Tuesday, February 10, 2009


A friend of mine is getting divorced. Two friends, actually, since I am friends equally with them both. I feel like I don't know them all that well, though we have known each other for a few years; we don't live in the same city and have only seen each other face to face a few times, though we talk online and trade messages somewhat regularly. News of their divorce made me feel strange. Sad for them, and confused, wondering what went wrong and why.

This is the second couple I've been friends with to divorce, and I remember feeling the same way when I heard about my other friends also. It feels shocking to me, and I can't pinpoint why. I want to cry for them, and ask them "why".

My own parents split up when I was young enough that I don't remember it, though they are currently now very happily married (to each other). My mom has been divorced twice in my lifetime, once in my childhood and once after I was an adult and out on my own, and I don't really remember being told about either divorce. I would guess the feelings of sadness and loss probably stem from that, but I don't remember my parents splitting up and I was happy about at least one of her divorces.

Why then do I feel scared and sad for my friends? Questions chase their tails in my head, questions that I assume chase around in their heads. What will they do? Who keeps the house? Who will take the pets? What about the kids? How do you explain the concept of divorce to a child?

The idea of divorce terrifies me. I am not morally or religiously opposed to it. If it's time for a marriage to end, it should end. I don't think people should stay in situations that don't make them happy, whether it's a job or a marriage or a hobby. I have been married twice and I can recall, with a clarity borne of every positive emotion of which I am capable, precisely how happy I was during both of my weddings. To be spiritually and legally joined to the person I loved the most was a moment that I have never been able to find sufficient words to describe. And the thought of also feeling all the negativity that leads to divorce about that same person makes me feel incredibly sad.

I am reading a book called Blink by Malcolm Gladwell; I have just started it and it's about the decisions we make subconsciously, and how we arrive at those decisions on instinct without evaluation or analysis of fact. Gladwell talks about a psychologist who has learned to accurately predict which marriages will end in divorce by reviewing video-taped sessions of couples speaking to each other about an issue that is important, but indirectly related, to their marriage. He can tell, from just a few minutes of observation, that one partner may be unforgiving and overbearing; or that a wife views her husband with contempt; or that a person is defensive and doesn't take responsibility for his actions. And he can predict with supposed overwhelming accuracy who stays married and who does not.

Reading the paragraphs about the methods the psychologist used to make his predictions sends my mind back to occasions with my friends. I can't help but think about the interaction I saw between them and how I thought they were such a fun, happy couple. And even though this divorce is the best thing for them, I can't help but feel a little sad all the same.

I feel happily married, but now I'm a little curious about what a taped conversation would reveal about me and Mr. J. I hope it would show friendship and love and mutual respect.


MargauxMeade said...

This is a really interesting post, Jade, though I'm sorry to hear about your friends. Something that kept nagging at me throughout the part about being able to predict who divorces is the fact that your parents are now remarried to each other. I think there are couples who, at one point, have that contempt or that defensiveness based on what's happening at a certain point in their lives but, if they stick it out and are able to work through it, they can eventually get to a place where things are going smoothly again. I think too often people check out when the going gets tough because they believe that this is the way it will always be. But your parents are living proof that that's not necessarily true.

I think the trick to sticking it out is consciously trying to remember and tap into that beautiful feeling of joined presence and spirituality at the wedding. I'm not really one to talk because my marriage is falling apart right now, but I still do carry that feeling with me and I do not believe the answer to my husband's and my problems is divorce. (That's not based on a moral or religion, but on a gut feeling).

Closeguy said...

divorce..divorced & more of it... I wonder how come you guys in western country can't maintain relationship...what happens all of sudden?

Jade said...

Divorce, just like marriage, isn't necessarily a defining moment. Just because people stay married, that doesn't make them happy. I know people married 50+ years who don't really like each other. Sometimes staying married isn't the best answer either.

I don't know all the people in the West, so I really can't say why they can't maintain relationships.

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