The Road to Hell

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Another of Da’s witticisms … “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” He pulled this one out every time one of us had the audacity to try to right our most current wrong by explaining it wasn’t what we meant to do. As in, “When I pushed David over the wall in the barn I was just trying to help him, I didn’t mean for him to fall on the concrete floor on the other side and break his arm.” True story.

Anyway, the reason for bringing up this little bon mot is my current frustration with my divorced friends. Like most Americans, I know a lot of divorcees. Some are repeat offenders (one of my friends is on #3). I would like to think of this as American optimism – “maybe this time” – but it is more than that. It seems to me that so many people struggle with being alone. I get it – trust me, I get it. Being alone, especially on these cold, dark winter nights, is not fun. It can be lonely and sad and generally depressing. It certainly wasn’t what I had in mind for this stage of my life –  but that choice was taken away from me. I had my life partner. “Life partner.” I love that phrase. Unfortunately his life just wasn’t long enough for my liking. But I wasn’t consulted about his departure. I don’t believe he was either. And if either of us were asked, the answer would be a very loud “NO!” Joe’s death was not our choice.

On the other hand, divorce is a choice. At one point, two people vowed, in front of God, family and friends, that they would be together “until death do us part.” But, to use the vernacular, shit happens, and not everyone can wait until death does the parting. Fortunately, there are divorce proceedings to help those who cannot wait. And please do not misunderstand. I am sorry these marriages didn’t work out. I totally understand that a day in divorce court is better than a day in criminal court. However, while it can be mean and messy and altogether not what anyone would want to wish upon a couple, it is still a choice.

Despite this, my well-intentioned friends seem compelled to make analogies between their status and mine. I could make a comment about how quiet the house is only to hear “Well, I have been alone for over six years. I totally understand.” It’s actually worse than that but on the off chance that one of my divorced friends actually reads this blog I thought it best to use an innocuous example. There is a great temptation to point out that she chose to kick her “worthless, cheating, no-good” husband out of the house (and her life), but I know better. Or, I should say, now I know better.

When I first noticed that the divorcees were trying to compare their situation to mine, I did try to explain the difference. Massive mistake. Apparently divorcees do not like being told that their lot in life was a choice –  first they chose to marry this person and then they chose to “un-marry” this person.  Sounds like choices to me. One friend tells of how the man she was so in love with that she agreed to marry him later decided that her best friend was a better choice (not her words). Marriage dissolved – badly.  Another tells of how her ex couldn’t decide what he wanted to do after getting out of the Navy. He chose not to work while figuring this out. She tried to be patient but her patience waned after several months. She decided he might find inspiration out on the street. Oddly, it worked. But their marriage was toast. Again and again, lots of choices.

In both of these cases, all you have to do is bring up the names of their ex-spouses and these women do a remarkable impression of Linda Blair in the bedroom scene from “The Exorcist.”

I don’t have this sort of reaction when I hear Joe’s name. No head-spinning; no flying off the bed; not even any green pea soup-spewing for this girl. No court dates or divorce attorneys or custody battles. No clothes flying out the window onto the lawn. I loved my husband, until death did us part.

So, as a reasonable person can see, the end of a marriage by the death of a spouse is not anything like the end of a marriage by the divorce of a spouse. Not even close. Any analogies to the contrary are flawed. I know the divorcees think they are trying to empathize and demonstrate how they understand my plight. I know they have the very best of intentions.

But here’s the thing … apparently Da was correct on this one … the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions.

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4 thoughts on “The Road to Hell

  1. mlbarrington@yahoo.com

    This was interesting. I can imagine that the comparison is not a welcome one. But….since you are talking about hell in this blog, I will play the devils advocate and I can tell you that not all divorces are a choice of the woman or man who may be experiencing them…and not all divorces are driven from lack of love and/ or not wanting to have a life or not being with that person that they married. Sometimes the divorce is thrust upon that person, unwillingly. My dad, a member of that greatest generation, suffered greatly for many years when my mom divorced him. It went against all the tenets of his faith and his belief system and he still loved my mother greatly…..his loneliness and fear and shame, in his eyes, what he thought the world and his family and church thought of him (as well as his own thought s of what he perceived as his own personal terrible failure) was horrific to watch and try to carry him through. Sometimes life in the form of addiction or mental illness is the the impetus for a divorce, and not always by the spouse who still loves and would be with that person, as you say, til death do you part.

    This was not my own personal divorce experience, and I would not presume, I hope, to compare my divorce with your widowhood. Nor does it sound like those who made the comment to you have that experience of not being the ones who wanted to divorce. Just some food for thought. Not always choices.

    I love your blog. I think it is a great venue for your thoughts and gives us a glimpse into your life now and how we could possibly be a better or or more understanding friend. It is also poignant and downright funny!

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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  2. Kiki

    Very brave subject matter. I see, value and agree with so much. There are divorces inflicted upon individuals who would do anything not to lose the spouse choosing to leave, but death is certainly different – if not simply because if its permanence and removal of hope for a different outcome. I’m loving your blog Susan. Keep writing.

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  3. As my friends know, I am new to blogging. I still don’t know all the rules and expectations, but I am trying to figure it out as I go. But what I do know is that this blog gives me an opportunity to express myself in a way that I (apparently) needed. However, there seems to be some unintended consequences; some good, some less so. But I want to focus on the positives. Like getting comments on a post that helped me look at a situation, or think about something, from a different perspective.

    Like the first two comments on this post. It just became abundantly clear to me that I was throwing the word “choice” around quite loosely. Most unfortunate. Of course there are situations where divorce was not the “choice” that one, or both, parties wanted. I just have to think of the devastation to individuals, and to the childrent, to realize how wrong I can be.

    The point of the post was the difference between the two manners of ending a marriage, and the sometimes unknowing pain inflicted by friendly advice. But the points made by two readers have not fallen on deaf ears. I nearly wept at the story of MB’s dad. I am so sorry for HIS loss – or losses. Thank you both for caring enough to take the time to read my post – and then comment in a manner that made me think more deeply on the subject. I’m also a beginner at widowhood – Learning as I go. Humbly and gratefully yours. ~Widow101

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  4. Maria

    Your blog helps us think, and see, and try to understand our world from your eyes. I am always hopeful that writings which are brave like this help us become more compassionate and understanding of one another. I agree…keep writing!

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