The philosophical musings on bathroom stalls are vastly underrated. The other day I saw the following written exchange:
Q: How do you I know I’ve met the person I want to spend the rest of my life with?
A: When it’s not a struggle
This made me laugh, which is slightly awkward in a washroom filled with people. In precisely 5 words this individual has articulated the crux of why people choose to cut themselves loose or to stay. Every relationship, not just marriage, requires work. I think people are better able to maintain the viability of their partnerships if they enter into it with this knowledge. The moment you start taking each other for granted is the beginning of the end.
Having said this, life is way too short to be unhappy and working to revive something that is long gone. That’s why I never view divorce as a failure or pathology. Our identities are constantly in flux and it’s not surprising that things fall apart. The end of a marriage has its own complexities with messy emotions, the exchange of assets and hurtful words. A lawyer on the “Humans of New York” site eloquently describes this process: “I’ve been a divorce lawyer for 32 years. Not too many lawyers can stomach it. Divorce brings out the bad in good people, and the monster in bad people. Everyone wants to leave the table with a piece of the other.” However, I think it’s the aftermath of the legal proceedings that’s probably even harder to bear. Every account I’ve read has expressed some form of regret which is so masterfully examined in Lionel Shriver’s novel “The Post-birthday world” and deconstructed in Sarah Polley’s film Take this waltz. Even the ultimate symbol of surviving divorce, Elizabeth Gilbert, admitted that she missed her husband in “Committed”, the follow-up to her best-selling memoir. That’s when I officially said, Liz, you just killed my buzz. After eating, praying and loving you still wonder how he’s doing? But that’s the kicker, you will probably always love someone even if you don’t want to share your life with them.
Andrew and I used to live in a building with a courtyard. Not having air conditioning our windows were always open and the fans were constantly buzzing. One night the power went out and while I’m worried about heat stroke, Andrew’s frazzled that he can’t watch “Mad Men.” He proceeds to yell out into the courtyard, “my stories, my stories” and two residents actually looked up, concerned that they are living with a crazy person. I’ve told him several times to remind me of this moment, the yelling and the “stories” if we are ever on the brink of divorce. Because it is at this exact moment that I thought he was the bee’s knees, the best, the “one.” My friend D says that you will never get through marriage without humor and it’s so true. When I picture myself as a 60 year old there are several things that I wish for and will probably work very hard to bring about. I want to be happy, I want to be at Martha’s Vineyard wearing linen, to live in Paris as much as possible, and I want to read all the time. When I picture this, I see my husband there with his wit, his wine and his serious heart. I want him to be there. That’s how I know that we’ll probably be alright.