Thursday, October 28, 2010

The post where I get all deep and thoughtful, à la Dr. Phil

I’ve been trying to write this post for a week.  I keep starting it, working through my thoughts and then scrapping it.  The thoughts are nagging at me, though, and I want to get them on paper so they can leave me alone! They’re swirling around, faster and faster in my head. Kind of like when you stir liquid in a bowl and get going so fast that it sloshes on the counter.  That always happens to me when I make instant pudding.  (Speaking of which, don’t try the pumpkin spice instant pudding.  DISgusting.)

Or my thoughts are like when I’m in spin class, spinning the bike pedals so quickly that I can’t stop or my leg would pop off and fall to the ground.  Popped off legs remind me of Barbie, and how Reggie likes to chew them up, leaving the dismembered body parts in the middle of the hallway floor. Sometimes I’ll get up in the middle of the night and step on something.  When I stoop to pick it up, and my bleary mind registers that it’s a mutilated Barbie leg, I drop the mangled limb in disgust and curse the dog.

Hold on.  Pudding and Barbie legs are not what I want to write about today. I really do have a serious subject, and some thoughts that have been weighing heavily on my mind. I’m going to try to plow ahead. Bear with me.

I have a very dear friend who is getting a divorce.  She and her husband haven’t been happy in a long time, it’s been a difficult marriage for her.  I’m sad for my friend, because I know she’s in for a rough ride, but I have faith that because she’s strong and capable, she will figure things out in her own way.

I’m surprised at my reaction to her news.  My primary reaction has been concern for my friend.  I hope she knows that she has my unwavering support through this tough time.  But that’s not the reaction that surprised me.  In the back of my mind, a tiny seed of thought began wiggling up through the soil of my mind, making me feel scared and vulnerable.  If divorce can happen to my friend, it can happen to anyone.  Which means it could happen to me.  

Intellectually, I know that divorce happens all the time.  One in every two marriages ends in divorce, or something like that, right?  The Husband and I are both children of divorced parents.  I have other friends who have gone through a divorce.  I know that it’s common, and I’ve always known that.

This particular friend of mine and I have known each other for 25 years.  We go back to a time of awkwardness, braces and fluorescent, oversized clothing.  We had crushes on the same boys, navigated the angst-filled halls of our high school together, and went off to the same college. She got married a couple of months before me.  I know that her marriage has been challenging – we’ve talked about it before.  I remember commiserating with her during times when my own marriage was rocky.  Within the last few years, her marriage deteriorated to the point where she felt that she had to make the choice to end it.  Like I said, my first reaction was sadness for her and I wanted to make sure that she knows she has my support.  But my second reaction, an internal, private reflex, was to personalize her tragedy and feel very vulnerable.

Here’s where I get honest and hope that I’m not sharing too much information.  The Husband and I have had some rough times.  It once got bad enough for me to seriously consider separation. So I understand that ‘things are beyond repair’ feeling.  In our case, we spent a weekend apart to think things over.  That weekend didn’t make the issues we were facing disappear, but while I was away, I knew that I couldn’t follow through with a real separation.  As angry and confused as I was with The Husband over our troubles, I realized that I just don’t want to be without him.

I won’t go into the nature of issues that we faced, but I will say that for a long time I felt that The Husband needed to change.  For many years, I nagged at him, shot him disapproving looks, and in the really bad times, argued bitterly with him.  After the realization that I didn’t want to be without him, I began to think long and hard about what I could do to be happy in my marriage.  I knew without a doubt that I didn’t want to be apart from The Husband.  But I needed to figure out how to be happy with him.

I realized that expecting him to morph into an unattainable version of my prince charming was unfair, and nagging and fighting about it was fruitless.  I couldn’t  force him to change.  But I could change myself. I decided that I should try to find happiness by becoming the person I wanted to be.  I began taking more time for myself, going out with girlfriends, exercising more, and spending time doing things I enjoy.  It seems counterintuitive that spending more time apart would bring us closer together, but for me, that’s exactly what it did.

As I began to feel happy and fulfilled in my life, I naturally began to dwell upon The Husband’s faults less and appreciate his strengths more.

DUH, right?  That’s common sense.  But it took me years to realize that the key to happiness is in ME, and not in him changing into someone I think he should be.  Some of the issues that seemed so huge and insurmountable before have naturally begun to erode.  He became more helpful around the house, he became more emotionally available (which is chick speak for ‘he talks to me about his feelings more’), and we began to treat each other as a priority again.  That, right there, is what I was after all along. To feel that our marriage is important and a priority.

It has made all the difference in the world to me.

So back to my friend and her divorce.  I have obsessed over this in my mind.  (It's amazing that I get anything  accomplished with my mind constantly working on overdrive like it does.) What can I do to make sure that The Husband and I don’t end up on the other side of the divorce statistic?  Not because I believe my friend is wrong or that divorce isn’t right for her, but because I don’t want to lose what I have built with The Husband.  We’ve worked so hard to get where we are, and I value his partnership and I love so many things about him.

Also, he's really cute.

Watching my friend’s marriage end has made me sad for her, and I wish her nothing but the very best.  I know she will find happiness and things will be ok, and that this is the path she is meant to take right now.  But it’s not the road I want, despite any struggles I may face with The Husband. My friend’s divorce has awakened some need inside of me to continue this quest to find satisfaction within myself, and by extension, to my marriage.  But it has also stirred up anxiety too.  Are we ok? What if we don’t make it? Am I doing everything I can to make sure he realizes how important he is to me? Probably not. I know I can do better at this.

I guess that’s a place to start, and maybe having something to work on will ease my mind.  So, tell me… Have you ever been affected by a friend’s divorce like this?  I can’t be the only neurotic one out there, can I?


Jen K said...

This is a good topic. When I was already unhappy in my marriage, one of my best friends divorced her husband. Seeing her go through it and survive actually gave me the courage I needed to get out of a horrible relationship that was hurting me emotionally. Probably not the way you wanted this conversation to go though. I'm sure our other friends had thoughts like yours.

Monnik said...

Actually, I think it's a great way for the conversation to go. Ultimately, watching someone go through a divorce had the same effect on you as it did to me: It made us realize, deep down, what we wanted in our lives.

I'm glad you were able to get out of your emotionally hurtful marriage... Life's too short for that.

Little Miss Sunshine State said...

I'm seeing WAY too many people chucking out long marriages. The ones that make me teary-eyed are the ones where people say "I'm bored". "I just don't want to be married anymore".
I want them to figure out how they can be happy AND stay married.

Every time I get aggravated with my marriage, it always comes down to something I have to change about my attitude. Sometimes it means letting go of things that aren't that important. Other times, it means taking more of an effort to see things from his point of view.

Jen K said...

Hey again - I don't hear much of the "I'm bored", which would make me really sad too. I think what I have learned that makes the most sense for me in my marriage is that my spouse is not responsible for my happiness, I am. Carving out time for myself (running with friends, book club, etc.) has made me a better, more relaxed wife and mother.

KVE222 said...

Monnik, you are a smart, smart lady.

Just to add another perspective here, I watched my parents go through a nasty divorce, and it's made me totally gun-shy with relationships. I doubt everybody and everything. I don't know if I'll ever be married.

But if I get married, you'll come to my wedding won't you?

Monnik said...

KVE - my parents divorced when I was in college. I know that feeling you describe.

For me, though, I tried to look to some great examples of loving marriages I saw growing up. My BFF's parents were very loving and still are to this day. Also, my grandparents and some of my aunts, uncles, etc. So I tried not to be gun shy about relationships because of my parents' failed marriage.

And yes. I'm totally coming to your wedding. Will you do a destination wedding in Costa Rica or somewhere fun?