I'm entering a pessimistic funk, readers. This is not like me. If I have fooled you into thinking that I view the world through the bottom of a dirty pint, then I have fooled you well. Be bamboozled no longer; I am an optimistic at heart, and the cynical misanthrope whose words you usually read here is merely a facet of my personality, magnified x100 by the choices I make in what I publish here...which are driven mostly by my ego and the insecurity it tries to shield. As such, I am mightily disheartened by all the divorce that's swirling around me this month. Of the four young married couples I know (under 30), two are in the throes of serious Divorce or Separation talk - the terminal stage of relationship malaise.
I am doggedly trying to take into account all the married couples I know who have been together for 25 years and seem largely happy, and those who have been together for more than 50 and are more or less still pleased with the arrangement (after you've known someone for 50 years - much less been married to their asses - what else are you supposed to feel, I wonder?), but they are part of completely different generations, who use different filters to determine what exactly is a marriage-ending conflict. For my grandparents, the filter allows only one: death. For my parents, and this is a wild guess, since I'm not really on speaking terms with their relationship as a couple (even typing "their relationship as a couple" made me give a little shudder), the spectrum of irreperable damage is slightly wider, probably including infidelity and other enormous deficiencies. Maybe some of this is cultural, and some of it is a personality thing - you have rarely met anyone as stalwart as my mom or stubborn as my dad - but I think there must be some correlation between the time that they came of age and their views on divorce.
For people my age, and this is what gives me the howling fantods in the commitment arena, it seems to me that almost anything can cast the dark shadow of doubt over previously stable circumstances. One set of my friends has always been unhappy, ever since I met them (about two years ago), and I hear awful things about them to this day. "Don't ever be stupid like me and get married!" he says, in front of his wife. "Being married is the worst thing that's ever happened to me," she says, with her arm wrapped stiffly around him, smile melting into a grimace. He sleeps on the couch every night - he says he does this because he falls asleep in front of the TV. They went away to Europe for a month, and when they came back, he stayed in the city with our friend O, and she went back to their apartment in a different area of town. They said it was for convenience's sake, since he was looking for a job in the area around O's apartment, but I know that if I had to look for a job in a different neighborhood, I'd make the commute - no matter how heinous - if it meant I got to sleep next to Kyle every night. And if he fell asleep in front of the TV, I'd wake him up and bring him back to bed. If for no better reason than the fact that I sleep better when he's there. They've been married four years, and this week O called and said that they were talking Separation in 2009.
Then there's the second couple, who dated for ten years before they tied the knot two years ago. She always bossed him around, but we assumed he was into that just as much as she was. And she made his job take the back seat to her career, but I thought that was fine since she had more education, a better position that paid more, and he works with ceramics for a living and probably gets a little support from his family. Last month I got a phone call from Kyle saying that they'd had a talk and admitted to each other that they had crushes on other people, and wanted to date outside of the marriage. The optimist in me (I told you, she's there!)said, "...well, that's cosmopolitan of them." But they didn't mean to stay together. For these two, the attraction to other people meant the death knell of them. I thought that therapy was beyond the first couple, since they suck immensely together, but couple number two seemed so happy when I last saw them that I find it hard to believe that they wouldn't at least give therapy a chance. I mean, at least give yourself the option of not being divorced before you turn 26, right? But Kyle's known them for about 15 years and says that it wouldn't help anything. They're separated now, and seem to be moving steadily in the direction of a divorce.
I went back and read my first paragraph, and realize that two marriages out of the sampled four ending in divorce is exactly on par with everyone else in the world, but that doesn't make me feel any better at all. It makes me feel sad, in a way that not much else does - some things make me feel sad for the present, but I can at least take solace in the fact that it will eventually end, and I can be happy about whatever it is someday. This makes me sad for the future, because it doesn't just have to do with the two people I happen to be talking about; it has to do with me, too, and everyone else in the world who thinks they are in love. I want everyone who wants to get married to be able to get married, and I want it to be everything they'd dreamed about and more (there's the optimist again), and I want them to have at the very least some modicum of happiness in their marriage forever and ever amen! The more I watch them fight and bitch and cry, the less I want to be a part of it, the less I want to get married, because I don't want to get divorced. Ever. I want to want to get married, and there are already a lot of other factors that are keeping me from wanting it.
I should at least want it because that means I can finally count on someone to love me and accept my love for the rest of my life, of that I am fairly sure. I hope it's possible, but the 50/50 odds here have turned me into the world's most unwilling skeptic.