Some of you may be aware that Magda and I used to be married. To each other. And we write a blog about co-parenting called When The Flames Go Up, where we try to talk candidly about our experience as divorced co-parents. The other day Magda wrote a post about reacting to other people’s divorces, and how stunning it can feel when two people who seem happy together announce that they’re not. When I read it, I was surprised by my reaction, and by how sanguine toward divorce I feel I’ve become.
This wasn’t always the case. When I saw “When Harry Met Sally …” in the theater, it was 1989. I was 23 years old. In the first present-day scene, at the Central Park Boathouse, Carrie Fisher’s character wants to fix Sally up with a guy from her “little black recipe box.” And when she finds out he’s married, she folds the corner of his index card and replaces it. When I saw that, I thought, “What? He’s married! You can’t keep his card. Rip it up! He’s off the market now!”
Three things changed that.
First, I got divorced. Soon afterward, a lot of people began asking me about what divorce was like. What’s involved exactly? Is it doable? That kind of thing. And it so blew my mind that I wrote a post on Laid-Off Dad called “Faulty Joists,” which included this:
When people ask my advice, that’s fine. But when they say I make divorce “look easy,” I feel my esophagus cramp. Some days are fine, and some are rottenhard; the only reason it might look otherwise is that I don’t write about the rottenhardness. The ways to make divorced parenthood as bearable as possible are pretty simple: Pick your battles, always think about the kids, and have faith that soon a less fecal day will dawn.
Next, I was invited to speak at BlogHer about blogging and relationships (Magda was too, but she had school that weekend). The discussion touched on how 1) many people start blogging because they seek the audience they don’t have at home, and 2) the solitude of blogging runs counter to spousal interaction. At one point, I asked the audience if they felt their spouse didn’t “get” blogging and/or resented them for it. Over half of the hands went up.
And third, the other day I was idly sifting through my favorite photos on flickr and came across this one, featuring five of my favorite bloggers whose work inspired me to start LOD back in 2003. I’ve always admired them as writers and liked them as friends. All five were married when the photo was taken, just under four years ago. Since then, three of their marriages have collapsed.
When I hear that friends are divorcing, I still feel sad for the pain they and their kids are about to endure. I am by no means a divorce advocate; everyone has a responsibility to try to save their marriage, especially if kids are involved. But if the decision has been made, and the excrement is about to hit the fan, I can’t see it as a purely negative thing. It’s taken a lot of hard work (we’re by no means “done,” that’s for damn sure), but I feel happier than I’ve ever felt in my life. I’d wager Magda feels the same, and that has to reap dividends for our kids somehow.
Divorce is bad, but it happens. And just like root canal or a tax audit, it can be endured. You can hold your friends close, concentrate on the things you can control, train yourself to maintain some kind of optimistic resolve, and it’s very likely that, one day, you’ll feel like all that fecality has been flushed away.Read more of Doug’s writing on Laid-Off Dad.
Follow Doug on Twitter @LOD.