I stopped today to pick myself up a snack and ran into a friend of mine. We aren't close friends, but we have known each other a long time - as long as I have lived on this side of town. In fact, she catered a party for us way back then. We see each other about three or four times a year, chat for a bit, and yes, even though we are not close by normal standards, I would call her friend happily - and wish that we have had the time and closer circles to be more close.
I saw her about a week or so ago and when I asked how she was, well - it all came out. It was fresh, shocking, hurtful - all the things that so many marriages fall apart over. She is tough and strong and I am so proud of her - far more than I've said. The kind of strong that is tempered by a sweet, kind personality, never abusive, never unkind, but still resilient, like an oak tree.
I cannot imagine what she is really and truly going through. I haven't been there. Luis has always maintained that he would tell me and either heal the potential rift or end things with me if he met someone else - that he would not take that next step without ending our relationship. Does that seem like an odd thing to say? Quite honestly, it is one of the most respectful, honest, hard, but best things he has ever promised. The ignominy of finding out that your husband, the man you plan to be with in thick and thin, sickness and health, for richer or poorer, is running around with another person, male or female, is unbearable. It is better to end a failing relationship first, then run off with Mr. or Ms. Happy-ever-After. When it comes to Luis, it is a promise he will keep. He is a man of very strong convictions and he keeps every promise - a rare and special gift.
I guess you can call her another statistic, as so many of us are in some fashion, whether it is marriage, age, sickness, employment, whatever. I'm inordinately proud of the fact that Luis and I - even though not legally married - have stood so long the test of time. Over twenty-three years. And still people have the nerve to prate that we aren't truly married, that should we part, it would be "easy". There is nothing easy about dividing a long-time union. It is misguided thinking to say that we would not experience the entire gamut of ugliness that goes with division of a legalised relationship - and the fact that New Jersey does not recognise couples living together at all - won't keep one of us from taking the other to court should it come to that. If Luis, for example, abrogated his promise to end things before sleeping with another person, I would not only take him to court, I'd win some form of alimony (not legally called such) and more, being disabled and suddenly bereft of house and home. So never be complacent about our "non-legal" status as a married couple. In the eyes of the law, I'd still be a terribly wronged woman.
I would like to think that it wouldn't come to that. In any fashion. I'm not so naive as to think it can't happen, it happens far too often to not think of it, or to assume that our relationship won't need work - as all relationships do. And therein, I think, lies the problems.
How many youthful marriages don't work out? Because the participants are young? Isn't that just a little too easy - and completely erroneous? Youth is not the issue - not always. Some of us mature faster than others. Some us marry right out of high school. Some of us marry in our 40s. Some of us don't marry, but live companionably with another person. And some of us remain alone all of our lives. I'm not one of those - I'm happiest living with someone and that someone is Luis. I can't imagine a different - or better - life. We aren't always super happy, but I think most of the time we are. Certainly, while I am in this transition in my life and not happy - when it comes to Luis, and how he has handled all this shit with my health, not working, etc., I could not ever be happier. He keeps me laughing. He is loving, kind, sweet, caring, and he has shown it so much more now that this has happened.
This is straying from the point, as so much of what I write does...
The worst part of this, naturally, is that two children, very cute, young, sweet children, have come of this union. I knew she was strong prior to having her children; now, it has made her stronger - she will need that, as she will need to shield them from the coming storm. The dissolution of any relationship is hard enough - but dissolution of a relationship involving kids is exponentially harder. And let's be honest, here again, age is not a prerequisite for being tortured by it. I was two and a half years old when my parents dissolved their marriage and that had far-reaching effects that last to this day. It has made for a non-existent relationship with Harry, my biological father (whom, despite our once-again non-existent relationship, I do love; I am so much more his child than my mother's, oddly enough - and that isn't just simple genetics, not at all). So, had I been older, I know there would have been much more hell to go through, for all of us, than there was. Clearly at any age it is hard, but as the age of the child increases, it just gets harder. Even if the kids are in their 30s, it is still hard - hard feelings, a lack of understanding especially if things seemed good on the surface.
On the other hand, I happen to be a firm believer in divorce. As hard and hurtful as it is - and it is - parents who are desparately unhappy in a relationship but stay "together for the kids" are almost always doing more harm than good. Kids are not stupid and by far not unaware that something is inherently wrong. My cousin's parents had a very shocking and sudden divorce - my uncle had fallen in love with someone else, kept it a secret and then one day, knowing he wanted to live with his girlfriend, just came out with this complete bombshell. That's the story as I know it. There is no reason to doubt it. It made my aunt very bitter - which is understandable to a point. I'd be royally pissed off with Luis if he did that. But I would not denounce all men as being the same. That just isn't the case. And I'd be willing to put myself out there after a period of time when I would go through all five steps of the process that comes with any life change. I know I could get hurt again... that is just the way it is when dealing with other people. But I would be so much less happy just going it alone. Well, she and my cousin did stop communicating at all with my uncle (we didn't, which created all kinds of shit, but I agree with my parents that it would have been a pity to lose one person because of that. Yes, that is opening myself to a lot of abuse, but it is years past and I prefer to be Switzerland when others' relationships end - mostly. Undoubtedly there are times when that can't happen, but I do try), but now my cousin is close to her father again, something I consider excellent. No one should have to lose a parent. But there is a part of me that wonders if on some level, some deep-inside, unnerving but unknowing way she didn't feel a general wrong-ness somehow. Who knows, though? She was 16, a difficult enough age to experience without that kind of trauma. And it was absolutely traumatic. How could it not be?
Shit, it is hard enough just to drag one's ass out of bed and face the normal day at 16. To go through that at the same time - again, not something I can imagine. At all. we have never been close, certainly not the way Renée (my cousin, younger by two and a half years) are. But Renée is close to Justine and very likely knows a lot more about what she went through then, than I. But I have a ton of respect for Justine for not only getting through it all, but for regaining closeness with her father. That had to be very hard.
So there it is. Living in the world of a friend's break up. There is nothing easy about this. But I have every confidence in her to get through it and come out way ahead. The husband... well. She is going to make him swallow it whole and without anything to wash it down. I get it. I'd help if I could. Sometimes, though, the best help is to just be there. The gods know I have a huge urge to shove it down his throat and that is so hard - I'm much too accustomed to speaking my mind but she made it clear this is just between us and so I have to smile and act the same toward him as always, but if he has half a brain (obviously not, but still...), he'd read my body language and have a clue that I think he is just slime.
Half a brain. Maybe that is the problem. Or maybe I know where his brain is at the moment...