Sometimes it's not a bad thing, but it's always awful
When I was a kid it was obvious to me and to my brothers that our parents had a really terrible marriage. Consequently, and unlike a lot of people, I always wished they had gotten divorced, just so there would have been some peace and quiet around the place.
Just this morning I read another blogger who expressed the same sentiment about her parents. Was nice to know I wasn't alone in my feelings. Also, her thoughts led me to speculate on the whole topic of divorce and what it means, what it looks like, how it comes about, and essentially what happens. Be forewarned, it's never a pretty sight.
I know that because I have been there, a couple of times. I don't ever want to do it again. Sometimes, like root canal, or a prostate exam, it has to be done, but the process is never enchanting.
Anyway, in that regard, I am going to outline a bit of what goes on, and how it all comes about, and what it plays out like. Sort of a public service on my part. This offering is, of course, from a male perspective, mainly because I am male; or was last time I looked. My wife, also a divorced person, has some different perspectives from a female point-of-view. But, I wouldn't presume to go there. Maybe it's not always a case of 'too soon old; too late smart.'
The stages of divorce
I. Discomfort: One morning you look across the breakfast table, and there, head slumped beneath the top of the Cap'n Crunch box is your bride of five-ten-fifteen-twenty years. She is slurping her coffee, making that noise you used to think was cute, but now it sets your teeth on edge. For whatever reason her presence at the breakfast (lunch, dinner) table has become intolerable to you. You think about Samantha at the office, with whom you had lunch yesterday. She slurped her coffee, too, but on her it seemed adorable. You shake your head ever so slightly, and reach for your bit of buttered toast, and return to your paper. The moment you do, she looks at you, and sees the groom of yore, feeding his fat face with a billion grams of cholesterol, all-the-while letting the butter drip down his chin(s). She has so come to loathe watching him eat in his disgusting manner. She finds his presence as exasperating as he does hers.
II. Action: There are many ways out of this morass of disenchantment. They include: ignoring the situation; talking it out; getting counseling; temporary separation (either moving out for a while, or just living your own lives within the household); or real separation, which may or may not lead to divorce. There is also the murder option, but that is messy, illegal, and traumatic for the kids, and there is not a soul on the planet that is worth doing life in the joint for. So, we won't take that one seriously, even if we, being human, might have thought about it in moments of extreme duress.
So, we'll look at other considerations.
a) Ignoring the situation: This usually doesn't work, primarily because that is
likely what you've been doing over the last few years. If there are problems, and there always are, regardless of how 'healthy' a marriage seems to be, then they should be dealt with. If you have a tire that persists in going soft every week or so, then you get it fixed. So, that leads us to:
b) Talking it out: Normally about as effective as ignoring. You have big communication problems and that is why you're both so disenchanted. But, the process can be worth a try. Get to the root of it all. Ha! So, what's wrong? Do you really, really want to boff Samantha, and can't get her out of your libidinous little mind? Are you knocking off a quart a day after work? Are verbal brawls increasing? Have you simply grown apart? Such things happen. Life happens. It's probably too optimistic to think that at the age of twenty-five you will still be the same person at fifty, and that you and your bride will have as much in common as you once did. Sometimes such ongoing solidarity transcends other problems, but not as often as idealists would like to think. It is always to be hoped that both partners will grow with time, but there is no rule that says we have to grow in the same direction.
c) Getting counseling: A few (or many) sessions with a good counselor have saved some marriages. I expect counselors get torn in this line of work, primarily because if your marriage stays terrible, he/she can get you to attend more sessions, and will earn more money from your strife. But, let's say that most counselors are not motivated by venality, and are honorable folk who truly want to see you come to grips with your domestic crises and sort matters out. The real problem with counseling is if the marriage is in such a state of chaos that you are seeking an outside opinion, it's likely beyond repair. A wise marriage counselor once said to me that some marriages have an expiry date. No matter what you do, if you have gone past that date, the two of you aren't going to come together. The couple may pay lip-service to the counselor's suggestions, but their post-counseling behavior probably won't amount to much more than hollow gestures. "Hug each other every morning before you depart for the day's chores." Well, hell, if you weren't already spontaneously hugging each other, maybe the marriage is beyond repair.
d) Trial separation: Kind of like a vacation from each other. Maybe with some self-imposed isolation, clearer heads will prevail, and you will each be able to objectify the situation. Some counselors advise this if the relationship has gotten ugly enough to warrant action being taken, but neither of you is yet ready to call it quits irredeemably. This process can work, but trial separation is fraught with pitfalls. For example, it could be, if she agrees readily, just an excuse to get you out of the house -- permanently, with the 'trial' part being a ploy to avoid a nasty confrontation. Or, you may take it as tacit approval to dust off your Tomcat Kit and get yourself embroiled in some tawdry liaison from which there will be no return. Or, it just might be that this is the first step to a genuine separation.
e) Marriage in name only: This is a kind of pussy way to fool the kids by pretending that everything is just lovely and Mommy and Daddy are still together. That's working from the assumption your kids are deaf and blind. Forget that ruse. They know what the hell's going on. Sometimes such a sham marriage is also an attempt to fool the in-laws and the neighbors. In the process, husband and wife continue to share the family nest, but they sleep in separate rooms and cross paths as little as possible. It's a scenario that's about as much fun as pulling out nostril hairs with tweezers. Not advised. Causes tears and mammoth stress on both parties, not to mention the aforementioned kids.
f) Real separation: Enough pretending, this is the true SLTD (separation leading to divorce). This is, in my experience, the most agonizing part of the process of legal disentanglement. Emotions will be trashed and you and your former blushing bride will say things to each other that you didn't think you were capable of uttering, and for which you will be ashamed for years afterward if you're any kind of a decent human being. Tempers flare in times of maximum stress, and the thought process is a bit skewed. Separation is an ugly and uncivilized life episode that is better to be rid of sooner rather than later. Some people carry the pretending on for years. I advise against it. If you've made your decision, then get a lawyer and move to a divorce. It's easier for all concerned.
*Cautionary note: You might be tempted, due to residual love, lust, nostalgia or whatever else stirs you to want to 'do it to her one more time.' This is dangerous territory, and can lead to even more emotional torment. I suppose there are cases where a little nookie has gotten a couple back together, but it's rare. If marriage was just about sex, then you wouldn't be getting divorced.
g) Divorce: The ultimate failure to communicate. Once you've sorted out all the crap during the separation period, the final decree is justbit oftof an anti-climax. Of course, what you did have to sort out prior to the final decree was just a tad more demanding than the breakup of General Motors would be. If there are kids, there is custody and visitation, and the fact that they will forever after hate you when it suits them, and love you to bits during those intervals when they hate your erstwhile spouse. There's money. There's lots of money involved. Scuttle those plans for early retirement, because life will get much costlier from this point, unless you married an heiress. There's the house. No matter how much you love it, if she's got the kids, she will live there. You will live in a trailer or seedy apartmentent. There's property. She'll get all the nice china and cutlery, and you'll get the Wal-Mart bargain bin everyday shit. Don't know why it works like this, but it seems to. You, on the other hand, will get the outboard motor, the chainsaw, the moose-head, and the socket-wrench set. There, now don't you feel better?
Finally, there's the emotional devastation. You never thought it would come to this. When that final decree is completed, there is a certain sense of relief, but also deep sadness, too. Couldn't we have done better? Maybe, and maybe not. You have to learn to live with that, and hold fast to the belief that life will improve. It will if you let it. But not for a while.