Filters

Everything we apprehend—other people, objects, events in the world—is filtered through our own, very individual interpretation filter. This filter is always on, and has been operating since our earliest years. The problem with this interpretive filter is that it distorts; it causes us not to listen deeply, or to see intensely.

It filters how we think about ourselves, too. We wind up being who we are largely as a result of believing we are a certain way, being a certain kind of person we imagine ourselves to be. We say, “I am this way or that way,” and it becomes so.   Or we say of another person, “she is this way or that way,” and all her words and actions are interpreted through that belief filter.

So, my already-always interpretation of my wife is that she is intolerant, uncompromising, inflexible, rigid, and totalitarian in her worldview.

And, my already-always interpretation of myself is that I am agreeable, compromising, flexible, pleasing, and accepting.

It doesn’t take rocket science to see the dangers inherent in this equation. There may be some grain of truth in these interpretations, but applying them to the reality of what’s happening now—the dissolution of our marriage—isn’t helpful.

I cannot define the subjective experience of what is like to be my wife without relying on imagination. When I say to her, “you think this, or believe this,” she is quick to respond, “don’t interpret what I think or believe.”  I, too, object to her interpretations of my words and behavior. The language we use tends to get us nowhere.

I know that my filters funnel what my wife says into what I want to hear. Sometimes it’s hopeful; sometimes it’s hurtful.

I believe, for example, that after she told me on February 9th that she no longer loved me and wanted to end our marriage, she reluctantly agreed to try to work things out as I requested. I believed this for nearly two months, during which no further discussion of divorce was mentioned, and it appeared, to me, that we were moving towards resolution. This included my making financial arrangements to eliminate her concerns about my monthly contributions. Then one day in late April, apropos of no apparent negative catalyst, my wife suddenly announced again she planned to initiate a divorce and had engaged an attorney. When I objected, she told me she had never agreed to try to find another solution.

Where was the misapprehension? We both believe our versions of reality. Did I hear what I wanted to hear when I believed she agreed to try to work things out? Did she hear what she wanted to hear herself say, that she could not work things out? What’s obvious in hindsight is that there was no clarity, no objectively clear decision to proceed in one manner or another. My wife may have never said yes, I agree; but I am certain she never said no, I do not agree.

This is water under the bridge. That I was left in a state of false hope is my interpretation of these events.

What have I learned from this—at this juncture the only useful exercise? I could forever go on feeling resentful and miserable, but that isn’t a healthy path forward.

I have learned that honoring my word means being clear about my words, not filtering what I hear, and asking for clarity when I’m in doubt (and not fearing I’ll hear an answer I don’t want to hear.) I’ve learned to accept what, in this case, my soon not-to-be wife says without judgment, however it emotionally wounds me. This is hard but necessary for survival.

I have also learned to think about how I am in the context of thinking about how I wound up being the way I am, and not accepting it as the unchangeable way I am. My wife has told me that people don’t change—and I believe this is one of her foundational beliefs that caused her not to try to work things out in our marriage. I regret the absolutism of her decision.

I believe change is possible. People do learn from experience.

My future can only be better as a result of thinking about these things: the way I am, the way I wound up being, the situation I wound up in.

Never again.

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