A little over two weeks ago, a judge declared that I was officially divorced. Even though I’d known it was coming for months, standing there next to my now-ex wife, I felt a crushing sense of loss, defeat, and disbelief. We got married a little over three years ago with fire in our eyes, determined to make all the old folks who told us we were idiots for getting married so young eat their words.
Joke’s on me, I guess.
Outside the courtroom I stood in front of the woman I love and asked for one last kiss. That was the most awkward kiss of my entire life, and I’m including my first kiss, when I was in grade school.
“At least we got one good thing out of it,” she said, talking about our two-year-old daughter, Kairi. I’m sure she meant that statement to be anodyne, or perhaps even amiable. Either way, it didn’t work. That was the only good thing? I didn’t think so.
So I got in my car and drove to work, and a few blocks from the courthouse I broke down crying. I tried to drive like that, but the despair swallowed me up and I had to pull over. I gripped the steering wheel with both hands and screamed, screamed myself hoarse, screamed for myself and for her and for our daughter and for all the memories that were now nothing but reminders of the dreams for the future that would never come to pass.
When I was done having my miniature mental breakdown I got back on the road and pretended I was okay. I’d put out an APB on Facebook earlier about how I was going to need some friends that day, and my circle did not disappoint: throughout the day I received text messages, Facebook messages, and phone calls from people who care about me to see what was going on, if I was okay.
I ended up wishing I’d kept my mouth shut (well, kept my typing fingers…tied, or something) because almost everybody reacted to the news of my divorce with some variant of, “Oh, that’s great news. Congratulations!”
Now, most of them weren’t trying to be snide. They genuinely believed they were being helpful and that I should be on cloud nine over the collapse of my marriage.
It’s a familiar sentiment, I guess. Louis CK has a bit (I can’t find it on Youtube, but I’m almost positive it’s from his Hilarious special) where he says something like, “No happy marriage has ever ended in divorce,” and then summarizes his feelings on the matter by proclaiming “Divorce is never a bad thing.”
Well, Louis, I strongly disagree (also, please stop sexually assaulting women. Thanks).
Now, look, I’m not going to sit here and tell people that divorce is evil and the Bible forbids it and yadda yadda yadda. In many cases, divorce is quite necessary and its availability can literally mean life or death.
Personally, I do not concede that my divorce was necessary. But that’s neither here nor there. Necessary or not, inevitable or not, there’s something disturbingly perverse about congratulating somebody who is going through something that painful.
It goes beyond a good-natured, well-intentioned, but misguided attempt to make someone feel better. The responses I got from the people who I actually discussed my feelings at length with actually went into “dismissive” territory: “I know you feel that way now, but give it time and you’ll see this is a good thing.”
I’m not exaggerating when I say that while going through literally the most painful experience of my life, the idea that it’s ultimately for the best and that I’m only hurting so much because I need time to heal was literally the last thing I wanted to hear.
This shows that as a society we’ve taken our liberal approach to marriage a step too far. Again, leave my own marriage out of it. If we’re at the point where congratulating somebody for their family being torn apart is seen as a normal, culturally acceptable thing to do, maybe there’s a serious problem. And maybe when half of all married couples eventually get divorced, we’re doing marriage all wrong.
Whatever your religious beliefs, marriage should be, if not holy or sacred, then certainly sacrosanct. It should not be entered into lightly with the idea in the back of your mind that you can always cut and run if things aren’t perfect, like a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.
And if you ever think it’s appropriate to offer congratulations for the end of a marriage, as if it’s some awful thing to be escaped from, then I hope to high heaven that you never get married yourself.