I’ve seen the T-shirts. Occasionally I hear the sarcastic remarks. “All I want for Christmas is a divorce.”
I shake my head, I think about the reality of telling children about divorce, of lawyers and legal papers, fights over books and dishes and CDs, family members in tears, a sense of history and emotional investment – down the drain.
Then there are the money dramas and the professional impacts, the roller-coaster reactions from our kids, the grieving and the getting on with things… however long that takes for each of us.
This time of year, I can’t help but remember when my estranged husband was staying in the guest room as our separation was moving ahead. It was Christmas and our boys were confused.
I could hardly blame them. I was confused myself. It was a separation I didn’t want, a legal proceeding that I was fighting, an eventual termination of our marriage that I now see as better for me in many respects, though I remain muddled over how we arrived where we did. And for those who toss out the “D” word – especially at the holidays – I have a few “D” words of my own.
Dumbfounded. Disconcerted. Dismayed.
Do we really want to joke about divorce? Do we really want to take it so lightly, particularly if there are children in the picture?
Married and Miserable?
We all know couples who make each other miserable. The holidays may exacerbate the situation, especially if we’re gathering our clans, attempting to be loving, and one or the other (or both) feel little warmth, affection, or even tolerance for the other.
Listen. We all have periods when marital troubles plague us. But if they aren’t as extreme as issues of addiction, abuse, or serious character differences, aren’t they opportunities to show our mettle, to step up as responsible adults, and to work on honoring our commitments?
And if you find yourself in the gray divorce demographic? If you’re a mother still raising kids, or raising kids and also caring for aging parents, think twice. Think three times. For that matter, without an ongoing and well-paying career, give it a great deal of thought!
If you have children, the question of staying for their sake or divorcing is a major one. We all know that. How much sacrifice are we willing to make for our kids? Are we modeling the better option by staying in a problem marriage and working on it? Are we exhibiting more courage by leaving – if we do so fairly and civilly, and in a way so as to co-parent well?
I can’t answer these questions for you. You may not be able to answer them for yourself. All the more reason to take time to figure things out, and even then, the answer may not be simple.
Reasons for Wanting a Divorce
Naturally, we have our reasons when we want a divorce – if we’re the ones who want it, that is. Perhaps we’ve fallen for someone else – slipped into an emotional affair or a physical relationship with another individual.
Perhaps we’ve been living with lies from our spouse, dealing with a sexless marriage or a low-libido partner. Maybe we just can’t stand it anymore, and we don’t consider extramarital activity acceptable.
There are other reasons of course – often complicated, yet valid reasons by anyone’s standard that everyone concerned is better off “configured” in a different way, as a family. There may be bitter fighting or no communication at all; character issues and value issues, often manifesting themselves in how we interact with money, in how we parent, in behaviors that may border on emotional abuse – and worse.
But I find that I don’t like to joke about divorce. I still bristle when the word is thrown into conversation as though it is a lighthearted option or, at the very least, not one that can bring devastation.
This isn’t to say that many weather their divorces with civility and responsible interactions with their children. They do. But you don’t necessarily know going in how smooth or bumpy the ride will be, how damaging the after effects, how many regrets and sore spots will remain and not only for you and your children, but for extended family and friends.
Do You Want a Divorce for Christmas?
Do I want a divorce for Christmas?
I don’t like divorce, and besides, I haven’t remarried. Thus far, I’ve felt no need to do so, happy with a committed relationship and my legal “freedom” – at least for now.
Did I want a divorce for Christmas a dozen years ago?
No. I wanted to work things out, to improve our marriage, to address more than the symptoms – which may not have solved anything.
Oddly, I will never know if the man I married genuinely wanted a divorce either. We were caught in a power struggle, a labyrinth of maneuvers and manipulations, a tangle of unspoken issues that spiraled out of control and led us down a path beyond the point of return.
I can look at my life in the years since, see the shadows at work (and the puppeteer’s strings), but also the extraordinary moments of embracing a bolder self, solidifying my parenting, and doing right by my kids.
What I want for Christmas? What I want on any given day?
The Gifts that Matter… To Me
What I want for myself and would wish for us all is to know that those we love are well, that our children learn lessons from our mistakes as well as our triumphs, and that we look beyond immediate “wants” and exercise good judgment.
I hope my sons will make use of what they’ve observed over the years between their parents, better still, some of the wonderful relationship lessons I hope they’ve absorbed in the past two years, watching the man in my life as he interacts with me.
I would want civility and gentleness for all of us, whatever our relationship status. If we make mistakes that cannot be redressed – for example, choosing the wrong spouse in the first place, or growing so far apart that there is no getting back – I would hope that next steps are made judiciously.
There are no simple gifts in the relationship realm, and divorce is surely no exception to that. So I’ll pass on the catchy seasonal t-shirt, I’ll walk away from the flippant and ignorant remarks, and I will continue to speak my mind when it comes to taking our time in finding a good partner to marry in the first place.
- Telling Your Children About Divorce
- The Low-Light Libido
- Emotional Affairs
- How to Divorce-Proof Your Marriage