Relationships are hard. I keep telling myself this, but having gone through my divorce almost 7 years ago, it’s easy to forget just how rocky and painful those first few years were. But to ensure that it’s not all glossed over in the mists of time, three of my buddies are going through their own very fresh divorce trauma and it’s bringing up unpleasant memories of my own.
One of my friends had to call the cops last night because his soon-to-be-ex refused to let him see his children because his flight home from Los Angeles arrived an hour late and so he was, naturally, late for pickup.
Another of my friends just moved his family cross-country, just to find out that she wants a divorce, expects him to find his own place to live while still covering the rent on their brand new place in this new city and is now started to be abusive and even hit him a few days ago while he was driving the family around in their car.
And the capper, yet another buddy just had the experience of sitting down with his wife and kids so that he’d be present when she told the children that they’re getting a divorce and “daddy’s getting his own place”. He was in tears, his daughter ran to her room crying, and his son? Totally internalized, shell shocked, watching cartoons afterwards as if nothing had happened.
Oh man, it all breaks my heart and brings up such memories of my own, of my now-ex throwing an ice cream at me while I was driving once because she didn’t like something I said. I barely kept from swerving off the road. Of me not even being present when she told our children that we were getting divorced and them completely freaking out and assuming I had just walked away from our family.
Relationships are hard. We humans are complex. But why does this have to be so painful, so painful on our children, but mostly so darn painful on ourselves?
Why is it that sometimes on our journey of life, we just seem to crash?
My usual thought is that it’s to do with inflated expectations of what life’s supposed to be like, our increasingly romantic view of relationships as built around this fuzzy thing called love, of romance, of a life that’s easy and constantly delightful, with nary a cloud in the sky and certainly never an argument or even a cross word.
I know that I’m risk avoidant and hate conflict, so when I was married I was paranoid about even the slightest disagreement, quick to apologize — often for things that weren’t my fault — and try to find a compromise or even just give in so that we’d move on. Next time it’d work out properly, next time we’d talk about it, next time we’d work things out. Did that help our relationship grow stronger and encourage us to forge a strong connection that was able to survive difficult times? Not so much.
When I think about what’s going on with my buddies, it reminds me that what we’re missing in our world is a culture of making things work.
I see it in my kids and their rampant consumerism. Something’s not the latest model? Something’s broken? Let’s just get a new one! There’s sometimes even an inherent anger towards a system (or, often, a parent) that isn’t willing to supply them with the one thing that’s going to somehow make everything right. That translates directly into their expectations of what their adult relationships will be like too.
Life is difficult, but are we really all putting in our best effort to make things more smooth and calm for ourselves, our children and our world, or are we all caught up in our own personal dramas and, damn the proverbial torpedoes, are we just leaving bodies by the wayside as we plow forward with our own personal goals, however selfish and myopic they may be?