I just got word that my Uncle Dan and Aunt Tina are splitting after nearly 20 years of marriage.
I know statistics say that marriages—yours; mine; the neighbor’s across the street—have about a 50-50 shot of making it. Nothing new here.
As a child who experienced the benefits of having a happily (for the most part) married mommy and daddy, I used to think divorce was something that happened to other parents; other families.
But Father Time has a way of changing things. I interpret divorce differently now. My knee-jerk response is an aching that resonates on a primal level, followed by an emotional cocktail of fear, sadness, and uncertainty.
In a cruel twist of irony, my mother divorced my father a mere two months after I married my husband. They had been married for 34 years, and the split was pure hell for us all. Make no mistake, it still hurts like a bitch when your parents divorce and you’re 30.
The upside is that there are no custody battles or screaming matches/teeth-sucking/eye-rolling at visitation drop-offs.
The downside, though, is that you’re protected from nothing because it’s perceived that you’re old enough to handle it. Divorce can turn people—even good ones—into hot-tempered, irrational jackasses. And while it is true that time heals all wounds (you might forget overhearing what your dad said about your mom when you were, say, five), words become ingrained in your psyche when you’re 30. Not enough time has passed for me to forget how my father forbade my husband and me to enter their home to help my mother retrieve her belongings—just to make things more difficult. Not enough time has passed to forget the vile voicemail messages my dad left for my mom.
I don’t know if it ever will.
The end result is the harsh realization that divorce happens, and it someday could be coming to a marriage near you. Or me. To be clear, I love my husband now more than ever, and I married him for the right reasons. Our union, which was built on a solid foundation of acceptance, pure affection, and loyalty, is strong. I am happy, completely happy, and I cannot fathom the day when I would feel in my bones that walking away from it all is the better option.
Can’t most spouses say the same about the beginning of their marriage? At one point, Uncle Dan and Aunt Tin did. Sure, some marriages are doomed from the start, but I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about the couples who went into it with eyes wide open and hearts bursting with love.
I no longer think any marriage is immune from this thing called divorce. And once you accept divorce as not necessarily a likelihood, of course, but a mere possibility, you begin to wonder if even the smallest of fissures might eventually be the proverbial loose thread that unravels it all someday. I’m just saying.
And it’s not just divorce itself that frightens me. It’s the aftermath.
I have long respected those couples who have summoned the resolve to stay put and stick it out. But I also know that it takes courage to strike out on your own for the betterment of your well-being—even if that means possibly facing financial instability, a shitload of what-ifs, and the prospect of knowing that you might end up alone. I think about this every single time I see my 61-year-old mother.
She never thought this would be her life.
I can only hope my fate is different.