An Open Letter to Anyone Who Has Ever Said "There Are Two Sides to Every Story"

There are two sides to every story
Dear Person Reading This,

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You've heard the lie and repeated it. I know you have. I have too. Loaded with good intentions, we've doled out this wisdom to tell someone there's another way to look at any given situation. But why don't we just say that? Because here's the problem: there are always more than two sides to EVERY story. Way more. And oversimplifying that isn't doing anyone any favours.

A few years ago, my family was embroiled in a nasty custody battle over my son. I absolutely hate the term 'custody battle', but there's no more apt way to describe the war that waged over my son's well being (and living situation, and extracurricular activities, and clothing, and schedule.... every aspect of his life).

During that time, I received sporadic communication from my son's father, mostly in the form of demands, and sentences starting 'I will', 'I want', 'I have',  or alternatively 'You should', 'You have', 'You do'. Not a single email, text, or phone call began with our son's name. There were only two sides to our story: his and mine. And for a time it was easy to get stuck in that place, seeing mainly the two sides of our story that were monotonously presented.

But there were (of course) many sides to our story: my son's, his grandparent's, my husband's, our friends' and our family's... and there were lawyers and judges with their own sides too. All of us had our own perspective based on different information, and our own unique ways of processing that information through reason, emotion, and beliefs. I honestly don't know precisely how many sides to our story there were, or are now.

My son's father once put in our communication book (in large bold typeface, marked with asterisks and underlined):
There are three sides to every story: My side of the story with the information I have. Your side of the story with the information you have. And the side of the story that has all the information.
I don't know who in our scenario had all the information, but I do know that even in this new 'two sides to every story' trinity, our son was still being denied a side in the story of his own life.

I get and appreciate the sentiment: try looking at something from someone else's point of view, so maybe it's time we ditched the tired cliche in favour of saying just that. There are too many sets of eyes in this world to continue arguing that there are just two sides to any story.

Three sides to every story