September 25, 2012


Saturday evening, I went see some of my bestest pals, 45 minutes away. Justin had just got home that afternoon, so we had only seen him for about an hour before he had to go return stuff he didn't use for this job and we left. Coming off a 5 day stint of being the only parent at home, the house was a mess and I was frazzled. Apparently Justin picked up on my subtle clues, like running around at the last minute, being impatient, and moaning about the slobbiness of my house and my state of exhaustion. I came home at 9:15 to a house that was spic and span. Dishes were even done. I went into our room, and the fresh clean sheets that Gilbert had smeared with chocolate that afternoon (from the brownies we were supposed to be bringing to Nina and Mary) were off, in the washer and replaced with the flannel sheets he bought me after Lily was born so I could bring my baby home to a cozy, snuggly bed.

And then, while I nursed my latest, snuggly baby in our flannel sheets, he read the kids books, cuddled them, and tucked them in with their warm cornbags.

I love this guy. A lot.

Some of our good friends are going through a divorce/separation right now. From a marriage a few decades old. And I keep thinking how? How could you leave someone who knows you like that. Someone who shares your memories. The only other person in the world who could possibly care about your kids and grandkids more than you do. The one who was with you when you gave birth. The one who let you sleep in some mornings when you felt like you were going to go crazy from lack of sleep. The one who told you you were beautiful when you least felt like it. The one who remembers all the cute things your no-longer-little kids did. The one who knew how you felt when you first sent your baby to school. The one who remembers things you might like to forget. The one who set the standard for what love is and should be. The one who prayed for you each night and morning. The one who loved you through difficult times. The one who made you laugh. Made you cry. Made you crazy mad. Made you gloriously happy. The one who remembers when.....

How can you leave that all behind? How could you think you could leave that behind? Because I don't think you can. Even if you decide that your happiness is no longer in this particular marriage, all those memories, all those things you know about your spouse are still all there in your head.

Not long after Justin and I were married, I was helping this friend paint her guest room. We started talking about divorce, and while she was balanced on a ladder, she told me how terrible divorce was on all involved. She told me either then or later about how important it was to keep the good memories front and center. She made a little photobook of them as a couple--their highlights, for Valentines Day one year. This was about 7 or 8 years ago. But in the way brains can be illogical, after I heard they were seperating and after I had processed all my feelings (I don't want to stop being friends with you guys as a couple. I don't want to think that I will never sit at your table after dinner talking to you while your husband runs around showing Justin this or that. I don't want to think that actually, you don't have it all together, you who seemed to have it all. I just don't want to have to choose sides!!!!) I wondered, who gets the photobook?

The thing that bothers me the most is that she was so sure seven years ago that breaking up a marriage was never okay. And now she is doing just that. How does that happen? How does something go from the list of "absolutely wrong" to "okay in my case"? Is it like a gene mutation in cancer? Like you are replicating the lists in your head, something goes wonky, the list changes, and suddenly your life implodes?

I know now, on this day, that keeping my marriage intact is important. But will I know it in seven more years? In ten, twenty, thirty more years?

I don't want to seem self-righteous. I know when she was talking about marriage those years ago, she truly meant what she was saying. I know she didn't want this to happen then. I know that in her heart of hearts, she probably doesn't want it to be happening now. But it is. And it scares me that a person can change their mind on something so important. I don't like that. I want assurances that I will never do that. That Justin will never do that. But there isn't a guarantee. And all I can do is make sure it is important to me today. And tomorrow I can do the same thing.

My heart aches for her, for what she is leaving behind. No marriage is perfect. I don't mean to imply that she is leaving behind some idyllic, perfect marriage and husband. But a marriage that has survived the tests and traumas of years, babies, children, teeenagers, and life is something worth fighting for.

Having a husband who knows you love flannel sheets and you like them smoothed out until there are no wrinkles in the sheets or the blankets might sound more like a maid service than a romance novel, but coming from Justin, who likes to tease me about my OCD-ness in this matter, it is akin to romance of the highest degree. It is something worth fighting for. Hopefully we will never reach the point where we have to fight for our marriage. But we might. And if we do, I hope we fight. And I hope, in the middle of all that work of fighting for our marriage, I remember the time, years before, when he made me a cozy little nest of a bed for me and my babies.


Cecil and Amy said...

I HATE divorce. I'm so thankful for parents that held it together through thick and thin...and loved each other more and more until their dying day. Let's be like that, Bet.

Cathy H said...

Having been divorced I will say this, sometimes people give up fighting for it. Sadly it takes two people fully committed to one another to make it work. I wish my family would see that I tried that I allowed myself to be pushed past the breaking point just to make it work. But I could never make the other person care enough to want to stay, and this after having children together.
As far as worrying/wondering about if this will ever happen to you. I say hold onto the words you wrote today about not wanting anyone else and wanting to be with Justin because he knows you and loves you. If you hold onto that then you have your guarantee because you will be willing to fight for it, not that I think you will have to but you know what I mean, I hope.

Evan and Clover and Co. said...

You and Justin both picked someone awesome, so there's that in your favor. And I cannot fathom going on in life without that person who has become one with you. Such a sad thing.

Cari said...

Absolutely LOVE this!! You did such an awesome job describing all the things that go through our minds.

Verity Earl said...

Yes, divorce is very hard on everyone involved. I know that I haven't been divorced, but I have been through some pretty terrible break ups, and they are just about the worst thing anyone could ever live through. Giving up on all you've shared for the past however-many years is by far the hardest part. It's like living through a death, really. But I feel like all relationships hit hard points, and while sometimes it seems like things will be great forever, they will get hard. Life is full of things we didn't plan, and living with that uncertainty is extremely difficult. We want to cling to the things we love and know are good right now, hoping they'll always be good. You never know how your spouse or love is going to react to a hardship. And it could get really, really bad. I know you will fight for your relationship, too, when that time comes. Flattened sheets and a clean house and loving, caring husband and father are definitely things worth fighting for. Justin is a great guy.

I'm sorry about your friends. Lots of love!