Thursday was a momentous day for me. After 20 years of marriage, I signed a separation agreement. The signing marks closure on the process that began three years ago and the next step towards the path of divorce. It compels me to share a few thoughts on marriage, divorce, friendship and support.
Certainly very few people enter a marriage with the hope that it will dissolve and end in divorce. We cast our hopes and dreams for happily-ever-after into a life with another. Some are fortunate to have children and some are fortunate to evolve into healthier, happier and wealthier people as a couple. Some are not so fortunate and acquire debts of many sorts. Throughout the course of marriage, times ebb and flow for better and for worse, in sickness and health, in giving and receiving.
But through it all, there is comfort in the shared experience. When two individuals come together in marriage, even without children, a third entity forms–the marriage blob.
Divorce: Dissolution of a common entity
Within this marriage of two individuals, the blob takes on a life of its own. It’s no longer Pat and Chris or Jamie and Robin, but patandchris or jamieandrobin. The meld together of two names functions as the name for the resulting entity, the blob.
When a marriage dissolves, this blob dies. And with this death, the hopes and dreams of happily-ever-after shatter. And whatever equity or debt acquired, divides in divorce.
Regardless of who instigated the separation or for what reasons, the death is sad.
However, there seems little empathy or permission to grieve.
The gamut of responses range from shock at a seemingly happy marriage dissolving to congratulations to blame to avoidance of the potential contagious-divorcee to fear of a cougar-on-the-prowl.
A word of divorce advice for friends
A suggestion — the best response is, “I’m sorry to hear that” or “I’m sorry for your loss.” Express your sentiments as if hearing of a death, because it is indeed a death, the death of a marriage blob. And continue to be a friend.
Perhaps you feel afraid that if a seemingly happy, healthy relationship like theirs can dissolve, yours can, too. If so, that’s completely valid. Perhaps a counselling session for you and your partner would be helpful? If you fear the conversation with your partner, here are a few sentences that could start the conversation, “I’m concerned….their relationship seemed really good, and yet it fell apart. I fear that could happen to ours. Will you attend a counselling session with me? I think it may be helpful to discuss…”
If your partner displays no interest in attending counselling, perhaps a session on your own would be helpful? It’s completely okay for you to feel the loss of the entity that was your friend’s marriage. You may not be suffering the significant loss your friend is, but you, too, have lost something in the death of the marriage blob.
If it’s you or a loved one in the midst of a dissolving marriage, recognize that grieving is completely appropriate. It is SO okay to seek out grief counselling or other support. Nobody should judge you, and if they do, perhaps they’re not worth being in your circle of friends.
Alone: Separated and isolated in divorce
If you find yourself in the midst of a marital breakup and you feel alone in the separation endeavour that looms before you, reach out. It really sucks to suddenly be separated not only from your best friend and your next of kin, but also from the people you always thought of as friends.
I sincerely thank the family, friends and frolleagues who have stood beside me through this process–and especially those who’ve carried me at times. I am forever indebted to those who have walked this path before me and guided me forward. Thank you!
Marriage and divorce are typically overseen by provincial (Canadian) or state (U.S.) legislation. For those living in British Columbia, gov.bc.ca provides an overview of provincial resources.
Marketing and communications professional ErinRose Handy leads her operations from Vancouver, BC, Canada. In 2018, she founded WomenNavigate as a passion project designed to help women navigate life’s often challenging courses. Principal consultant for Handy Communications, you may contact ErinRose for business opportunities at Handy Communications.