Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Thoughts on Two Marriages

Last month on Facebook (the most reliable source for all breaking news) I came across a little article announcing that the author Elizabeth Gilbert and her partner were separating.

If you're not familiar with this storyline, never fear--I can sum it up for you pretty quickly: Talented author realizes that she is miserable in her marriage. Author divorces husband and decides to travel around the world to a lot of countries that begin with the letter "I" to eat pasta and find herself. Instead, she found herself another fella, fell in love, and wrote a memoir about the whole experience, making a boatload of money in the process, and getting a movie deal too. I can't say for certain, but I think there's a strong possibility that the book and movie inspired a good few women of a certain seconomic and educational strata to leave their partners and chase after their inner Julia Roberts.

(Not me. I didn't take a months-long trip to Italy or Indonesia or India, although I DID take a 17-day vacation to Indiana.)

I wanted her to have a happy ending. (I mean, what curmudgeonly troglodyte asshole DOESN'T want someone to be happy?) We all wanted her to have a happy ending because we want to know that we will have happy endings. But here's the truth: there's never a totally happy ending. Perhaps a happy pause between storylines.

Regardless, I did feel a slight see of connection with Elizabeth Gilbert, as one is supposed to do when reading the work of a talented memoirist. And then, she decided to marry her fella, for complicated reasons...but before she did, she wrote a book facing down her ambivalence about the institution of marriage. Ironically, or perhaps coincidentally, I read it right before I got married.

We have nothing really in common, Ms. Gilbert and myself. She has achieved a great deal of worldly success and is much farther along than I am in her skills as a writer. But yet, here we both are, both of us separated and terminating our relationships with the partners that we once thought we would be with until the end of this life. I got married, and couldn't make it work. She wrote a book on marriage, and got married, and couldn't make it work. And there are no doubt a lot of people that have plenty of thoughts on that matter.

Last weekend, I came across a blog post about Elizabeth Gilbert's announcement, and the world's more-than-slightly-stupid reaction to it. I agreed quite strongly with her statement that "to suggest that readers are (or should be) somehow 'disillusioned' with the news of their separation is to hold Gilbert to a ridiculous standard--one nobody can uphold." She also takes the pretty generous, but not inaccurate, view that "marriage does not need to last forever to be a success." That all sorts of amazing things can come out of marriages that don't last. Children, and happy memories, and positive impacts, and lasting friendships can make marriages--even ones that end in divorce--a success.

Here is, at least for now, where Ms. Gilbert's and my story differ most drastically. I feel like--and I say this with no bitterness--my marriage was anything but a success. We didn't have children, we are not coming away with a lasting friendship, and just about all of my recollections of our six years together are tinged with vague emotions of contempt, boredom, disgust with both of us, homesickness, bitterness, disillusionment, and distrust. I know I shouldn't indulge in those kinds of emotions, and I want to move past them, move past this travesty of a marriage and all my flawed thinking that got me into that mess to begin with.

Maybe it's time to eat, pray, and love my way through Indiana. I've got the eating part down.

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