I've started about five blog entries in the last several weeks. Here's the thing. I don't do well with secrecy, with protecting my inner life from view. I'm a bit of a soul-exhibitionist, in case you hadn't noticed. Yet these last several months have required a bit of delicacy in what I share. I've slowly let the story out with those who've asked privately. I'm finally to a place now where I can share more. So let me do that so you know what's going on with me.
In January, my husband and I separated. We've had a little back and forth since then (where he's lived at home again) but as of April, the separation became certain. We are living apart and sharing the kids. No one does this kind of thing lightly. The articles, books, radio show hosts that talk about divorce being too easy these days and how marriage partners dump long-term commitment for a younger model or because they're bored and want an "easy way out," are insensitive jerks. They're living in some fantasy I call "ideological-land" where they create a narrative to back up their defensive apologetics to describe the world as they would like it to be. It would be far more helpful if they stopped talking about how easy it is to leave a marriage and focused on how heroic so many people are for staying in them while in excruciating, soul-alienating pain.
Truth is, I have yet to meet anyone who has cavalierly tossed a marriage aside. Who does that? The ones that do must not be well-publicized, because by now I would have met this overwhelming majority. Rather, most people I've met, read, had the privilege of knowing who've been through separation and/or divorce, agonize over the loss of history, shared story, children, couple identity, joint assets and even that happiest of experiences: familiarity. For longterm marriages like ours (24 years), upsetting the apple cart of our family's story has been the most emotionally exhausting and painful thing we've ever done.
It's a myth to think that people move on to avoid the hard work of repairing their marriages. Did you know statistically, for instance, that married men who have affairs are far more likely to return to their wives than to leave them for the other woman? FAR more likely. Even when they are still in love with the other woman! The reasons to stay married are compelling and powerful, even when there's violence, alcoholism, drug addiction, emotional and verbal abuse, and extramarital affairs. So imagine some of the lesser reasons couples become dissatisfied (growing apart, financial instability, fundamental differences in lifestyle or religious outlook, trauma in the form of illness or wayward child, job loss...) and realize that people do tend to figure out ways to put up with a lot of crap for the sake of the "institution" or more poignantly, their families that they love, or more cynically, their fear of the unknown.
In fact, now that I'm in the whirlpool of marital dysfunction, I can't believe the divorce rate isn't higher! One of the most startling discoveries during this process is how many friends have shared their marital stories with me and how many suffer... a lot. Yet they stay married. (Many of them can't think of anything else to do since they haven't worked in 20+ years, either). Clearly the social pressure to protect the status quo "works" (I use that term loosely) a lot better than most of us give it credit for.
In my case, having been a child of divorce, I've never ever ever imagined that my life would include a separation. In fact, if I had one goal in my life that was immovable, it was to make it to the end with Jon. And that is still my hope... that somehow out of the ashes, we'll be able to rebirth a marriage worth sharing, keeping and protecting. For now, though, I live in a shattered dream state. It takes a lot of mental and emotional energy. I thought you should know.