Don't Believe in Divorce? Why It Doesn't Matter

I didn't believe in divorce either. I believed in commitment. In working things out. In staying together. However, my husband did not feel the same way.
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Search for "divorce" on Twitter, and you find countless posts like the following:

I don't believe in divorce....when me and my partner have problems we will sit down, talk and work it out! Commitment for life

As though one can make divorce not real simply by pretending it doesn't exist. I hate to break it to them, but divorce is kinda like gravity's impact on an aging body; it exists whether you want to admit it or not.

I didn't believe in divorce either. I believed in commitment. In working things out. In staying together. However, my husband did not feel the same way.

The problem with the Twitter quote above is that it completely neglects to acknowledge your partner's view and actions, neither of which are under your jurisdiction. You may not believe in divorce but if your partner stops believing in the marriage, you'll be forced to change your mind real fast.

I try to remember that these statements are coming from ignorance and a lack of exposure. These are people who have not been touched by divorce. These are people that believe that promises made can never be broken. These are people who think that their wishes are strong enough to ward off any unwanted situations.

I both envy and pity them.

I was them.

I had that certainty, that confidence in my marriage. I believed that divorce couldn't happen to me because I didn't want it to. I didn't realize that my husband had developed a different view. My certainty that it couldn't happen to me meant that I was blindsided. I was betrayed, not only by my husband, but also by my beliefs.

I feel the judgment from these unbelievers, the thought of "You're defective" barely hiding beneath the words, "Oh, you're divorced." They see me -- and others like me -- as too quick to give up. Impulsive. More concerned about pleasure in the moment than love in the long term.

But what they don't see is the endless years of a dead marriage, spouses orbiting without connection. They do not witness the harsh words or blows delivered in anger, causing the other to wither in fear. The affairs often remain undetected to those looking in to the marriage; the piercing betrayals kept secret. They may never see the desperate attempts to make it work, on one side or both, until the decision is made to wipe the slate clean. They do not know that it is possible to be lonelier in a marriage than when alone.

They do not know that we, the divorced ones, were once like them. That we also didn't believe in throwing in the towel. That we believed our marriages would endure, that the promises made would be honored through sickness and health.

Perhaps most importantly, the unbelievers also see divorce as something that is always within their control. They do not yet understand the particular mathematics of marriage: one added to one equals two yet when one leaves, you're left with zero. Some divorces are completely initiated by one person, such as when my husband made the decision to abandon the marriage with a text message. Others are more subtle, the disengaged partner forcing the issue through withdrawal or attack.

There are times when divorce is the only remaining option, even when it is last thing you want. And that is a painful truth to face.

I worry about those who believe that it can never happen to them. I hope they are right and they never face the pain of lives torn apart. However, I am concerned that many of them will realize that belief is not enough to hold a marriage together.

The most difficult aspect of any relationship is the acceptance that your partner is an individual with his or her own thoughts and actions. You cannot control them. You cannot change them. You cannot lash them to a chair and force them to talk it out. All you can do is love them and embrace them while being the best you can be.

Maybe instead of saying, "I don't believe in divorce," it should be, "I believe in doing everything possible on my side to ensure that we do not divorce and I hope that you can do the same."

Now that's something I can believe in.

A version of this post first appeared on the blog Lessons From the End of a Marriage.

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