I Don’t, Anymore

I have been married three times, which means I am eminently qualified to talk about issues marital.

Or else it means I am the last person who should be talking about marriage.

27655-divorcelMatrimony has been on my mind lately, and more so since another friend announced that his  marriage is on the rocks. Now, with only a few exceptions, all of my long-time friends have been divorced or are seemingly close to it. And that’s sad.

Yes, I know divorce is a statistical fact of life in America, and Lord knows I’ve done my part to bolster the stats (but read here that the #’s are actually falling). But when it moves from abstract numbers to the lives of people you care about – that reminds me once again that everything is so fragile in this life. Impermanent, as the Buddha says. And that sometimes people who care about each other, on some level, shouldn’t necessarily be married to each other. And sometimes, people who seem so right for each other to you and me are going through hell when they’re alone in their own home.

I’ve always talked about the three Big A’s that are usually sufficient grounds for divorce: abuse, adultery, and addiction. But not always. I know marriages can survive any of these, though if they come in combo it’s tougher. But when none of those are present, as they were in my divorces and those of people I know…at one level, their absence makes the separation so much harder to accept. Especially if you’re truly friends with both of the people involved. The sadness stirred is deeper, and slower to dissipate.

But on the other hand, I do understand. People get married when they are too young, or because they feel outside pressure. They get married not having become the person they truly are. And in that instance, over time they find out the person they married is not the person beside them now, or one of them needs to pursue a lifestyle foreign to the other’s essence. People get married, fall out of love, and find someone more attuned to that essence. I know, no bombshells of deep thought here. We have all seen these things play out around us. But seeing it happen again and again never makes it easier to take.

So, I wonder, how do marriages survive? The people have reached their true identity before they tie the knot, and so have the shared core values necessary to withstand boredom or temptation or maddening familiarity? Or else they are able to accept their partner’s changes over time? Maybe they are held together by habit, religious convictions, “the kids”? Or are some of the marriages around us simply shams? I do not know. We all know people who have stayed together for decades. Are all of these lasting unions the product of – or source of – true happiness, the kind we fantasize good relationships will bring? I doubt it. And yet, maybe it’s pointless to try to pin down whatever it is that keeps two people together, as long as they aren’t miserable.

When another friend was contemplating the state of his marriage, I said life’s too short to be unhappy. That sounds a little hedonistic and selfish maybe, yes? But I know the torment I felt in my marriages as I realized they were not right for me, could never make me happy. And that pain was absorbed by my partners, making them miserable as well. There comes a time when the therapy and the alcohol and prayer and whatever else you use to sort that shit out just doesn’t work anymore. Divorce makes sense, despite those vows recited with such hope and promise on the Big Day.

I have long believed that few men are ready to get married before they are 30. I want to amend that: Maybe nobody should get married before they’re 40. OK, there are some demographic implications there, with the birth rate (assuming you still think parents should be married before having kids, which I kinda do), but I think the ability to ensure happiness between two people – as much as it can be ensured – goes up a lot when they have had the time to truly understand who they are and what they want out of life.

I know, I should not generalize from my own experience. Like I said, my track record makes me suspect on this subject. Plenty of people get married out of high school or college and live happily ever after – or at least don’t get divorced. I just wish there was some way to prevent my loved ones, friends and family, gay and straight, from enduring the agony and loneliness that come with divorce. Even when it’s the right thing to do.

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~ by mburgan on November 25, 2008.

4 Responses to “I Don’t, Anymore”

  1. “I just wish there was some way to prevent my loved ones, friends and family, gay and straight, from enduring that agony and loneliness that comes with divorce. Even when it’s the right thing to do.”

    with a lot of hard ME work its possible to get through a divorce and all the crap that comes with it. I personally would never get married again or subject myself to the A”s (yeah I think I experienced all 3).

    anyway, the pain can’t be prevented but the life that will come out of the ashes is great.

    we are in a different world than our grandparents or even our parents, maybe marriage is not supposed to be forever, maybe we go through a divorce for a reason, its really hard to say.

  2. It’s great you did were willing and able to do the “me” work; I hope everyone who goes through divorce can do it, but I doubt all do. Also great that the life that emerged on the other side has been so fulfilling, since you – everyone – deserves to be happy.

  3. Interestingly, a lot of Westerners don’t appreciate arranged marriages or see the value. They work because it’s not about love (it may turn into a loving relationships, which is nice, but that’s not the reason). Marriage is a partnership to help each other through life, take care of each other and to produce progeny – a very practical idea.

  4. Arranged marriages are also often about managing the assets of the two families involved. I guess if that and having children are the primary concerns, then they can work. But face it, the idea of romantic love and marriage, if relatively recent, is not going away. Maybe it sets up the participants for disappointment, I don’t know. Or explains high adultery rates. Of course, there was plenty of fooling around in societies with arranged marriages too, at least the ones in the West.

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