There is one question that I am frequently asked that I find difficult to answer.
“What advice can you give to others to keep this from happening to them?”
I wish I could dispense some nugget of wisdom that would alert to an impending tsunami divorce. I would love to be able to provide a talisman against deception and betrayal. It would be wonderful to give people the security in knowing that if they only said or did certain things that this could not happen to them. I wish I could. But I cannot.
There are no guarantees. The cancer of a compulsive liar can metastasize in even the most visibly healthy relationships. There are no guarantees but there are some signs that something wicked may be coming.
In my case, I had been with my husband since we were 16. I knew his family. I knew his childhood friends. I was with him as he grew into an adult. I saw him through struggles and triumphs. I thought I knew him as well as it is possible to know another. I was wrong. Just because you knew someone does not mean that you know them. It is natural to be more alert at the beginning stages of a relationship and then to slowly settle as you develop a comprehensive picture of who your partner is. It is not healthy or beneficial to remain on that higher state of alert for the long haul but that does not mean that one’s eyes should completely close either. We all change. It is important that your mental construct of your partner be flexible to change as well.
It was different for Amanda, my husband’s other wife. They married within three months of meeting. She had never been to Atlanta, where he lived, nor met any of his friends and family (their wedding had a couple hundred people – all on her side). That would have been a little too awkward since they all knew me as his long-time wife. He told her stories of great sums of money he was to earn from the sale of a company that he owned (actually, it was his friend’s company, not his) while he maxed out her credit cards. He was ready to leave his established life and move to Uganda with her without hesitation.Perhaps it’s just my insider perspective here, but I see huge warning signs that she could have spotted.
I think my answer to prevention can be best thought of by comparing it to physical health.
I would like to never face the ravages of cancer. I read research on the disease to educate myself about its known causes. I work to mitigate those causative factors within my life: I eat well, I exercise, I don’t smoke, etc. However, I do not let the fear of a potential disease prevent me from a day in the sun or enjoying a glass of wine. There is balance between knowledge and preventative medicine and continuing to live. I try to find that sweet spot. Regardless of how healthy I try to be, there is no promise that I will never face malignancy. All I can do is try to lower the risk factors and make sure that I am as healthy as possible in case I do have to fight that battle. And, in the meantime, I’m not wearing armor for a war that may never begin.