Mary and John met shortly after John divorced his first wife (Cathy). While they were dating, John shared with Mary details about his divorce from Cathy. John was bitter about the breakup of his marriage and in his mind Cathy was the cause for the divorce. After all, Cathy was the one that wanted the divorce, not John. John and Cathy had two children together, and John’s bitterness towards Cathy would surface when it came to issues concerning the children. John would tell Mary that Cathy was a “bad mother” and he would not hide his disrespect for Cathy in front of their children.
Although John and Cathy entered into a separation agreement and resolved the divorce without litigation, John told Mary that he purposely made the process difficult for Cathy. He felt that Cathy should not receive any of the marital assets and he refused to sign an agreement that gave Cathy anything. In the end, Cathy gave in to John’s demands. Moving on with her life was more important than the house, the retirement accounts, or any of the household furnishings (all of which John received). John even went so far as to throw out all of Cathy’s clothes, jewelry and family photos, just so there would be nothing left for her.
Based on John’s description of Cathy, Mary felt that John’s feelings and his behavior were justified.
Fast forward five years, John and Mary are married and have one child of their own. Mary has become increasingly unhappy in the marriage. Mary finds that marriage to John is difficult; he is selfish, demanding, and petty. Any argument between them results in John holding on to feelings of resentment. If he feels wronged in some way, John is bitter and cruel towards Mary. Mary wants a divorce. When she tells John that she wants to end things, John goes ballistic and tells Mary that everything in the marriage is her fault, and that he will make things difficult for her.
Does John’s reaction to Mary sound familiar? It should.
Over the years, I have represented many clients who come to me upset and distraught about the way in which the other spouse treats them, either during the marriage or the divorce or both. After speaking with the client it often becomes clear to me that the person the client is describing is the same exact person that she married. If he was petty, selfish, and demanding before the marriage, then he will likely be the same way after the marriage. If you are in a relationship with someone whose hatred towards his ex-spouse interferes with his ability to treat that person with respect in front of their children, what will he do to you?
People rarely change. In the above example, John is the same as he ever was. The only difference is the target of his behavior. Remember that.