Within my social circle, 8 weddings have taken place since my own wedding occurred.
5 of them are already over.
I don’t purport to know anything about what goes on in anyone’s marriage. You can never know what is happening behind closed doors. All I can speak of is just the inexplicable and overwhelming feeling of sadness I experienced after hearing of the latest casualty just this past weekend.
Divorce happens. I get that. I would never proclaim that people should stay married no matter what. Of course there are always valid reasons for a divorce. Even if the reason is simply that you just don’t want to be married anymore–well, that’s still valid. That may actually rank up there as a great reason because why stay in a marriage if you truly don’t want to be in it? That’s not fair to your spouse or even to yourself. But there’s just something gnawing at me about the dissolution of unions after two or three years; something that, honest-goodness, I am left in earnest to sincerely wonder: if the reason for divorce falls anywhere under the umbrella of “irreconcilable differences”, then can you really already know that to be true?
I don’t know about anyone else, but for us, even with the regular, everyday run- of- the- mill squabbles, the first two years (which included two babies under two!) was still essentially our honeymoon phase. It wasn’t even until the second or third year before we had a clash so aggrandized that it took my breath away and caused an immediate “OMG am I heading for divorce already?” type of panic. And truthfully, that panic was real. Maybe that’s everyone’s first thought when such a fight occurs. And because that panic is so deep and palpable, it can be hard to see beyond that. The fear even mounted as days went by and the anger was not dissipating. Still the tension was so great that we couldn’t even attempt for two seconds to be in the same room, let along speak to one another. It was a dark and scary period, to say the least. For a newlywed experiencing that for the first time, I can genuinely see how such an incident could spur on thoughts of ending the marriage.
But, as all storms do, it eventually passed. Finally, cooler heads prevailed and allowed for meaningful communication. Not that every issue was fixed. I’m not sure that they ever can all go away. Our generation has delayed marriage and has already lived on our own for extended periods of time well into our post-college adulthood that we would be hard-pressed to think there is much we can “change” about the other at this point. What I’m learning is that is possible to better adapt to him and to worry only about changing and controlling my own behaviors and (re)actions. If I had chosen to run at the first sign of a breakdown in communication then I would have already thrown in the towel as well. But whenever I would start inching along that line of thinking, it’d quickly be replaced by the thought that calling it quits after just 2-3 yrs just seemed so…premature. And I would think to myself, have I really even been married long enough for me to come to so foregone a conclusion? Thinking back on all our time together, I would remind myself there is way more good than just this small finite blip. With that perspective, even in my deepest moments of anger, I was able to acknowledge that to give up at this early of a stage was an idea that just didn’t make much sense.
That was just the first time.
Of course there have been times of supreme annoyance and irritation since then as well, the majority of which are gone as quickly as they came; only just a few that hang around and linger a little longer than I’d like. In those moments I allow myself to feel angry, to acknowledge that I’m really not feeling him right now, and to accept that that’s OK. In any previous relationship, those moments may have seemed insurmountable and would have served as reason enough to leave. I’m sure many of us are guilty at ending relationships early on because the effort to improve and sustain just didn’t seem worth it. And maybe then, it wasn’t. But this time, for the person I thought well enough of to marry, the work seems worth it.
I’m not sure that marriage is for everyone. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it’d be better if people were truly willing to try anything and everything to work things out before calling it quits instead of getting married with the notion that “Oh, if I change my mind I can always get divorced”. Maybe instead of a mandated period that couples must be separated before a divorce is granted, there should instead be a mandated amount of time before a marriage license will be issued, with ongoing required counseling throughout. “Wedded bliss” is not every day. What is every day is the conscious choice we make to stay married.
Look, I can count on one hand how long I’ve been married and still have fingers left over, so at the end of the day, what do I know? Not much, and I’ll be the first to acknowledge that. But I was fortunate enough to enter matrimony with the wisdom and knowledge bestowed upon me from generations of lasting unions. My parents have been married 41 years, my aunts and uncles and other relatives even longer. Through them I’ve witnessed firsthand that there’s never been a truer statement than “marriage has its ups and its downs”. There have been divorces in my family too. And even those experiences, seeing how it unfolded and how they ultimately came to that decision, provided valuable insight as well. Through all of these lessons imparted upon me, it is my hope that I am better equipped to know not just when to walk, but when to work.