2012 August 15
Yesterday on my Facebook feed was a post from a traveling friend, in which she asked for support, because her husband of 17 years had announced to her that he wanted a divorce. She was devastated. In this particular situation, there have been struggles, but my friend never saw the "divorce card" coming until it was played. It got me thinking about marriage, divorce, and communication.
Every marriage has periods of struggle, poor communication, and stress. But I am continually surprised by instances where one or the other partner is suddenly blindsided by the other's desire for divorce. It seems duplicitous to me to approach a lawyer and/or others (like older children) before ever mentioning to your partner that you feel irrevocably unable to continue on in the marriage. I mean, I understand that people change and that goals and desires flex and morph. But here's what bothers me: Do you TALK as the changes are happening? And do you disregard the solemn vows?
It seems to me, if there is minimal communication taking place, nobody should ever be blindsided by their partner's desire to dissolve the marriage. If there are areas of dissatisfaction, the only way to facilitate resolution is to communicate, talk, yell if necessary, and work together. When a partner suffers in silence they are being dishonest, both with themselves and with their spouse. Too often, the suffering in silence is an excuse to find fault with a partner and then come at them completely unaware with a divorce request. Part of the problem is dishonesty, another part is that we, as a society, accept divorce as normal.
That's where my question regarding the solemnity of the taken vow comes into play. Our wedding vows said, "for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death due us part ." We didn't say, "till we get sick of each other, until depression, infertility, or alcoholism makes life hard, until something better comes along, or until one of us just wants something different"!
It seems to me that we have become a society of people who lack the ability to commit. It worries me as to what impression we leave on our children when we give up without a fight, or lack the fortitude to address issues forthrightly. And it makes me wonder about the kind of people we are deep down in the recesses of our souls. How do we live with our spouse day to day, while managing appointments with lawyers, before ever mentioning our dissatisfaction in the marriage to our spouse?
So that I don't seem like I'm taking the moral high ground here, let me confess that I was one of those immature people, lurking in shadows of dissatisfaction, who suddenly asked for a separation. It was in a previous marriage. I'm not proud of my immaturity. But, that experience lead to a more grounded attitude when approaching our current relationship and marriage. My husband and I discussed the meaning and fulfillment of our wedding vows before making that final commitment. We have been together for 32 years, married for 27 of those and we have had highs and lows. But, I think one of the things that makes us able to survive even stormy seas, is the fact that we have told each other throughout the marriage that we are both in it for the long haul. We talk through the tough times and the easy times, as well. We realize that we are individually responsible for our own happiness, as well as for each other. We try to practice easy give and take. We try to be responsive to each other's needs. But neither of us expects the other person to be able to read our mind! Everyone says that communication is essential, and it is! What no one tells you is that sometimes that necessary communication is hard, sometimes it's embarrassing, sometimes it's hard to hear, sometimes it hurts, but it is always necessary.
Some people mature early. I've met couples who married when they were teenagers, and have remained committed to each other through six decades. My guess is that they talked to each other a lot and about everything.
Perhaps I've strayed from what originally motivated me to write today, but it has reminded me that R and I should have some time together to talk. And so should you and your spouse. About the trivial and the important.