“Fleishman Is in Trouble” is a powerful portrayal of the difficulty of divorce told from multiple perspectives. The series begins by following the experiences of recently divorced Dr. Toby Fleishman, a 41-year-old doctor who relishes the new world that has opened up to him via online dating. But he also struggles with his career, missing his long-time partner, and loneliness.
At the start of his first summer of newfound freedom, his ex-wife disappears, leaving him a single parent to two young children who are now not only dealing with their parents’ divorce, but what feels like their mother’s abandonment.
Toby’s plight seems clear. So, it is very easy to decide, as a viewer, that Rachel Fleishman, his ex-wife and mother to Hannah and Solly, is clearly the “bad guy” in this story.
There Are Two Sides to Every Story
But when it comes to divorce, as in most relationship breakdowns, there are often at least two sides to the story of why things play out the way they do.
“Fleishman Is in Trouble” is narrated by the couple’s mutual friend, Libby, who has witnessed the events unfold from both perspectives. The first seven episodes follow Toby’s account, building a case that he is the aggrieved party and is making do having been victimized by the erratic and troubled actions of his ex-wife and mother to his children.
It isn’t until Libby tracks down Rachel and hears her version of the story that she, and viewers, can truly comprehend Rachel’s once seemingly unforgivable actions, and empathize with her emotional turmoil. The writers are able to articulate quite dramatically how Rachel, too, has a valid and compelling perspective.
And when you understand Rachel’s side of the story, you may start to wonder whether much of this could have been avoided had there been better (and certainly more) communication, as well as empathy and trust, in Toby’s and Rachel’s relationship. How could it have gotten to the point where Rachel is left all alone with virtually no one who understood that she was falling apart emotionally?
The Unspoken Impact on Friendship Circles
Further, we get to see the impact of the Fleishmans’ divorce on their relationships with mutual friends. In many cases, when couples decide to part ways, their friends are placed in that no-win situation of feeling compelled to take sides. Which side one takes may be the result of which person is telling the most compelling tale as to what happened to the marriage.
The problem, however, is that you may never know what really took place behind closed doors. As they say, the only people who fully understand a relationship are the ones who are in it.
If you find yourself similarly situated in the middle of a separation or divorce, as I always say, take care of your and your children’s emotional health during this stressful period.
Originally published in Lisa’s Psychology Today column, Legal Matters. Read the article on Psychology Today here.