Looking at Marriage from a Glass Half-full/Half-empty Way
A Minute to Myself (19)

Walking the Line When Drawing Up the PSA

“My parents invited the girls to visit them in Florida during the winter break.”

“So, you’re telling me that you don’t want to be with your daughters during the winter break.”

“Purchases or expenditures of over $200 must be discussed.” How is it that his purchases (even in the supermarket) usually range from $150 to just under $200?

“Store receipts must be put on the refrigerator immediately.” Apparently, the only interpretation of the word “immediately” is “the second you walk into the house’” otherwise, if you went upstairs or stopped in the bathroom without first putting the receipt on the refrigerator, the receipt would be voided and I would not be reimbursed for my expenditures.

When the time comes to draw up your PSA, please, please keep in mind that there is a difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. And your ex-to-be is probably aware of that.

The letter of the law is defined as “the exact words of a law and not its general meaning.”

The spirit of the law is defined as “the idea or ideas that the people who made the law wanted to have occur in response.”

And so it is with the wording of your agreement: there is what the words—devoid of all subjective understanding—say, and then there is how any normal person would understand them to mean. And that, you must know are not the same. The words, the exact words, are what seem to count. It apparently it is an easier test: none of this what did you mean by or what were you thinking when or that’s not what I meant, just the facts ma’am—just the words and their strict interpretation.

I remember one of mr. ex’s lessons to me when he was in law school was about the reasonable person standard. Legally, a reasonable person is understood to be “a hypothetical person who exercises qualities of attention, knowledge, intelligence, and judgment that society requires of its members for the protection of their own interest and the interests of others.”

He is trying to skew this reasonable person into one who sees the letter of the law, and not the spirit of the law, as being the reasonable person. And he’s taking it to the judge. And so far, me—the reasonable person in the mix (and the one for whom words have connotations and how they fit in a sentence determines their meaning and the history of what the words were intended to mean is carried with them)—is being sideswiped by his denuded look at the PSA. And it is not making me a happy person, never mind reasonable.

As I tell my students, words matter. Remember that when you’re sitting around the table. Think of all the ways a phrase can be interpreted and use the words that best suit how you think they should be interpreted—reasonable person or not. At least try. I was aware of some wordings and how they could be skewed, but that was my bargain with the devil to divorce the devil.


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