Divorcees have their own subculture, their own little understanding and kinship with others like them. It’s sometimes fun and interesting, you’re standing there in front of someone and it becomes clear that your family structure isn’t exactly traditional. Then they reveal that their world is your world, and the smiling and camaraderie begins.
The Two Questions
I’ve noticed over the last few years that there are two questions I receive all the time. But I never receive them from other divorced people. They are the result of extreme (and understandable) curiosity. And they are by no means hurtful. However, they are never asked by other divorced people.
The first question sounds something like this:
When did you know? I mean, how early did you have some inkling of a clue that something wasn’t right there?
The second question:
If it was so bad, why did you stick around? How did you last as long as you did? Why didn’t you get out sooner?
The main reason, I believe, divorcees don’t ask each other these questions is because they already know the answers. It’s almost always the same for all of us.
Divorcee Question #1
When did we know?
Most people could look back and say something chilling like, “I had an understanding that something might be off during our first date, but I kept on pressing because there was something about the experience I was enjoying.”
Others knew during engagement, or while walking down to the marriage canopy. And there are countless reasons they followed through anyway. The range is baffling. Some seem silly in retrospect, such as those who had already paid a hefty deposit for the wedding or sent out the invitations and didn’t want to deal with the shame and embarrassment of calling everything off.
It might sound silly. And few would admit it. But even if these aren’t the only reason people go through with a marriage they aren’t sure about, they are contributing factors for many.
A Feeling in the Pit of their Stomach
But there are bigger reasons. Some truly believe the red flags that are popping up are nothing in comparison to the happy moments and feelings. Others are so committed to the idea of marriage that they are willing to endure almost anything to follow through with the original plans. And others are blinded by what they can only assume is love.
Whatever reasons, most divorcees had a feeling in the pit of their stomach that they were making a terrible mistake. And that feeling didn’t start ten years into the marriage.
Are Doubts OK?
Now, I need to differentiate for a moment between this feeling I’m speaking about and doubts. Doubts, on the one hand, are natural. They are to be expected of both members of all couples. Doubt in the face of an enormous decision like this is as natural as fear while walking down a dark, quiet alley at nighttime.
If you don’t have doubts, I’m actually a bit worried about you. You are about to spend the rest of your life with another person. No doubts likely means you’re following your emotions exclusively and have left your intellect behind. This is rarely a recipe for success in life.
Normal people have doubts. However, if you have a powerful feeling in the pit of your stomach like you are making the biggest mistake of your life, this should not be ignored. There is no greater red flag. Follow your gut, and if necessary, walk away. Turning around and leaving only gets harder as time goes by.
Divorcee Question #2
So what about the second question? Why didn’t you leave? Why didn’t you run as soon as you were sure there were problems, problems that were very unlikely to ever be solved?
The answer is complex. Perhaps unsatisfying. And the question is also extremely unfair.
You see, we’re now looking back. Someone can easily look back at a decade’s worth of complications and pain and say, “Gee, that was loaded with unsolvable issues. I can pinpoint at least 20 times where I could have and probably should have just walked out the front door.”
But life is never that simple. Every day is its own day. Each and every day of your life you need to look at the entirety of the situation standing right in front of you. You need to evaluate, and there are countless considerations you must pore over.
Can I handle the financial turmoil that’s about to come my way? Am I ready to not see my children every single day? Am I making a decision based on current anger and resentment, rather than a careful, well thought-out one? Can I face up to the challenges that are about to be thrown my way, more challenges than I could ever imagine?
Fears and Second Guessing
And most days of the week, the fears and second guessing will be so powerful that you will head to bed that night still a married person.
So the questions isn’t really a one time, “Why did you stay knowing full well that it was so tough for you all of those years?” The question would need to be asked once a day, every day, for the duration of the period of suffering. And every single time the question is asked, there would be a host of different details that went into that day’s decision.
We could never have known that we would look back with absolute clarity and see that there really was only one choice all along. Sadly, that’s just not how the world works.
So What About You?
So, next time you’re thinking of asking a divorcee friend one of these two questions, you should have in mind a) they’ve most certainly been asked the questions before and b) the answers will be challenging, and likely some variation of what I just said. If they’re like me, they won’t have any issue answering your question. They’re open and honest and comfortable with how they feel.
But try not to pass judgment. And don’t second guess the decisions we made. You might have trouble with both these answers. But you don’t understand. It wasn’t you. You should thank God for that. And don’t assume you would do anything differently.
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