Monday, October 17, 2011

Groupthink Doesn't Make for "Smart Marriage"

I had been deeply entrenched in divorce survival boot camp.  I am in hopes of closing up shop fairly soon.  I never signed up for this, but I think the plan states when I am finished depleting any hope of a settlement, I can be free.  Ah, what the hey, I am so over this pain and suffering nonsense, I am already quite free.  If you need a visual, I hadn't been wearing camouflage, but blending in, or at least hiding-out had been a goal.  At it's best or worst times the camp was not a boot camp so much as a bedroom encampment with blankets strewn with books, magazines and the trusted laptop for all of my divorce survival study guides and daily devotions that have pleaded with me to “let go” and “move on”.  Legal advice, parenting advice, post-marital, pre-dating advice.  How to dress younger, but not too young advice.   Sometimes my room functions as a temporary command central, to set up shop for court dates or ponder the meaning of  a few more wildly imagined allegations thrown my way, but otherwise it’s a peaceful retreat and maybe one day soon a playful haunt for the adventurous.  Dream big, I shall.

The one bit of “advice” I hadn’t expected to come upon in my search for serenity, was advice from a group called Smart Marriages.   They are, and I kid you not, “a coalition for marriages, families and couples”.  A task force.  That could have sounded like a good thing except that it’s really just not.  I say this because I am the flag-waving, number one, crazed, fanatic for families and couples and oh, just everyone that wants to be together in love.  I just love, love.  And I love when people are happily loving.  I honestly think marriage is a really great idea, and I think it sometimes works incredibly well, in spite of the challenges.  I just don’t think it would work better for some, if a flag-waving, crazed, fanatical, political group was mandating it.  Or enforcing it.  This is the same type of flag-waving, fanatical, political group that is opposed to sharing the great wealth of marriage with just anyone.  The cause they are standing by and the slogans they are shouting are “Make Divorce Harder”.  If this did not illicit pain and suffering or the void filling silent scream so depicted by Edvard Munch, I might actually laugh or at least snicker.  But instead, I will dissect and point out, so come along, secure your tent flaps and put on your flak jacket, forward marchers!

Let me just take a moment to stress that I think the diversity of groups in our nation is a bit astounding and maybe even awe-inspiring.  Groups for everyone imaginable.  But a group strung together with the intent to make divorce harder?   Let that sink in. Groupthink it to pieces, PLEASSSSSE!  If you didn’t have the same visceral reaction I did, put it on the back burner, let it simmer, or better yet, turn up the heat, wait till the contents turn that tarry black briquette and the scent of acrid toxicity streams into your nasal hairs and burns slightly. Yes, there we go, let’s make divorce harder.  I so want to be picked for that committee! 

Where to begin?  Maybe mediation-bound couples.  On a good day, mediation is a noble and worthy concept. Like special education that is inclusive and true democracy in a capitalistic society.  Great concepts, but the execution and buy in, not always so easy to implement or carefully apply.  When mediation works, it’s phenomenal.  Everyone wins.  Everyone comes out standing and gets to stay intact, for the most part. I can see how this might seem too easy.  If a group feels maybe threatened by divorce and sees people leaving a marriage cordially with integrity, I could see why they would want to stop this. I suppose it could seem like those charlatans are mocking the divine principles of marriage.   If the divorcing couple is this respectful of each other in divorce, you might conclude they must have been delightful in marriage.  Nope, sorry, don’t let them get a divorce so easily.  Make them sit in their corners with hungry lawyers and coked up in-laws cheering from the sidelines with venom and animosity for a little bit.   

Remember, this group believes divorce is too easy and if people leave marriages happily or even politely, something is deeply wrong with society, isn’t it?  Surely humans functioning with dignity and compassion need some help.  They need to learn a thing or two about struggles and resolve.  I say we send those mediation-bound couples on a mini tropical retreat.  First class tickets to that relation supportive tropical haven, what’s it called? Oh yeah Gitmo! Of course. Handcuff them together and execute the marriage mandate procedure.  Go a little easy; serve the water torture using imported Perrier.  The plank torture can take place on bamboo or recycled teak or maybe the new soft and giving cork products.   Gitmo does supply training for "humane" torture treatments, right?   If these couples still want a divorce, so be it, the group was at least able to try to make it harder for them.  

The group may have reached some of the kind and cordial mediation-bound couples and convinced them that staying married is a much better option than deciding to divorce prior to completely sucking the life-blood from each other but I am not really convinced. Maybe this explains those couples that we all look away from in restaurants.  They sit and stare off and occasionally attempt conversation or report daily events:  “ I tried to give myself CPR with the AED device today to gain a pulse, but then I remembered we were having dinner tonight and I wanted to make sure not to trigger any meaningful connection to the living” she says, while dropping her monotone voice into an inaudible murmur and sipping her third Manhattan.   “I think you ….might be…… flat lin……….ing, ”  he responds with drooping eyelids on his pale complexioned face, but he turns to look out the window before finishing.    You know them; the “shoot me now“ couples.  The litmus test.  “At least we aren’t that bad”, we imagine and catch ourselves and suddenly you start a lively conversation with your partner and attempt some risqué footwork under the tablecloth.   

Back to the goals of Smart Marriage, the dedication to the cause.  OK, so making divorce harder.  We got the tree-hugging mediators to stay in the marriage club, who’s next?  Let’s go after the divorcing couple with children.  Let’s make it really hard for them.  Ah, first stop Family Court.  Which I think in some back room meeting was determined to mean, "if you think for a minute that a family is in any way connected to court, you will suffer, your family will suffer, your family’s families will suffer for eternity if not longer".  I think the marriage coalition was borne here with a pact from Satan, but that’s just me.  I have actually witnessed flirting here, phone numbers exchanged, a regular for the bold and brazen or wickedly sadistic.  I just wasn’t feeling it here.  I was busy examining the room for the AED just in case I needed to help keep myself alert or hang on to the new life that hadn't yet revealed itself.   Ready? Clear!    Soooo, maybe it does need to get tougher, or maybe I should have taken a closer look at the newly available and financially decimated crowd and planned for my next best thing, my loss.

Everyone knows Family Court is where custody and child support decisions get made, and disturbingly enough this is also the place that had a hand in several recent shooting rampages and some of this area’s worst crimes.  What with all of the court appointed attorneys, mandated psychological exams,  accusations, and restraining orders, one might think someone is actually paying attention to these horrific crimes that seem stoked in Family Court's great halls of injustice.  Maybe the group isn't happy with the results and they are hoping to increase these responses, a kind of a threat, something to really think about.  "Yep, I wish I would have just stayed with that peach of a  man responsible for making my children orphans." is oft echoed in the after-life.

But really, it should be harder.  We all know the real stories of people’s intimate lives.  Chock full of crazy, but just not hard enough.  Typically, divorcing parents never contemplated divorce. They arrived at the decision with great ease and lightness, I am sure.  They haven't had conflict and tension and desperate sadness, and wavering hope for far too long to remember.  They wake up one Sunday morning and Madge reports over the New York Times while pouring coffee for Irv, “I was thinking Irv, we have been so complacent and content, even, what say we shake things up and try out a divorce?”  Irv, mulls it over, and replies, “There’s my girl!  Always knowing how to bring things up a notch and keep things interesting.”  He smiles those big bedroom eyes at her, and dials the lawyer.  Next he decides to deny that the kids are his.  He doesn’t have to pay a cent until proven otherwise.  Or maybe he accuses her of mental illness.  If she didn’t start out there, hah, she’s on the speed track now.  The kids after all, were also living the American Dream, being carted around lovingly by their doting parents.  Madge had worried for years that they had no direct contact to adversity or sadness.  This will surely shake things up.  Maybe she’ll take in a lover, someone her daughter's age, or get a few tattoos.  Then she can throw in a few twists and turns of her own.   Yeehaw!  Now we’re talking.  Something to live for.  A reason to jump out of bed.  Court dates lined up for the next 2, 3, 4 years.  What were they going to do with all of that money anyway?   Yeah, I guess I am nearly convinced that this group is on the right track.  Gee willickers divorce should be much harder!

Admittedly, the last category of married couples that should really suffer, were once a puzzle to me.  (Age is that great puzzle solver, wasted on the older.)  The couples that made it 20, 30, 40 years and now decide to divorce.  I once thought this so odd.  I figured “you made it this long, why stop now?”  I imagined they worked out most of the kinks, by this point, and they didn’t have the stress and fear and responsibility that comes with parenting.  Or they didn’t care about the kinks and had developed some level of companionship, I imagined, and looked forward to, something.....  Why leave now?  But, I get it.  I see.  For some, it might be the last great hope at joy or peace or healing.  It might be that all of the struggles and suffering that occurred just did not justify another second of hope, or more likely hurt.  It might be due to the reality of aging that comes quick and hard for some.  It just isn’t any of my business or concern how other couples get to this decision. 

I think I want to form a group.  It will be more about minding your own business. Taking a hard look at your own life and hopefully dedicating some thought to improving and growing.  Maybe my group will have some wild good times, crazy-assed dancing would be nice,  and some quiet reflective times.  Maybe we will help each other through when one of our members gets a juicy taste of that chock full of craziness and uses the suffering of others to make them feel righteous or turn it into a political cause.  Or for that matter, when they go after  the happiness of someone else.    I really don’t think I am that special, but I have to say, life is already hard.  Why would any group function to make it harder?   

OK don't crowd around the sign-up sheet, and whoever is doing "the bump"  just stop, I didn't mean that crazy-assed.

And for the record- I think divorce craziness is an equal opportunity employer of terror, I just happen to be experiencing it as one particular  woman.  I also think marriage is just fine for those that are working at and enjoying one, but when it's over, let it be with grace and integrity or set up camp for an unpleasant ordeal, and remember this too shall pass.

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