The question was thrown out to me over the weekend while I was attending a professional sporting event, of all places. I’m unable to resist such lines of inquiry, because, as I’m working to establish with you, I’m fascinated by people and relationships. So I turned my attention from the field to the asker. I said the first thing that came into my mind, which was that I think it’s unavoidable. The same person had asked me recently why I got married when I’ve struggled with intimacy issues and don’t want children. I responded that marriage was something for which I longed from a very young age. As a child when I played pretend, whether with Barbies, or friends, or stuffed animals, the games revolved around a married couple with no children. Marriage seemed like the end-all, be-all of life. And I mean marriage, not a wedding day. I wanted to know I had found someone to call my own, to love all my own, and that person was going to be a man, not a child or children. Intimacy and difficulty having feelings weren’t even in the equation, because it was going to happen. I’m an obsessive, passionate person as any current or former object of my affection can tell you. To possess someone for life is why I got married. To have regular access to dick is why I got married. To live with someone interesting is why I got married. To have a constant conversational partner is why I got married.
But what of divorce? There was a time in my first year of marriage that we lived apart, because life together had become chaotic and confusing with too many outsiders inside. I couldn’t seem to stop blackout drinking and acting out, and he didn’t seem interested beyond checking the “married” box. Our best man took me to dinner one night and listened quietly to my story, not flinching when I openly cried at the table (major for someone who usually couldn’t access any clear, identifiable emotion). He had been our closest friend for the better part of a decade and asked me, so what’s next—divorce? Which is really how it looked, and could have gone. I remember recoiling at the thought, because it hadn’t crossed my mind. Not being together anymore, sure. Living apart, yep. A life separate from him had been the stuff of aching fantasy. But divorce? It wasn’t on the list. And the reason why not is because I was getting exactly what I married for—possession of an interesting, complicated man who was generous with his penis and conversation.
Yet our divorce rate holds steady at fifty percent. Half of everyone’s doing it. Which is why it seems unavoidable to me. When asked to clarify, I said that I think many people marry for the wrong reasons, that stress over finance, sex and children overwhelm. I think people don’t talk, don’t fuck, don’t share their lives beyond the day-to-day. I think people want the status quo, to fit in, and marriage is what people do. I think people want children, and choose a person who wants them too, or seems like they would be a good parent, or there’s an accidental pregnancy. I think religion, or politics or family cultures prescribe marriage at a certain stage, or with a certain type of person. I think people expect marriages to work out, or run themselves, or remain static and unchallenging. I believe all these myriad reasons, over time become insurmountable resentment and irreconcilable differences.
Until we begin to lead lives where we’re in closer touch with our inner yearnings, and honest with ourselves about them, I don’t see our divorce rate changing. Maybe marriage isn’t right for some of us. Maybe marriage with the person to whom we’ve become engaged, or are currently dating isn’t right for us. We won’t know unless we explore our own inner workings and get to the root of what drives us and keeps us interested. If asked to describe your view on divorce in one word, what would you answer?
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