Do you fantasize, Gentle Reader, about the divorce of couples near you, especially those who seem to have the truest, most steadfast, most exemplary relationship? Do ever think of the little frisson of joy you would experience, if you ever heard those words “actually, Troll and I are separating”? I freely admit I do, even though divorce has been a fairly regular occurrence in my close family, so much so that indeed, the non-break-up of marriages among my numerous relatives is cause for comment, rather than divorce. And at times when my own marriage was at its rockiest, seeing happy couples physically hurt me, and fantasies about other people’s divorce invaded my daydreams.
And yet, and yet. I suppose I am not as evil as I would like to think, I suppose I still have the deep bourgoisie respect for monogamy and marriage, for when I actually do hear of someone’s divorce, close or far, my instinctive reaction is not “Yippi ka ya yay! Another one bites the dust!”, but rather, shock, horror and “Oh My God! Oh I am so sorry. Oh no. Are you alright? Oh how awful!”
The disjuncture lies of course, in how I think abstractly about a system, and how I react to real live people before me, their eyes wide with distress and hurt. I hate this fetishization of marriage and couplehood, I hate how it makes people invest everything, their whole life’s work and dreams and ambition in the achievement and maintenance of a “normal” relationship in accordance with the rules enshrined in Hollywood rom-coms. And so once this sacred partnership falls apart, people are left with nothing, the efforts and and endeavors of a whole life are smashed to the ground. If only we could conceive of relationships as simply one thing amongst the other things, simply one process which may or may not take place, if only we could admit there are other things which are worth pursuing, which are worth investing our emotional energy in, which are important in the grand scheme of things, and finding and living with The One isn’t the end-all and be-all of life, then may be divorce wouldn’t be such a horrible shock, such a dreadful blow. Maybe we could take and give news of divorce as calmly as we do a bad cold, a more-than-usually painful headache. A minor if unpleasant inconvenience, a slight distraction, an administrative and financial affair, and that’s it. Maybe.