The Big D (Divorce)

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When I was visiting my hometown last month, I ran into my friend Kelli, whom I hadn’t seen for a couple of years. We were catching up on all that has happened since we last got together when the conversation quickly turned to divorce. “Has it started happening to you?” she asked. “Has what started happening?” I asked. “The divorce epidemic,” she replied. Kelli and her husband are perfectly matched and have two handsome boys. But she noticed that as she neared her 40s, divorces among her friends were popping up like teenage acne.

When I was visiting my hometown last month, I ran into my friend Kelli, whom I hadn’t seen for a couple of years. We were catching up on all that has happened since we last got together when the conversation quickly turned to divorce. “Has it started happening to you?” she asked. “Has what started happening?” I asked. “The divorce epidemic,” she replied. Kelli and her husband are perfectly matched and have two handsome boys. But she noticed that as she neared her 40s, divorces among her friends were popping up like teenage acne.

Makes Me Worry

Come to think of it, it has started happening. I made a quick calculation in my head and tallied over a dozen of relatively recent divorces among my friends and acquaintances—four in the past year, two in the past week. Not exactly groundbreaking when you consider that you can collect over 500 friends on Facebook in one sitting, but unnerving just the same. Divorce seems like a flu virus, attacking marriages suddenly and unexpectedly, causing me to worry that one day I’ll wake up and find that my husband has packed up his comic books and action figures and moved out. But it doesn’t happen like that. Not really.

How Kids Factor Into Divorce

I get why couples divorce. Infidelity and abuse are clear deal-breakers, but there’s a truckload of other issues that can pave the road to splitsville. When my daughter was born, my mom asked me, “Can you even imagine how people can get divorced after having a child together?” Um, yeah. I can. Children magnify personal flaws. They turn the proverbial molehill into a mountain—leaving dishes to “soak” in the sink rather than placing them in the dishwasher seems like reasonable grounds for divorce when you’re sleep deprived and covered in day-old spit-up. I remember thinking on several occasions that raising a child might be easier on my own. But that’s only because I don’t know any better.

My Husband

My husband is a phenomenal father. Armageddon could be coming and Ray would insist on first finishing the puzzle with our 4-year-old, Ava. He’s patient, loving and is the only other person besides myself who thinks that everything Ava says is more clever than the dialogue on The West Wing. “I feel bad for the other kids,” he often says, because he’s a proud daddy (and, admittedly, a little bit biased). He’s also an incredible husband. He works so that I may stay home with Ava and finish grad school. We met when I was 18, dated five years before we married and waited another five before starting our family. In July, we celebrated our 10th anniversary. Looking back, I was too young to marry—too young to know what I wanted in a partner and in my life. I got lucky. Ray and I have grown up a lot over the years, but we’ve managed to grow together, maintaining similar interests and values. These things are unpredictable.

My Role

I’m not so bad as far as moms go, either. I spend a lot of time considering how to raise a child who is polite, happy and well adjusted. I measure my words and temperament. I anguish over the parenting mistakes that I inevitably make and vow to do better next time. Parenting is important to me. Most moms would agree that it’s the most important job they have.

Nurture the Relationship

But wait. I’m forgetting something. I’m also a partner. And that requires a bit of attention, too. I often fall into the trap of thinking that my husband—who is 41—can take care of himself. It’s okay if I nag him to put his dirty shorts into the hamper rather than hang them on the edge, or interrupt as he watches Roger Federer serve for match point. He’s a big boy, I justify; he can take it. But he can only take it for so long. Eventually these little resentments add up, forming a gigantic pile of complaints and nuisances that threaten to topple on him . . . and our marriage. I’m not suggesting that I should quietly and obediently do my “wifely” duty and never question my husband. Hell no. But I need to tend to our relationship as much as I do my relationship with our daughter. I need to, because I love him and cannot imagine my life without him. Each day I have to remember that, and act accordingly rather than take advantage of the fact that I have a ring on my finger and a daughter between us. There are no guarantees; we can only do our best.

I Can Start Doing Better Today

I haven’t been doing my best, but I can start doing better today. I don’t mean to get all Pollyanna on you, but I want this marriage to always work (and funny this is, the nicer I am, the more likely those dishes will make their way into the dishwasher). Some people, after much soul seeking, decide that they need to walk away. And that’s okay, too. I don’t pretend to know what goes on in other people’s lives, but Ava and I need Ray in ours.

About the Author

Andrea Goto writes The Culinary Coward, a monthly humor column for PaulaDeen.com about her struggle to become a domestic goddess, or more simply, to cook an edible meal. She writes her own Blog, Mom Without Makeup, which discusses the messy art of modern mothering. Andrea lives and writes in Savannah, Georgia, with her 4-year old daughter (who thinks she’s a superhero), her husband (who is a superhero) and one geriatric cat.

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