The Mid-Life Divorce Stage
I am in that stage of life where many, many people in my circles are either contemplating getting divorced, in the process, or have recently completed the process. A friend’s recent announcement about this got me stewing on the topic: a divorce meditation.
I will say, it is a strange and unnerving thing for me to witness all these divorces. My husband and I feel, as keenly as many of these couples did, the hope to stay together over a lifetime. We revisit our relationship almost every time another couple we know decides to break up. Our communication and check-ins are probably not a bad thing, but we do find it somewhat distressing that so many around us are divorcing.
We feel saddened by the loss of their couplehood. We wonder if we’ve missed something that may make our relationship implode later on. And we know of the healing that must come if anyone is to truly move on- and what hard work that is (and how few undertake it).
‘Til Death Do Us Part (Right?!?)
When I officiate weddings (I was counting them up as I wrote this: it’s somewhere around 30 now), each couple is deeply in love and writes amazing things for their vows. They talk about the heights they have experienced and the depths they will go to in order to support their shared love, their relationship.
But I will tell you, in all honesty, there are some couples who I would bet money will not make it for the long haul. (I don’t judge and I don’t counsel: everyone has got their path, and the couple is usually so in love at that moment they would never hear my concerns or questions.)
One thing you hear on both sides of the wedding-and-dirvorce path is this: ’til death do us part.
We say it in the vows- that I will not leave your side until we physically die. That I will remain with you, through all things, until the last breath leaves your body. It is a wonderful sentiment and so very true in the moment.
I think that, if we’re really honest, we discover, further into the complexities of marriage, that there are actually plenty of times we feel like leaving. (My husband and I have approached this edge, with true intent of leaving, at least twice in our relationship. How couples deal with these moments says a lot about the health of the relationship.)
We also say it when the vows are well and over, as a threat: “You told me it was ’til death do us part!” We hold that phrase in anger and fear and throw it at our former beloved as proof of their weakness.
Quite the opposite of the vows.
Death Is More Than The Physical
But what if ” ’til death do us part” isn’t just about the physical?
For most people I know, marriage is a union of much, much more than the physical bodies. It is about a union of hearts, values, and goals. Marriage is about a union of spirits and dreams and experiences. Marriage is also about creating and maintaining a strong and deep emotional connection, not just physical support.
There are many examples of couples who loved their partner even after one had died. Their connection ran soul-deep, not just in this physical realm. Death did not part them.
And if we turn that idea on its head- the idea that the vitality of a marriage can extend beyond death- we can see that, in the same way that death does not part some people, different types of marital death (beyond the physical) can cause divorce.
For instance, what if the soul of a marriage dies?
Like life support, does it matter if the bodies go on living when the soul is dead?
What if the deep emotional connection dies?
Should we continue to chain ourselves to someone who cannot or will not share intimacy with us?
What if the mutual support– on any level- dies?
In our Western world, marriage is about the full development of two people, as a couple and individuals. What if support for full individual (or couple) development is stymied, ignored, or denied by our partner?
What if the shared goals, perspectives, or values change radically?
This is also a kind of death due to poor proximity. Long-distance relationships – which is what un-shared values point towards – are rarely sustainable.
We Can Only Live Into the Answers
I don’t have answers to these questions. And I know that each couple has to answer them for themselves (some will be able to come back from the brink, some will not).
But I know this for sure: the death of anything is not just a physical occurrence.
Death involves the spiritual, the mental, the emotional…and so much more.
A marriage can die under many circumstances, therefore. And when a marriage dies, under whatever circumstances, we need not tie ourselves to it forever. It is a blessing of growth to let it die and to let it go.