Divorce is a clear sign something went wrong in a marriage. We often miss the things that are right in front of our face. We see what we want to see, using the lens of our choosing.
A masterful demonstration of critical thinking, James Baldwin’s The Evidence of Things Not Seen is one of my favorite reads. It’s been a while since I read it but I still remember Baldwin’s excellent analytic skills.
While the subject matter is completely different, the concept is transferable. Divorce too, the finality of marital demise, is often the evidence of things not seen. I’m not talking about what is or is not apparent to the outside world, the I can’t believe they’re getting divorced or the well we knew that marriage wouldn’t last conversations. I’m referring to the contributing factors seemingly invisible to the parties in the marriage itself.
Part of my morning routine, I check a weather app on my phone to know what to wear and how to plan for the day. As the app opens, it shares a weather fun fact, a did you know about some innocuous weather-related event. Today’s share from 1Weather app: “Cirrus Clouds are thin, wispy clouds that form high in the atmosphere as their water vapor freezes into ice crystals. Cirrus clouds are a principal cloud type.”
The app gives you the option to remove these facts from displaying at launch and, even though it would save time and get me right to the local forecast, my inner nerd chooses to keep them around to learn something. I mean we all see clouds in the sky but do we know the types and how they form?
I can hear the chorus of who gives a f*** brewing so let me get to the point. Are you aware of the water vapor freezing into ice crystals at this moment in your marriage? If not, I suggest you start taking stock before those cirrus clouds start to form.
The point being by the time a marriage reaches divorce, so much has gone on in the background we lose sight of where things really went wrong. People point to the visible, seemingly tangible reasons for divorce which represent the seen not the evidence.
I’m leaving the son of a bitch because he cheated on me! The kids are grown and out of the house now, we just don’t have anything in common anymore. She got so fat and lazy and never wants to have sex, not like I’m even attracted to her anyway.
People offer many reasons for getting divorced and often the reasons point to the fault of the other party, what they did. Even when the parties involved take ownership, they often share a visible behavior rather than its unseen motivation.
My divorce process taught me to dig a little deeper, to discover events I, to borrow from Baldwin, willed myself blind to during the marriage. Ironically when the proverbial shit hit the fan I had just started to work on me. Perhaps the chill of the freezing ice crystals forming those ominous clouds began to wake me from a deep, mind-numbing slumber but something told me I needed to make a change. I had checked out and it was time to check back in.
I started walking for exercise, hoping to get back in shape and feel better about myself. I had been avoiding going out because I didn’t like the way I looked, nothing fit right and I was very self-conscious about it. Tired from working two jobs, when given the opportunity I often opted to stay home and do nothing but sleep or zone out with a game on my phone. Checking back in, I started searching for fun events we could go to. Turns out my efforts were all for naught. As the saying goes, too little too late. We reached a point of no return.
My soon to be ex’s visible actions on the surface appeared to be what compromised our marriage. His explanation for his behavior? I thought you weren’t happy. I felt like a burden. Now some may see those explanations as copouts or excuses and perhaps on some level they are. Yet when I took the time to honestly look back at what I contributed to the failing marriage, I had to own that my silence, my withdrawal could have very easily conveyed those sentiments. The vapor in my cirrus cloud was avoidance. My decision, and yes doing nothing is a passive decision, to check out allowed the little things to mount into a great big pile of life happening to me. What a rude awakening!
We both failed to communicate. We stopped speaking the same language. We stopped listening to each other. Those are the things not seen which result in a visible divorce.
My teenage son called me on something yesterday. Damn little mirror! Our children often see and call us on our bullshit. You can open your mouth when you get angry and want to yell at me but you can’t open your mouth to say what you need! How’s somebody supposed to know? You just expect people to know and that’s not fair!
I suck at communicating emotional needs and then fault people for not meeting them. You’ve been around me your whole life, how could you not know? He called me on it and he’s right. Adding do a better job of communicating your needs and expectations to my self-improvement list.
Once you find the space and time, stop focusing on the visible parts of your divorce. Dig deeper to find the evidence of the things you didn’t see before, the painful truths you willed yourself blind to. Seize those opportune moments to learn about yourself, to accept and own the parts you are comfortable with and to make necessary adjustments in the areas you want to improve. This will help you to actively create your next chapter, so life doesn’t just happen to you again. Carpe Kairos!