This is no revelation. Even so, in a good marriage, it isn't often said aloud. (Though said, in the half light, on porches with girlfriends, a bottle of wine in.)
Tica (long-term bff) and I will often marvel - as obvious as it is - that who you marry defines Every Other Thing from that point forward. It's an exhausting realization.
I am in a good one - much to my surprise. I couldn't quite imagine that, years before it occurred. Serial boyfriends notwithstanding, I imagined I would live alone. (In a cute bungalow, undisturbed by small hands and large pairs of sweaty socks.) I would travel the world, maybe. Tile my floors myself. See a lot of great movies.
This didn't sound ideal. But I could, with effort, work it into something that sounded not-so-bad.
My mother raised us alone. Four of us, plus Mom, an educator. A fact that sometimes hampers our raising of children. It's hard to remember that these duties are shared, that there is another opinion that is weighed equally against mine.
I also have a weird response to this partnership thing. Its as if, having never seen it done, I assume it is a get-out-of-jail card. That everything I don't like, he will do for me. And that every other thing I do, I should be allowed to do exactly halfway. I imagine, automatically, that someone will pick up the other half. It is a method that works far more than it should- but not always. We often do different halves of different things.
An old friend with whom I reconnected this week, said something about marriage from a Hallmark card, to the effect of 'falling in love is chance, staying in love is a choice.' It rang painfully true, for her, for whom only half was contributing effort. It IS a choice. Every single day. It is hard work. And both halves have to fully engaged.
12 years in, I think we have this, mostly. And I have a world of gratitude for that gift - for the chance that my falling in love was directed at another person willing to work. In this, my 50% and his 50% align quite well. And we laugh, a plus.
The Gores are getting divorced. It has sparked snark and speculation. I succomb to neither. It seems, from here, that they each have strong personalities and a lot going on. They have fully separate and complicated lives. From which they raised, to adulthood, four children. Their utility, as a twosome, has been proven.
In the thick of it, with a bunch of kids, houses, yards, careers - common purpose might be enough. Take the shared chaos, noise, the cluttered stuff of life - and factor in mutually desired end-results (not living in squalor, children that are contributors, weeds that don't overtake, paychecks that come regularly) and you are propelled to survive almost on momentum alone, as long as you generally respect each other. Inspiration hardly comes into play.
Then things slow down.
It is sad, yes, for whichever of the two had to be convinced. It is sad, too, for the children - regardless of their age. But I doubt all bad. To me, it seems inconceivably brave - to charge into the unknown so publicly, when you live in such apparent comfort otherwise. (Though, after forty years, I can't quite imagine what a counselor could offer to help cure general malaise.)
Even if unhappy, I doubt I would have the stuff to buck the status quo. Marriage is hard. Forty years is a long time. Your children know enough to move on - to be part of what stays behind has got to take a toll.
In my version, when that happens, we sell the big house. We get the small bungalow. We travel the world together, with no one complaining or planning alternate routes. We tile our floors ourselves. And we see a lot of great movies. We keep it simple, and we try to keep in touch. It's all we can do.
We will have to seek out the inspiration when the noise subsides - and for my part, now, I try to take none of "we" for granted.