“Why would anyone write about divorce years after it’s over?”
There was a pause.
“Why do you still write about it?”
“It’s not all I write about, you know,” I answered. “I’m a writer. I tackle all sorts of topics.”
“Yes, but why so much energy in this – still?”
These were questions from a friend who is unable to understand the reasons I take the time, make the time, to address issues of marriage and divorce. This, more than a decade after my life and my children’s lives were irrevocably changed by an event that takes place in millions of households.
Why do some women – and men – make a point of turning divorce into a cause célèbre, a career, or simply a steady stream of cautionary tales? Is it a matter of never letting go? A mechanism for working through pain? A process that tapers off for some and takes on steam for others?
I can’t answer for anyone but myself.
Writing About Divorce Encourages Community
At first I wrote about divorce, anonymously, to exorcise the demons. Writing eased the pain, and eventually it connected me to a community of others in similar circumstances, which in turn left me feeling a little less alone. Writing brought me acceptance from others – at least to a degree. Writing brought us – those of us sharing our worries and our joys – perspective, understanding, information, and hope.
As time went on, writing about divorce became a vehicle for exploring my feelings in ever greater depth, including the reality of their widespread impacts.
More importantly, I was able to face certain truths about myself – the deadening disillusionment I lived with – that explained my own behaviors and choices, while allowing me to “tweak” several of them.
More than a decade after divorce, I would be lying if I said that every day, every single day, is not in some manner impacted by the years that followed the confusing end to my marriage. The aftermath was terrible, both emotionally and financially. There were health consequences as a result of the perpetual financial drain, and I will live with those consequences for the rest of my life.
We May Not Choose the “What,” But We Choose the “How”
Sometimes things happen. Accidents. Illnesses. Loss. It’s part of life – single, married, divorced.
While we may not be able to choose “what” – especially when it comes to events beyond our control – we can certainly choose the “how,” when it comes to dealing with the consequences. And not to be dramatic, I can live with what I’ve been dealt, though frankly, it’s a drag. The way I do deal with it is to see how fortunate I am – with the kids I have, with the stamina I retain, with the wealth of fine minds (and open hearts) that are part of my community.
While it eats at me that lack of money stood in the way of healing injuries – when it would’ve made a difference – most of the time, I’m simply relieved that I made it “through.” And by through, I mean the active parenting years. I raised my boys to college age; they’re now young men. And despite everything, I’m pretty healthy! So I count my blessings.
The most compelling reasons to continue writing about divorce?
Read on. Let me know what you think.
My Thoughts on Marriage? Mixed. On Love? I’m a Fan.
I believe in enjoying our lives and in owning our responsibilities. These are not mutually exclusive.
I believe in a fulfilling sex life and committed relationships. I believe in love – with our eyes wide open. There is no requirement that these be tightly linked together in the form of marriage; this is a matter of individual preference, of circumstances, of stage in life.
While I believe in committed relationships, I recognize that we’re relatively clueless when we choose our partners, and most of us, clueless when we marry them. Our expectations of “happily ever after” are wildly askew.
I believe that divorce can devastate lives with ripple effects that can never be undone. I also realize that divorce is necessary, and the lesser of two evils for many, both women and men. For those who find themselves married to a stranger, or loving a narcissist and they’re in too deep, extricating oneself from the union can be a painful – but necessary process.
And I’ve seen what divorce has done to children. Is it better to stay for the kids – or to leave? That’s the question that haunts so many parents. Some children weather a breakup well; others carry crippling emotional scars. I also clearly see the destructive nature of our adversarial court system; I wonder how many of us would split more amicably if that system didn’t profit from stirring us up, taking its time, and feeding off confusion and vulnerability.
Why Do I Still Write About Divorce?
I write about divorce for you. For us. If I can give back through my stories, through my experience, through the mere fact that I’m still here and kicking, and if in that you may find some small measure of hope; if I can help even one adult or one child to avoid a mistake that I made, then naturally, you give back to me.
I feel useful. I feel helpful. I feel as though what I’ve learned hasn’t been wasted. I’m paying it forward for innumerable kindnesses that arrived in my life – exactly when I needed them.
I write about divorce because I do not wish any woman or man to live the heartache that I went through, or the hardening of the heart that I sense, at times, I continue to deal with, and that I trace back to a particular course that was set in motion at divorce, gained momentum in its contentious high conflict aftermath, and leaves me with shadows (and debt) that I’ll be hard pressed to escape. I nonetheless hope to escape them. And I work, always, with that goal in mind.
I write about divorce because I carry a profound sense of betrayal – by the systems that I once believed in. I think we can do better. I know we can do better – through education, through political action, through acts of respectful listening, and ceasing the gender wars. I will add that I hang on to my faith in those who do not judge, whether or not they’ve walked in my shoes (or your shoes), and regardless of their ability to fully understand my experience.
I Write as a Parent Who Believes Children Deserve More
I write for my children – leaving out more than I fill in at times, because that is what’s best for them. I believe that our children deserve our best, not perfection (we know it doesn’t exist), but our best that is sometimes the hard way through.
I believe that to have a father, to love a father, to know a father’s love as an adult – this is a gift I want for all our children, however imperfect the father, the love, the man.
I write because I believe in family. We create and recreate our families many times in our lives, and they needn’t look any one particular way to be caring or supportive. I write in the hope that we will place emphasis on balanced giving and taking, though giving is a strength that I believe in. Giving strengthens me. Giving is an essential part of why I write, and why I always will.