Josh and I reached our 7-year-anniversary yesterday (celebrations are forthcoming this weekend). As I thought about posting a little note on Facebook about how much I love and appreciate Josh, I thought of how easily "likable" such a post would be, how easily commemorated and supported. That's not necessarily bad, but like much of the performance that takes place via social media, it reinforces an identity and ideal that can become dangerous if we take it as a universal.
I love Josh and we love being married, but if we've learned anything, it's that people change, circumstances change, and we have to constantly re-evaluate and re-negotiate our relationship. Will we still be together in 1, 5, 10, 20 years? We don't know. And that's a good thing. Because it means we have to pay attention to each other and the world around us instead of getting lazy and relying on rules or roles to keep our relationship strong.
I grew up in an environment that attached strong stigmas to divorce because of religious reasons. Staying together and making it "till death do us part" was the most important thing, even when a marriage relationship was long since broken beyond repair.
I believe in working at relationships, and that even very broken relationships can sometimes be repaired and renewed. But I also believe that divorce is sometimes necessary and the most healthy and sensible move for a relationship. No one's ever "happy" about divorce, it's not a "likable" event. But if we can't support folks as they go through divorce, what business do we have celebrating at their marriage vows? If we can't love and support two people separately, why did we ever think we could love and support them together?
As we celebrate our anniversary, I want to be cognizant of those who have experienced divorce (or may be going through a divorce). I'm grateful for the time Josh and I have had together, but it's not like we get a prize for making it 7 years. Marriage is not a marathon. You're not on a road to the goal of a long marriage so that you can get a big award at the end. The experience of the journey is the prize.
If we know anything about journeys, it's that you take many unexpected roads, meet unanticipated people, and become different people. Your travel companions are not the same throughout your life, though some may walk with you a very long time. There's no inherent shame in parting ways when a relationship no longer makes sense.
I like Josh and hope we'll be together for years and years. He makes me a better person (and a happier one, too). But I hope, too, that if we ever reach a point where "we" no longer makes sense, that we would have the courage to part ways. That we'll know a parted relationship isn't a "failure" by default, that ends are not always a gauge of beginnings and middles. That even defining experiences as "failures" or "successes" is a truncated way of talking that doesn't jive with the way we actually encounter life as a complex web of relationships.
We live, we move, we grow. We break, we heal (or are perpetually in the process of healing). We carry our wounds and scars not as badges of honor or marks of shame, but as memorials and guideposts. They mark where we have been and gesture to the hundred ways we might go.
We breath in and step out onto one of the hundred ways, not knowing where it will go. And in the going, we learn not where we are, but to be wherever we find ourselves.