Where we lived at the time, applicants for divorce must agree that their marriage is Irretrievably Broken and cannot be saved. You file your paperwork, pay your fee, wait for a court date and, should there be no complications or disagreement, a judge will return your status to "Single" in 3-8 weeks.
You and the person you once thought you would spend your life with will stand in front of a judge and plead a case for their absence. What I once couldn't imagine had become a very real matter of semantics and clerical work.
Once we finally walked into the metaphorical arena of divorce, rather than just getting close and backing away, my mind jumped forward with fear, backward with regret, and into the present with a deep sadness that knew no depth. After sitting with those feelings, far from feeling resolved or healed, I did feel that I had at least learned a few things about marriage, certainly my marriage:
1. You cannot expect one person to be everything. After relocating to Florida our world became very small. This served us well for a while, all we needed or wanted was to be together. But that is not a healthy long-term dynamic. My husband became my friend, lover, companion, social secretary, personal chef, and tech support. The brilliant Marriage Therapist, Esther Perel, speaks eloquently on this modern marriage expectation so I will defer to her wisdom on the subject.
2. You have to make the other person's happiness as important as your own. Although this could resemble a version of codependency, I believe, unlike expecting one person to fulfill many roles, this is a different expectation. In his work on The 5 Languages of Love, Gary Chapman explains how the goal of two people (in a committed relationship) is to communicate to the other in their distinctive language.
As much as my husband said he tried to make it work, which he did in some ways, he did not do this. I asked him to read that book, to bring me flowers, to X,Y, Z but he never understood why any of that was necessary so he never did those things. He loved me, in his way, in the language he could comprehend, but he never stretched himself into the uncomfortable foreign dialect of my needs and desires.
3. When you decide to get married make it count (ie. don't be drunk when you say the vows). Our love was genuine but the commitment was fragile and fleeting. We married in Las Vegas, my husband (nor I, to be fair and feminist) didn't so much propose as intimate that marriage might be a good idea; a way to get some gifts and have a party, and we loved each other and, yeah, all that. It was careless and, in the end, my heart got broken by the lack of regard and respect for the sincere promise we made to each other that day.
Despite our divorce my ex husband and I are actually still very fond of one another. Yet I damage has been done. I must mourn the loss of my marriage like I would any other grief; with time, encouragement, support of family and friends, and wine.
I found myself turning towards the still, small voice inside me once again. It assured me that, as the fog lifted, I would start to see the fractures of my failed marriage with more clarity.