Thursday was a momentous day. 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 turn towards divorce. And 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 debt of many sorts. Throughout the course of marriage, times ebb and flow for better and for worse, in sickness and health, in times of giving and receiving.
Within this marriage of two individuals, there is an entity that takes on a life of its own. It’s no longer Pat and Chris or Jamie and Robin, but patandchris or jamieandrobin. When a marriage dissolves, this joint entity 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 of this entity is sad.
However, there seems little empathy or permission to grieve.
The gamut of responses when hearing of the demise 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 advice for friends
A suggestion, the best response is, “I’m sorry to hear that” or “I’m sorry for your loss.” 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 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 <<validate the health of ours>> <<discuss any issues before they become irreconcilable>>…”
If your partner is uninterested, perhaps a session on your own would be helpful? It’s 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 entity of their marriage.
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.
If you find yourself in the midst of a marital breakup and you feel alone in the separation endeavour that looms before you, feel free to reach out to me. 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!