There is a part of the wedding ceremony where the minister, asks the congregation, “If anyone knows why this couple should not be joined in holy matrimony, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.” At my first wedding no one jumped to their feet and proclaimed deep, dark secrets about either of us that brought the ceremony to an abrupt end. But when people heard that we were divorcing more than a decade later, everyone had an opinion and apparently my husband had Charles Manson qualities that I never noticed. Usually this information is shared in the following way: your mother’s long time friend and church circle member (who gave you a kitchen shower) pulls you aside at the grocery store and whispers that she’s so sorry about the “situation”, but she always had a “bad feeling” about him. Then she proceeds to pat your hand and call you a “poor dear.” This scene is repeated with a number of creative variations but the message is the same in all of them: first, you were stupid and picked the wrong person to marry and father your children. Second, you have somehow gone from being a wife and mother to a “poor dear.”
I wonder if these people realize that if they had jumped to their feet at my wedding and shared their insight, they might have saved me a lot of trouble. Apparently the fact that I have been married to this person for years is nothing compared to their instincts. For many people (with too much time on their hands) a divorce is a time to assign blame like, “she spent all her time at work,” or “he went out a lot at night with the boys.” Everyone, no matter how removed from your life, has an opinion. But at the end of the day, no one has to live it out except you, your husband and children as you all face the painful end of your marriage. While gossipy details may serve to bring a bit of excitement and intrigue to other peoples lives, it is extremely unhealthy and not in the best interest of you or your children to buy into it.
During the turmoil of a divorce, there is always a moment when we think that if we could go back in time with our current knowledge, we would make different choices. In the movie “Peggy Sue Got Married,” Kathleen Turner as Peggy Sue gets to do what many of us fantasize about at one time or another, go back in time with the knowledge that we have now. But alas, Peggy Sue goes back, and given the circumstances at the time, she makes the same choices that she did originally. Go back to a time before children and try to recapture the feelings that led you to marry, plan a life and have children together. Whatever happened later, for a moment in time, however brief, you both had hopes and dreams for a future together. No one could look into the years ahead and see that those hopes and dreams would never be fulfilled, no matter what your mother’s friend says or any other psychic relatives who feel the need to analyze your divorce. I’ve seen people, myself included, marry people with similar backgrounds, goals, religion, race, education, childhood friends, and end up divorced. While other people with apparently nothing in common and a short courtship end up celebrating their 50th anniversaries. Despite all we know about relationships today, (from Dr. Ruth to Dr. Phil) there is still mystery about the bonds that connect couples that enable them to stay together and grow as people while creating a life together. It is some combination of luck, love and commitment. The exact balance is hard to find and keep.
I recently came across a picture taken about a year before my divorce. It is at my daughter’s fourth birthday party; smiling children, me cutting the cake and my husband to the side – removed and distant. How did I not see it at the time? He was there for the cake and the picture, but he was emotionally gone. He was never Charles Manson. He was just a young husband who had already moved past us to another life. If we are honest, really honest, with ourselves as women, then the hardest part of divorce is the loss of our hopes and dreams for a family together. So often you hear about people divorcing shortly after a new baby comes or a new home is finished, and you wonder why did they go ahead and do these things. The baby and the house are desperate attempts for two people to convince themselves that their hopes and dreams are still alive.
In my divorce adjustment classes I would frequently ask women who were mourning their divorce and wishing that things were “the way the used to be,” to describe exactly what they missed the most. Often they mourned the lifestyle, the safety of being a couple, the security of a partner in parenting, but not the man himself. For women who mourned the loss of the husband, lover, companion or the man himself, the divorce adjustment is much harder. For them it is the loss of a deep love and not just a lifestyle. In the end, the women all wanted to live out the marriage that they planned when they were young and for their husband to be the prince they had envisioned.
This is an excerpt from “You’re It! Successful Single Mothering after Divorce.” Chapter Two, Part One
Article by Jeanne L. Ward