On Marriage and Divorce – The Curse of the “When are you gonna’s”
Society puts so much pressure on people to live a life that fits into what others consider the way it “should be”. While guys aren’t immune to it, it’s especially bad if you’re female. When you’re in high school the question is “When are you going to get a boyfriend?”. Then you start dating someone and you’re in an obviously committed and serious relationship and the question becomes “when are you going to get married?”. Then you get married and it’s “when are you going to have babies?”. You have a kid and suddenly it’s “when are you going to have another one?”.
People love a good fairy tale and they love a good wedding even more. Add some babies to the mix and it’s a dream come true! Fast forward to the 50th wedding anniversary and there’s the happy couple sitting on the front porch watching their grandkids play in the front yard. Who wouldn’t love that story to play out each and every single time?
But what happens if the life you “should be” living isn’t working for you anymore? What happens if, after a lot of years of building a life together with someone, it just isn’t working for either of you? For many (more than 50% as a matter of fact) the answer is to do a lot of soul-searching and realize that you had a good run, you put in your best efforts, but you’re just not happy as a couple anymore and that it’s time to go your separate ways.
They Didn’t Grow Apart, They Stopped Growing Together
That line was said by the preacher at the wedding of friends of mine when we all lived in Colorado more than 20 years ago and has stuck with me since. There is SO much truth to that line and quite honestly, the reason why I think most marriages that end in divorce do so.
You hear the ‘warnings’ and advice when you get married to always put the marriage first – yes, even before your kids. Don’t forget to date your spouse… carve out time to do things just the two of you. But if you’re like most people, you forget those words because life gets in the way. Babies come along and they need a lot of care and attention. You’re both working, the house has to get taken care of, groceries need to be bought and at the end of the day, there are still only 24 hours in a day and something has to give and as awful as it is, typically it’s the relationship between you and your spouse.
Before you know it, the kids are much more self-sufficient and suddenly you have some extra time on your hands (believe it or not) where you and your spouse could actually do things together without worrying about hiring a babysitter. But after 10+ years of not paying attention to that person, you realize that you stopped growing together and you have no idea who the person in front of you is.
As crazy as it may seem, a good, healthy marriage is NOT built on raising kids. In fact, it could be the demise of it.
Before you jump on the hate bandwagon, I’m not saying don’t have kids. I love my kids and they are the best thing that came from my marriage but I let their needs get in front of mine, as well as their dad’s and that’s not healthy for me or them, nor was it healthy for my marriage.
When is it Time to Call it a Day
I don’t know the answer to that question. Sometimes I think people throw in the towel too quickly and sometimes I think they hang on way too long. You have to figure out what’s right for you and your story. I think if both parties have truly tried to work on the issues at hand – either on their own, thru counseling, or whatever – and you still aren’t happy, it’s time to reach deep into your soul and do what’s best for you – even if that’s separating.
No one likes to split up. No one likes to give up. But ending a marriage or relationship that isn’t working anymore is NOT a failure. In fact, it takes a lot of courage to realize that something is broken and no amount of duct tape and super glue is ever going to fix it.
I’m not going to lie to you – separation and divorce are hard. It’s emotional. It’s gut-wrenching. It will break you down, eat you up and spit you out, and make you doubt everything you know about life and yourself. This will be hard and exhausting and you may think that you won’t ever get to be happy again.
But you know what else I know?
You’re going to be okay and you’re going to get thru it. It may be a month, a year, or five years but with each passing day, you’ll get a little bit stronger and a whole lot wiser. You’ll realize that you’re not as weak as you thought you were. And one day will come when you realize that you’re happy again. You’re YOU again.. and not the ‘you’ that was part of a couple or someone’s mom… the YOU that you were before you had that life. And that, my friends, is an amazing feeling.
But What About the Kids?
In the words of Louis CK – “No good marriage ever ended in divorce“. Unless you and your partner were really good at hiding your feelings, your kids already know things aren’t right. I’m not saying to air all your dirty laundry in front of them but I guarantee you they know because kids aren’t stupid. I’ve always held the belief that my relationship with the girl’s dad is just that – MY relationship. I felt that way during my marriage and I feel that way now that we’ve separated. I owe them no explanations or insight into our relationship unless it directly involves them.
Divorce is hard for the whole family – not just the couple. No kid wants to see their parents divorce but more than that, no kid wants to live in a tumultuous household either. If you and your spouse aren’t happy, no matter how hard you try to keep it behind closed doors, your kids are going to know – especially if they’re older. Staying together for the sake of the kids works for some people but if you ask most young adults who watched their parents live an empty, loveless marriage, most will say “I wish they’d just gone their separate ways and been happy”.
Once you clear thru the initial pieces of separation and divorce and things start to settle down into your new “normal”, you’ll start to see a peace that wasn’t there before. And I promise you, everyone will be happy for that in due time.
You Do You and Things Will Be Okay
Just like who you’re dating, marrying, and when you’re having kids, society has strong things to say about divorce. And as hard as it may seem, you can’t buy into that. No one and I mean NO ONE knows everything that happens behind closed doors. We live in a Facebook world where people only put their best selves on display. Can you imagine how much better all of our lives would be if people showed a little bit more transparency?
I can’t tell you how many people confided in me once they found out that I was going thru a separation how unhappy they were as well. That they were ‘envious’ that I had done what I’d done and they wished they could do the same. Honestly, it was mind-boggling. If so many people are unhappy, why don’t they do something about it?
Fear – that’s why. They’re afraid what people will think. They’re afraid they won’t be able to survive. They’re afraid they’ll regret it later. The list is endless. All of these fears are valid – I thought them myself and still do some days. But at the end of the day, I knew that I had to do what was right for me and by doing so, it ended up being what was right for everyone involved. Sometimes, as an adult, you have to make an unpopular decision but no matter how hard that decision is, if you stay true to yourself, eventually you’ll see and know that it was the only thing you could do.
I’m not making light of the topic of divorce, please understand that. No one shows up to the altar to get married thinking “Okay – let’s get this thing going because we’ve only got 10, 15, 20 years until it ends”. Everyone wants to find their forever person. As humans, we want and need companionship – our lives are better because of it. But sometimes, you find that it’s just not meant to be with the person you thought it was. And that’s okay.
The Beginning of Your Second Story
This is the stage that I’m in now – writing the second act of my screenplay. I’m not sure what will happen or what it will look like. I’m not sure what the future has in store for me and that’s okay. I’m still finding my sea legs if you will. It’s been a long time since I’ve lived in the dating world and like most of us in our 40’s and 50’s, the landscape has changed since we were last there. I know it will be an adventure and I’m ready for that. Because who doesn’t love a good adventure?
But that, my friends, is a story for another day 🙂