By now you know the rhythm, the cadence, of the words… “In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer… blah blah blah… til death do us part.” It’s as much a part of the collective consciousness as Miley Cyrus on a wrecking ball, or Uncle Sam doffing his hat and saying he wants YOU, yes you, to join the army. And while our divorce rate soars at an all time high, it can be easy to forget that in those vows we said something that doesn’t take divorce into account.
Which makes sense, seeing as each marriage is a new beginning. Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl. They date. Boy proposes. Girl accepts. BAM. They say the words to each other, believing in them like they’ve never believed anything before in their lives. They will stay together until death’s cruel grip comes to tear them apart. But things change. People change, and words said a while ago don’t really bind as they should. Let me rephrase. Those feelings, that depth of emotion behind those words, that’s what changes. And life throws a wedge into emotions, into the best laid plans.
I should know. I walked down the abbreviated city hall aisle when I was 21, and I said those very words, believing that they would bind me to this other person for all time. I had faith in my feelings at that moment, that those feelings would last for all time, and that hers would do the same. I didn’t take into account that when you’re married you find out things about each other that might tax those feelings. I didn’t figure into the bargain that the changes we would go about would irrevocably divide us.
I didn’t go into that marriage thinking I would be a statistic. I went in with hope. But I left as a statistic.
Divorce isn’t always somebody’s fault. Believe me. Sometimes it just happens because of circumstance, because of misplaced faith, because of issues beyond your control. It isn’t the byproduct of horrible situations every single time. Maybe you were better off as friends. Perhaps the idea of marriage was like that extra piece of pie — awfully tempting, until you eat it and you realize you were already full. Divorce is a way of mutually saying, “Yeah, this just isn’t working and we’ve exhausted all avenues to try and stay together.”
I am myself a product of divorce. I saw firsthand growing up what it was like when parents have a difference of opinion, when open wounds fester so much the stench in the air was always palpable. I saw the havoc it can wreak on two people who used to love each other, who maybe still loved each other, but who were ill suited for each other, who were better off going their separate ways. I lived through the pain of the separation, through the tearing of the fabric of my world, thinking it was me, thinking nothing was ever going to be good again in my life. So I know what it was like. I know divorce can be such a traumatic event.
But it can also be good. You see, my parents were in a toxic relationship by that point. It was plain to see, at least in our household. We were told to present a different face to the world, but we knew how to call a spade a spade when we were behind the closed doors of our rented house. It was devastating when it happened, but in time I saw it for what it really was, a chance for my mom to finally breathe. She was better off without him, even though it meant she was now a single mother, even though it meant the purse strings were just that much tighter. But she was committed to us. She threw all of herself into being there for us.
So I will never say that divorce is always a bad thing. Maybe the marriage itself was the bad thing. Maybe things happen that are beyond our control, but when we finally get control we realize that these things should not be, that life should be different than… this. So yes, I am a part of the grand statistic, in more ways than one. I’m like the Hair Club for Men president. I’m not only the president. I’m also a client.
I told myself that when I grew up I would preserve the sanctity of marriage, that I would follow each and every vow to the letter, if I was lucky enough to get married in the first place. But one thing I didn’t tell myself was what the contingency would and should be if the marriage was detrimental to me as a human being. I somehow survived 3 years of that marriage, and then it was done, and I can honestly say that, just as with my parents before me, that divorce was the best possible thing that could have happened to me in the situation, for both my sanity and for the possibilities it afforded me for a healthier future.
Sometimes it really is “Til Divorce Do Us Part,” and that’s okay. Sometimes that’s okay.