If you searched the term “divorce” and ended up here reading my post, chances are you are searching, as am I, for some meaning in this painful process that will lend some comfort, some understanding. I am no expert in this subject. In fact, I am myself just now entering into the unknown turbulent emotional waters of facing the loss of my marriage; the rejection of what I had falsely and carelessly assumed to be an everlasting love. But of this I am certain – there is no comfort to be found.
When my wife finally uttered those fateful words, “I want a divorce”, I was strangely numb and accepting. At first. I understood the intensity of the frustration, pain, and sorrow she must be feeling to come to the conclusion that she needed to save herself. It took guts and strength, or so I told myself. Hell, I wouldn’t want to be married to me either! I had failed on so many levels and, obviously, made the fatal assumption that I would have time to turn it around. This, despite her repeated warnings over the years that she was not “a bottomless well.” I’ve spent the past week reflecting on how many missed opportunities I had to save our marriage, and only succeeded in uncovering a bitter truth.
I really fucked up.
But why, then, am I so angry? I’ve done a great job of pushing that particular emotion deep down. I kept telling myself that this was my fault. My failing. The pain and the fear that arises when another human being ultimately rejects you … my consequence for my actions (or lack thereof.) But at 3:06 a.m., I awoke suddenly to a new realization. What could be more abusive or more of a betrayal to a marriage than seeking it’s dissolution? To quit. She kept telling me that I destroyed it…but here she is, walking out center stage dressed as an executioner, ax in hand. Giving up. She, not I, is destroying the marriage.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming her. I am just pointing out the obvious. And it brings no comfort. And before I get blasted for feeling sorry for myself…that isn’t it. I know I could have saved this marriage. I know I could have dug deeper and spared her from ever having to make this call. This was all my failing, and I will have to live with it.
If this had been a short relationship that didn’t work out, perhaps I’d feel differently. But it’s been eighteen years. Eighteen years of dreaming together, building together, and yes, overcoming the setbacks, hurts, and disappointments together. Love is not the convenience of celebrating triumphs and victories alone. It is the steel that is forged in the furnace of overcome hardships, shared pain, and forgiveness. Did I dip at her well once too often? Undoubtedly. But this would have been so much easier if she had simply said from the beginning, “For better or for worse? I’m not down for that.”
I don’t know what I am hoping to find in putting these thoughts to words and sharing them online. I know it won’t bring comfort or understanding. And I am not going to magically rationalize my way out of this divorce. It’s going to happen. But in order to demonstrate the love I still have for her, I need to be supportive of her right to destroy this marriage if that is what she needs to do to live more fully in the future. I have to be the “man” she thought I was so many years ago…and find the strength to let her go.
I refuse to make this any harder than it has to be. Perhaps I am finally learning to give her the love she needed all along…through simply letting go.
Last night, we sat beneath the redwoods before a roaring fire, trying to comfort one another. We failed completely. We are still friends, and hope on some level that the memory of our better selves outshines the memories of our failings. I wrote her this poem…although I will never share it with her. I refuse to cause her any more pain than she (and I) are going through having come to this final crossroad. But I had to write it. I hope someone understands. I sure don’t.
GOODBYE BENEATH THE REDWOODS
The redwoods swayed in a post-romantic way.
their crowns in the planets, toes tucked below soft earth
under carpets of wet needles beneath our feet
- that’s how we said our soft goodbyes.
Our love smoked in the fireplace and I could see
the flames flickering in your dampened eyes, but I looked
away, too much the coward to own your pain.
You said it was the smoke, one final lie to comfort me.
We spoke in the soft, cordial tones of defeat as the
air hung heavy and silent between us.
Neither of us could hear the babbling brook stretched
beneath the fading stars as the waters carried the
last vestiges of hope downstream.
I will save my tears, the wrenching of my heart
for the long, dark nights ahead. Tonight, my love,
my forever lost love, let us wrest some warmth
from the dying embers of this fire; gather one last
bouquet of memories to set us on our separate ways.