This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while now. I have been trying to take a phrase here, a thought there, and compile it together in some sort of coherent piece. Needless to say, I’ve got next to nothing. So, I’m just going to rattle on here a bit, so stay with me, ok?
I don’t know why this is, but I think most relationships rest on the edge of a knife. They are inherently fragile entities, based much more on conditional circumstances than we would care to admit. I bring this up because I now know about five couples going through various stages of divorce. Some of them weren’t a surprise, others were a shock.
They all prove a central point: no one knows what really goes on with a couple not just behind closed doors, but in the hearts and minds of each involved. You could live with someone everyday of your life, eat meals together, bump uglies, clean up after one another, and not know what’s really going on with your partner. That’s a scary thought in and of itself. Just as frightening is to think that during a low point of your life – diagnosed with cancer, losing your job, having your business go under, or your child is in some sort of trouble – that’s when your husband or wife completely bails on you.
Although for some people I know, the reasons are not so dramatic. It’s a slow, creeping cold which grows over too many years of not being heard, of not being seen…so even when your significant other finally gets a clue, oftentimes it’s too late to crawl back from the abyss. The chasm has grown too great in distance.
I know something about this not just as an armchair spectator. Mr. Mix and I went through our own crisis back in 2005. It was a confluence of influences for us, both financial stress and the internal combustion of two people growing apart at vastly different rates. Wow, that makes it sound simple, doesn’t it? It wasn’t, of course. So, how did we survive through that hell, while others around us are falling to pieces?
I’ve thought a lot about that over the last few months, and whatever I’ve got, it’s probably speculative at best. While, yes, I run an advice site, I’ve never pretended to have all the answers. Those who believe in their own hype fall the hardest.
I wish I could say I had this steely determination to save our marriage, but at that point, I was out. And the only reason why I went to counseling in the first place was to be able to look my girls in the eyes and say yeah, mommy tried everything to make her marriage to their daddy work. We didn’t find some therapist in the phone book or go for the first shmoe on our insurance plan either. I asked my friend who I knew also went through a hard time – and was thriving now – and got the name of the therapist they went to. Of course, he didn’t take insurance and he wasn’t cheap. My mom and her husband offered to pay for the sessions, as long as we went in with an open mind. I know how lucky we were to be able to accept such a gift. It probably was one of the deciding factors which saved us.
It also didn’t hurt that all around us were devoted couples – not all of them happy, mind you, but all of them hell-bent on staying together. Our children went to the same school, we had monthly pot luck dinners at each others’ homes…we were ensconced in one another’s lives. And as much as I like to think of myself as a non-conformist, I was not immuned to the effects of social psychology in the form of latent peer pressure.
Lastly, but a point which probably should’ve been mentioned at the top of the list, Mr. Mix was willing to do anything and everything to get our marriage back on track. Like being awoken from a long-suffering coma, he finally heard what I had to say. Not every time, or for every session, but enough. Likewise, I realized over time how hurtful my communication style could be…so much so that after a while he couldn’t hear so much of what I was saying, but rather how I was saying it. Trust me, it takes training to take one’s raw anger and frustration, calm down enough to get to the root of the issue, and convey such info with love and respect.
In the end, however, that’s the only way any of us are going to make it. To give the ones you love the benefit of the doubt…to show the same kindness, decorum, and compassion you would to your best friend….to remember it’s more inportant to be loved than to always be right.
I think back on how bad off we were…how even now – with all the work we’ve done and how far we’ve come – that all it takes is a few weeks of not connecting to feel the cold creep in some. I guess the difference now is we try to nip that crap in the bud before it has a chance to kill all we’ve worked towards. There are, and will always be, what psychologists call ‘permanent issues’ – specific conflicts which may wax and wane, but never fully go away. Sometimes, they feel like a light nuisance, like a gnat buzzing in your ear…other times, it’s like a jack hammer in your gut. But I suppose some maturity comes when you realize that someone else isn’t the ‘cure all’ answer…that they have a litany of baggage which may make your current issues look like nothing in comparison.
That all said, I’d say that most of the friends and family in various stages of divorce right now are probably better off splitting up….not because their outside circumstances are so dire, but because one or both partners lack the character or conviction to do the work needed. Some have been outright abusive with their actions. I don’t believe you stay married at all costs. That said, it’s a death for all of us when someone you know splits.
It never stops being a big deal. It may be necessary, but it doesn’t make it any less tragic.