Friends and family

My friend Matt recently had a post called Love and Marriage. The following is a portion of it:

CS Lewis has a great book entitled The Four Loves. I will paraphrase one of his concepts: My friend Evan brings a certain element of my personality out that no one else does. When Evan and I are with a group of friends, they not only experience the me that they bring out, they experience the me that Evan brings out in me. Other people get a fuller me because of Evan. Should Evan disappear, our friends not only lose Evan, they lose the part of me that only Evan can bring out. That is one of the reasons the idea of heaven is so wonderful – everyone experiencing a fuller me-ness and you-ness by virtue of those gathered there.

All our intimate friends have that effect on us and I would go so far as to say there is a unique dimension of this that occurs between married couples. When a couple close to us splits, we lose that beautiful portion of our lives that only those two people as a married couple could bring out. In my opinion, when a couple close to us splits – it is no more a private decision and action than the wedding ceremony itself was. Divorce effects hosts of people and the pain is magnified by the love and sense of loss of the couple, their children (if any), their friends and family.
He was inspired by an excerpt of Michael Chabon's book Manhood for Amateurs he heard on NPR. The featured chapter is called "The Hand on my Shoulder", and deals with his relationship with his father in law specifically, and how divorce effects friends and family. One of the later paragraphs:
My ex-wife and I — I won't go into the details — had good times and bad times, fought and were silent, tried and gave up and tried some more before finally throwing in the towel, focused, with the special self-absorption of the miserable, on our minute drama and its reverberations in our own chests. All the while, the people who loved us were not sitting there whispering behind their hands like spectators at a chess match. They were putting our photographs in
frames on their walls. They were uniting our names over and over on the outsides of envelopes that bore anniversary wishes and recipes clipped from newspapers. They were putting our birthdays in their address books, knitting us socks, studying the fluctuating fortunes of our own favorite hitters every morning in the box scores. They were working us into the fabric of their lives. When at last we broke all those promises that we thought we had made only to each other, in an act of faithlessness whose mutuality appeared somehow to make it all right, we tore that fabric, not irrecoverably but deeply. We had no idea how quickly two families can work to weave themselves together. When I saw him sometime later at his mother's funeral in Portland, my father-in-law told me that the day my divorce from his daughter came through was the saddest one in his life. Maybe that was when I started to understand what had happened.
I don't know all the ramifications of our divorce, or how far the ripples will be felt. More to the point, I don't know how our divorce will effect those that we love. I don't imagine myself as a modern day George Bailey, but it is odd to think of the holes and broken connections left behind now that we are no longer a 'we'.

The loss of the extended family you inherit from your spouse is probably the quickest to go. J hasn't seen my side of the family since February, and I know that is a loss for both sides. I visited my mother-in-law in July, but I don't know when I will see her again. How we feel about each other hasn't really changed, but of course everything has changed.

It is a little different with our friends - no one is taking sides, and most of them have seen each of us over the months (mostly separately). Things are definitely different when I get together with them now, though. My life has changed significantly, and like Matt mentioned in his post, who I am when I'm with my friends is now different. I've made some changes myself over the course of this year, but there may be parts that only J brought out. I really don't know.

I feel like I should apologize somehow, because I let more than myself down. But in reality, there is nothing I can do for those around me. We failed, and there is nothing I can do by myself to make it right. All I can do is pick up the pieces and make the best life possible going forward. To be the most honest version of myself, and to be the best friend and family member I can be.

I can't fill in the hole we left behind, but maybe I can build a bridge. To cross over the void rather than tip-toeing around it. A bridge and a viewpoint, with one of those historical plaques that tells us how it was created.


tami said...

Hang in there. Yes, it's different for all of us, but we are all thinking of you, and Jenn, not ourselves. There's a new 'normal' to get used to, but only because we all love you and want to make that normal as easy for you both as possible. No energies need be wasted worrying about others, you only have to be yourself and figure out who that person is. We are here for you!

matt said...

Amen - totally agree.

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