Thursday, December 28, 2006

Divorce in the Narrow End

Late or last minute Christmas cards are trickling in now, late enough that they can reference this year's Totally Impersonal Christmas Letter. I started the TICL in 1992 when I left Albany, NY to go to Philadelphia for law school. Its mailing list has grown every year; roughly 140 were sent out this year. I usually send it out early, but with the transatlantic thing (we didn't return to the U.S. until mid-December) and other factors, people received it quite close to Christmas.

As you might imagine, it was a slight challenge to explain about my divorce from Stobex. When we got engaged in 1998, his mailing list was incorporated with mine, and thus the TICL went international. A lot of people commented on how happy we seemed, and we were. So I knew going into this year's TICL that people would perceive the divorce as disappointing. I tried really hard to explain how it was the next (healthy) step for both of us, that we were both happy, that all three of us (Stobex, the boyfriend and I) were good friends, and so forth.

Sure enough, I got a card today that said, "Sorry to hear about the divorce. . ." I wasn't annoyed, precisely, but perhaps a teeny bit irked. Did they not read the TICL? Did they doubt my explanation? But then I realized, they're not Narrow End people. In the mainstream, divorces are unhappy (I speak as a statistical matter, you understand). One person is usually disadvantaged in a divorce, or didn't want it and thus loses both the spouse and a sense of security. Stobex's and my situation must be pretty rare: two people who evolve to a spot where divorce is genuinely the continuation of the good of marriage. I can't really blame people for assuming ours had to be like that and I was just painting an artificially happy picture. (Some people also assume Stobex has to be the injured party. Hah! If they only knew. . .)

Also, divorce is a tofu word. What I mean is, it's something that everyone brings their own flavorings to. If someone's parents went through a yucky divorce, that colors how the concept is received. Or, if one is in a happy marriage but thinks how devastating divorce would be, that's influencing the news of someone else's divorce.

This is a tiny example of life in the narrow end: I don't know what it's like to be mainstream, so I'm constantly trying to extract some awareness from other's behavior and reactions. But most mainstream people don't even know there IS a narrow end, let alone that anyone actually lives there. Communication is occasionally challenging.


  1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Magdalen. Everything seemed tough at first, but you managed to get through with it. Also, couples really have different stories. The people around them should try to understand the couples' personal lives, too.

    Tracy Pierre

  2. I admire how strong you are! Despite the divorce you are able to divert your emotions through humor. How's your life now? Hahaha!

    Charla Mcguyer