January. Relationships. Hold On (Maybe).
The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. – John F. Kennedy
A successful marriage is basically an endless cycle of wrongs committed, apologies offered, and forgiveness granted…all leavened by the occasional orgasm. – Dan Savage
Marriage is not a game for the young… Maturity brings—among other things—the ability to sustain and survive enormous contradictions and disappointments. Marriage is—among other things—a study in contradiction and disappointment, and inside that reality there is space for us to truly learn how to love. –Elizabeth Gilbert
Here are the things I hear through the shared wall of my townhouse:
- My neighbours got a Wii Fit for Christmas and it sounds like this: thump thump thump thump thump + some sort of repetitive musical refrain. Rinse. Repeat. For hours. I sincerely hope someone is getting skinny.
- My neighbours have spent a little too much time together this week, and they’re both over it. Loudly.
They’re not alone.
January and Divorce and Break-ups, Generally
Today – and every day this month – is momentous and shattering. Today is the day when people return to work, after a week or so of holidaying at home with their families, and file for divorce.
Google tells me it is common, and if Google says so, you know it is true.
Article after article names January 7, 8 and 12, or just January in general, as the busiest month of the year for divorce lawyers (and long-suffering couples).
In preparation, and in the spirit of Christmas generosity, a law firm in the UK offered discounted “divorce gift certificates” in December.
It makes awful sense to me. Who breaks up right before Christmas? You grit your teeth and you get through it. And then you make a New Year’s resolution, escape to the office a few days later, and make the call.
That’s bald and clinical and unsympathetic. But when I put my heart in it, I think, a lot of us are hurting right now.
So, if this is you, peace be with you. My heart aches for you. Hang in there, my friend.
If this is maybe you – but you’re not really sure of much except that things aren’t what you expected and your wolf isn’t being fed and the scary hairy one has an empty stomach – here’s a little white hot truth from Joseph Campbell by way of Danielle LaPorte:
Marriage is not a love affair,
it’s an ordeal.
It is a religious exercise, a sacrament,
the grace of participating in another life.
If you go into marriage with a program,
you will find that it won’t work.
is leading innovative lives together,
being open, non-programmed.
It’s a free fall: how you handle each new thing as it comes along.
As a drop of oil on the sea,
you must float,
using intellect and compassion
to ride the waves.
So: hold on.
Do what you need to do.
Divorce and Break-ups, Specifically (and Personally)
This is my first year of being single since pretty much ever.
(Stealing a great line from Ms. Robinson, woman of experience, here: I’m single, though not all the time.)
So I know. I really know. I’m not in the midst of it, now, but I didn’t get to be a much-vaunted single mama without a catastrophic heart-home-love-and-life smash up.
I was with someone for seven years even though I knew the truth. I knew we weren’t It or Meant To Be, always.
But nothing was wrong. He was (is) a good person and good to me. And so, next step and next step and next step.
I told myself that the things I was looking for, and lacking, I could find other places.
I think, generally, this is a wise strategy, because no one person can be everything to you. You have friends and careers and kids and knitting and online pornography for a reason.
But we couldn’t talk to each other. Yes, we spoke different languages (his five to my one-and-a-half, franglais is sort of a language, right?) but we really spoke different languages.
If I asked him a question that required a yes or a no, he would tell me stories freighted with cultural allusions and fraught with entendres and shadows.
And then I would say/scream, what the *bad word* ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? CAN YOU PICK UP THE MILK OR NOT?
Talking. We talked past each other. Like a kitten with a newly dead mouse, I would bring him my ideas and in the interests of getting me to think harder, better, higher, he’d tell me I needed a rat. He’d advocate the devil to purify my psalms.
Frustrated by the missed connections and fraying vocal cords, I would yell at him which would take him to a terrifying place: in another country, in another world, he was tortured.
My screams – at him – haunt me, still.
In short: we wanted the same things in life (family, children) but not from each other, because we couldn’t know each other. Our words whizzed past each other and whacked into the wall.
So I knew for a long time – always – but I knew, intensely, unrelentingly, in the itchy, painful, transformative, horrific, something’s-gotta-give way, for two years before it gave way.
Eventually you get tired of running and let your monsters catch you. It is pretty much the nightmare you imagined, more so and less so, and you survive.
What I Maybe Know About Love and Loss and What You Probably Do, Too
So I’ve loved and lost and tried again and here’s what I think I know about loving hard, holding on and letting go.
We are all, fundamentally, mysteries to each other. Sometimes we are mysteries to ourselves.
But, I believe, we want to be known. To speak the same language as our loved ones. To be heard. Understood.
It doesn’t matter what The Problem or nest of interrelated, tangled up problems is or are or how trivial it will appear to outside eyes. It doesn’t matter if it is communication incompatibility or sexual incompatibility –
and this is NOT trivial. Dan Savage gets it right when he says this:
in a long-term relationship—or a marriage—one partner’s sexual selfishness and another’s sexual frustration rarely prove trivial over the long haul. They’re more often grounds for divorce.
– or just plain growing in different directions.
The truth is a beast. Ugly. Big teeth. Relentless. Patient (sometimes). Hungry. It will be fed. Sometime.
If you know, you know.
And all the reasons in the world that are stalling your exit – kids, family, property, social expectations – are just that: stalls.
The biggest stall is the dream. The myth. The internal myth making and myth busting that comes with a marriage bust-up is more dangerous and damaging than anything inflicted on you from the outside.
- fairy tales and happily ever after and us, always
- The One
- I can’t commit to anything
- I quit again
- I failed again
- this is all my fault
- I should be stronger. I should just buck up and grit my teeth and get through it
- I will never find another
- I will die alone with cats because that’s what the unlovable/unfuckable do
- my children will be juvenile delinquents
- I will never have children
All those “again”s. They indicate personal narratives and toxic loops you’re knitting yourself into.
Sometimes we enslave ourselves to our stories.
So tell yourself a new story. Tell yourself the truth. Start with this:
If you know, you know.
If you don’t know, wait until you get to the knowing. More heavy lifting, hard works, stillness and listening.
So these are the things I know about relationships:
- Hold on.
- Or don’t.
- Be the truth. You already know what it is or how to get to where it is.
- There is no later.
Wait, that’s not entirely true. That’s not the entire list.
There’s one more thing: stay true, my friend. Think, cry, grieve, eat, pray, love (again) and know there will be light (again).
PS – this is a repost from last year. January 4th is January 4th is January 4th…
PPS – thanks to my new friend Catherine for the conversation that inspired me to add these two videos.
PPPS – just so you know, I like it when you follow me on Twitter. I’m @KellyDiels.