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For me there are two perspectives on divorce - that of the Dumper and that of the Dumpee. As the Dumpee I felt Sadness, Anger, and a dramatic loss of Self-esteem. I felt judged and found lacking, as if the divorce were something I could have/should have prevented and could not because I was too flawed. The divorce also clashed dramatically with my sense of values. I was terribly bothered by the fact that we had made a commitment to each other "for better or for worse, until death do us part" - and it turned out that what he really meant was "until I change my mind, or until I decide on someone else", and now I was being asked to say that I agreed to this divorce.
When my husband and I were on the brink of divorce, our counselor advised us to attend a retreat organized by famous psychologists who had written a popular self-help book. We were invited to spend a few days (and about $8000) hiking, skiing and attending intensive marital therapy in a halcyon corner of Colorado. I called the organizers to get a sense of what to expect. In five minutes, I summarized the bare bones of the problems that we were facing. "Ah yes!", said the famous psychologist. “I can see that you have the most common problem, an adolescent approach to sexuality. If you come to our retreat, I believe that we will be able to save your marriage. We have a very high success rate!"
"But," I thought, "We didn't even discuss the subject of sexuality... How could she possibly diagnose this?" I concluded that either this famous psychologist was the Annie Oakley of psychology, able to predict marital success in five minutes from 2000 miles away, or she had some very expensive Snake Oil Liniment to Cure What Ails You. People in desperate situations are easy prey for those who offer miracle cures at great expense. We did not attend the retreat.
I have never understood why everyone thinks that marriage is such hard work. Between the sporadic downs, ours has been pretty effortless, as I think a good marriage should be. We fight sometimes, and we don't always make each other perfectly happy, but mostly we just like being together. Our burdens are lighter because we share them, and our happiness is more intense because we share that also. I don't see how being married can be more work that being single, and if it is harder, I don't see the point of staying married. That's not to say that you shouldn't try to work through the rough patches, but the rewards of marriage should be accruing in the present or at least in the near future, not in heaven for a painful life rightly lived.
I met my husband when I was 16, and he was the only man I had ever been with. We both thought that something was wrong with me, because I was not interested in sex. My husband insisted that we go to the gynecologist, who said that nothing physical was wrong with me, but maybe I had suffered some sort of abuse as a child. I insisted that I had never been abused, but my husband wanted me to see a psychologist. The whole time, I really thought that I was abnormal. Now that we are divorced and I have a new man in my life, I know that there was never anything wrong with me at all. It wasn't sex that didn't interest me, it was my husband who didn't interest me.
I don't mind that my parents are divorced. What really bugs me is when a friend asks, "Where are you and your parents going for vacation?" and when I say, "My parents are divorced but I'm going skiing with my dad," my friend gets all embarrassed and sorry for asking the question. I have to explain that it's fine that my parents are divorced, and I love going on vacations with both my parents... Plus I get twice as many vacations as any other kid I know! It's so weird that other people feel embarrassed or sorry for me that my parents are divorced. What's up with that?
I think the idea of "true love" in the traditional sense is outdated, as is the idea that we have only one "soul mate." And, one can learn to un-love someone. The divorce process helps with that. When my ex told me he said he wanted out of the marriage - one doesn't really "ask" for a divorce – it came as a complete shock to me. The divorce process lasted for five years, went through two arbitrations, a trial, an appeal and finally back to the original judge.
And in the fifth year, I said "uncle." During those years, I learned to see my ex in ways that I had never before seen him. The nastiness, selfishness and name-calling all helped me to learn not to love him, or to put it in a place so small, dark and deep inside me so as not to be called love at all.
Was he my "true love?" I truly loved him.
At first, I thought I would never love again. Moving on was forced on me, and I did. It opened me up for the next soul mate who would come into my life, someone I truly love. If I should ever move on from this elationship, I know that there are other souls who will come into my life who I will also love truly. The niverse is too vast for us to believe that there is only one person for one person for our entire lives.
Like a lot of people, I sometimes wonder what I would do if my husband cheated on me. I see it like this: If Robert told me that he was having an affair and was in love with this other woman, I would be totally devastated. I would be furious, emotionally shattered and frightened of starting my life over at my age. If I had the option of scraping the tatters of my life together and starting over alone or clinging to Robert, knowing that he doesn't love me, which would make me happier? Obviously the first choice: Either outcome is terrible, but it would be worse to live with a caged beast who was a constant emotional drag on my life.
On the other hand, if Robert confessed the affair and begged my forgiveness, telling me that he still loved me more than anyone else, would I stay? Yes, I would stay, but not for noble reasons. Not because I value the commitment (that he has already broken). I would stay for purely selfish reasons, because as long as he still loves me, I would rather be with him than apart from him almost no matter how badly he behaves. I think this is what makes the difference between staying and leaving: Love.