I've recently had a few conversations about marriage and divorce with friends. In one conversation, two of my friends told me they didn't believe in divorce. I gasped silently inside. I listened to their reasonings, and although I understood them, I respectfully told them I disagreed, which I do.
I believe in marriage, but I also believe in divorce. And these days, I believe even more in conscious uncoupling. (Thank you Gwyneth Paltrow for calling out ugly divorces and forcing adults to act like adults and find a way to get divorced in a civilized manner, especially if children are involved.) See here and here about why I like the idea of conscious uncoupling.
I'm not sure why as a society we seem open to forgiving people of small errors/mistakes/shortcomings/failings, but we can't do the same for bigger errors/mistakes/shortcomings/failings. I'd put marriage in the latter category. Sometimes marriages just don't work out. There are usually a dozen reasons why they don't work out, but simply put, they just need to end for the benefit of both parties involved. Whenever two people decide to part ways, it seems like everyone starts to chime in and give their opinion on why the marriage didn't work and whether or not the couple tried hard enough to make the marriage work (and I have to say out the handful of marriages I'm privy to know well, I'd say 95% have really tried to make the marriage work). Once people pass their blind judgement, they feel they must take a side. The whole thing is so sad and messy, but mostly just sad.
I'm approaching a stage of life where several of my friends are in this crux of life where their marriages haven't turned out quite as planned (although who can plan anything in the future), and they are questioning whether or not they should stay married or get divorced. It's no longer my parents' friends; these are my friends. And in many cases, I love both the husband and the wife separately and together, so this line of questioning has made my heart ache in the quiet of the night.
Ideally, I wish every marriage would be work out beautifully, but we live in a real world where ideals are rarely realized, and I have come to believe that some people would be better divorced. Why? I'm not sure it matters why. But I believe that God put us on this earth to be happy (like really happy not just grin-and-bear-it kind of happy), and if happiness is not achieved after a lot of trying, then perhaps there is another route to happiness.
Over the past few years as I've watched marriages/families dissolve, I have learned a thing or two. I have learned to listen without passing judgement on either party. I think I am particularly good at this because I grew up knowing a lot of tumultuous marriages--one inside the walls of my own home--and I learned to see both sides because everyone has a side that deserves to be heard and understood. I may not agree with a side, but it really doesn't matter what I think because I'm just there to listen.
I've learned to say, "I'm so sorry you're going through this," "I don't know why you have to do this," and "I love you no matter what." It's so easy to spout off a million things when someone calls and asks for help, but I have found that most people just want to hear "I'm sorry" and "I love you." Sometimes I'll sit in silence on the phone or I'll pause before returning the text because I think people just need to let words hang out in the open space. It is never easy to admit, "I want a divorce," especially when that admonition has come after years of fighting for something you truly believe in. And there is nothing I can ever say that will make someone feel better so I just sit there with them on the other end of the line, and it's like we're hugging in some alternate universe. Damn distance. If I had it my way, I'd live within a 20 mile radius of my closest friends so I could run to them in hard moments such as these.
My dear friend got divorced earlier this year, and she taught me something so special. Gwyneth Paltrow could learn a thing or two from her. She taught me that everyone deserves a support system. There is no reason to choose sides. Both people are hurting. Both people feel crippled by the fate of unrealized and failed dreams. Both people need love. My friend even encouraged me to reach out to her ex-husband just so he knew he had support if he needed it in the future. I did so nervously, but he did respond to me, and now he knows if he needs me, I'm here for him too. Isn't she brilliant?
Divorce/conscious uncoupling is not easy. It is a painful process, but from my experience, friends and family can do a lot just by remaining open minded and kind. A listening ear goes a long way. In the end, I know after the darkness of the unknown disappears, there is always hope and a fresh start. And I probably believe in fresh starts most of all.