01/17/2012 07:01 pm ET Updated Mar 18, 2012

A Deep Commitment With A Shallow End

Everyone says time heals, but what it really does is clarify. For me it took a year or so after the divorce settlement before I could say, "Oh, wow. I had no idea my ex was that kind of a person." Funny how one of us thought we had grown a deep, rich union, woven our lives together on so many levels, brought divinely closer by our three wonderful children, having threaded in an infinite number of shared experiences, resulting in the beautiful fabric of our blessed lives. Meanwhile my ex was plotting his departure from our marriage... Little did I know just how shallow an end was coming to our very deep commitment.

You can learn a lot by how a person leaves a relationship. It is a barometer of emotional maturity and character. I naively did not see my ex's unfaithfulness nor suspect that he was in daily communication with this woman, both making their plans to undermine me on the path leading to divorce. I assumed he loved me and would not want to hurt me, much less lie or betray me. I was truly dumbfounded to discover -- at a Discovery table no less --that our 26 year marriage and the family we shared was cheaply ended with a stack of phone records and amex bills illustrating money spent on the girlfriend. That was a "wow" moment for me.

When I did catch my breath and piece together the timing, matching dates to bills, lining up this happening when we both were here, that phone call made to her on our anniversary, it made me feel sick. It was confounding to reflect that he had just thrown me a birthday party not long before his disconnected behavior where he proclaimed in front of our friends that I was "the love of his life". When his behavior got noticeably stranger (during the year later revealed through "discovery") I was truly worried he was experiencing some kind of depression or mid-life crisis. That is how confused I was. He agreed to marriage counseling which we did weekly for nine months but he chose to never tell me (or the therapist) the truth.

What disturbs me the most is how he could treat our marriage and our family like a cheap incidental. The manuevering for the divorce settlement and keeping up appearances were taking precedent to anything of substance. How could he treat our marriage so shallowly? How could he treat our marriage so inconsequentially for our children? How could he not see the damage he was doing to each one of us by the way in which he left? Each of us has the wounds from it.

I think what disturbs me most is the taking of a deep commitment and the years of building a family and believing in each other and loving our kids together and being true to what we were doing, to then have my ex unwittingly lower our marriage to a cliche. It is living life based on what you can get away with as opposed to living with integrity.

It's not uncommon for people to be unfaithful, to lie to their spouse, and to minimize marriage by reducing it to an inconvenience. We see so much of it now that we are used to it. People exiting their marriages in hot pursuit of something new with convenient indifference as to how they leave. There are few consequences to ending a marriage dishonorably these days. Enough people behave badly, whether they are cheating, lying, or "having fun." It seems there is no cultural force in our society that defends marriage. Have we evolved from the sensitivity required to make a larger commitment to another soul? The expense to us all is that seeking "happiness" comes at the expense of a family. Being cruel, selfish and shallow becomes accepted behavior in the pursuit of "happiness."

There are people who leave their marriage with integrity. Some choose to be honest in the moment rather than lie. Some actually do go into counseling with their spouse earnestly, truly considering and weighing the options with their spouse about whether or not to stay together. They understand that a deep commitment like marriage deserves a deep and thoughtful ending. They have enough self respect that they want to treat their partner with dignity -- especially the mother of their children. They understand deeply how much divorce will affect their children and they don't want their child to ask "how can you trust a person is who they say they are" and know that it is sourced from their own parent. A shallow end doesn't feel good and doesn't get better with time. I know. Time will always honor the deep.