My heart feels a little heavy just now. I'm thinking of a friend–call him Andy (not his real name)–and the heartbreak he's enduring because his wife wants a divorce. This I learned about only a few days after learning that another friend, Bonnie (not her real name), has left her husband Stu (not his real name), taken out a restraining order against him, and filed for divorce. Stu also is heartbroken.
Marriage is hard, isn't it? For two people to meld their lives, to learn the back-and-forth, the give-and-take, of a shared life. It's hard in the best of circumstances. But in a culture that devalues marriage, it's infinitely harder.
In this 21st century, it seems marriage literally means something different than it once did. Even setting aside the legal redefinition to include same-sex unions. It once was a covenant, a binding contract, a lifetime promise–in sickness and health, for richer for poorer, until death parts us.
But no more. Now it's a temporary arrangement based on feelings. Movies and TV, even books, have created this vision of romance that people think their relationships should live up to, and Hollywood has taught us that if we “fall out of love” or “grow apart,” we can, should, must move on.
But romance novels (and Hollywood rom-coms) typically stop at the “I do.” They seldom, if ever, show the routine day-to-day or how we can continue to love when the heat of passion cools. Movies teach us that attraction is irresistible and sex is the first way we show love. And if the passion wanes, something is wrong.
Marriages end on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. But what that term really means is neither person is willing to change. Two people, each expecting the other to bend to his or her will. And when neither will give, they reach a stalemate. And in anger or frustration or resignation, they quit, they give up, they pack it in and walk away.1
So sad. And sadder still when one person wants to keep trying and the other refuses. As is the case with my friend Andy and his wife, and with our dear friends Bonnie and Stu.
Marriage is hard. No doubt about that. I'm just so sad for them all.
- I'm by no means intending to disregard or minimize the situations where a marriage ends due to physical abuse, infidelity, addiction, or other serious issues. My thoughts in this post only pertain to the many, many marriages that end for far less serious reasons.