People decide to marry the same way they decide to divorce. People decide to divorce the same way they decide to marry. In both cases, you spend weeks, months, even years adding up the pros and cons. You weigh options and possibilities. You examine your values.
And then you knock the whole thing off the table. And you simply choose. In the end, the deliberations pale, because, even as you choose, there are people in exactly those same circumstances not getting married. Not getting a divorce.
There is no such thing, ultimately, as “the reason I had to get married” “the reason I had to get a divorce.” You have reasons, yes. But, in the end, there is only the choice itself.
In choices like this, recriminating doubts and uncertainties must be our companions. Because we’re human. Because we’re not God. It’s like playing poker with a dealer who is making up the rules as he goes along. You either put your money on the table or you don’t.
A college kid sits on the couch in my office, working through his parents’ divorce. “My mom is certain they could have made it,” he says. “My dad is certain they could not.” And I say: “Neither of your parents will ever know who is right. Do you know why?”
Because they got a divorce. They chose.
The woman sits on the couch in my office and says that, even as she walked down the aisle at her wedding, she was filled with doubts. Can I do this? Will I screw it up? Will he? Can I trust him? And then she said to herself, “I shouldn’t be doing this if this is still what I’m thinking!”
And I remind her that’s the only way anyone walks down an aisle to make wedding vows. It’s not a sign that something is terribly wrong. It’s a sign that you know what’s going on. I tell her that it’s not dissimilar to what most women are thinking in their fourth hour of labor: “I’m not sure I can do this!” But she is doing it. And she won’t know if she can until she does it.
Reminds me of the moments in the locker room before my first varsity basketball game. I told the coach I was nervous. Scared. “I would hope so,” he said with a commanding smile. “That means you’re ready!”
Yeah. Thanks for that.
Now a man on the couch. A few days ago, he asked his wife to choose. He added the ultimatum that, in refusing to choose, he would interpret the indecision as a decision for “no.” She won’t choose. She thinks it’s unfair for him to ask her to choose.
So he tells her he has decided for divorce. And now he castigates himself because maybe he should have waited. Maybe he should have been more patient. The ultimatum probably has ended whatever hope remained. If any hope remained. How can he know if this moment came from a place of strength, or did he recklessly feign strength to hide a weakness?
And I tell him three things: Yes, maybe you should have been more patient and waited, and, you have spent the past two years being patient and, nobody knows when it’s time to choose divorce.
You just choose.
My youngest son is Joseph. Age 8. Now, let me be clear: I really like Joseph. I’m not going to give him back. Couldn’t understand my life without him. But
I wouldn’t enthusiastically recommend bringing a third child into an 11-year marriage eight years behind the last child. Because doing so, while not necessarily a bad thing, tends to turn the marital development clock backward, forcing a couple to put off beckoning marital steps and rewalking steps already taken. And couples who push to rewalk those steps sometimes have unconscious reasons for not proceeding into the next chapter of the marriage. Not saying it can’t work, just that it’s potentially problematic.
But, I chose. And perseverating about that choice now is a waste of time. The only thing I can know is that I chose. And the only thing to do, once having chosen, is to live with those choices responsibly, faithfully and with integrity.
As with all choices.
Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Clear View Counseling Wellness Center in Las Vegas and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns appear on Sundays. Contact him at email@example.com.