Trout Fisting In America #16 – Divorce

Let’s all sing it like the Tammy Wynette song—D-I-V-O-R-C-E. It’s more fun that way, more of a celebration and less of a wake. Not that there’s anything fun about that song, but when it comes to earthquake implosions of anger & blame you take your smiles where you can get them.

Our parents lied to us in oh so many ways, but when they told us the divorce they were getting wasn’t our fault, that may have been the biggest lie of them all. Because as the proud parent of a bouncing baby toddler, let me tell you that the kid does not like it when his mom & dad have a conversation with each other while he’s in the room. Stop talking! he’ll sometimes shout. Or Mommy, I want you to stop talking to daddy when he’s feeling especially verbal. And yeah, we tell him to be patient, and if he persists, tell him he’s being rude and he should probably go hang out in his room until he’s ready to be nicer etc. etc. And while I’ve explained to him that he should have a definite vested interest in making sure his mom & dad, uh, keep liking each other, he still bristles a bit when we’re having a grown-up conversation.

So yeah, since he’s working so hard to keep my wife & I from talking to each other, and in the process remembering why we fell in love—which is an important thing to carry in your brain and/or heart (depending on where you think the abstract concept of love might physically reside) while going through the inherent struggles that come with raising a toddler—I have to say that the success of our future relationship, my wife & I, our ability to endure these struggles and come out the other side with our relationship more or less unscathed, will happen (assuming/hoping it happens) in spite of the little fucker.

The flipside of which, of course, is that if we don’t make it, then he’s at the very least partly responsible. So yeah, your parents’ divorce? Probably your fault.

Not that you knew any better. The toddler psyche sees the world as a zero sum game and perspective is hard to come by. So while my particular toddler is better than most (former preschool TA writing this), the day-to-day parenting experience is a lot like taking a class with a drunk sadistic professor who insists on giving you 30 tests a day. A drunk sadistic professor who every now and then pees his pants out of spite when you don’t put him in his favorite shopping cart (the fire engine, I refuse to put him in the police car because fuck the police, that’s why).

Think about all those married couples you see in public who never seem to look each other in the eye, who rarely speak directly to each other. That’s a couple where one (or both, probably both) of the partners lost their shit on the other. They lost their temper and said things they could never take back.

Because there are certain phrases so toxic that once you say them your relationship has been poisoned and will never recover. You can probably imagine the most obvious ones, but here’s another: What the fuck is wrong with you? You have to watch out for this one because there’s going to come a time when it will pop in your head (esp. if you had a dad like mine—HI DAD! [1] ) and you might feel justified in saying it. 

But it’s important you don’t say it, even if you think your partner deserves it, especially if you think your partner deserves it. Because once they hear that phrase, what the fuck is wrong with you? their brain is going to try and answer the question, and in the process it’s going to dredge up every dark, depressing, pathetic thing they imagine about themselves, and they are going to feel horrible, the entirety of their being implicated by you. And who the fuck are you, standing there with a shit-stained blanket in your hand judging your partner? Like you never fucked anything up in your life, like you never knew the answer to a question.

Just because a situation with your child feels like life & death, that doesn’t mean you need to kill your partner’s love for you.

So my wife and I play in this band, and this band had enough modest success so that we got to tour around the eastern half of the US several times and both halves of the UK twice. After the second or third tour, we get home and she tells me she’s not sure she wants to keep doing this. It turns out that our band relationship, especially our touring relationship, was a lot different than the relationship we were used to—more stressful situations, less privacy, less room for compromise, all combined to make being on tour with your significant other a hell of a lot less fun than not being on tour with your s/o (or for that matter being on tour with your s/o someplace else). We talked about it for a while, and I remember saying that one day, if we had kids, we were going to be in a similar place—not getting enough sleep, surfing waves of joy & disappointment, being super=emotionally invested in what we were doing—and  if we could learn to handle all that stuff in the context of touring and work through our bullshit, it might help us down the line when we were parents.

So far, it seems like I was right. We learned to get along on tour and work as a team. And when I couldn’t find my passport five days before we were supposed to fly to England for a UK tour and I ended up driving to Atlanta and shelling out a couple hundred dollars to get one expedited, she didn’t call me stupid. Even when I found the original 6mos later in the pocket of an old jacket, she didn’t call me stupid.

And as parents, so far neither of us have lost our cool with each other and unleashed a torrent of spleen & abuse that we could never take back—b/c if you’re ever going to just start fucking screaming at your partner and berating them, it’s going to be at 3am when neither of you has had a good night’s sleep in over a week and there’s a situation that needs resolving and neither of you have any clue what to do.

So far so good, but you know, life may be as tedious as the weather, it may even be as tedious as talking about the weather, or as tedious as invoking the weather as a symbol in an essay about divorce, but life is also full of fucking surprises. The week’s not over yet, and the kid still isn’t showing any signs that he’s going to grow up to be a marriage counselor.

So one day at a time and all that shit, but it’s important to remember that when it comes to love there are no happy endings, and all you have to look forward to is failure or death.

__________

1 Just kidding. My dad and I haven’t talked since 2003.

 

Trout Fisting In America appears every Tuesday right here at this site. We’re going to keep going until we reach #50, or until the Trout begs for mercy. Check out previous installments HERE.

About ScottCreney

Scott Creney lives in Athens, Georgia. He is the author of "Dear Al-Qaeda: Letters to the World’s Most Notorious Terror Organiztion".
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