed as soon as the bank gets around to it.
It is hard to imagine a more fertile ground for rancor.
And, yet, somehow, these people are gracious. They acknowledge their faults, they do not interrupt each other; they kiss each other (and me!) hello and good-bye at each of our meetings. When one of them does a side job and gets a little pocket cash, they automatically share it with each other. Not quite 50/50, probably 60/40. But, still. No one asks; it is just a voluntary action. “I have some money” means “we have some money.”
Frankly, as many amicable divorces as I have done, I have never seen anything else quite like this.
We were in the middle of negotiating child care. The husband was adamantly stating that he cannot continue being the one who transports the children to and from school every single day. He explained that there needs to be some parity. When in the middle of a sentence, he glanced down at his watch and realized it was time to go pick them up from school. He interrupted his own argument, excused himself with hugs and kisses all around, and just walked quietly out the door to go get the kids.
Of course, after he was gone, the wife and I worked together to figure out a few strategies to alleviate some of his concerns, which they have since begun implementing.
All of this does not mean that they should stay married. They are no longer each other’s spouse in too many ways. And, trust me they have their moments of rancor. The wife told me that she recently threw the contents of a glass of whiskey in her husband’s face.
But, overall, day in and day out, they respect the fact that they have children together and that they both live in that house together, and that they have known each other through some very difficult times. They respect the fact that there are emotional landmines hidden all over their home, and that it is wise to tread lightly. These are people who have almost nothing left and are maybe a little frightened of losing what they do have.
And, so they find kindness and grace, and they share it with each other, and others, willingly. And in doing so, they give themselves much more than money, cars and houses. They give themselves peace.
What We Love: When the only thing you have to offer is kindness, it is wise to offer kindness.