I recently spent the day with a friend I have known for decades. She lives a few states away and I was unable to help in her divorce, other than to cheer her on from the sidelines. The husband was ruthless and my dear friend is still reeling, and doing her best to keep a stiff upper lip and any sense of humor and dignity she can salvage from the whole mess. I respect her ability to see the big picture, to create a new life; and to keep getting up in the morning, putting one foot in front of the other, and moving herself forward. As resilient as she has always been, this is a rough time for her. I know she will make it through and come out stronger for the experience. I just wish there were some short cut I could help her take.
So, I invited her to come spend a little time with my family. She has always gotten along well with my husband, and she is an angel with my kids. I thought having a relaxing family dinner with us might do her some good. And, it might have. She definitely appreciated a home-cooked meal and the luxury of letting someone else do the work.
She was able to spend just the right amount of time with all of us, too. Long enough to watch my kids move from cooperating with each other and their new toy devolve into an extended game of “gimme’ that!” Long enough to be amazed by my thoughtful husband cooking us all a healthy dinner; and then immediately disappear into the television as soon as he was done eating.
Too often, I find that people going through heart ache can’t stand the thought of being around their so-called “normal” friends. Some of the natural happiness and affection strike close to home, and it can be painful to get too close. I understand that feeling, and I believe that every adult has experienced it, for one reason or another, at some time in their lives. We have all been keenly aware of our own recent disappointments while wanting to be truly thrilled for someone else going through a moment of achievement. It is not always an easy feat.
My friend, to her huge credit, seems to bear no ill will at all to the world around her. Genuine, generous, and just pleased to be around us, she was, as always, a true joy. When the two of us had a little time together without my family, my friend, in her desire to support me in my good fortune asked, “Are you happily married?”
I had to laugh! As much as my marriage is built by two equal partners working out of love and respect to make sure we both accomplish our goals, the truth is it is a heck of a lot of work! Either one of us can do or say the dumbest thing and get on each other’s last nerve at any given moment without warning. No one said it would be easy to raise kids and hold down jobs and balance everyone’s social lives, and decidedly it is not. There are more days that it’s all worth it than not. But there are definitely days, for any of us, in which it is hard to see the maze for the rats.
I think life is that ongoing desire to balance the mundane against our aspirations. For as long as we have a partner who is on that particular team with us, we are fortunate, definitely. But, “happy?” as in “happily ever after,” and rainbows sprout out the top of our heads? I should think not!
So, I answered honestly, I told her that I think anyone who claims that they are “happily married,” as simple as that, is either lying or is just not paying attention. Of course there is happiness, but if it were only that – without the challenges, dilemmas, frustrations and eventual resolutions – could it really be called happiness?
Divorce is not the end of happiness, any more than marriage is the end of aggravation. The point, I think, is to find the path that leads to the most happiness and the least aggravation. Whether that is alone or not seems largely irrelevant.
What We Love: Neither marriage nor divorce is what determines your happiness – you are.
– Sharon Oberst DeFala