It’s Saturday, and I’m single. Almost. That means I have the papers and just need to sign them and wait 30 to 60 days. Part of me is more than ready, but part of me knows that with this step, more than any other I’ve taken thus far, there are no take-backs, no do-overs. Anyone who doesn’t take this step with at least some pause and thoughtful hesitation is probably not quite in touch with the gravity of the situation.
In an eerie way, this Saturday is not unlike my wedding day in that regard. But ironically, it really is my brother’s wedding day, and I am one of the bridesmaids.
Yesterday in preparation for my brother’s nuptials I had a manicure and pedicure, and I struck up a conversation about marriage and divorce with the young Asian girl working on my feet. According to her aunt, who has been divorced twice, “With marriage, there’s a fifty-fifty chance that it’s a mistake. But with divorce, it’s never a mistake!” We chuckled about it, and I thought of a joke someone recently told me. “Why is divorce so expensive? Because it’s worth it!” More cynical people have said of marriage, “The screwing you’ll get is not worth the screwing you’ll get.”
All this dry, dark humor is just a disguise for the truth of the matter – divorce and the circumstances that lead to it can be soul-destroyingly painful for both parties. I don’t know how anyone can go through it without an ever-present flow of unconditional love from their friends, family and a Higher Power; I’ve been blessed with that support, and it has still been agonizing at times. I’ve said on more than one occasion recently, “I don’t ever, ever want to go through this again.”
There’s a simple solution to that, I realize. What’s the leading cause of divorce?
Yesterday I caught myself saying to some family members in town for the wedding, “Always a bridesmaid . . . ,” and before I could finish the well-known axiom, I repeated, this time with some excitement and I dare say, relief, “Always a bridesmaid! YES!”
It’s Saturday, and I’m grateful to be a bridesmaid. I’m also grateful to have been a bride. I will never regret the decision to get married. Without that decision and all the consequences that followed, I might never have learned that marriage is an unconditional relationship of service to each other, and to the relationship itself. I might never have learned that to be faithful is not simply to remain sexually exclusive, but to have faith in your spouse’s ability to love even when his better and worse, sickness and health idiosyncrasies prevent him from acting with love and care. I might never have learned that one of the essential ingredients of marriage is loving myself just as unconditionally.
I might never have learned that marriage is not “give and take” but rather, “give and receive,” and I might never have learned I have difficulty with doing both.
The lessons I’ve learned from my experiences make me very hesitant about ever entering into that kind of commitment again. I know marriage requires more than I’m capable of. Yet I see this lack of faith in myself as a gift, for I’ve also learned that faithfulness in marriage is not just about believing in my spouse, or believing in myself; after all, we women and men are quite imperfect. To be faithful is to believe in God’s power dwelling in the relationship.
It’s Saturday, and I’m hopeful that one day, I will have a faithful marriage – a marriage between and man and a woman who embrace their powerlessness and rely on a power greater than themselves to restore them to wholeness, together. Not two souls hoping that the other “completes” them, but two souls tending a garden to be God’s dwelling place on earth, in the midst of their love and service to each other and to others.
It’s Saturday, and despite all the cynicism of divorce, I’m still an idealist, but no longer a perfectionist. Isn’t it interesting what I’ve had the opportunity to lose in this process, and what I’ve had the opportunity to reclaim?