I tend to be very careful, out here on the internet, about when and how I speak about my personal life. Ridiculous bitching about my period? Sure, why not. Navel-gazing about weight and body image? Sure. But all of those things are about me. When it comes to the people in my life and how I relate to them, I am ferociously protective of their privacy. Their lives are not for me to talk about.
I’m going to make an exception here, with Mike’s permission. Because I think this is important.
This is about failure.
I’ve never dealt well with failure. In university, the first time I ever failed an exam, it resulted in a near-hysterical crying jag because I was certain my academic career was over and I was completely without worth as a human being. I am not someone who fails with grace.
This is about divorce.
Last week, on August 26, a judge granted Mike and I a divorce. This will come as a surprise to pretty much everyone, because we chose to not talk about it publicly until everything was finalized. A lot of that was because, in our opinion, our relationship and its workings (or not-workings) were no one’s business but ours. We decided together to get married, and we decided together to end that marriage. But I think a lot of it was also because the word divorce carries a lot of highly dramatic emotional baggage.
I think nearly everyone in America knows someone who’s been touched by a really horrible divorce. Growing up, I had a lot of friends with divorced parents, in a myriad of different arrangements. And there’s also the image of divorce in the media, where it’s largely this dramatic thing that involves screaming arguments, and crying, and throwing dishes, and trying desperately to hurt someone else over stuff.
The specter of failure was what made things the most difficult as Mike and I talked and talked and ultimately came to the conclusion that this chapter of our lives was at an end. I kept thinking over and over, that because I couldn’t find a way to fix this, to fix me, I had not only failed myself, I had failed our friends, our families, and worst of all, I had failed Mike, who is still my best friend in the world.
I haven’t failed Mike. Mike didn’t fail me. And I don’t want to hear anyone characterizing our relationship, our marriage, our divorce, that way. There is this is this societal meme that deems divorce a failure of marriage, a failure of a relationship. As if finding someone compatible with you, who will grow and change as you grow and change and always maintain that same compatibility, is a simple and easy prospect that defaults in success. As if finding a single person who can ceaselessly put up with your shit (and the shit they have to put up with grows and changes too) and still love you just as much until one of you dies is the norm.
Maybe divorce sometimes is about failure. But I don’t think that’s the only potential meaning. It can also be just about ending. Failure is only one way of a multitude for something to end. And if I’d allowed myself to think about it that way, this process might have been a little less agonizing.
Mike and I have taken care of each other and supported each other through a lot of good times and bad times.We’ve shared our lives. But the thing about life is that it changes you, inevitably. The day you stop changing is truly the day you’ve ceased to live, even if you don’t get around to dying for a while after. And for nearly a decade, the changes life wrought on us kept us on the same path, and it was good.
You don’t really have control over how life is going to work that magic on you. And at some point we stopped growing together and started growing apart. That’s not anyone’s fault. That’s life. Mike isn’t the same person I married four years ago, let alone the same person I started dating five years before that. I’m not the same person he married. And if you gave it to us to do over again today, we’d say thanks, but no. But let’s have some cake anyway. Cake’s always good.
We’re not a failure. Our relationship is not a failure. Because we made each other stronger, better people. We loved and supported each other through thick and thin until we reached a place in our lives where we couldn’t support each other in that same way any more. It’s time to continue loving and supporting each other in a different way.
And you know what? That’s okay. We walked along the same path for close to ten years. But now it’s time for those paths to diverge.
When I think of it that way, in terms of the fullness of our lives and the way’s we’ve grown, I can’t really call our relationship, our marriage anything but a success. We are both greater, stronger people than we were when we started. And if it’s going to end, then let it end. Holding on to something that is no longer supporting either of us would be the real failure.
There are a lot of people in the world. A lot of people. I feel lucky every time I meet someone with whom I can connect on an intimate level of any kind. Maybe there is someone (heck, ten someones, fifty, one hundred!) who will by some miracle of statistics be that perfect one for me, who will always match me and be matched by me. I don’t know if I will ever meet that person, and I won’t know if I’ve met them until I’m on my deathbed. And that’s okay.
I am incredibly lucky to have met Mike. We have been best friends for nearly ten years now, and for a bit less than that we were more. Mike has been an amazing, integral part of my journey to where I stand now. He has made me who I am today. And he has had the courageous soul and boundless generosity of spirit necessary to keep cheering me along on my own path, just as I’ve been cheering him along on his. Even as those paths have taken us farther and farther apart.
We haven’t failed. Because wherever we end up, we will still love each other.
Friends til the end.