Thursday, January 1, 2009


I have a dear friend who is living apart from her husband and divorce may be rearing its complicated head. This causes us, her friends, no end of sadness for her, for him, for the thing left between them. Her situation is new to me. I am not a product of divorce or blended families or any of that. So I am learning to navigate this new situation.

As a young and arrogant Christian girl, I always assumed marriage was bliss and divorce was b-a-d. Only people who didn't try got divorced. You just make up your mind to make it good and there you go; if not marital accord then at least some semblance of happiness.

In my post-young adult years, I have come to realize that black and white solutions are best left in the black and white days of youth. Where things are easy and we don't know it yet because we think perfection is on the horizon. Whether from that ideal job, or partner or whatever, we think we're not quite where we want to be.

And then we get there. The beautiful tinge of looking forward turns into the mess of the present, with laundry and garbage, grades, teacher's conferences, bills and slab leaks. The gorgeous life of our dreams, the one we may be living in, is actually only beautiful in memory. It is hard, it is ugly, it ca be a real drag.

Of course this does not in itself mean the death toll for marriage. Most couples find themselves in a pit of despair at least once in their married years. Many climb their way out of the valley and back into the warm sun on the rocks. But for my friend and her husband, the valley has become a permanent residence and their hiking gear was lost along the way.

I don't know all the details and I don't really want to. I remember when I found out that the man who gave the message at my very Christ centered wedding was divorced. I felt stunned. That man had stood up there and talked about how marriage is a journey and you hold hands and tell each other of your love, you work through divorced. I was sad for him, the kids, for me, really. I felt betrayed. How could he do this to me?

I have amended my thoughts on divorce. Well, that's not totally true. I don't know what to think about it. But the expectation of marriage that spouses are to make each other happy is naive and trite. If it were that know how it goes.

Now as I think of all my friends who've had this experience, of divorce, I think more along the most base of humanist responses, "Do what you need to do." I know all the arguments Christians make for staying in a marriage, and I know all the "secular" talk about how it affects kids and all that. My mom once said people make all kinds of compromises in marriage and another couple might find peace in doing something that would make me cringe. And that's okay. I don't really know what is going on in someone else's marriage and I sure as heck don't have any answers. The best I can do is pray and listen and hope. And get out of the way.

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