Wedding Brouhaha: On Calling it Off or Divorce

An Unhappy Union: Jupiter and Juno, Zeus and Hera.
A Union for the Gossips if there ever was one: Jupiter and Juno, Zeus and Hera.

That’s right, I said it: DIVORCE. D-I-V-O-R-C-E.

When we were getting married, “divorce” was like a dirty word. The prospect was terrifying. Still.

I joked, as we were getting married, about how passion and reason did not always coexist. How could either of us possibly vow to become one with another person, until our lives ended? And not only to make that vow, but to think “this is a good idea!” We must be mad!

And it was madness, in a way.

I recently wrote about the beauty of marriage, how much I love and treasure it. This is true.

Perhaps this is why I hear the word “divorce” and I freeze. I didn’t used to freeze: before I was married, I accepted it as fact. “This person is married, that person is divorced.” It was simple, no values involved.

As a married person?

I suspect it’s because there’s so much emotion associated with the word. I realize now that becoming “divorced”: there is a stigma, but it’s not because someone has failed, but because they have loved, and that the love ended. That one adjective describes that someone was once married, with all that that entails, and that the marriage did not hold true.

Marriage, with all its beauty, binds two separate people together. That strikes me as wondrous, and rare.

As a married person, I cannot imagine the heartbreak. I look at my husband, and I am terrified of losing him, of losing it – whatever force keeps us together. I am afraid to lose whatever that is – that it – because it is so precious and dear to me.

But through my fear, I can see how people do. I can see how it’s lost. Someone changes, someone grows, there’s no money, or a death, or a betrayal, and someone is so, so tired.

I’d be lying if I told you that “divorce” had never crossed my mind. There’s a spark between Z and I, and sometimes those flames: they burn. A few times, particularly earlier on in our relationship, we had epic, blow-out fights. The kind of fights that both curl your hair and kick your teeth. And, I hope, the kind of fights that you look back on, 30 years later, and laugh: “Do you remember when we were so passionate and young like that?”

In the middle of those fights, when I’m so angry I’m shaking – when I can’t think rationally or see the humour in anything – I’ve had moments where I’ve thought: “This is bad news. I need to get out of this.”

I’m certain Z has had those moments too.

I believe these moments of doubt, rather than being harbingers of inevitable disaster, give us opportunity to grow and to address our flaws. I feel very lucky to be in the kind of relationship where it’s safe to get angry, and where it’s safe to fail while learning.

In lucky relationships, when you have heated moments, you later take time to cool off and you think about why on earth you got so upset. You realize maybe, maybe, you were overreacting to something, or you were responsible for hurting the other person, and you apologize. This is healthy.

In other relationships? In the relationships that end? I suspect there’s no cool off. That one person tries and tries, and then gives up on the other person. Or the other person just cannot, despite all their best efforts, believe in their heart that they are loved. Or one person is too afraid to express their dismay at all, or one person pushes a boundary too far – so far past propriety they cannot be forgiven.

So I understand: I’m afraid of divorce, but I understand how a marriage ends. And I respect the courage it must take to say: “we’re done” and to move on.

Don’t confuse me – I’m not saying I don’t believe in marriage. I very much do. I just believe that the force that binds two individuals together – the one that keeps them both trying, invested, and in love, through all their own growth and the things life throws at you – that force is very, very rare. Instead of seeing divorced people and thinking: “Oh, they failed”, I think: “Oh, they’ve been hurt. They trusted, and it didn’t work out.”

You know who else would understand? Other than Beyonce?

In honour of passionate, fiery marriages, here’s Johnny and June Carter Cash, with their song Jackson. Of all the duets, this is the one I most identify with, particularly when she sings: “see if I care”, even though we all know – she cares the most:

And then, because this is how love can feel sometimes: The Ring of Fire.