Last year, after 29 years of marriage, my parents called it quits and went their separate ways. My dad remarried before the New Year and my mom is happily dating another man. The divorce itself was messy and painful for my parents and sisters, but in the end we’re all much happier and have realized the divorce desperately needed to happen. They were no longer themselves because of the strain their marriage had put on them. They no longer enjoyed each other’s company. It was time for both of them to go it alone and reconnect with their true selves. When I recently asked my mom how she was doing now that the smoke has cleared she said, “I loved your dad very much, and he was the one for me until he wasn’t anymore.”
I appreciated her simple and honest answer, and it’s a notion I agree with wholeheartedly. While no one ever hopes for a divorce, it’s okay if it happens. And it’s okay to get married, still. I don’t think divorce necessarily equals failure even though that’s the common perception. My parents enjoyed many happy years of marriage, but they both changed over time and marriage was not the relationship they needed to be in with each other anymore. It’s healthy to admit when it’s not working and move on with your life.
I recently read the news about Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s divorce and the post she wrote on her site about their decision to “consciously uncouple.” At first glance I thought it was a pretentious way of saying “divorce,” but having thought about it a bit more I like the term and thought behind it.
So many people nowadays are opting to avoid marriage altogether. Whether they remain single and date casually or commit to a long-term relationship without the legal title, a new relationship trend has emerged ruling out the idea of marriage completely. While I certainly am a bit more cautious of long-term relationships and marriage after witnessing the downfall of my parents’ relationship, I do not want to discount the institution of marriage. I for one love the idea of publicly committing to someone you love in a serious and thoughtful way. I like the boundaries and security of its tradition as well as the meaning and depth of that type of promise to another person. I admire the marriages that endure and envy the older couples that seem to be more in love with each other than the day before.
If any of those marriages ended, though, I would understand. Divorce should not be treated as an easy way out or an excuse for bad behavior in a marriage, but rather as a formal acknowledgement of a relationship reaching the end of its road.
Sometimes divorce is necessary. Sometimes two people can work hard to make a love what it was or something new and different in hopes of a positive change in a marriage. But then sometimes that relationship may just be over, and it should be all right to acknowledge that and move forward. After all, saying you don’t love them anymore doesn’t mean you didn’t love them once.