A friend confided to Scott and me that he and his wife were divorcing. It came as a surprise and shock really, to us, and our friend said it had to him as well.
12 years ago this week I asked Clark for a divorce. He said, "You've said this before, what makes this time any difference?" And my response, "Because I'm finished."
I think my final request and tenacity to stick with this surprised him, and the news of our divorce certainly shocked family and friends.
As much as those outside of our house were startled that Clark and I were divorcing, it was our adult children with whom I was the most concerned.
The day we told the children we were divorcing was a day I will sadly, never forget - my heart was aching for them, for the news, and I knew there was no way out. A Sunday, almost a month after beginning the paperwork, and just a couple of weeks before the divorce was finalized, we packed a picnic, took the kids up Hobble Creek Canyon (they had both been working out of town for the summer, which made the arguing, parsing, and filing easier), and in between making sandwiches and talking about the week's activities, I told them their father and I were getting a divorce.
They were angry, angry, angry, and questioned the summer, the past year, their lives, and our lives as a family. And we couldn't rally around each other to hold us together like we had in the past. We were all separate - separated.
How do you reason with something that is so terribly entrenched in emotion? There is no rational way to explain divorce. "Your dad and I don't get along." "We've grown apart." "We're not happy." What can be said? A divorce isn't always about infidelity, porn, finances, lying - it can really be about irreconcilable differences.
Two weeks ago Scott and I had the privilege of spending a week with our daughter, her husband, and their two lovelies. Scott and I have been together 11 1/2 years, and Jenna and Cliff have been very supportive of Scott and me. But still - would this week, with a stepfather/in-law, work? It did, spectacularly, because time does heal, and because of the blessing that 2 little ones will never know any different. They won't know the wounds of Gma's and Gpa's divorces. And as long as their parents and Scott and I are healthy, they will be as well (fingers crossed).
And healthy - that's a huge responsibility. Because Scott and I both brought bad habits and destructive ways of thinking into our marriage. We've had to work so very hard at being better people and building a strong relationship - something we took fore granted in our previous marriages. I can't complain to my friends about tough times, because there really is no sympathy the second time around - I should have learned from the past!
Back to this friend. There are many similarities between Clark and I and this friend and his spouse. (In fact, as I write this, I have 2 other very good friends who have recently divorced, at similar stages, with similar responses.) Been married longer than 20 years. Have adult children - building relationships - forging lives separate from their parents. They are respected and loved in the community. They are involved in the religious and secular community. People will be stunned. There will be questions. There will be no answers. There will be judgment passed, sides taken, and heartache - in the community, in the family. There will be advice - oh goodness, the most terrible of advice from those only wanting to save you and your marriage, as if you haven't already tried every trick in the books.
What's the secret to a healthy marriage? Well, Michelle Shocked sings, "The secret to a long life is knowing when it's time to go." And honestly, that's my advice. I knew when it was time to leave, for sure. I calculated when there would be the least heartache, the least pain, the least impact in my family, and then waited, and when the moment was right, I left - hoping and praying that Clark, Ronda, Tyler, Jenna would be happy, could find happiness, as we all moved forward - forward.
To my stunned friend: maybe the blessing is that your children are healthy, your children are adults, your bills are paid, your careers are grounded, and your time is now to move. Even with the heartache and pain and anger and frustration and guilt and self-doubt and second-guessing and questioning and answering - it's time.
Am I advocating divorce over "working through one's issues"? Absolutely not. But when 20+ years of therapy have kept a family together, artificially, the choice is simple - exist or live. I know many folks who choose exist - yuck, but kudos to them for their commitment. My advice to them is this - begin looking for the good in your partner, even if you haven't done that in years, begin so now, and I say that in urgency. To those who have chosen to live - move forward, no regrets, lessons learned, and then build a life that you are happy to share with your children and grandchildren (and if you're going to take back your maiden name, do it now. Much simpler now rather than later).
Good luck - And don't listen to me, listen to you - perhaps for the first time, listen to you.