Don't Consider Divorce Until...Monica Bielanko
I wrote this thing on my personal blog, The Girl Who, the other day about how I sometimes read stuff other people on the Internet write about our marriage.
They write about how dysfunctional we are because we fight. As if fighting with one’s spouse is such a shameful thing (because nobody ever argues with their spouse, right?) As if our tempestuous relationship is a big secret they’ve uncovered. As if we didn’t write the stuff for y’all to read in the first place.
These relationship oddsmakers place wagers on whether or not we’ll be the next bloggers to announce our divorce or whatever. And I get it, the fact that we’re talked about because we put it out there, but the thing I think is a little weird is that our speculated about divorce is somehow more imminent than the possible divorce of someone else who doesn’t publicly talk about their marital strife. Just because we’re open about our marital strife we’re more likely to divorce?
Or are we less likely to divorce because in talking about it we’re attempting to study the situation and understand it? In being public about our problems we are somehow able to take away some of the apparent stigma that admitting fighting with your spouse seems to bring.
What I mean is, take Heather Armstrong, for example. She’s someone who chose not to write publicly about problems within her marriage in the way that Serge and I do. By all accounts, she and her husband, Jon, were a happy couple and yet they are separated and seemingly on the road to a divorce. I don’t use her as an example as a kind of judgment on her choosing to write or not to write about her marriage, only to show you that just because Serge and I talk about our horrible fights doesn’t mean we’re more likely to divorce or that our marriage is any better or worse than someone who doesn’t choose to be open about their marriage issues. And just because someone else chooses not to publicly discuss the unpleasant elements of their relationship, just because they appear to be a fantastic couple doesn’t mean their situation is roses. You dig what I’m saying?
It’s no secret that Serge and I have had a rough year. The roughest. Our situation still feels ambiguous. But that doesn’t mean we’re always fighting and it doesn’t mean we are frolicking through meadows either. We’re living life, trying to figure it out one step at a time and, most importantly, focusing on our kids and trying to be the best parents we can be, which we realize includes making it work with each other.
That said, I know that both Serge and I, at one time or another, have felt like giving up. Like, maybe we just weren’t meant to be, maybe we’re just coming at this whole thing from such different perspectives that we’ll never make it work. Maybe too much water has gone under the bridge… But something always keeps each of us coming back, trying to make it work, to make it better.
That’s where this article I read on Shine from Yahoo comes in. It’s called Don’t Even Think About Divorcing Until… and was written for Redbook by Elizabeth Weil. She collected tips for how to save a marriage and avoid divorce from 13 extraordinary people who believe in doing whatever it takes to sustain the biggest love of your life. The piece really speaks to me at this particularly rocky juncture in my life. Divorce is so prevalent these days because, I think, people divorce for sillier and sillier reasons. I don’t mean to trivialize somebody’s reasons for divorcing because everyone has their own story, but with celebs like Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries and Russell Brand and Katy Perry kind of pissing all over the sanctity of marriage, it does feel like a lot of us everyday folk are following suit and ditching our marriages pretty quickly when the reality of marriage sets in.
Which brings me to tip one from the Shine article. Don’t divorce until…
Treat Your Spouse Like A Stranger… In A Good Way 1 of 6"Spend the next year treating your spouse as curiously, respectfully, and gratefully as you would a mysterious stranger. Henry Miller once said that a man's friends were his worst enemies because they believed they knew who he was - and they limited him to it. How much truer this is for spouses! We think we know our partner's deepest identity. But if we spent half the effort courting him as we might an exotic-accented stranger, he'd likely prove twice as grateful and at least as interesting." - CRISTINA NEHRING, AUTHOR OF A VINDICATION OF LOVE: RECLAIMING ROMANCE FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
Let Go Of The Fantasy 2 of 6"Let go of the fantasy that you're going to find someone who's perfect in all the ways your husband is not. People think they're going to find whatever is missing in their marriage. But with divorce, you trade off one set of problems for another. Imagine seeing your ex at a soccer game flirting with another woman. Imagine how that would feel. Because if you get divorced, people are going to be setting your husband up with women - appealing women who will find him fascinating. I'm not saying you should stay with someone if there are real problems. But if you're just sort of feeling like, "Well, I don't know. He doesn't inspire me. He's not interested in my book club selection...," think again." - LORI GOTTLIEB, AUTHOR OF MARRY HIM: THE CASE FOR SETTLING FOR MR. GOOD ENOUGH
Consider The Children 3 of 6"Children often bear the scars and burdens of divorce long after parents have moved on and started over. Short-term damage to children is obvious. But it's when children become adults that you really see the cost: difficulty facing mature relationships of their own, difficulty raising children of their own. In our culture right now, pulling the trigger to divorce, sadly, can be as easy as shopping at the mall. It shouldn't be." - ANDY BACHMAN, RABBI, CONGREGATION BETH ELOHIM, BROOKLYN, NY
Have Done Enough HONEST Self-Examination 4 of 6"Find out why you want to divorce in the first place. Because you would never want to take on something as monumental as a divorce unless you're going to change and grow from it. So ask yourself: "How did I get myself into this situation? Why did I pick this person to marry? What did I do to create terrible communication or anger or deadness?" Until you're willing to look at that, you'll just end one situation and pick up right where you left off in the next. Even if there is no next marriage, you'll re-create the dynamic in relationships at work, or in friendships, or with your children. Most marriages aren't black-and-white. Almost always, when things deteriorate, both people have contributed mightily to the demise." - ELIZABETH LESSER, COFOUNDER OF THE OMEGA INSTITUTE FOR HOLISTIC STUDIES IN RHINEBECK, NY, AND AUTHOR OF BROKEN OPEN: HOW DIFFICULT TIMES CAN HELP US GROW
Try Touching 5 of 6"I've found that a lot of couples stop touching long before they split up. When I suggest it, they go, "But I can't even talk to this person!" And I tell them there's no talking required. Just touch in silence. Be quiet. This can mean sitting next to each other so your bodies are touching while you're watching TV. The first time's going to be awkward, so give it a few tries. Then move on to hand-holding. Then a massage - just the hands or feet. Then spooning in bed. Touch increases the hormone oxytocin and makes couples feel closer. It takes away that urge to attack. It helps you remember what attracted you to your partner in the first place. Because you can't tell an angry or disconnected couple to go have sex. Uh-uh. But touching in silence can help you find that little flicker, and then you can try to increase that little flicker, and if you can do that, chances are you'll be able to reconnect emotionally, too." - HILDA HUTCHERSON, M.D., OB/GYN AND PROFESSOR AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY AND REDBOOK'S "INTIMATE ANSWERS" COLUMNIST
Have Examined All Financial Implications 6 of 6"Consider that, with the possible exception of permanent disability and long-term imprisonment, there are few financial calamities more devastating than divorce. Both spouses will need retirement savings sufficient to cover a household. People may need therapy. And there's a good chance careers will be damaged because you'll be distracted and may decline promotions or transfers. All these things can limit your financial prospects." - RON LIEBER, "YOUR MONEY" COLUMNIST FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES
Photo Credit: Flickr.com
For six more very excellent tips Elizabeth Weil collected you’ll have to click over to Shine from Yahoo.
Top photo credit: Flickr.com