Friday, October 12, 2012

An outsiders view on divorce

As a young child as a 4 or 5 year old, my first memory of marriage wasn't my parents.  It was a quaint wedding ceremony where a couple Dominicans in a Methodist church came together and were married in Lawrence, MA.  This memory is growing faint, but is still there.  From that snapshot in my life, I was inspired to get married as well and find someone worth marrying.  The memory was so powerful it guided my interactions with girls I liked up until I was married.  The outside ceremony was internalized and I wanted to be that close to someone.

I haven't seen the couple since they were married, but the same feelings come up when I attend a friend's weddings as they set sail into unknown waters.  People bound to each other as they change in a changing world.

There is a much darker memory I have of my parents divorce and the court room hearing that would decide which parent got custody.  I assumed kids who experienced their parents split up could at least do so in privacy of their home.  Yes the married couple grew apart, lets quietly move on.  The court room, unlike tv court rooms, had no background music.  There was silence and the rattling fans of ancient air conditioners.    Our family and the entire court room standing around the end of a failed marital charter.

Stacked above my parents divorce is another memory of my wife's parents split.  I was old enough to be able to speak with her mom before the divorce finalized, but again, I showed up long after she had made her decision.  In my head, I wanted to honor the initial memory I had as a child: two people get together and promise to take care of each other for their mortal lives.

My friend recently told me of his wife moving away and this immediately toppled me into wondering why so many marriages end in divorce?  Is divorce a problem in America?  A quick web + book search reveals that people in their early twenties for both genders are more likely to get divorced.  Couples with kids are slightly less likely to get divorced.

The fear I have is that this divorce monster will clearly break into my house, find my typing away at my computer, and pull me into itself so I will be among the divorcees.

But the truth is a divorce is the end of the relationship.  It's two shipmates parting ways at the nearest sight of land.  The sideways tree after unskilled pruning.  Divorce isn't the problem.  It is everything that leads up to someone calling it quits on someone else.  The concept that a divorce can actually separate two people is somewhat false.  I hear it from divorcees of long marriages when they talk about their X wife.  They say X so often it's as though they are still living together.  Can a divorce truly separate you from the closest person in your life?  The person who has brought you to where you are now due to sheer proximity?

I have seen it in my own life.  I cook and clean differently now that I've lived with my wife.  I think about finances differently.  I think about changing sheets and pillow cases (thinking is clearly not enough).  All this because I've seen my wife over 11 years consistently approach life's details in a meaningful way.  For some things, I would just start copying her... say if she made bread a certain way.  Over time her way of life starting changing my own.  Soon I would go from being inspired by her lifestyle and I would take it in and give it my own twist.

This assimilation (couldn't think of a better word) is something too deep to be removed.  Even Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind hinted at this.  Why is it then that people who become one in every way possible want to go back to being two?

I am no psychologist here so bear with me.  The dissolving of a marriage is partly due to ignorance and partly due to truth.  Even after all the oneness is going on, between the unplanned make out sessions, unity candle, bedroom, and beyond, the persons in the marriage are continually changing.  Lifestyles, work, habits, beliefs, are in flux.  To be on top of all this, people need to always be on the same page.  They need to take time out of their day and be comfortable with rambling.  Sharing dreams and fears without being concerned they will be judged or squashed.  This sharing and being on the same honest page over time would most likely prevent all divorces.

The flip side of this is ignorance of who you are.  I feel like my life would be different if I realized my passions earlier in life.  But realizing them at all is a start and playing with the passion and creating things transforms me.  If spouses are ignoring truly important areas in each others lives begging to be discovered they will inevitably grow apart.  I remember my father discouraged my mom from taking classes in college.  He discouraged her, yet she reopened this "door" wide open and has taught thousands of kids about handling bully's and is on the way to completing her PhD.   If someone would torture themselves through the expenses of college & years of trying to find a good adviser just for a degree, why should a person's ignorance stand in their way?

If a person loves the risk of gambling, take away the gambling and talk about risk.  May be there is some other way that desire for risk can be satiated, but ignoring a blind pursuit of risk will only lead to peril.

Since ignorance is turning away from the truth, truth is the main issue.  Truth in a relationship will save the ship.  Truth will help avoid thinking you are about to land in North America when you really are in the middle of the Caribbean.  Giving a place for truth in daily conversation and through the unwinding the walking stress ball of a person you are married to might just save your spouse from becoming someone you can't bear to live with.

Divorce: Causes and Consequences