Crisis and Kairos
Divorce: The Spite in Everything
What she found, however, in the aftermath of marriage were distinct differences between her and her spouse that were not initially discovered until the routines of life broke upon her personality. The daily strains of marriage slowly magnified the irritations (whether real or perceived) of the couple until they overpowered their affections for each other. Personality differences grew into hardened states of overt antagonism. Even small offenses between the couple were escalated beyond the normal scope of relational conflict, and the respect that once existed between the couple began to erode.
Thomas writes of her husband's irritation with her proclivity toward snobbery and "chattiness" as initially "on the same continuum as my irritation with his TV watching." She gave no thought to leaving dirty dishes in the sink overnight. In contrast, "the idea that food particles could be left to the open air for any longer than the time it took to eat them was so totally noxious to him that it pointed to the presence of some character defect lurking the in the psyche of the person who could countenance such deviance."
With great transparency, Thomas admits that her narcissistic tendencies diminished over time as a result of being married, but it was too late to assuage the repressed anger and resentment in the mind of her husband who felt as if he had been held hostage to her self-centered behaviors for years. The ensuing fights started out small and grew to include everything from the use of the couple's computer to the children's schedule—with the result that the distance between the couple became so palpable that they only spoke to each other when absolutely necessary. Spite took over in the relationship until it finally erupted in a decision to divorce in order to escape the misery of their marriage.
Thomas and her husband insisted that they would "do divorce well." They were committed that divorce would not be the moral earthquake that she had experienced as a child. They diligently worked to bring about a new quality of life for their children even as they abandoned each other. Theirs was not a divorce in spite of everything, but it occurred when spite became everything.
The stark contrast of marriage as revealed in Holy Scripture is a picture of two sinners who diligently seek to love one another in ways that reach out through pain and encourage each other through irritations even as their affections are informed and changed by the example and power of Jesus Christ. Realizing at last that love is far more than a feeling is a critical step toward maturation that renders marriage more than simply a war for selfish control.
Thomas' experience reveals a defining characteristic of Generation X, my generation: an adolescence that lingers well into adulthood and believes that life should be easy and free from hardship, and that marriage should be experienced much like the fairy tales they read as children. The thoughtful attention given to the divorce of Thomas and her husband raises questions: What if the same amount of effort had been exerted to overlook offenses, to forgive when wronged, and to love intentionally and unconditionally even when the other person was sinful in their behavior? Would theirs still have been a divorce in spite of everything?
Probably not. Their marriage, in spite of everything, might have worked.