5 months ago, it seemed like quite a few friends (friends of friends/acquaintances) were having serious marriage troubles. So much so, that I wrote a post about marriage (Wedding or Marriage… & self ).
What I didn’t feel at liberty to post on until now, was the news I got with in my own family the Saturday after posting that piece. With this issue still plaguing me, I now poor out my heart before you…
My parents sat me down after the kids were in bed, & announced that they were already in he process of getting divorced, & that they had just been keeping it from me for the previous 5 months because of their concerns about my health (& that of my sister’s family). I only see them every 4 to 6 weeks due to distance, and my Dad spent most of that time helping at the NSRI; but I think it would have been a shock anyway.
Strangely, I’d been expecting it since I was 13, but NOTHING prepares you for the reality of it! And I really don’t think the shock was increased much by my previous observations that my folks finally seemed to be getting along.
I’m still waiting for the relief of being freed from pretending that my family bore any resemblance to what outsiders believed to be true.
As a teen, my friends (& even my sister), told me that I was mad for seeing any problems in my parent’s relationship. To them we were the poster family that so many of my friends dreamed of, & any suggestion to the contrary was ingratitude & an offense to them. But in my heart, I knew there was far more beneath the surface. Weekends & holidays became increasingly strained, & I would hide in my room (engrossed in a book), or find excuses to stay in Cape Town.
Not only did it make it hard to love my parents, but it also convinced me that I could never submit to the Biblical model of marriage. Everyone’s belief that my family was perfect, made me doubt the health of any & every marriage I encountered. I had always hated superficiality, & in my mind, that was what most marriages were. Occasionally I’d encounter a couple who shone so brightly together that I could not doubt their bond, but they were usually elderly & the woman so far from who I was, that I did not believe it possible for me to attain that ideal.
Now, I face a different judgement from people, & it aggravates my position yet again. I am horrified by the people who have honestly seemed surprised that I am so deeply affected by my parent’s divorce. “But you’re an adult” they say.
Yes, I am an adult! I’m a married adult with young children. But my parents are still my parents, and their marriage is still my primary experience of marriage, even if my head & heart have known it to be broken & far from perfect.
My father’s behavior does affect my marriage, almost as if he were inviting my husband to follow his example (& actually so does my mom’s). My father & husband are not alike. Their flaws & weaknesses bare little resemblance, but the irrational is hard to reason with.
Then there is the added guilt of knowing that my folks stayed in an unhappy marriage for decades, for my sake! That all those years of misery I witnessed in their eyes were somehow my fault. I know this is as irrational as a young child’s guilty feeling that they caused the rift or drove their one parent away. Every couple is responsible for their own relationship! It is an ongoing commitment to the each other, regardless of circumstances or transitory feelings & impulses. Yet, the feeling remains, & I have to consciously shove it away all the time.
I thought I was starting to cope (thanks to meds & my support structures), but then the news came 14 days ago: the papers are signed, & neither lawyer can see any reason why the judge won’t grant it…
I fell apart. Secretly, deep down where I couldn’t see it, I had hoped that something would come up & change their minds. My dad had his day in court a few days ago… & the blackness is again closing in. So much so, that I can only manage a flutter of bitterness as my husband’s new gardener rips out the plants I had carefully planted & tended, even while they are in full spring bloom. There comes a point where you just can’t feel much more. Right now, I feel so much, that its a bit like feeling absolutely nothing.
I have lost my best friend, all my grandparents, a few aunts, my own baby, & various others, to death; but in some ways his is harder.
I can’t just mourn my parent’s & their marriage; I also have to nurture our relationships. The easy route would be to pretend that one or both of them are dead, but they aren’t. They are STILL my parents, & if anything, they need me now more than ever. But this is unchartered territory, & I feel ill-prepared for the journey.
My favorite book as a kid was The Hobbit (JRR Tolkein), only surpassed when I read The Lord of the Rings (same author) & I always dreamed of adventures; but sometimes I feel like Frodo entering Mordor to reach Mnt Doom. No maps, no guide, no light, no supplies & no hope. I seem to have skipped all the parties and happy discoveries.
But this too, is merely an irrational feeling. It is routed in my depression & mourning, not in reality. There is a map and guide, there is light & all essential supplies will be provided as needed, ultimately there is Hope, and the best party still lies ahead.
Guide: Holy Spirit
Light: God’s forgiveness, redemption & sanctification
& God will provide all that I need to make it work, just as He has for me & countless others in the past.
Psalm 143:7-8 (ESV)
7 Answer me quickly, O Lord!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
24 For in this hope we were saved.
“Our God is an awesome God. He reigns in Heaven above, with wisdom, power and love. Our God is an awesome God.” From a song by Richard Mullins