Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


For-never holding peace

Yesterday, I posted about the ultimate dissolution of my longtime marriage to a very good woman. Truly. It just wasn’t working any more, and although I know that “we really don’t belong together any more” (her words months and months ago, and she was right), that hasn’t quelled my thinking about it, and never will. Again, I’m just glad that it ended amicably and that we’re still friends, with daily interactions through a game we play on our phones, and frequent texts, and sharing photos and memories, and the occasional phone call. She’s a good woman, a good person, a terrific mother, and someone who has brought me a lot of joy in my life.

Last night / this morning, during my usual “what time is it now?” bout of insomnia, I came across the piece below in the New York Times. This is the story of a 20-year marriage that ended very differently. I urge you to read it. The writer, an accomplished attorney and a notable figure (especially now that her story has been widely reported and widely discussed), doesn’t recognize the man she married and can’t figure out if she ever knew him.

Here’s the link, which thanks to the wonders of my paid subscription, will take you past the paywall.

She doesn’t know what to make of this seemingly harmless man with whom she had two daughters — daughters that, with her, he chose to abandon overnight and with whom he no longer wants any contact.

She doesn’t know what to make of him, but I do.

He is what we call a sociopath.

Sociopaths don’t care for others or their feelings; in fact, the feelings of others never enter their orbit. Sociopaths are concerned utterly with themselves. We’ve had at least one former president of the United States who’s evinced this behavior (and I submit probably at least one more), so you’ll recognize it. Her husband is, was, and will be a sociopath. How she doesn’t recognize it I don’t know, except perhaps as a self-protection that allows her to believe that he’s changed, and not that she married a deeply damaged person while never realizing it.

While I’m on about this marriage/divorce/separation topic, let me add the odd subject of Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray’s separation. Relationships go bust, as we’ve noted, and interracial relationships can be even more fraught; I’ve lived a bit of it, having been in more than one during my separation and ultimate divorce. You’re not quite sure if you’re being treated “a certain way” because it’s an interracial situation, or if it’s your imagination:

  • The head of the hospital addresses the white guy at the hospital holiday party first because he assumes this is the doctor who works for him, rather than the highly educated and highly compensated African woman with him.
  • Internal thought: Did that woman look at us funny because of the couple we are, or are we imagining it?
  • People assume that your significant other is descended from people of one continent, when actually she is descended from people of an utterly different continent halfway around the globe, and then make unspoken assumptions about who she is and how she’ll be.
  • Quiet discussion: Are we being served last because they don’t like us?
  • and so on.

I don’t have any insight into the de Blasio / McCray situation per se, except I find the terms of their “separation,” such as it is, peculiar (peculiar to me, at least):

“They are not planning to divorce, they said, but will date other people. They will continue to share the Park Slope townhouse where they raised their two children, now in their 20s…”

This is their business, and not mine. But I will say that it’s my experience that you’re either in, or you’re out. (And that applies to most things in life.) Staying married and dating other people might work for them — and it certainly works for others — but staying together in the same place they’ve lived for decades and where they raised their children, and dating other people, with all their other complications?

Marriage when it’s simpler than that is still pretty complicated.

2 Responses to “For-never holding peace”

  1. Carolyn Jackson Says:

    Another thoughtful piece.

  2. Dan Says:

    Fascinating article, and your take on it was, as usual, perceptive and highly readable. As for the people and personalities involved, I think Kierkegaard put it best when he said, “People are funny.”

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