Monday morning, my father texted me. Our conversation read:
“So your mother has already filed for divorce and gave me the papers this morning.”
“Why do you not want to get a divorce?”
“I may have been angry, but I never stopped loving her.”
The conversation continued for a bit, but that first part absolutely broke my heart. It has been a long time since I have seen any love between my parents. In fact, most of the things they have done for each other have been out of habit or tradition – presents for each other on Christmas, flowers on Valentines day, dinner on their anniversary – but I have never interpreted that as an act of love. I have never seen my parents kiss each other, but there has been a rare hug thrown in every few years or so. I’ve really only ever been exposed to anger or indifference. My junior year of high school being the first year I was really exposed to the concept of my parents not loving each other. I had my suspicions (I mean, it was fairly obvious), but I got my confirmation on a rainy afternoon sitting in my car in the Kroger’s parking lot.
I was on the phone with my mother, crying to her about something relationship-wise, and I heard her say one of the most devastating things I have heard come out of her mouth. Her voice was cracking and labored as she said “Sweet heart, there is no such thing as true love. Stop trying to look for it and just settle.” In that moment, I felt years of my mother’s heart ache and pain bearing down on me, like this enormously dark cloud unleashing it’s rain. As a hopeless romantic, I refused to believe it, but my mind was spinning. Was their marriage really so bad that my mother stopped believing in love? Every fight they ever had, every tear my mother cried, every scream of frustration was all tightly packed into that one sentence. Luckily, I refused to believe her words, but every now and again I have doubts that love is out there for me.
I spent the majority of my adolescent life listening to my parents bitch about each other. From mom, it was always “Don’t marry a man who [insert something my father does that my mother doesn’t like].” From my dad, it was always “Your mother drives me up the freakin’ wall [insert multiple reasons my mother angers my father].” They have been bashing on each other for as long as I can remember. I am telling you all this to put the surprise I had at my father’s admission to love into perspective. When I say I was shocked, that is a huge understatement. After 15+ years of never seeing it, there it was out in the open. It was a moment of sweetness and of vulnerability I have never experienced from my father before, and I had no idea what to do with it.
I keep going back and forth on whether or not I think the marriage can be somewhat salvaged. When I talk to mother, she totally convinces me that it is the best option in the long run because [insert a lot of financial reasons]. She tells me of all the financial ruin my father has put her in and all of the stressful times she has been in because of him. She said, “I can take a lot of abuse from your father, and I can take a variety of abuse, but with this financial abuse I am putting my foot down.” (Disclaimer, my father has never been physically abusive to my mother. There might have been times of verbal abuse, but we are all guilty of that.) When I talk to my father, he sounds as if he really doesn’t want a divorce, and I might be a fool to believe him but I do. He lists all the things he is guilty of, but he also lists all the things he thinks my mother is guilty of as well. It sounds like my father is willing to go to counseling and try changing, but will it help?
It all boils down to their personalities. My mother is a woman who plans for future and rarely lives in the moment, and my father is a man who lives for the moment and rarely plans for the future. My father believes in almost instant gratification, and my mother believes in severely delayed gratification. To say they are polar opposites barely covers the surface. Sure, my father said he still loves my mother, but does my mother share those feelings? It also boils down to whether or not this will happen again. Every few months or so, the divorce word is spoken by either parent, but the papers have never been filed before. When I told my older brother that my mother is actually following through on the divorce threats, his response was “Oh, this shit got serious now. Damn.” Maybe, because it has gotten so far, this will give my parents the wake-up call they desperately need to try and work things out long-term. Or, maybe, now that this level has been reached my mother won’t afraid to do it again and the divorce threats will continue. And I’m honestly tired of the divorce threats. I’m sure we all are.
There is a lot that has to change if they have any desire to stay together. Will it be the best decision for them to stay together? God only knows. Divorce is a scary thing. I’m not sure I’m ready for it yet.