In my state, if you have a child/children under the age of 18 and are planning to or have file(d) divorce, you have to take two classes. Since I fall into that category, I needed to complete them in order to facilitate a speedy process once M gets served.
I did that tonight. It was horrid timing (night before both of my summer anatomy finals!) but they only offer it once a month, so I didn't really have a choice. I dutifully attended for three hours.
What did I get from it? Well, since two hours of the class was dedicated to helping children get through the divorce... not a whole lot. E only knew M and I at home together for 2 weeks, so he doesn't recognize the absence of a father in his life (yet). And even when he does, it won't be the same as children who have known a cohesive family unit suddenly being subjected to visitation and things. The information was good, and reflected a lot of what I remember feeling when my own parents got divorced - it was just not applicable to our situation.
The other portion of the class was about the legal process of the divorce and divorce alternatives. Honestly? I think that this portion should be required before you can get a marriage license. Yes, I really just said that.
The part about the divorce process was blah (if you're in the class, you basically know that already), but the part about alternatives to divorce was amazing information.
It gave the obligatory marriage statistics - 50% of first marriages end in divorce, and subsequent marriages come with an even higher divorce rate. Everyone basically knows that.
What no one tells you though, is that there are normal phases of marriage. At least, no one ever told me. I'm recapping, so I may not have it 100% correct, but what I took away from it was this:
Honeymoon period: The highest point your marriage will ever have. Ever! It seems obvious, but I never thought of it that way.
Reality: After the honeymoon period, you're like Oh crap, what did I do?! You're realizing how different your upbringing was, how many things you disagree on that you never thought to worry about when you were dating, and how annoying it is that your spouse says "supposably" instead of "supposedly" (is he illiterate?! If you can't spell it, you shouldn't be allowed to say it!) You're thinking you may have made a major mistake. NO ONE TELLS YOU that this is NORMAL! I remember feeling exactly like that. I was watching The Bachelorette and all the hot guys, and I remember just CRYING. And M was like, "What's wrong?" I totally blubbered "I miss datingggggggg!! Don't you?!" He was very reassuring, as he always was (until he kicked me out), and said "No, honey, I love being married to you." And then I felt guilty.
Things get better: You get into a groove, whatever. Things aren't as good as the honeymoon period, but you're adjusting.
Back in crisis: You have a baby. You get a mortgage. Life happens, something changes the status quo and suddenly you're out of your comfort zone again. You may seriously consider divorce. A lot of people do divorce at that time. But.....
You stick it out: and things get better. You adjust to the baby, the new bills, the new normal. If you didn't divorce, you're glad that you didn't.
And the class went on to say that this cycle generally happens several times over the course of a successful marriage!!! Again with teenagers (you're so busy, etc.), empty nesting, midlife crisis, basically any life changes can throw you back into crisis. And you can get through it.
No one tells you that though, so you think Oh Em Gee, my marriage has gone to crap. I'm not happy. I deserve to be happy! And you bail, a lot of times too early.
In the class, we were told that there were a couple (few?) studies done on people's satisfaction with their divorce. About 1/3 of people said they were happy with their decision. 2/3 said they either had some regret or totally regretted not trying harder. WOW.
I keep telling myself M was a jerk from the beginning, but part of me wonders if he had known this, would things have been different? The main reason he gave me for not wanting to try to work things out was that he felt no spark between us anymore. If someone had told us that feeling was normal, that it would pass, that it happens in almost every relationship.... would he have gone looking for greener pastures?
Obviously not all marriages/divorces fall into that cycle. There really are things that can't be worked out. For the most part, I believe that infidelity is one of those things, so I'm trying not to spend too much time dwelling on what could have been. But I just had to run home and write this blog post (even though I should be studying for finals!) because I'm frankly astounded that marriage wasn't explained to me in cyclical terms before now.