Friday, August 23, 2013

A Legal Separation

My wife and I are now separated. Maryland law requires a 12-month period of no cohabitation before divorces are granted, and I've left the DC area to move to Savannah. It's an interesting law - one night spent together, a single slip-up, and the 12 months commences all over again.

When I realized the divorce was probable (I would say inevitable but I don't like that word), I called Silent Unity at 1-800-669-7729 (816-969-2000 on Skype) and asked for a prayer. I was a first-time caller, but they have been answering millions of requests for over 120 years. I asked that we would be amicable and respectful to each other during the proceedings.

The woman who answered the phone prayed for that, but she prayed for much more. She prayed that there would be a fair distribution of financial assets. And she prayed that we would take a moment to remember what drew us together in the first place.

I began there. I remember the first time I saw my wife as if it were yesterday, blond curly hair cascading over her shoulders, bright eyes, her snug blue sweater. She was fun and intelligent. She was interested in international culture and foreign travel, as was I. How many people can say their first date was watching a French movie?

She wished that we could have spent the first few years just the two of us getting to know and enjoy each other. Instead she was pregnant within four months and we had four children in the next five years. We went from being lovers to full-time parents.

When we moved to a new city for my job, we began attending a church led by an emotionally and spiritually dysfunctional pastor (I recognize it now, I didn't then). He was misogynistic, although I didn't know what the word meant then. Each Sunday he would ask for a man to stand and lead the congregation in prayer.

I only realized decades later how much my wife was hurt by that experience. Why didn't we talk about it at the time? Did she try and I was unresponsive? Or was she afraid to try because she thought I would be? I don't know.

Couples often say their marriages "slowly drifted apart". Ours split apart at the seams and, like Humpty Dumpty, a plethora of ministers, counselors, and psychologists couldn't put it together again. But we were determined to stay married. I was a Pennsylvania Mennonite, and would have been the first person in my family to divorce. She was a Jersey girl, and she would have been the first person in her family not to. Each with their own reasons, we tried to make it last.

We put on a good enough show to convince most people, but some saw through the haze. "It's obvious that you and your wife aren't close," a friend said to me years ago. "You are like two people on life support," said another. "Both terrified to pull the plug."

Years turned into decades. There weren't many fights, not much shouting, just deadly silence. I can't remember the last time we laughed together. Didn't our friends notice that in social situations we never said a word to each other?

And just like people on life support, towards the end our bodies started shutting down. Communication went first, followed by conversation and shared goals and vision. The last to go was touch.

"Take a year to be alone," a friend told me recently when I told her my wife and I were no longer together. "Connect with yourself. Grieve the end of a relationship that lasted 33 years."

Good advice. And listen to Back 2 Good dozens of times, usually with the volume turned up loud.

9 comments:

Susanne said...

I'm sorry you drifted apart, but I hope you can remain friendly as you are separated. Best wishes.

Stuffforme9 said...

Smells like perfum on top of rotten fish

aemish said...

>>I was a Pennsylvania Mennonite..<<

Oh, wow, I had no idea! I have so many questions now! :D

I am very sorry for your separation, these necessary things are never easy are they?

aemish said...

here, have a song..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lyu1KKwC74

Quotable Quotes: said...

Thanks for the lovely song, aemish.

And Sturrorme9 - sorry to disappoint you....

Quotable Quotes: said...

Thanks for the lovely song, aemish.

And Sturrorme9 - sorry to disappoint you....

aemish said...

You're welcome, it's an oldie but a goodie

How are things? Tell us

celltech said...

The darkest moments of loneliness are nothing compared to being unhappily married.
Best wishes in these difficult times.

aemish said...

I second that emotion, Celltech