I recently visited my family in New Jersey. N.J. will always feel like home to me and my family is great … most of the time. This time I had an interesting conversation with my mother that still plays over in my head. We were chatting on the couch in the evening and I made a comment about my sister’s husband. My mother responded with this, “As long as he keeps your sister happy, that’s all that matters, I mean we wouldn’t want another divorce in the family.” (Stunned silence from me.) Mom continues, “I mean divorce is a terrible thing… for The Family.”
Ok, so I did grow up in Jersey, but we are not Mafia. We are Jewish. That’s worse.
So yeah, mom, I was really worried how it would be viewed at your Mahjong game when you told the ladies your daughter was getting a divorce. That must have been embarrassing. What an epic fail on your part, that your kid’s husband left her, yup, your humiliation, that’s what I was concerned about.
After the comment, I picked up my iPad in silence and left the room.
Later that evening my mother (who’s a great mom and I am so grateful for her and love her so much, really), apologized in her own way. I don’t hold grudges anymore (see my blog on forgiveness) but the comment gave me a lot to meditate about.
Clarity came a few weeks later in the middle of my show. Dana Adam Shapiro is the author of “You can be RIGHT or you can be MARRIED.” It’s an insightful book on divorce written by a man who’s never been married, but he totally gets it. As I was interviewing him, he said divorce shouldn’t always be viewed as a failure. (Unless you ask my mom … or your mom.) He said sometimes relationships just run their course. If you had a great 9, or 11, or 5 years together and it’s just “over” then pat yourselves on the back, thank each other for the memories and move on. He claims we put too much emphasis on “til death do us part.”
This was revolutionary thinking for me. I never looked at it like that. I am the one who would have spent years in therapy trying to “fix it.” I never give up, I never want to fail. (Type A … hello?) But if I change my thinking about it, it’s not a fail, it’s just a shift. Is it turning out how I planned? No. Is this what I wanted? No. But it happened. Time to put on my big girl panties and claim victory. It was a great 15 years, we have 3 incredible kids, who now will have even more people around to love and help teach and raise them.
Acceptance, forgiveness and liberation from perceived failure. That does not sound like a terrible thing for any family.