On being divorced, and how it has helped me stay committed to my marriage and my daughter.
It might sound funny to most people’s ear, but two years beyond my divorce I am still committed to my marriage, or at least to the parts that survive outside of the severing of our committed relationship to each other. Suzanne and I were together for 17 years, and as she told me not that long ago, “we had a good run.”
We have an incredible daughter who we both love dearly, and Alex represents one of those facets of our marriage that goes beyond our permanent separation, as does the friendly relationship Suzanne and I still share. To say we are friends might be a bit misleading; in fact, friendship between us gets pretty confusing at times. Sometimes when the three of us are together it feels quite wonderfully, in fact, like we are as we once were—a mostly happy little family. That feeling can be confusing to Alex as well, so a bit of a separation, the subtle distinction between friendship and being on incredibly friendly terms, seems to work best for all of us.
On a lovely summer’s day I made a commitment to Suzanne, and to marriage, and Suzanne made the same commitment to me. When our marriage ended, the commitment to each other went away; in fact, it went away long before we divorced. We had been together for a long time and we were both afraid to separate but unable to rectify the problems in our marriage that were ripping us apart. We were scared for some very valid reasons; my bipolar made me a bit unpredictable in terms of earning a living, and ultimately the divorce, in part, led me down a path to homelessness. We were still friends, so that made it even more difficult to separate, and the prospect of being alone, single parents and starting over seemed quite daunting.
Even at the worst moments of my circumstances our commitment to marriage, to the incredible “product” of our marriage—our wonderful daughter—was never severed. Every Sunday for 10 months before I got my own apartment, Suzanne would let me hang out at our old house and spend the day with Alex.
The storm, the catastrophe, the madness that finally severed our commitment to each other forever was not pretty, but with a lot of effort and love for each other and a deep love for Alex, Suzanne and I have kept our commitment to marriage alive in Alex; our marriage vows in this case survived our legal separation. Alex’s survival, her wellbeing, her happiness is something we consciously chose not to allow ourselves to sever. In a society where children are often nothing but accessories or human pets, something to show off just while they are all cute and cuddly and then avoid like the plague as they grow out of their cherubic cuteness, such a commitment seems quite often very few and far between. Both Suzanne and I know that we will always have to work hard to make sure we do not fail our daughter by divorcing ourselves from the commitment we made to Alex, to our family, not just on our wedding day but several years later when she was conceived.
So many people I meet are shocked that I like my ex-wife, shocked that we get along incredibly well. It seems de rigueur in our culture to not like your ex. I loved my wife; we shared something so special we chose to get married. Not liking her seems inconceivable and quite immature to my mind. In fact, if you knew the details which led to our divorce (details which are quite sordid by the way), you might at first blush be shocked yourself that we can even be in the same room together, let alone on friendly terms.
In my opinion we need to as a society realize that marriages are quite likely to fail, and we should be educating and preparing our children from an early age of that fact. We should be teaching them for how to deal with this separation if and when it occurs. We should also teach them strategies for a healthy and successful relationship as well. We also should be teaching them that having children is a lifelong commitment.
Divorce counseling prior to the wedding ceremony might be a buzzkill, but it might also make for a much healthier separation, which can greatly benefit, as I have stated, any children that the relationship might produce. Understanding that having children with someone, married or not, understanding that in doing so you are committing yourself to a lifelong relationship with that person and the child you have created would be a massive cultural shift. It would, however, to my mind, be one helluva great thing.
You might wonder if I have given up on marriage. The answer is a very definitive no! I am in fact quite certain that I will be married again and my commitment to my new wife will be unwavering. I still believe in real love, in true love, in lifetime love and commitment. I know in my heart that all that has occurred in my life, the pain, the joy, the deeper understanding of love and commitment, the knowledge I have gained from my divorce, will in fact be incredibly beneficial in my next marriage.
I hope to be married in the not too distant future and to live a very long life as an incredibly happy and devoted husband and father totally committed to my wife and the family we will create. I still really want to attend a 50th anniversary party with my soulmate and love of my life. I know that this time we will need just one more piece to guarantee our success, that piece is called unconditional love, and if shared, I envision an incredible lifetime of love waiting just around the corner.
Photo credit: Flickr / madmolecule