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December 1, 2021

On Divorce and Basements

“Ohhhh…. wow… are you gay?”

When I began informing friends and family, three years ago, that I was leaving my marriage, I heard this phrase more than once. It was unfathomable to people that I, a middle class, decent-looking, ostensibly sane person would decide to leave her marriage with another middle class, very handsome, ostensibly sane person, with whom two lovely children had been made. But the reality was, I was leaving, and no, I didn’t think I was gay, but maybe? Who knows? But that’s your first thought? Really?

I imagine that coming to a decision of asking for an engagement is similar to the process of requesting a separation. One party spends a lot of time (hopefully) pondering, considering, ruminating on the decision, while the other clicks along through their lives, seemingly unaware of the degree to which life is about to change. In my case, I had spent years questioning and exploring areas of uncertainty within my relationship, only to settle back into a perfectly uncomfortable couch of loneliness and complacency. By the time I could no longer look away from the mostly friendly and passionless agreement that we called marriage, recovery was not on the menu of options in that sad and dreary restaurant. My head had finally caught up to my heart’s resignation, knowing with complete certainty and to my core that our time as a married couple was over.

The thing about coming to a place of deep resignation about the finality of something, especially a marriage, is that one must find acceptance that no one else, not even the other person in the relationship, will likely ever understand the process through which a person goes to arrive to that solemn place of knowing. So, they’ll offer their interpretations to you — you must be gay, you must have worked too hard and too many long hours, you must have spent too much time apart. They’ll also tell you why this can’t be real — you are the perfect couple, your family is too adorable for divorce, our friend group won’t be the same without you, and my favorite, you just redid your basement.

When you make big changes in your life, people will make sense of it in whatever way they need to so that they don’t have to feel disrupted or so that their way of living can remain unthreatened. They will do the math, analyze the data, and like I did, fudge the numbers so that they don’t have to address that the grand total just isn’t so grand anymore. And that’s ok because, at the end of the day, that sad and dreary restaurant that you were in just a few years ago will soon have a new menu with gorgeous outdoor seating and full sun shining in through the windows. A better choice, for sure. No explanation needed.

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