A friend recently offered me a stack of children’s book that her family was finished with. As a grandmother, I welcomed the opportunity to review some classics before I sent them on to my oldest grandchild. When I chose Swiss Family Robinson, I remembered it as something like the fairly recent Tom Hank’s movie—was it Lost? People who are smart, determined, and know a lot, who turn a shipwreck experience into a profound adventure. But Swiss Family Robinson turned out to be a surprise. Even the little guys had guns, and these folks shot first and asked questions later. They may have been swept ashore from their sinking ship to a kind of Eden, but they didn’t exactly co-exist in peace with the animal inhabitants. They either killed them or tamed them.
This is a long description to explain that I realized that my memory of that book was not a true recollection but a myth. I mean myth in the negative sense of the word, a story that bears little relationship to the truth. As you might guess, I will not be sending this book to my little granddaughter.
Sometimes in divorce, we also have myths about what the relationship was like. One of my clients struggles with a myth that says, “He was supposed to take care of me!” My perception of her husband is that he’s never taken care of anyone but number one; he’s a user, not a caring provider. But she continues to engage with him as if he will suddenly become the man she meant him to be.
The spouse you argued with for years about paying his share of the bills isn’t likely to step up to the plate during the divorce, at least not voluntarily. The spouse who refused to get a job during the marriage may just not go back to school, even though you’re paying her alimony to get back on her feet.
How accurate is your perception of your spouse, or former spouse? Can you assess his or her strengths and weaknesses correctly and anticipate outcomes consistent with what you know? Reality isn’t always pretty, but it will serve you better than holding onto a myth.