The end of an era

A marriage has ended. The crushing blow, the death knell, appeared in my email inbox. An email cheery in tone despite the horrible news which awaited me.

The Dude hasn't left me. If anything, I should leave him - stuck here blogging whilst he watches cage fighting yet again. The dissolution of a marriage is that of our very dearest friends S & G.

I became friends with G our senior year in high school. We were in some nothing class together, a class taught by a man best known for his overt affair with a fellow teacher's wife. I seem to recall the class was called "Science and Social Issues", despite the complete lack of scientific curriculum (thank god) and the "social issues" manifested themselves via the class gossiping for the full class time. At times the teacher would leave for the entire period, the apocryphal tale being that he was sneaking off for a quick shag with the other teacher's wife, or perhaps for a pint at the local dive bar where my brother still sees him on the odd Friday night.

Anyway, G had a baby fathered by her high school boyfriend after we graduated, and married this great guy, S. This baby, M, now 11, is a wonderful little girl. Before P was born, I always said M and her younger brother F were the only kids I liked. On some days, they still are.

When we lived in the States we were constantly with S & G. Given how different The Dude and I are, it was a miraculous event that we managed to find a married couple that we both got on with so flawlessly. Each trip back to the States had more S & G time than it did Mom time, no doubt because S & G never mocked my flat ass. Their kids are my kids, my kid is their kid, and if we could have worked out mass Canadian residency, we would have happily pooled our resources and lived on some sort of mini commune together.

That closeness, that alleged familiarity, has failed me this week as I discovered in this email. It was a group email, sent within our close knit circle of 5 high school friends. I started this recent rash of emails as I have been verklempt and emotional over us all turning 30 within the next few months, not expecting any amazing news, boring, standard middle class folks as we are.

In retrospect, it was like a hidden camera show, me reading this email. It said something along the lines of, "Nothing new going on with me really. I have an AWESOME new apartment here in downtown Fuckabilly and I'm so happy! Yes, I'm single. So is S. We're both content with this situation and will probably no longer be married this time next year." So on, and so on. I kept waiting for the joke to end, for the paragraph to conclude with one of those cutesy wink emoticons, but no dice. It was really over. My heart sank, and I'm not kidding you, I had heart palpatations. This is how much emotion I had invested in this marriage. I had to read it multiple times for the stark reality of this confession to sink in, and even sitting here now I can't believe it.

I phoned G as soon as I got home last night. To twist the knife even further into the gaping wound in my battered heart, G was at her old house! With S! They were chatting and having a right old knees up! Oh, the gaeity of the newly separated life! G was chipper, even telling me that when they broke the news to the kids, they were fine with it. I'm suffering more with the end of this marriage than their own kids? How does this work? I'm a grown up - a hardened, embittered ex-infertile, how can this be?

Turns out, G wanted to tell me the day she moved out. Life got in the way, and all of a sudden so much time had passed that she then didn't know how to tell me. She tried to rope one of our mutual friends into telling me, but our friend quickly, and wisely, washed her hands of that situation. I was relieved that it wasn't me. You see, in high school (yes, I'm going there again) my best friend didn't want to tell me that she was on birth control because she was afraid I would judge her. Apparently, I'm perceived as prudish and Amish-like. Now I have this complex that my friends don't tell me the truth about their lives because I'll get all Judgey McJudgerson on them. I happen to think I'm the least judgmental out of all of us, but maybe that's all in my head. Don't judge me.

Here's the real revelation - I'm more torn apart with S & G's separation than I was when my own parents split up. Whatever is going on in this head of mine? When my Mom told me that she and my Dad were separating, there was no sinking feeling. I just felt relieved. No more underlying tension, no more nights with one parent in the master bedroom and the other in the spare bedroom, and most importantly, no more angry whispers between my parents as to whether my Dad had skipped his AA meeting to get drunk.

I'm not usually so naive as to believe any given marriage will work out. I think a lot of marriages are doomed to fail, and I think anyone who isn't realistic about their own marriage is just deluding themselves. Yes, it's immensely cynical, but I don't see the sense in putting blinders on and assuming you will live happily ever after. I once read something, somewhere in this wide old blogosphere, from a blogger who was happily married. According to her, she and her husband would never get divorced. Never. In fact, they wouldn't even entertain the idea that it was even the most remote possibility. This is weird to me. No one knows what the future is to bring. People change. Feelings change. Circumstances change. You can't always control alterations in your life, so why be so ignorant as to say this event will never happen?

I'm very happy in my marriage. Does this mean I will be in two years' time? No. He could become a person I no longer like, I could be that person for him. How are we to know? I then wonder whether this negative mentality is just an unfortunate byproduct of being of my generation, one which experienced the first real wave of divorced parents?

I'm interested to know what you think. Are you a realist, or is this extreme pessimism and I'm insulting realism by categorising it as such? Are you one of the blissful ones with little read hearts in your eyes instead of pupils? I'd love to hear dissenting opinions on this matter. Just make sure you tell me soon after you get separated, mmkay? Don't make me break up with your marriage by an email sent four months after the fact. The Amish can only take so much anguish.


Aunt Becky said...

I tend to live in the moment but not in the way you think. More like in a "I'm not going to sit around thinking about future crap too much, because I never, ever guess correctly!"

That coupled with the fact that although The Daver and I love each other very, very much (stop laughing) we're incredibly practical. Our marriage is practical, maybe boring, but practical.

I fight with him only when I'm tired, we tend to agree to disagree, and since Ben and I came as a package deal-y, I already had the experience of child-rearing and the utter inability to live passionately.

2 year olds, as I'm sure you're learning don't tend to inspire wild passion.


Divorce scares the hell out of me.

Melissa said...

I know in my head that people get divorced all the time, but I am always really shocked when I hear about it happening, even though two weddings I've attended have ended in divorce.

My parents divorced before I was even old enough to remember them together, so it's all I've ever known. It was always one of my strongest convictions that I wouldn't get divorced, and C feels the same way. Of course no one can predict the future, but we've been together for 11 years and have been able to grow together over that time, so I hope we can continue for a lot longer.

Bittermama said...

I'm with Melissa. It's totally unnerving when someone you know well gets a divorce, even if you know that it happens to lots of couples.

It's looking fairly likely that my brother and his new wife are headed that direction and given how little respect I have for him in general, I'm still shocked that he would do this to himself, to her, to our families. I'm obsessing about it.

As for me and my marriage. Well... I guess I'm practical in a different way. I've told myself since early in my relationship with H. that I need to be careful not to do anything rash to fuck things up because I'm pretty certain it doesn't get any better than this. And that's not to say that things are so fantastic or anything, just that they're solid and good and we're both good people and we have a solid, good relationship. Solid. Good. Don't fuck it up.

EJW said...

I think the woman you mentioned (the one who refuses to acknowledge the possibility of divorce) is an interesting idea.

How much of making your marriage work is taking a small bite of this idea? What if you forced yourself to deal with whatever came along, thinking that your vows were carved in stone and there was no alternative? Barring the obvious things like abuse and infidelity, is this idea a way for making people work out some differences?

I feel like divorce is so easy and so accepted that people with decent marriages split up for being lazy or unable to learn to communicate or change, and the kids and ex-wives suffer, not just emotionally but practically and financially. And so I have to wonder if our society as a whole would be healthier with less divorce. Or would we just have a lot of unhappy married people running around?

I come from a nuclear family and so does my husband. So maybe that's my bias talking.

On the other hand, I sometimes wonder, as you alluded to, about people changing over a lifetime. What if my spouse came home and told me he'd joined some new religion? Or wanted to be a nudist? Or something that right now seems insane and impossible, but honestly, weirder shit has happened. What would I do? I didn't marry a religious person or a nudist and so am I obligated or committed to being married to someone with whom I do not share basic values anymore?

Anyway, it sounds like your friends are happier for their choice and that's what really matters. I hope their kids cope with the changes well.

Amyesq said...

It is tough when couples you know and love split up. One of my very best friends is in the middle of a messy divorce at the moment and I have informed her that I need a settlement too for him fucking up all of our plans to rent a villa in Tuscany at some future unspecified date. Still, they are much better apart. Or, that is to say, he is better with his new woman and the son he covertly fathered with her unbeknownst to his wife. Cause, yeah, even though you may not think you are going to get a divorce, things happen.

Still, I come from a nuclear family where none of my grandparents or legion of aunts and uncles have ever divorced. I firmly believe in having your eyes open and head on straight before you consider marriage. Then you work as damn hard as you can to make it work. And if for whatever reason it doesn't, you gave it your best shot.

That is why I say I don't believe in all that soulmate crap people spew. Having a soulmate implies you never have a to work at a relationship. Give me a break. That is never the case. Plus, what happens if your soulmate, say, gets run over by a bus? Are you screwed forever? Go out and MAKE your soulmate.

The Town Criers said...

Because it shatters your faith in what you know. We had two friends divorce and I found out at 7 a.m. before work. And I sat down on the edge of the bed and just bawled. It affected me all day. It still makes me upset when I think about it and it has been years. No other break-up has affected me like that.

But it was because it came so far out of left field for me (they obviously knew there were problems in their relationship) that it made me start to doubt other things I know. It brought out so many what ifs.

It's hard to see such a huge disconnect between what you knew and what was. Vs. when you know it's bad and therefore the end is more acceptable albeit sad.

Major Bedhead said...

When my best friend and her husband split, I was devastated. I thought they had a chance and I think that's what killed me, to know that these two people who were once so in love just weren't any more. And I know why, and what happened, but still, for the moment, it blindsided me and totally threw me. I think it's because I expected so much. And it really sucks to have to lower your expectations of people.

tonya said...

It is a total mind fuck when friends get divorced. I keep thinking that-- percentage-wise-- our friends so far are staying together at rate of >95% (we've been married for 10 years, together for 13), so I'm not sure what gives there. It makes me wonder what I missed seeing all those years?

I don't consider myself naïve, but divorce is not an option for me (barring totally whalloping unforseen circumstances, I guess). I just don't let the thought dwell as a possibility in my head, because I feel that sometimes people use it as an easy out.

Nor do I think all couples should stay married no matter what (my SIL and totally effed up now-ex-BIL the poster children for the necessity of divorce in some cases).

My hubby and I both came from divorced families, and feel strongly that *for us* we need to work through whatever life changes come our way, and not give ourselves that mental "out" that divorce can impart. I could see in some of our worst arguments that it could be nice to feel there was an option, but once I'm calmer again I'm glad to be here, with him.

I guess, for me it all boils down to this: if I'm not willing to put in the work to make THIS marriage work, would the cycle repeat with another spouse? It seems worth the effort to keep this one alive, especially since I think my hubby's a great catch! Even on those days when I feel like a single parent, I so would not want to be doing this alone.

DD said...

At 40, I'm still in a bubble. While my parents SHOULD have divorced long ago, they did not. I'm sure it's out of spite.

While Mr. DD takes me to the edge of homicidal some days, I cannot imagine him ever not being part of my life as my husband.

Your friends sound like the next generation of divorcees: easy to marry, easy to divorce and I don't mean that in a condencending way. It's admirable that they still can get along.

I'm a romantic and while I most certainly do not shoot hearts from my eyes, I wear them on my sleeves. I've made my expectations of my marriage very clear.

Defiantmuse said...

I'm a big, big believer in the here and now. I've never been a big believer in marriage which is why I've refused to marry my partner, though he's asked many times. I think he thought I'd break down when our daughter was born but I'm holding strong. I especially find it even more hypocritical for him to want to marry me considering he's been married before.....a perfect example of the fact that marriages, for the most part, do not last. Even if I was "married" that wouldn't mean it's forever. For exactly the reasons you stated. People change. Feelings change. That's life. My partner and I often argue about this b/c he's more in the camp of wanting to think we'll be together forever and everything is lovely, etc. I can never help but express my dissenting opinion which always make me look like a heartless bitch. Ah. lol.

PiquantMolly said...

Wow. I can't believe I'm the first of your commenters who actually is a divorcee.

It's weird. I never in a million years imagined I would get a divorce. You just didn't get divorced in my family (except for rogue Uncle Jim, but he was a bit of a black sheep -- he got divorced twice. I was married at 22 (waaaayy too fucking young, in my case), before I knew who I was or what I wanted out of a life partner. Once I learned who I was and what I wanted, 5 years later, I realized I'd made a mistake -- and my ex realized the same thing. We ended up having the Best Divorce Ever(TM), thank god. I'm not going to say that it wasn't the most difficult thing I've ever done -- it was -- but both of us are happier now than we were before.

No, divorce isn't something anyone would choose with glee, but it most certainly is not the easy way out - at least in my case. Of course, you remember the months and months of agony that led to the final decision and moment of action. And I'm sure you understand that, in our case, it had to end or neither of us would ever be truly happy.

And now, miraculously, I am. The happiest I've ever been, with everything I've ever wanted. I don't regret having been married -- both of us learned so much from each other over those 5 years -- but ending that marriage was the hardest and best decision we ever made.

By the way, Pru -- my new fella will get along with The Dude, I can tell. We can be your next S & G, K? Maybe we'll make long trips to Colorado -- the Dude and the fella can go to horrible boring sports games, and we'll lounge at the spa.

PiquantMolly said...

(OMG, longest comment EVER)

electriclady said...

Just like how we had the wave of marriages when I was in my mid- to late-20s, now that I'm in my mid 30s (OMG) we're going through the wave of divorces. No, scratch that--this is the second wave of divorces. We had a first wave a few years ago, when all the marriages that happened right out of college were falling apart.

The tough thing about when your friends divorce is that it almost always comes as a shock. Unless the couple is visibly hostile to each other in public, most people put their best faces on to others. You really never know what's going on inside a marriage unless you're in it. The flip side of that is the couple who seems terrible for each other, or there's infidelity, or some other seemingly intolerable circumstance, and they stay together. And no one can figure out why, because no one else is in it.

May said...

I've given this is topic a fair amount of thought. In my nuclear family, I have a sibling who went through what a previous commenter already trademarked as a Best Divorce Ever, which turned out well for all involved. The sibling and the ex-spouse are both now with new people much better for them than they were for each other after each changed dramatically from the fresh-out-of-college people they were when they got married. No one thinks they shouldn't have gotten married; they just evolved in completely opposite directions in their twenties. They're still in touch.

On the other hand, I have an example from my parents' generation of a couple who again married in their early twenties and have been married for almost 40 years. They are not the same people they were 40 years ago, obviously, and they now live very separate lives for a married couple. Different interests, etc. They just didn't evolve as a unit. Should they still be married? Who knows. All I know is that I fervently hope that my husband and I evolve in a more similar direction than they did.

That said, I have a strong marriage. We communicate well, and while life with 2 small children isn't good for anyone's marriage, I think we have the skills to deal with the difficulties and keep our marriage healthy. I think that's all anyone can really do. I'm such a romantic. (wiping away fake tears...)

Tash said...

There was a time so many of our friends were getting divorced that we actually wondered if it wasn't us -- were we a curse? And yet even now, I just heard of one two weeks ago, it took the breath out of me.

I think before The Very Bad Thing (TVBT) I was a realist. Now I think I'm a pessimistic realist. Those odds (what are they now for divorce, around 50%?) are there for a reason, and not everyone you know is going to dodge that statistical bullet. Chances are good there will be more in my future.

Right after TVBT, I RAN into therapy with my husband because I had this image of couples divorcing over such events. (Actually, the stats on us are lower than the general population.) There was nothing wrong with our marriage before, but I'm glad we did that because it was a rough few months, there. I think we're pretty solid, frankly, but we joke all the time, "This marriage will last longer if you clean up your cut toenails from the floor," and occasionally when we just collapse "please don't ever divorce me." I hope it never happens, but I'm not one for hoping and thinking anything will turn out the way I think it will. Ever again.

Betty M said...

My husband and I have been together since college in the mid 80s (way too long ago) and have been married for 12 years now. We are certainly not the couple we were then. Do I think this relationship will last - I hope so. Do I know it could fail -of course. I am lucky in that my parents are still married (happily) and that my friends have for the most part stayed married (ok there is one who is on divorce 3 before the age of 40 but he has a heap of other issues) so maybe my rose tinted glasses are on for a reason?

OvaGirl said...

That's hard Pru, I would be pretty devastated if that happened to me (ie great friends breaking up). Both C and I are dirty divorcees which was why we waited ten years to get married. I think we're a good couple, I think he's still hot after 14 years together but I also don't assume we'll be old and grey together either. First marriage, I was 22 and divorced by 26. I left him and at the time it was the biggest thing in the world to me, but it was absolutely the right thing to do...

elizasmom said...

I thought about this a lot when the couple who was OUR S&G announced they were separating.

Somehow, we managed to stay friends with both sides, even though it looked initially like the wife had deliberately torpedoed the relationship with a one-night stand. It was all so bizarre — they got along, they were nice people, what the hell happened? Cut to a couple of years later, and the now-ex-wife, whenever we see her, is so gorgeously alive in a way she never was in that marriage. I liked her fine before, now she's one of my favorite people. Turns out that her ex, the nice guy we hung out with for years? Emotionally abusive ASSHOLE. I had no idea and I felt AWFUL for not having recognized it. I think finding that out, years after their divorce, was in some ways more shocking than the divorce itself, although it really threw me for a loop. It certainly put her behavior into context — it was pretty much the only way she had to freeing herself of the asshole at the time — and it made me, sadly, realize how much of our communal experiences had been an illusion.

I used to be much more hardcore in thinking that people get divorced too easily, but that right there was a pretty good lesson about not judging unless you know all the facts.

Helen said...

Hi, my name is Helen and I'd like to be your only multiple divorcee.

Yes that's right. I've been divorced twice and am now engaged again. And somehow I've never been on Ricki Lake! Go figure!

I am an absolute realist. I'm divorced. Angus is divorced. We both fully accept that if we marry we may divorce. People around us divorce and we offer support and a shoulder, but it doesn't wreck us because we've been there. It's always sad when a relationship busts up, but I think we both expect relationships to be hard bloody work anyway. Like you said, in two years' time, people can change.

I hope Angus and I will always be together, but I accept it's possible we won't be.

Anonymous said...

H and I started dating when we were 17. Yes, I know, ick, childhood sweethearts, ick ick ick.

H comes from a family of NOT-divorced people, who cling together like grim death even though they really don't seem to like each other much, and I come from an ever-expanding cloud of multiply divorced people who are nearly all good friends with each other and visit their exes for weekends. Not that sort of weekend. Polite ones.

To me, marraige was an impossibility for years. You married, you took advantage, you had affairs, you divorced, you became pals. I wanted to be pals from the start, and that somehow meant not marrying. H wore me down eventually, we're married now, and good pals, and I am prepared to work and fight like a demon to keep my marriage. I feel the rest of my family just got complacent and gave in when it got tough.

When my brother got divoreced, I was furious. I thought we, at least, could see how to make marriages work after watching all the vast variety of ways to mess up our parents adopted. We would rise triumphant from the wreckage etc. And I had really liked my SIL. My brother eventually confessed that he'd had the affair partly because SIL refused, with many unkind remarks, to have sex with him for two years. And it was then I realised that while having an affair is NOT helpful or ethical behaviour, neither is treating your spouse like crap. Swings and roundabouts.

I was very shaken by it. When my parents divorced, i could see what was wrong and was frankly cheering them on. My brother, I was completely oblivious.

Vacant Uterus said...

I knew at six that I was going to marry Sarge. And I'll be with him until grim death pries one of us from the arms of the other because dammit, I've invested a lot in that man and I am not giving him up! He's got habits that annoy me and he doesn't look like Indiana Jones anymore (not by a long shot) but no one knows me like he does. And no one else has known me for longer; at least no one who isn't related to me. He's my roots.

I'm sorry about your friends. I agree with Mel, it shakes your foundations when you're going along happily thinking the world is one way only to find out it's suddenly another. You're not Amish, just human.

Anonymous said...

I think it is hard because it makes you realize that even marriages you think are great can end? So what is holding yours together?