Do you believe in divorce?
That is a question I struggled with for a long time.
Because for me, the answer was no.
I definitely did not believe in divorce.
I believed marriage was a serious commitment, and one that once made, was made for life. Almost two decades ago I stood in front of a group of family and friends, and spoke my vows:
For better or worse,
In good times and in bad,
Till death do us part
And when I spoke those words, I meant them.
Back in 2012, my wife at the time told me she “wasn’t sure if she wanted to be married anymore”, and after that day we really weren’t. She checked out on me then, though if I’m honest with myself she had checked out on me prior to that – I just didn’t see it.
I thought I was a good husband, and a good father. And doing it all over again, there really isn’t much I would do differently. However I recognize now that I was probably a better father then a husband.
There’s no point trying to think back on *what* went wrong. Realistically, I’ll never truly know. All I know is, by the time I knew we were in trouble it was already too late.
I had already lost her.
2012 to 2016 was a dark period in my life.
My marriage was in shambles, and really the only thing keeping it together (on my end, I won’t pretend to speak for her) was the fact that I didn’t believe in divorce.
I saw divorce as giving up.
I saw it as breaking my commitment, and that commitment meant the world to me.
I saw divorce as a failure, and having a broken marriage made me feel like “I” had failed.
I believed (and still believe) that how you are when times are good tells you almost nothing about yourself or your relationship. You don’t truly learn what you are made out of until you are challenged, until you struggle.
To me, how you respond to adversity and how you deal with those struggles shows who you truly are – both individually and as a couple. I did not want give up, and I did not want to quit. Not when the stakes were so high, and the future of my family depended on it.
So instead of giving up, I tried to look at things as an opportunity – an opportunity to identify whatever had gone wrong and make it better. An opportunity to improve things, and have the life we believed we could have.
I put my heart and soul into trying to make things better, for everyone. I learned as much as I could about relationships and what makes them succeed and fail. I learned about people, about motivations. And as I learned, I built this blog; as a way of trying to solidify ideas for myself plus share things that I wish I had known earlier (in the hopes that I could help, or at least give hope, to at least someone out there).
Nothing I did or learned helped my home situation, and ultimately the decision was made to end the marriage.
The early years were pretty good, and I will always be thankful that my children were born in what I look back on as a time of happiness. When we ran into challenges however, we didn’t rise to the occasion. Our marriage ran its course, and was no longer good for either of us.
Those four plus years were difficult, but I would like to think it was a period of significant growth for me personally. Growth that will hopefully be beneficial to me as I move forward.
Looking back, one of the things I ask myself is why?
Why was I so against divorce?
Why did I see it as a failure, or giving up?
In retrospect, I realize I was looking at it wrong.
The question should never have been do I believe in divorce. Rather, the question should have been what do I believe marriage should look like?
Saying I didn’t believe in divorce was operating from a position of fear, and that’s never a healthy place to be.
When I was able to re-frame the question for myself, I realized that I wasn’t actually afraid of divorce.
What I REALLY wanted was a strong marriage.
To me, a strong marriage was a marriage where two people were working together as partners. Where they set goals together, and supported each other as individuals while also not losing sight of the importance of being a couple. Where there was a focus on the relationship, and each person felt valued and heard by the other person. And where a couple is comfortable discussing anything, and actively works to improve upon the things that either partner feels needs improvement.
I didn’t have that anymore.
And although I spent considerable time and effort trying to understand what had gone wrong and what we could potentially do to “make things better”, nothing changed, and I had no reason to believe it ever would.
I don’t want to get into who was right and who was wrong, because truly, that doesn’t matter.
Our ideas on what we wanted out of life and marriage no longer fit.
WE no longer fit.
As a result, the best thing either of could do was accept that we were not good together anymore, and let the other person go.
I married at 25.
I always thought of myself as someone who was fairly mature for my age, but looking back I was still just a kid. I didn’t know very much about life, about people, or even about myself.
One of the dangers of getting married when you are young is, you are both still in the process of becoming the people you will one day be. I guess this happens at every age, but it seems especially pronounced when you marry fairly young (as you are going through so many changes).
It’s a beautiful thing when two people are able to grow together, supporting each other as they build their life.
Increasingly though, I think that’s a very difficult thing to do.
And over time if a couple doesn’t put in the day to day work of prioritizing and nurturing the relationship, it’s very easy to one day wake up and realize that they aren’t really sure who the other person is anymore.
When that happens, a couple has a decision to make. They either use this as an opportunity to re-learn each other and see if they still want a life together. Or they accept that their journey together has ended, and it’s now time for each of them to continue their journey’s separately.
I think that decision should never be made out of fear of divorce, or of what life will look like when they are “alone”. Rather it should be made based on that question of what they want out of life, and if they believe they can achieve that together.
If they can’t achieve that together, divorce is not a failure. It’s simply an acknowledgement that the relationship they once shared has run its course.
Divorce should never be an easy decision, and it’s not something to do lightly. It IS a serious commitment, and I think people *should* try to work things out if possible.
Sometimes they can’t though, and that’s alright.
So no, I still don’t believe in divorce.
But I DO believe in marriage where two people are building a life together. Where they are invested in the relationship, and are able to wake up and choose each other, each and every day (or at least most of them, hah).
If you don’t have that, then divorce isn’t something to fear. Sometimes, it’s actually an act of kindness, and the best chance at a healthy future.