Monday, June 25, 2012

Wisdom from a Divorced Gal for You Marrying Types.

Or, as my friend,Christa, put it: 

Or sometimes you want to so badly because you know it's the only thing that will bring you any relief - just get it over with.

Legitimate statistic? If you're planning on marrying, your literal chance of remaining married til death do you part is 50/50 in contemporary society. In America, anyway, marital longevity is the exception rather than the rule these days. In other words, we'll see a lot fewer 50th anniversary celebrations than in previous decades, like when most of our grandparents were alive.

You might remember several blogs back, when I analyzed Sternberg's Triangular Theory of love. (For a refresher course with impossible-to-see graphics that I've corrected below, see It looked something like this: 

Back in that blog, I noted that I knew too many married couples who had either settled into companionate love or worse yet, who had entered into the zone of empty love, where there was commitment, but the intimacy and passion were, by most accounts, gone. (Statistically, companionate love is the most commonly reported in society in long-term relationships.) I used the illustration of the ONLY famous case of consummate love that I could muster from the last century off the top of my head, that of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who went through hell-and-gone to make things work, and did so successfully, until Lennon's murder in 1980.

It's not that I'm pro-divorce or anti-marriage. Either situation is a major life decision/change, and I've gained experience from both. Marriage can be wonderful and fulfilling, and divorce can be liberating and inherently really healthy, often in hindsight, and while painful in the moment, it's a decision most don't regret.  I know a lot of relieved, happy divorced people who are either single (like me), separated and just waiting for the much-anticipated Day, (like Christa), or in happy post-divorce relationships that don't regret their decisions to have left their spouses (like my own ex-husband). I also know divorced people who, if they had to do it all over again, would never have left in the first place. From the still-married front, I know a few couples who seem on the perpetual brink of "Can we do a trial separation?" or "I think we need some space." Still others report being "happily" married, though that group, out of my entire social circle, is the smallest by far.

Hey, if you're shitpickles/gobbldygook about one another 20-30 years into your gig, then live your lives and God bless you. You're unusual, but lucky. If you're falling asleep on the couch and figure it's best to stay there until morning, yeah, well. If you're reduced to roommates who have a joint checking account but who mumble under your breath, "Oh, Christ, if he leaves his boxers crumpled up in the corner of the bathroom ONE MORE TIME!," or secretly grumble about another Sunday dinner with the in-laws, or you've turned into, basically, just friends,  it's time to reconsider the state of your affairs at home.

What happens when you've been married for a decent span of time, you've bred children with your spouse, and then you find attracted to someone else and/or you just can't take the complacency or disinterest anymore?  You do one of several things: 1) You own up to your feelings and have a frank discussion with your spouse, and you seek counseling to figure things out. (Which doesn't usually work, as I found out in my case and in the cases of a few divorced friends and family members of mine.) 2) You decide to stay for the sake of the kids. (Another REALLY bad idea, which breeds resentment and escalates existing frustrations. Toughing it out doesn't make you a martyr. It makes you both douchebags.) 3) You engage in an affair. (Which, while a sin and disavows the sacred commitment to your spouse that you took in front of GOD, nobody ever DIED AND WENT TO HELL as a result. You might even be new-agey enough to either tell your spouse about it (as I know in one case of a friend of mine) or don't make a concerted effort to hide your other relationship and get a subscription to Polyamory Today. 4) You follow your bliss, decide to figure your life out on your own, and split (WHICH, ACCORDING TO SOME RELIGIOUS DOCTRINES, IS ALSO A HUGE SIN, but again, it's doubtful anyone was poked into the bowels of Hades purely because the scarlet letter of "D" was embroidered onto their burning, disintegrating garments. (Bottom line in any event? Don't worry about the correlation between HELL and DIVORCE, despite what my own religion advises in a few paragraphs.)

If you're considering separation/divorce and you have no kids, you're pragmatically golden. Aside from asset-dividing, real estate headaches, reassigning your life insurance beneficiaries, separating your DVD collection, figuring out who gets the toaster oven (usually the guy, unless they're whizzes in the kitchen and are aces at whipping up food other than Stouffer's French Bread Pizzas, and finding an apartment, it's not all that different than the breakup of any other romantic relationship, regardless of duration. (It's safe to say that my breakup with Chris was like a zillion times more grueling, painful, difficult and lingering than the dissolving of my marriage to Craig, and I'd been with Chris for 3 1/2 years and Craig, including dating, at total of 15 years.)

When offspring are involved, it's markedly more grievously horrible to begin the separation/divorce process, particularly when you have to have "that talk" with your children. It's better if the other spouse actually tells the kids with you, but in my case, if was all up to me.  It's easier when kids are either too young to really notice or remember that you were ever married in the first place or they're all grown up and busy leading their own lives, so they're like "Yeah, whatever, this is sad and weird but it beats you guys either fighting or ignoring one another all the time..." The worst is when they're of just enough emotional maturity to understand that the family is breaking apart and that life as they've always known it is ending, which is tantamount to a death in the family in many ways, but children take comfort in the fact that Mom and Dad BOTH still love them TONS and the adjustment to having two homes, albeit a lengthy and emotionally taxing recovery, does resolve itself eventually (as was the case with Luke). A tough key is convincing the kids that the divorce is in no way their fault, though there will be tantrums and days when the children wish to God they'd never been born in the first place, with the amount of utter crap your inability to stay married has piled upon them. Kids of a reasonable age and intellect will bitch about schlepping their belongings from house to house as per the custody agreement (if they're under 18), or if they're adults, feel pangs of guilt if it appears they're favoring one parent over the other, many of whom side with Mom regardless, unless Dad's been, categorically, the factor of stability to which they've become accustomed.

A lot of offspring see going to either Mom's or Dad's house as a staycation trip into Happy Ville. Pitted against one another, on occasion, one parent will make his/her house No Holds Barred Fun Zone, while the other parent's house is like being in prison. And kids are crafty. They like to do the pitting-against.

Something occurred to me yesterday: My wedding ceremony took longer than my divorce hearing in court, and in both cases, Craig and I shared a meal afterwards. A strange statistic, but I found it kind of ironic.

Recently, my mom and I were talking about my wedding gown being in the attic and what on Earth we're supposed to do with it. It's from 1996, en vogue back then, but not necessarily now, and it was a size 16, whereas now I'm a size 4. My mom had a dry cleaner "preserve" and box it up, you know, just in case. In case of what? I didn't breed a daughter. I don't plan on passing it down to Luke's eventual bride, and it's of no intrinsic value, other than sentimental. I divorced the guy--thus the gown is a largely-forgotten keepsake from 16 years ago.

Craig got custody of the wedding photo album  (whereas, I got Luke's baby book and photo albums), and the only picture I have of me in my aforementioned gown, as you've seen before, is with my mom. It really was a gorgeous gown, not bad for waiting until 2 months before the big day to find a dress and buying it off the rack, which I spent $900 on, which either means it's appreciated, like my wedding rings, which I *don't* have custody of, or depreciated severely, like my car:

(Another thing I found when I moved back home? Craig's tuxedo bow tie/cumberbun set from our wedding, that I kept. THAT I'm holding onto. It was a John Lennon artwork, silk, limited-edition design of his naked John/Yoko embracing in color over black. I've looked on eBay many times, and on other web sites, and have never found another one like it. Even Google image searching for it comes up blank. But hey, if some rabid Lennon fan wants to give me like $500 for it, I might reconsider. Hey, times are tough.)

Pastor Dave is knee deep in wedding season, which keeps him mighty busy. Last night at church, during our prayers, we prayed for a couple he married yesterday and their burgeoning life together, after which Dave said a prayer for "all married couples" which, when he does that, drives me insane. We never pray for the single people in church--for God to send us a partner with whom to share our lives, which I think is unfair. Singles, by and large in our church, are ignored. There is no ministry for singles, the widowed or the divorced, while there are events (like dances) and symposiums for married and otherwise paired-up people.  It's unfair that married people are looked upon as being more worthy of prayers and intercessions on their behalf than single or divorced folks are. 

In reading the by-laws of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, it explicitly says the same thing the Scriptures say, which is that divorce is a no-no and anyone who remarries is committing adultery, and that committing adultery while you're with your first spouse casts you out with the lepers, in essence. That's bullshit, I say. While not as extreme as the Catholic church, in which you can't remarry in God's house because you're a general ex-communicated scumbag, you can re-marry in a Lutheran church. Still, it's evidently a sin to get divorced according to the Lutherans too.  My church's official position is essentially this:
"Again, no exceptions are noted. The principle that to divorce one's spouse and remarry is to commit adultery is presented by the Lord. In the second half of the verse, we hear again (cf. Matt. 5:32) that for one to marry a divorced woman is to commit adultery. We repeat here the grammatical point that the participle, without the definite article, cannot be pressed to refer with absolute certainty to every divorced woman. [66] Nor does the passage address in express words the case of the remarriage of the spouse put away unjustly at another's initiative. These qualifiers, however, in no way diminish the uncompromising character of the Lord's requirement: divorce and remarriage are not in accordance with God's will that marriage remain unbroken."
 Oh, there are by-laws concerning marrying someone who isn't a Christian in the first place, which breaks more of the church's laws. Evidently, God would strongly prefer you stay in a loveless, lifeless marriage with your fellow Christian than to get a divorce and actually have the capacity of building a strong, healthy relationship with someone else. 


If and when I do remarry, which seems iffy at best at this point, I doubt highly it'd be a service held in my church again; rather, it'd be in a neutral location (like Gibraltar!) with either Pastor Dave (I'd pay to fly him in) or a judge handling the service.

All this wedding/marriage nonsense is grating on my nerves as of late. Facebook friends celebrating anniversaries will post gooey love statuses honoring their spouses, their wedding pictures from like 15 years ago, or younger people, pictures of their engagement rings, and generally rub in the face their supposed happiness to anyone who might be single, widowed or divorced. Conversely, there are plenty of pages within social media dedicated to the upside of divorce and rubbing in the freedoms and lack-of-hassle therein. I engage in those pages when I'm feeling particularly crappy about being divorced (which mainstream society pushes upon us as a sub-group). 

It's widely judged that if you're the victim of one of two groups: You were dumped or you dumped your spouse. I admittedly dumped my husband and that was a lot as a result of my chronic substance abuse and mental illness, though I wasn't happy for a long time before that, which is probably why I started drinking in the first place, when my son was in preschool. 

We should all thank our lucky stars that in most states, anyway, there's now the "no-fault" divorce. See, both of my Miklasz grandparents were married and divorced before they married one another, in the 1920's. Back then, you had to have a reason. Plus, they were both Catholic. My grandfather's wife divorced him on grounds of drunkenness (in my family? What a surprise!) and my grandmother was sued for divorce by her first husband on grounds of desertion (she just split). There was no such thing as "irreconcilable differences." And the stigma of divorce was so prevalent that it wasn't until my dad and uncle were adults that they even found out that their parents had been in first marriages, and that they had a half-sister somewhere, who was mentioned in my grandfather's will as being eligible to receive....NOTHING. (Which was really shitty...)

Divorce is certainly a very painful process for some, but for me it was liberatingly bittersweet and the resentment between my ex and I is very even-keeled at this point. He found himself a gal who'll tolerate his negative qualities even better than I did, and they seem really happy, which makes me really happy and is healthy for my son. I'm on an elective dating sabbatical, and have no plans to remarry in the next 10 years, which also makes my son happy, because no one is good enough for Mom.

I hope some of this clarifies the upside and downside of separation and divorce. It ain't easy, kids, but you'll be just fine. Someday, you too could be referred to as "(Insert Ex-Husband's first name here)'s FIRST wife." And someday, it might not bother you anymore.

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