at the end of a marriage

February 27, 2018

Marr pic

…was a very ladylike dress, a vintage style summer frock with a princess neckline and a pattern of tea cups — dancing tea cups — against a navy blue background, the kind of garment an English lady of a certain class might have wafted around in circa 1938.

It was more than ladylike; it was whimsical.

Whimsy might seem a goofy note to strike for a marital showdown, but it was a deliberate goofiness – I’d put time into clicking through the hangers in my closet until I found what I considered appropriate.

Appropriate in this case meaning non-aggressive.

 I knew something decisive and irrevocable was about to happen to my marriage and I wanted to seem, or at least look, above reproach.

You could say I was already thinking in terms of strategy.

This was the situation, the state of play that particular summer evening: the two of us were at home, but not actively home together. H was upstairs or in the back watching tv and I was keeping busy in whatever room he wasn’t in.

You can do that sort of thing if you’ve been married a long time — avoid each other at the same time you’re actually circling each other, waiting for whatever it is that’s about to happen.

For my part, I was waiting for H to make the first move.

This makes me sound very calm and methodical about the whole business, the business of a marriage coming undone, and to some extent that’s true. There was a part of me that had been watching it, us, crumble as if from a distance, noting the signs and mentally ticking them off like a fervent teen taking a Cosmo love quiz (Has your relationship run its course? Here’s what to look for…).

Mainly though I was just very, very sad. 

Not as sad as I’d been when we’d lost our first baby. That time, that loss, I was wild with grief. This time, though, this expected loss, was a different category of sadness.

When we lost the baby we lost the baby.

We despaired. We mourned.

It was a shared sorrow.

This time, this loss, I’d be on my own.

That’s one of the shocks of divorce, the element that takes you by surprise, over and over again. Here you are, dealing with this awful situation and by its very nature, you can’t turn to your partner for comfort.

As if divorce wasn’t bad enough, you end up with irony tossed into the mix.

My dress was a nod to that paradox. All those dancing teacups and the little puffed sleeves and the bits of lace on the princess collar: that was my way of saying, disingenuously, Who, me? Threatening? Because in addition to the sadness and irony and the sense of impending doom there was also a growing awareness of what you might call competitive heat.

The thing is, what truly differentiates the sadness of divorce from all other types of grief is the fact that it almost always turns adversarial. Even if you part with good intentions, with promises to be friends forever, you have to be on your guard. You can’t just give in to the relief of mourning, which involves lying on the sofa surrounded by KitKat wrappers because the person who broke your heart will – inevitably and within a surprisingly short time – attempt to break the rest of you as well.

So as sad as I was for both of us, as frightened of the final confrontation, I also understood all this loss and emotion was going to condense down into something much more basic:

It would become a war.

 

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