This is the ninth post in the guest series Marriage Demons. Divorce sucks. It’s happening everywhere around us. There’s a single common thread in the divorces going on in our families and friends and that is: Everything changed when we got married. Obviously, this has us shaking in our boots a little bit, “What the hell goes on immediately after you say ‘I do’?” I asked some bloggers with experience to talk about their marriage demons, things that changed after they got married for better and for worse. Jennifer of Ms., Not Mrs. is one of those bloggers I connect with fully on a cerebral level. I adore just about every post she writes for her ability to make me go “Uh-huh, uh-HUH!” She’s sweet and smart and has it goin’ on in the intellectual sense of the word (and other senses – aren’t they cute together?!). So sit down and take notes.
The header for the “Marriage Demons” talks about divorce, and how so many go through it, it’s happening all around us, and it is scary for those entering marriage. Up until recently, I had such a naive, black-and-white view of divorce.
My mother was a single parent, but we lived with my grandparents until I was 15 years old, so it was really more like having 3 parents at home. My 5th grade teacher, who had a bias against children who were from what he perceived “broken homes,” had me placed in Banana Splits without my mother’s permission. I remember my first – and only – session, we were asked to write “graffiti” all over posterboard. While my peers were quoting angry song lyrics and writing things like, “I hate my sister,” I was drawing pictures of rainbows and bunnies. No, I’m not making that up as a metaphor – I was ACTUALLY drawing pictures of rainbows and bunnies.
I was not a “broken home” kid. I had no concept of a broken home at that age. Most of my close friends had intact families. None of my aunts and uncles were divorced. Ironically, my grandmother WAS divorced and remarried, but it happened so long ago and, as far as I was concerned, it was ancient history. Sure, I had classmates that had divorced parents, but it just wasn’t something that I could wrap my head around. At 10, why bother trying?
When I was a little older, my mother started dating a man who was recently divorced. It was a MESSY divorce, and the ex-wife was unstable. These kids would have benefitted from Banana Splits. Instead, they got my social worker mother, who tried to separate her professional instincts from her uncertain role in these children’s lives. My understanding of divorce wasn’t helped by this, though. I still couldn’t understand it or wrap my head around it, but it was worse, because now I THOUGHT I could.
My mother and that man eventually broke up, amicably, for reasons unrelated to his divorce. At this point, I had more friends/peers from “broken” homes, but I didn’t really know their parents, and I didn’t necessarily know them “before” the divorce. For as close as I was to something so messy (without being a part of the mess, that is), it is baffling to me how naive I was about divorce, and how very sheltered I was from the realities. To me, divorce was something that happened because someone did something “bad,” or because someone was a “bad” person. In hindsight, I can’t believe my understanding was so shallow, but I suppose you don’t contemplate ugly things unless you’re forced to.
And I was, finally, forced to. I got a crash-course in divorce a month before my wedding.
I was closer to the husband. He was a colleague and a mentor, and I held him in high esteem. I had spent time with his wife socially on several occasions and considered her a friend as well. I admired them as a couple – both were professionally successful, had their own lives and interests, and yet still had what looked like a great partnership. I am fiercely independent, so I thought that it was great that they were so secure in their partnership to spend time apart from one another.
And then, I got the response card from their wedding invite back. Regrets. I was confused that the wife had only put her name down. It never even occurred to me that it was because he had moved out, and they had separated. I no longer worked with the husband, but we remained close friends and spoke frequently. I had even seen him socially with some mutual friends recently. After one too many glasses of champagne at my bridal shower, I vented to another mutual friend as to why he was being so evasive.
“Maybe … it’s because … he never saw the invitation,” my friend, who knew what had happened, offered.
“What? Never saw it? Is he ABOVE checking his MAIL now? No, that’s nuts.”
It wasn’t until the next day, driving home with a car full of shower gifts, that it occurred to me why someone might not receive mail at his house: if he was no longer living there. I confirmed that my friend had separated from his wife a few days later, and the reason why: he was having an affair. Worse, he was having an affair with another friend of mine. I had introduced these two, at a birthday party I threw for myself a few years prior. She and he had become close, but I thought nothing of it. I saw their relationship as similar to my relationship with him, the only difference being that they did not work together. The woman with whom he was having an affair with was also invited to the wedding and had also sent her regrets.
Now I knew why neither of them was going.
In hindsight, more than 7 months later, I understand completely. The LAST place you would want to go is a wedding, particularly where there would be mutual friends who knew, and who were judging. It was still new, it was still raw, and they, all three of them, were still reeling. But, at the time, I was angry. I was angry with my friend for cheating on his wife. I was angry with my other friend for leading him astray. I was angry with both of them for lying to me for so long. I was also angry at myself, for my inability to understand the dynamic, and let it go. I was angry at myself for judging them so harshly for having human frailties. I was angry at myself for making it about me.
And, yet, I couldn’t help it. I knew my friend wasn’t a bad person. I knew his wife wasn’t a shrew. Their marriage fell apart for reasons I will never understand, because it is not any of my business. It is THEIR business. But I couldn’t quantify it. I couldn’t place it in a neat box and explain it away. I had to simply accept it for what it was, realize that while my friend may not be a bad person, he did a not-so-good thing and now he was dealing with the consequences of those actions. But, this was not a reason to be angry with him. I was projecting my own issues and biases against this, and that was unfair.
For what it is worth, it did not once make me question my decision to marry my husband, or even make me question whether or not we would “last” as a couple. Those two things were eerily separate, in my mind, and in many ways still are – everyone is different, and while one should never say never, I know in my heart that my husband is “the one,” and I’ve never questioned that, even now. However, it did make me realize that divorce and infidelity aren’t things that happen to other people, outside of my bubble. My bubble had been shattered, and I suddenly felt so vulnerable to the pain and devastation and awkwardness of divorce. And, even though I obviously don’t wish for my friends to experience that, I’m glad my bubble is shattered, because it isn’t healthy to be so naive.