No, this isn't about me. If you know me, you likely know my partner/wife (I always preferred husband and wife as terminology rather than partner - I would like to refer to same sex couples' partners as their respective husband or wife, but I abide but whatever people request of me. Let's ignore the historical heterosexism and patriarchal roles that the words husband and wife entail for now). Anyway, my wife is great - way out of my league. People who meet or know her think she is sweet, beautiful, and just great. She's fairly quiet too. And they are right. I'm not just saying that because she'll read this. Honestly, I don't think she knows I maintain a blog because most of our conversations involve "who is picking up which kid? Did you go to the store or want me to stop by and get X?".
Anyway, as a friend commented on twitter a couple of months ago, he realized that he went past the 'go to lots of weddings' period of his life and had just finished the 'go to lots of baby showers' part. He observed he is now in the 'talk friends through their divorce' phase. I'm realizing that I am entering that as well. I am not going to bother counting the relationship endings I am seeing or have seen recently. It's a good number.
I have to admit, this is very new territory for me. I did not experience divorce in the family firsthand. That's not to say things were hunky dory, but I just haven't lived through that as personal experience. I had lots of friends as a child whose parents got divorced or were divorced. I understand it really can be the best thing for the family and respect it's a private and personal decision. I did see for many of those friends that there were some wounds that lingered from that, but again, I believe that what the family needed to do was what the family needed to do.
Things I struggle with:
- What to say to express my support to a person. I've tried lots of things, and all are some version of "I care and want to help you." It never seems to come out right.
- Not taking sides when possible. Often I'm friends with both people in the marriage/impending divorce. However, I hear two versions of things. Objectively, some of it sounds heinous on one side - one person was clearly unfaithful or became abusive in some way. So that's definitely bad. But I'm hearing a lot of 'person X' became distant or they got seriously depressed and took it out on person Y. I've actually heard that a lot from several couples. So in those situations, I don't know what to say. I wing it. I try to be supportive, but I also want to stay out of sides.
- Avoiding anything that sounds like advice. I haven't been there. Who am I to say what to do? Maybe I could recommend a lawyer, but I don't really know divorce lawyers or who is good or what you think about for those things. It is so difficult for me - not just emotionally, but like computationally - to think about how a home and a pair of lives will need to get split.
Even when it isn't divorce but some sort of separation, I am at a loss. Sometimes it is a trial separation. that is weird to me already. It's like trying out divorce territory but not really, so I feel extra cautious about those 3 things. Sometimes it is a necessary separation (like a job takes one spouse one place). I see this in the academy a lot. That is hard for me to imagine doing, although I would not doubt that I may have to do that at some point in my career just to make sure kids can finish school years while I or my wife starts a new job somewhere else. It may not be playing with fire, but it seems like it can be like buying a box of matches.
But on the topic of the separation leading to divorce or all that - The whole thing makes me feel a little sad because I was often at the wedding or on a group date or at a baby shower or whatever. I remember they used to be happy. I remember the vows and the toasts and how beautiful the bride looked or how the groom's eyes lit up upon seeing his partner to be at the other end of the aisle. I don't cry at weddings. I appreciate them. Partly because open bars and fancy appetizers are awesome.
Anyway, a little food for thought I had that has been sitting for the past week. It's not really work related, but this is a blog. I guess it's what you do on blogs - write something out into the ether, and maybe a nice spam bot finds it.