Tuesday, June 07, 2005


How do you respond when a friend tells you that her/his marriage is ending?

What, in your opinion, are the appropriate things to say, the parameters around reactions, the limits to expression of grief or disappointment?

What are our cultural responses to divorce?

Do we accept it too easily, chalking it up to "personal business" when really it has tremendous consequence for our shared lives?

I believe divorce is shattering and feel literally sick when someone announces an impending split.
Probably because I'm a clergy chick, I generally feel confident that my first response is, if not brilliant, then at least socially acceptable.

Part of me wishes that we would collectively refuse to accept this all-too-common announcement with our customary tactful, supportive murmurings. Part of me wants to pick something up and smash it and say, "NO! You must not divorce!"

When it comes to the death of the marriage of people we care about, should we go so gently into that good night?

What have you done to support marriage -- your own or someone else's-- today?


Blogger Chalicechick said...

Well, this was me facing the same thigs you did.

(In that case, the couple may be reconciling. She loves him, but he's one of those genius-but-can't-get-along-with-authority types. So she thinks she'd pretty much have to support him financially. She actually can afford to do that, but resents it. But she loves him, she will admit, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed because he's a great guy and I've missed him. If any PB readers have any brilliant solutions to her problem, please share.)

For me the toughest thing about imaging divorce with the CSO is losing transactive memory with him. He and I keep so much knowledge in each other. I'm the one who knows how to make friends. He's the one who installed the new thermostat. I'm cool in a crisis while he wigs out, then he cheers me up when the impact hits 24 hours later and I get depressed. I think that if we split up I would be a much less effective human being. As a twosome, we're more than the sum of our parts.

I think I'm finding myself thinking about situations that I do know about because I don't have a handle on this one enough to know what to say. I'd advise any party who would listen to me to be really nice to their soon-to-be-Ex spouse and totally take the high road.

Hey, can't hurt...


Blogger Paul Wilczynski said...

How do you respond? Well the cheap and easy way to start is ask the person how (s)he feels about it. If (s)he says "finally this is going to be over - I'm the happiest person in the world!", you've got a clue as to how to proceed.

Anonymous alto2 said...

I don't think folks should be advocating divorce left and right, but I also think it's good to remember that it might be the best of all possible options for the person(s) in question. (I say this having watched my brother's marriage over the past five years, and knowing the relief I felt when I learned they were splitting up. I like her, but she's just not at all good for him.)

Anonymous ct lurker (aka martinet) said...

I had this exact thing happen to me last weekend: a couple in my church whom I love--one of several there that I'd secretly viewed as role models for my newish marriage--just announced that they're splitting up. It blew me (and my husband, who I suspect saw them similarly) away. It wasn't like the last marriage that disintegrated in that close-knit little congregation; EVERYONE saw that that marriage just couldn't cut it. This one, no.

It's very amicable (at least from the one side I've heard it from; the other side wasn't there, which makes me wonder a little). She said they still love each other, but just can't live together, and is hoping for a "good divorce" like his parents apparently had. So knowing what to say in that situation was a little difficult. Essentially, I went with Paul Wilczynski's suggestion, followed my friend's lead and ended up saying that I hoped it was the best thing, but that of course it was still sad, because a marriage ending IS generally sad, for whatever reason.

Then I went home and made sure my husband and I talked about the situation afterwards, since it had hit both of us blindside. I saw it as a bit of a warning, since it WAS something I hadn't seen coming--and I did NOT want something like that occurring in our marriage. I didn't want to run any risk of losing what we have. We used it as a check-in, and determined that we haven't been doing what they've done--i.e., spent many years trying to change each other. We pretty much know who we are, enjoy most aspects of such, and have developed coping strategies for the rest.

So that's my answer to what I've done to preserve marriage. Would that more of those pro-DOMA, anti-gay-marriage folks chose to do the same thing. I worry about how few seem to.

Blogger fausto said...

What have you done to support marriage -- your own or someone else's-- today?

Well, I'm going out to dinner tonight with Mrs. Fausto, and Mrs. Fausto's college boyfriend (who by all rights should have been either her current or ex-husband if only he'd had the courage to step up to the plate back then), and Mrs. Fausto's college boyfriend's brother and sister-in-law and niece.

Said niece is graduating (tomorrow, not today, according to Br. Philo) from that funny self-important place across the river with all the bricks and ivy and cupolas and Unitarian forebears who wrote dogmatic treatises on the theology of self-importance and the cute little self-important troll of a President whose mother was my econ prof in grad school.

If it weren't for Proverbs of Ashes I'd say there's some merit to the theology of the suffering servant.

Blogger fausto said...

I should add: Said college boyfriend and family are Quakers from a family of Quakers for many generations back, so the dinner conversation does have the potential to be interesting.

Blogger Chalicechick said...

Oh to be a fly on that wall.



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