From inside a warm, supportive marriage (preceded by two divorces), I am being reminded these days that nothing is as lonely as a bad marriage. The person who once embodied your dreams has become an empty husk, turning to them becomes a masochistic punishment, yet there is nowhere else to go.
In a crumbling marriage, you have to walk through the marital choreography every waking moment, especially if there are children. Revealing your unhappiness to outsiders often serves only to add another entangling strand to the shredding web.
The problem slowly becomes that after living in an arid wasteland for years, your heart will see any drop of water as sustenance, no matter how often you are told that drinking it will lead to more intense suffering. The water looks and feels so good after the desert.
Great literature is full of empty husks, dry marital choreography, and stomach cramps. In the past, divorce was love’s capital punishment; final, unpitied, and cruel. My grandfather and grandmother divorced in the 1910s; he left for Chicago and was never seen again in town, though one of his sons, my father, stayed in occasional touch until he died. Today, we are more even-handed and compassionate, thank goodness.
Wisdom is not fungible. In its place, we offer money to struggle over and to aid us. It is a functional balm, a crutch that allows people to get around until they can walk on their own.
At the end of one of my two failed marriages, I remember walking home from work nightly, feeling as if I were returning to prison. There was no other place to lay my head; there were children awaiting their dinner. It felt like a life sentence at the time, but turned out not to be, thank goodness.
Nobody asked me, but I will give my advice anyway in the form of the Buddhist adage, “When the student is ready the teacher will come.” Look inward, and don’t drink deeply again until you have dealt with your own demons. They will continue to attract their own kind until they are vanquished. No rush.