Updated: Mar 8
In one of his catchy singles, singer and songwriter Paul Simon famously crooned that there must be “50 ways to leave your lover.” Based on my many years as a divorce attorney I must respectfully disagree. I have come to the conclusion that there are an endless number of ways to show or tell your lover you are done with the relationship. However, Paul’s list is a good starting point. Let’s look at some of the ways suggested by him.
Just slip out the back, Jack
Some people lack the courage to directly tell their lovers or spouses that they want a divorce. Instead they find ingenous ways to avoid that difficult or painful conversation. Or they have someone else break the news for them.
Many broken-hearted people come into my office clutching a letter they received from a divorce attorney hired by their husband or wife. The generic form letter says, in sum and substance, that they have been retained by your spouse and you should go get a divorce attorney as well. Of course there is the implied threat. The letter ends with “we want to work this out in a most amicable way and will give you a reasonable opportunity to locate such an attorney. However, if we do not hear from such a person within 10 days we will have no other choice but to commence a litigation.”
Invariably, the person sitting across from me says the letter “blind-sided” them or “came out of nowhere.” A recent example of this is the case of billionaire John Paulson and his wife of twenty one years Jenny Paulson. Close confidantes of Jenny say she found out that John had filed for divorce in Suffolk County, New York by reading about it in the gossip column of the New York Post. According to reports, Jenny had no idea that John was planning to file for divorce – “she never saw it coming” – a version of the facts disputed by kkJohn and his representatives.
Just make a new plan, Stan
Some people in life are forward thinking and extremely detail oriented. These are the kind of people who approach every endeavor, including divorce, from the perspective of a stategic, well conceived and thorough plan of attack. Many spouses come to a consultation with me saying that their spouse “does not know that I am here.” These people also tell me that “they are not sure that they want a divorce but just want to know what would happen if there was one.”
What they are really saying is that they are absolutely sure they want a divorce but first they want to find out how much it is going to cost and how they can best “protect” or worse “hide” assets or income from their soon to be discarded spouse. Inevitably, these people plot and plan behind the scenes, setting up their financial plan (e.g. new separate bank accounts, lower limits on credit cards, new wills and life insurance beneficiary changes), as well as securing a new place to live (perhaps the home or apartment of “a good friend” or a place nearby) and hiring an attorney to represent them in the now meticulously planned divorce case.
No Need to be Coy, Roy
Of course there are those people who are total narcissists and have no difficulty being blunt, if not cruel, to their lovers on the way out the door. A woman recently shared on Tik Tok a series of videos in which she explained that shortly after she began dating her boyfriend she found out that he had a chronic kidney disease that was life threatening. The woman volunteered to be tested and when found to be a match went through with an intensive surgery to donate one of her kidneys to him. Everything went very well with the surgeries and both recovered from the operations. You know what’s coming, don’t you?
Instead of being eternally grateful, the man then cheated on his life-saving girlfriend when he attended a bachelor party. She even forgave him for his infidelity. However, three months later he called her to tell her the relationship was over. When she tearfully described how she had even given him a kidney, his retort was “you only donated your kidney to look good.” Tik Tok exploded with vitriolic comments about this insensitive cad.
No Need to Discuss, Much
Apart from the “break up” telephone call, a text message sometimes will suffice. In a recent survey of 500 millennials, 57% say they have broken up with someone via a text message and 69% say they have been on the receiving end of such a message before.
This trend is not limited to millennials, as experienced by the aging singer/entertainer Phil Collins. His on-again-off-again wife, Orianne Collins, once told Phil they were through via a text message. What was different about this? They were both in the house together when she sent the text to him. Talk about impersonal.
Just Drop off the Key, Lee
While some departing lovers do in fact leave the key on the entrance table as they walk out of the house, the much more common scenario is where the key no longer works because the locks have been changed – a not so subtle clue that the relationship is over. In an article which appeared in the UK based newspaper The Sun, a woman found out that her boyfriend was cheating on her right before Christmas. The woman made a video of herself throwing all of his clothes and shoes out of the house, captioned “Thanks for cheating on me before I bought your Christmas presents.” Once the clothes were safely outside in the shrubbery, changing the locks on the door was the next step. As I said, there must be “a thousand ways to leave your lover.”