Looking at Marriage in a Glass Half-full/Half-empty Way
A Minute to Myself (50)

Divorce as Life Affirming or “Is there an Expiration Date on this Thing?”

When I was 22 I did not know that at 47 I would be living in Virginia, that I would “only” have two children, that I would be a teacher, that my hair would be shoulder-length and not dyed to pretend the gray is not there, that I would be able to talk about sex and salary without being embarrassed, and that I would still like Elton John.


For as much as I could look 25 years into the future, I can say that I assumed that I would still be living in Israel; that I would be looking back on a brief, but successful, career in advertising, international relations or journalism before becoming a best-selling author; that I would have three or four children; that I would still be sporting a buzz cut; and, regarding Elton John, well, I got over the infatuation long ago (for obvious reasons), but not love of the music.


So why do I need to feel like I am a failure because a love and a decision from 25 years ago turned out to be wrong or (being kind) with an expiration date? Many of us are being set up for a lifetime of seeing ourselves as failures if we realize that we are unhappily married. That should not be a life sentence, but instead it should be a proclamation of life. Isn’t it a good thing to realize that you are miserable because then you can act on changing yourself and your situation? I mean miserable people are a negative presence impacting all those around them. Just think of all of those people who installed granite countertops in hopes of making them happy only to discover that they are, in fact, radon-infested. If it’s bad, it’s bad, and it needs a total change before things just get worse.


We need to remove even more of the stigma from divorce. I am not a failure because of it. I am a powerhouse of maturity and self-reflection and empathy and compassion and passion, rather than a stifled woman who second-guesses everything she does and says. Can someone tell me which has a worse toll on “society”? I know, I know, things have certainly changed in the last few decades, but not the honest understanding that not everything is meant to last. As interests change over a person’s life, so, too, do their attractions. And that is not necessarily a bad thing; it is life.


I’m sorry, I don’t understand why people need to work on their marriages. Okay, I can understand working through a bumpy patch, but if you must continually work on it, doesn’t that mean that you two are a square peg and a round hole, and the only way to make things work is for both of you to change your shape. And I’m sure that someone has said that you can’t change people; and if we’re talking about people changing themselves for the better of the couple and the family, then (another heretical idea coming) WHY? Why is that something good? Isn’t that suppressing the self? And (I guess I did not drink the Kool-Aid) I don’t think that destroying myself to keep the family intact is a positive thing. How can that possibly be good? How can a subjugated self be a paragon of learning and morality to a child? How can a home that radiates disaffection be a place of comfort and joy to a child? I mean who wants to bring their friends home for milk and cookies if your secret ingredient is bitter essence?


And totally changing metaphors this late in the essay: Life should not be about continuing to pay one's dues because you joined the wrong club at 22.


So let’s be realistic here, divorce is as life-affirming as marriage. Maybe even more so, because you are opening yourself up to a world of interactions that were closed to you as a married person. And I don’t mean only of the dating and sex variety. I’m referring to the fact that we change how we confront the world when we are one rather than when we are one of two. Once someone changes the status quo (or is changed by it), she is more open to other changes, and change is often good. At the very least, it’s a change. And we should not have to start on our changed lives with one strike against us.


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Astute observations. I too divorced after a long marriage (23 years), and building a life and financial success. I lost almost everything (but myself) in the divorce. After 4 years, I married again and together we built and new life and a second financial success. The second marriage is turning into a nightmare too. Not because of mis-matching, but because of ill health of my husband causing financial ruin. If we'd just stayed living together, my finances would be untouchable by medical and state entities. I'd be able to take care of us both. As is, we'll probably loose everything before he dies and I will have to start from square one - again, for the third time. Not as easy as 50 as is twas at 20.


My heart goes out to you and your husband.

I read somewhere that we are dealt the life we can deal with. And friends have said they "don't know how I do it." But it's the basic belief in self that, I think, gets us through the day without external aids. I wish there was a system in place that would help you, rather than hurt you.

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