I had lunch today with some former work colleagues and had a chance to catch up on the latest gossip. I found out that two other former colleagues split up with their spouses in the past year. In this day and age where divorce seems to have become commonplace, I continue to be surprised and saddened when I hear it has impacted people I know. Call me a traditionalist, but I believe in the institution of marriage and want to uphold what it is supposed to represent.
Before my father passed on, my parents had been married for 59 years. It was a highly imperfect marriage that had some pretty shaky moments. But towards the final days of Dad’s life, it was very clear that the only individual who could truly comfort him was his wife. Seeing this moment really crystallized how important marriage is and how deep the marital bond goes (obviously, 59 years together had something to do with it, too!).
I first encountered divorce in my immediate friendship circle a couple of years ago. By all accounts, this appeared to be a very happy couple who had a lovely wedding, who seemed to always have an exciting travel adventure around the corner, and who lived a fun, urban lifestyle. We loved each person as an individual and we thoroughly enjoyed spending time with them as a couple. My husband and I were dumbfounded and speechless when we heard the words “We’ve separated.” We felt blindsided.
But it just goes to show that it is human nature to put on a good show. And a happy marriage is perhaps the greatest illusion of all. Deep down, we all want to believe in the institution. We all have a vision of what a perfect marriage is, so we play-act it because it’s what we believe to be true. On the surface, to others, you must make everything appear perfect. But any actor will tell you it’s not easy to be “on” all the time; the curtains must close so that you can go back to who you really are (which proves that marriage is work!).
The past couple of decades have brought about two dichotomous phenomena: the speed of life has increased so quickly that we feel pressured to be constantly “moving ahead” and multitasking, yet there is a longing – especially among young women – to hold off on marriage and children and to first “experience life” and build a solid career. At some point, I suppose, these conflicting needs will collide and a marriage will take place for all the wrong reasons.
Experiencing separation and divorce in your social circle is a humbling reminder that even when you think you know someone and their situation, you really don’t.