Out of the woodwork. That’s where the expats in this country who have experienced utter bullshit in the court system here are coming from to share their stories. For the first few months of 2016, I’ve been finding more and more of these expatriates online, having also met a few in person. Their willingness to share their stories impressive, their stories, themselves, often astonishing, they tend to be eager to learn about similar experiences.
Since I put myself out there as willing to help and yearning to listen, it has increasingly become more of an arduous task to keep track of just how many foreign folks have been fucked by this system, or at least some facet of the judicial process here (or related, oft overlapping systems, such as social welfare organizations or immigration help services). Listening to most of their stories, hitherto, tug at heartstrings I never knew I had until divorce and custody proceedings smacked me across the face so many times that a punching bag in a boxing academy would gloat about being hit less.
However, I met someone here that helped tone down my growing frustration about what expatriates like myself are going through here (and perhaps in other locales around the world, with those abroad naturally dealing with similar issues overseas).
On April 5th, 2016, I met a female Taiwanese, whom I’ll call Tina, willing to share her story about going through divorce, a relatively casual divorce from a Western European bloke, to whom she’d been married for a mere couple of years.
The man cheated on her, for many, many months.
Yet that’s not all.
He admitted, blatantly, that he was “seeing someone”, roughly a year into their marriage, coming out with the reality quite readily when Tina confronted him about his behaviors.
More shockingly, and ever so sadly, he then attacked her verbally for not having any sympathy for his new partner, blaming Tina for being cold and aloof to the second woman’s own challenges of having been through a rough marriage, herself.
Yet that’s not all.
He argued that Tina should help emotionally support the “other woman” because the second woman was going through the drama of an affair, too, yet it was actually this second woman having an affair with Tina’s husband.
Needless to say, Tina was flabbergasted (and obviously shattered) that her man was practically forcing her to not only condone her husband’s choices but to also have some sort of sympathy for the mistress.
A tangled web he’d woven about how he felt sorry for his lover, which is why he had gone to her, to serve her needs, to help her transition through a rough patch in marriage, neglecting his own along the way.
He had also secretly been regularly taking his two-year-old child on outings with his bedmate and her two children for some time, well before being “discovered”, spending their time together under the guise of friendship, but all along having and doing much more.
In a nutshell, the guy seems like a real a-hole, which does appear to be the appropriate label to assign him, even if I’ve never met him nor heard his side of the story.
[Side note: Because of rumors I’ve discovered here in my city, I know all too well that each side in such disputes will have their perspectives—and folks sometimes outright fabricate nonsense to gain sympathy.]
However, the details of their sordid situation are not the focal point of this journal entry. Rather, it is Tina and her choices in dealing with it all.
In our face-to-face conversation on the aforementioned date, Tina revealed more of the details about their marriage, how it had had challenges caused by communication and a lack thereof, how culture had created barriers to a peaceful coexistence, more often than not, and how her ex-husband and her daddy didn’t get along. Listening to her story, which coincided with her producing plenty of damp tissues, I couldn’t help but relate to many facets of what she divulged. My interests piqued, I wondered what the percentage is of mixed-culture couples that endure (or fail to endure) the extra trials and tribulations brought on by one half of the marriage equation living in a foreign land, dealing with language barriers, cultural idiosyncrasies, expectations of family sometimes far different than the cultural “norm” of her/his upbringings.
In many ways, it was therapeutic to listen to her side of such a story, both in being able to have sympathy for her and also being able to relate to her issues, sans any sort of understanding of affairs or the romantic infidelity of a partner. I realized quickly that I could put myself in her shoes to some degree—and she could do the same.
Open-minded and displaying a “growth mindset”, I wanted fervently to see a local female’s perspective on dealing with the culturally related challenges of being married to an expat here. I, keen to listen, tried to understand all she explained, wanting to open my eyes and heart to those differences in viewpoints about cultures. If I could learn to understand an opposite point of view on divorcing from a Westerner, maybe I could learn something of value, for my own gain, to help get through what I’ve been burdened with for 2.5 years.
I bawled. Almost too much.
In fact, I’ve not cried so much during one conversation in the last few months, even though I’ve cried many a times, usually just for short spells (tears still flow when I see a daddy with child, hand-in-hand, or hear the laughter of children as I pass a park). My t-shirt was clinging uncomfortably to my chest when I finally finished, and I could have wrung out the cluster of tissues in my grasp like a chamois cloth after a carwash.
Yet the experience of shedding so many tears is not all that has been stuck incessantly on my mind since meeting her for that first conversation. What she admitted so openly was profound.
Something during the initial chat altered my understanding of human nature, specifically here in this country, an understanding that has been steadily skewed and slowly tainted over the last two-plus years: Not only does the woman have a heart the size of this country but she also has a deeper sense of understanding of what her child needs than the cumulative, collective conscience of everyone involved, hitherto, in the divorce and custody processes that have been my burden to bear since the fall of 2013.
And, yes, I did say EVERYONE involved.
Tina’s husband cheated on her. Clandestinely at first, and then openly. He then criticized her for being heartless because she wouldn’t show sorrow for his mistress. His actions, it can be readily debated, deserve a stronger reaction than what Tina has provided.
Yet she admitted, through a fairly heavy veil of her own tears, that she is willing to let her ex-husband take her daughter to his home in Europe because, “My daughter has a right to be there with that side of the family… she has a right to get to know them, too.” She’d one day experienced an epiphany that revealed to her a fairness in her mindset that she didn’t know existed.
When she admitted that, my tear ducts opened like the main release outlets of the Hoover Dam.
How I wish…
She went on, “I think that for my child, she would even have a better upbringing in Europe. It is a cleaner, safer environment. So I am thinking that perhaps until age six she’ll be here, but then I would like for her to be raised there. Maybe I could go there, too, to help raise her when I can. I want to talk to his parents to see if they are willing to help raise her, even though I can just visit her sometimes.”
Between my elbows, which were resting on the table to allow my hands to slightly hide my peripheral vision from nearby customers at the café we’d gone to, was a pool of tears, prompting me to occasionally swipe them with a Kleenex. My shirt started to moisten. We jointly went through nearly two packets of small facial tissues in about two hours.
Continuing on, she mentioned, “My parents are busy here, and even though they love her and try to help as much as possible, I think his parents have a right to provide for her, too.”
Listening to her perspective, especially because her ex had been so callously demanding that she support his both clandestine and blatant lover, that he had an affair in the first place, I couldn’t help but wish…
A profoundly understanding heart she possesses, one that is focused on the rights that her daughter has—and how exercising such rights for her own child, whom she loves, will benefit the young girl. Anyone can take a lesson from her sympathetic kindness, given all she has gone through herself. How she hasn’t attempted to seek vengeance should be a message to anyone in similar situations.
Tina has a compassionate empathy, having come about in an ephemeral epiphany one night, one that should be lauded by all. Her willingness to have the best for her child, even if that means letting go of her own grip of her daughter, had been unknown to me until I heard her story. How I wish more people were like her. The world would be a better place if there were.