Last Friday night in Portland, Jay and I ended the evening sitting with my brother-in-law, my sister discussing life, marriage and all sorts of things on their puffy couches. One thing that the four of us have in common is that we all have divorced parents ("four" might be strong as my sister and I obviously have the same set of parents but LAY OFF ME I'M STARVING). The acknowledgment of that fact brought forth stories of how awful it was to witness one's parents' separation - no matter the varied ages involved between all of us. It's a rough a$$ chapter and can be described as nothing short of a death you experience. The death of the family you knew. The death of both of your parents ever sleeping in the same house again (that's a big one as a kid and it literallllly changes overnight, pun intended). The death of not feeling guilty because you all were with one parent over the other and you wondered if the other was lonely. A lot of finalities come along with the dissolution of the nuclear family unit, none of which are a cakewalk in the beginning. None. Well, except for the fact that you get to eat a lot of junk food until your dad figures out how to grocery shop again.
Before I go on, I feel inclined to say that despite all of that - I am happy with my parents and their separation. When they broke up, all I could ask my 11-year-old self was "WHY would they ever divorce?" Now it's hard to see how they were ever married. They are completely different people who live their life and handle events so differently. For that reason in the long run, their divorce was wise. Being unhappy forever shouldn't be a viable option either. Thankfully, my parents are still good friends and family events are still family events that include all of my parental units. We are a bigger, happier family. Phew (because I don't know how I could handle it if they were not). Same with Jay. He has an amazing set of stepparents, two wonderfully different homes to visit when we're in Ashland and a plethora of awesome stepsiblings who we love immensely. And we both were touched when we looked over at our wedding to see his dad and mom, parted in marriage but unified in their sons, holding hands as we said our vows as they sat next to their spouses. A nod to the cherished role they had in raising their children together and to the fact that family is always family. There can be a lot of good in life post-divorce - there is no arguing that. It just takes a bit to get to that point.
^Here's a nice pic of our joined blended FIRST family on both mine and Jay's side the day before our wedding. And this is even missing a couple people. Noteworthy that my biological parents are standing by each other as is Jay's. There is a happy story at the end of a parting.
But even so, I'd like to make it my goal to not get divorced. I'd like to make my marriage work. I'm committed to this life that I'm building with him. A sentiment shared by my sister/bro-in-law on that night on her couch less than a week ago. And with a pep in our step and hope in our voice, we all all came to the conclusion that our generation just might have the best shot at that. We are basically the generational Goldilocks of marriage. Let me explain.
The generation that my grandparents' called home was pretty set on tilling your own soil vs. going in search of greener pastures. Marriage was forever and problems were to be solved behind closed doors. And that's admiral and wonderful and there's nothing that warms my heart more than seeing lovebirds in the twilight of their lives still holding hands as they peddle down the street. However, I fear that that the severe aspect of that mindset brought forth so much secrecy and so much emphasis on not airing your dirty laundry in a way which lead to too many marriages that went on when perhaps they shouldn't. Verbal abuse, physical abuse, years of unhappiness in forced societal roles yet not a word uttered or a cry for help. Yes, this porridge is too hot.
Then there's our parents' generation. A group of free-spirited vagabonds who thrived on redefining the cultural norms. Sex was now seen as a hobby vs. a sacred act, gender roles began to be fluid and self-expression became the gold standard. While I embrace their efforts to live authentically and break stride with the decades of the past, I believe their mindset could have impacted their decisions when faced with conflict in their own marital unions. Too easy was it to move on from the commitment of marriage because there's so many other beautiful fish in this wonderful sea. Yes, this porridge is too cold.
And now here we are. An educated generation who grew-up with ample resources about getting help if you need it and were inundated with the message of being treated properly while given limitless options for how we wanted to live our life. We could be a homemaker or a career woman and each decision reflected our feminist ability to CHOOSE what we wanted for ourselves. We felt able and willing to imbibe in the spirit of youthful indiscretions but we also knew that when we felt it was time to buckle down, it was time to buckle down. We get married later once we've had a chance to know who we are. We can use the generational role models before us to create a hybrid in our view on marriage - take your vows seriously but don't let it cost you your sense of self. Work together to find a groove with your partner to merge the two. Yes, this porridge is just right.
Now, I'm well aware that this post comes with a lot of generalizing, unscientific data and assumptions. But I think there's some truth at the root of it. I love my big, fat, expanded, happy, blended, modern family and I would have it no other way. But I also take seriously what I said to Jay in 2014 as we stood in the middle of that field in front of most everyone we love.
After all, some porridge is too hot and some porridge is too cold. But if you can bear, bear, bear witness to each other continually even with the varying degrees, you may just find that your imperfect union can be jussstttt riiighhhht with a little bit of elbow grease and a whole lotta commitment.