A few years ago, my age group went through their first round of marriages, and now it seems that we are also going through our first round of divorces. Although I was never technically married, my heart goes out to these individuals, because I know just how emotionally taxing these life events can be. There are so many things that must occur after these periods of loss: identity redevelopment, rebuilding your friend group, plus all the other emotional stuff that comes along with it.
They are always saying that “the divorce rate is climbing higher and higher”. People are the same as they have always been, and in my opinion, there probably were the same amount of unhappy marriages in the 1950’s than there are today. It’s not that people have changed, because people have always been crappy. Research suggests that the brain is not fully developed until 25; when I think about who I was at 22, and who I am now, they could not be two different people, and I know that, if I married the person I dated at 22, I surely would have been miserable, and probably divorced at 25.
With divorce comes feelings of shame; “I wish I would have noticed that behavior before”, “I can’t believe I let myself get into that situation”, “I am not a quitter, and I have quit this marriage”. Kind of like I noticed with weddings, I think most of this self-talk comes from hearing other people’s judgements and expectations. My friend recently got married, and all of her anxieties came from hearing other people’s opinions of other weddings they attended; she was worried about the food, because a co-worker once went to a wedding where they ran out; she was worried about the table decorations, because a friend of hers once went to a wedding that she thought the table decorations were lame; she was worried about her dress, because a family member once went to a wedding and complained about the bride’s dress; I think the same thing happens with divorce. One of our co-workers is getting divorced, and we hear our other co-workers talking about how scandalous it was; one of our friends is getting divorced, and we hear all our other friends talking about how tragic it is; one of our family members is getting divorced, and we hear all out other family members talking about how they knew it wasn’t going to work in the first place. By talking about our opinions of other people’s lives, we do so much scarring to each other, because internally, we hope no one talks about us in this way. So, when we find ourselves in these positions, not only are we undergoing the emotional turmoil OF the divorce, but we are also afraid of what other people are saying about us because we have heard all the crappy things they say about other people.
I think we judge others when we feel lacking in ourselves; perhaps we find ourselves dangerously close to that edge ourselves, and rather than admitting it to ourselves, we judge others as a way to distance ourselves from our own internal dilemmas. Ultimately, I am using judgement to propel myself and tell my ego, “Wow, I am SO much better than that person because I would NEVER do that”.
But, perhaps its not really my place to judge whether or not someone got a divorce, because since I don’t really know people, I don’t really know their situation. While we know people, we do not necessarily always know people, and we don’t always know their situations. People are really good at covering up their uglies when its only a short period of time (which I also think is our obligation to others to be as real as possible). It could have been that someone did a really great job of covering up their gambling addiction, and as soon as they are married and the finances are shared, that addiction surfaces. It could be that someone was not faithful, and was able to keep it a secret until a mysterious letter shows up at the door step. It could be that someone held some really aggressive tendencies, and those tendencies were not revealed until they were forced to “solve a problem”. Or, it could be that two decently people just grew apart, and being together makes everyone miserable. Of course, when our friends are telling us their stories, we usually only hear one side, and that side is often skewed (because there really is no such thing as truth).
It could be that these people found themselves in situations that continuing the marriage was potentially more detrimental to mankind than staying in. For example, my parents divorced when I was 12, and while it would have been nice to grow up as a family, I also recognize that they were the WORST possible match for each other, so I can’t imagine what it would have been like if they stayed together. Or, as I was listening to the radio the other day, a mom called in to share her story about both her husband and her son pledging sobriety, and I couldn’t help but think about the moral obligation we have to our children. They say alcoholism runs in families, because we inhibit the behaviors we grow up with; we do not know any other model of raising so when it comes to coping, we see our parents drinking, and we think its an option. And perhaps the marriage ended in divorce in order to save the children from learning these same behaviors.
So, when someone tells me, “I am 25 and divorced”, I can’t really judge, because I don’t really know. I don’t really know what went down between the two people. I don’t really know what options they considered. I don’t really know how possible, or not possible, the marriage was. And, I don’t really think its up to me to judge, because I would have added to that statistic too…