So one of the “longest” marriages in Hollywood is over. Infidelity? Irreconcilable differences? Fighting? Nope. Nothing. There’s no reason. They are referring to it as “consciously uncoupling.” I don’t know what that means but it sounds better than “divorce,” I guess. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin married the same year Ryan and I did (’03) and their children are the same ages as our girls (9 and 7). I thought it was awesome that they had stayed together so long in a culture that doesn’t value commitment. When I heard about the “reason” for their divorce it was upsetting. I don’t really care about celebrities and you will never catch me reading tabloids or US weekly, but I do love me some Coldplay and I respected this couple in a weird, celebrity sort of way.
I know it’s personal and no one really knows what went down. I’m not trying to be smug, but some articles quote them as saying they had “too many similarities.” So now I guess that’s a reason for divorce. They were too much alike?? Is that Hollywood code for “we got bored”? It just seems so wrong when I know couples who have fought through infidelity, major differences, trauma, disease, and deaths in the family and yet divorce was never an option. They stayed. They fought for their love and love won. Love won.
I was talking to a friend the other day about relationships. She was lamenting that her past relationships were a mess and if she and her fiancé ever came to the premarital group that Ryan and I lead, we would have our hands full. I told her we are all a mess, we are all broken, and it’s by the grace of God that anyone stays married. She remarked that my marriage looked so perfect, we couldn’t possibly have many issues. I am pretty sure I laughed out loud and cringed a little. I don’t want anyone to ever look at us and think we have it all together. Because I (we) don’t. In April, Ryan and I will be married 11 years. The first few were really difficult and the last few have been hard in different ways. When we mentor couples, we don’t sugarcoat it. Marriage is beautiful and wonderful, but it also takes a lot of WORK. Every. Single. Day.
Even the apostle Paul warned of the hardships of marriage. “Here is the problem: We Christians are facing great dangers to our lives at present. In times like these I think it is best for a person to remain unmarried. Of course, if you already are married, don’t separate because of this. But if you aren’t, don’t rush into it at this time. But if you men decide to go ahead anyway and get married now, it is all right; and if a girl gets married in times like these, it is no sin. However, marriage will bring extra problems that I wish you didn’t have to face right now. ”
Paul said marriage can be good, but it’s better to be single. Wow. Not quite an advocate for the bonds-o-marriage there, Paul. But he also says this, “I am saying this to help you, not to try to keep you from marrying. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few other things as possible to distract your attention from him. But if anyone feels he ought to marry because he has trouble controlling his passions, it is all right; it is not a sin; let him marry. But if a man has the willpower not to marry and decides that he doesn’t need to and won’t, he has made a wise decision. So the person who marries does well, and the person who doesn’t marry does even better.” 1 Corinthians 7:26-28 & 7:35-38
Paul made sure to warn us that those who enter marriage will have it harder than those who choose to stay single. Doing life with someone everyday, sharing responsibilities, money, and children is definitely more complicated than devoting your life to one thing and living alone. (Though, I know the single life comes with many issues of its own.) Being selfless and putting someone else’s needs above your own is a virtue that is formed, tweaked and chiseled during marriage.
I know divorce is the only option in some situations. I’m not passing judgment on anyone who is divorced. I know things happen and people change. I get that. I’m sure Gwyneth and Chris worked on things as best they could. (I don’t know why I’m talking about them like they are my BFF’s…) But I truly hope they worked on their marriage before they let go. Here’s some face smacking honesty for you: I’ve been ready to bolt… more than once. And so has Ryan. We are broken, stubborn people. We can cut each other with our words faster than you can believe. That awful word “divorce” has even crept into my mind. Do you know why? It’s not only Satan’s best defense to keep families distracted and hurt, but it’s also his sickening way of letting us think it’s an easy out. He makes us believe that it’s the better, easier way to go. Not technically speaking – I know divorce is complicated and hard, but in the long run divorce is a clean break. No more working through the same old issues over and over that don’t ever seem to get worked out. No more dealing with the person who knows your sore spots better than anyone. No more hearing those trigger words that can make you lose your head. Life on the other side looks a whole lot simpler… and maybe it will be for a little while, but it won’t be perfect. All relationships are messed up, because we are all messed up people.
When you are known by someone deeply, it is lovely and sweet, but unfortunately that knowing goes both ways. They also know your faults, your hurts, your weaknesses, and your secrets. Because we are human, we use those things against each other when we argue or when we are hurting. Marriage is hard and sometimes it does sound appealing to leave and make a fresh start, but that will only cause more hurt, more scars, and more damage to more than just the two people involved.
Ryan and I are going through the “in sickness” part of our vows right now and I’m sure it won’t be the last time. When you share a life with another person, they must also share in every affliction, celebration and tragedy right along with you. After each struggle and every hard season we have fought through, we came out stronger, closer, and more understanding of one another. What we have worked through has been worth it. I don’t know where I’m going with this post, but maybe it was meant to encourage those of you who are close to giving up on your marriage or are thinking about making a run for it. Let me talk you down from the ledge. Don’t take that step. Don’t give up. God can restore any relationship. He can and He will. In the end, if we make a conscious effort, marriage wins.
Irony: Three Coldplay songs came on during the writing of this post, so I thought I would end with one of my faves. I wish the best for the consciously uncoupling… non-couple.