“We’re at that age now” is a phrase that has been bounced between my husband and I a few times recently. Especially in the last few weeks, as we keep hearing about people splitting up, or potentially splitting up, from their marriages.
“It’s because we’re at that age now”.
This is bigger than breaking up. But it is the only thing I can liken it to.
“Why is everyone quitting?” I keep asking myself. Life is tough – I know, but why are we all giving up?
“It’s because we’re at that age now. This is what happens”.
But is it? You loved them enough to say “I do” at one point. How do you just “I don’t” now?
“It’s because we’re at that age now. We’ll probably start to see a lot more of it”.
Is it just an age thing? Is this just what happens? Those of us who were lucky (or unlucky) to fall in love in our early twenties, varsity, or heaven forbid – high school itself, and who followed through and got married before that self-inflicted 30 years old deadline that we all won’t admit to having set, but we all kinda did – do we just accept that our relationships may fall prey to this “at that age now” thing that seems to be happening.
Some kind of ‘in my 30’s itch’ perhaps – the quest to refind (or redefine) ourselves as an adult. A quest that we can only do alone? To be free from the boundaries we set for ourselves when we said “I do”?
Do we really accept that its just that? That we’re at that age that people divorce. It used to be a thing that only parents did. Now its a thing we all can do?
A topic that feels so close to home its unsettling. I’ve seen some of the people I thought were the strong ones – separate, change their names back and start life again. And its got me thinking. About Quitting. And about not quitting.
My theory is that life and love is disposable. Take a look at your phone, your car, your washing machine, your job. Everything in our lives these days, we change out so easily. As soon as we’re tired, or bored or done with it or even if its just a little bit broken. We swap it. Out with the old, in with the new. Perhaps we’re so used to swapping things when we get bored, disposing of them, that we feel the same about our relationships. This is no longer working out, so I think I’ll swap it out for the something else. Something new.
Perhaps, its not about love being disposable. But instead its this, as discussed with Sue (from Cambridge) in a hot tub (in Meribel – an unexpected place for a revelation, but valuable all the same). In our parent’s time – life was difficult. Ok, perhaps I should say in our parent’s parents time rather. There was war. There was the great depression. There was Scarlett fever and a great London fire (hold on. Wait… I’m not sure when that was – I never was good with history).
The point is: life wasn’t easy then. They knew hard times. We don’t. Most of us have always had, and still have it really easy. We went to good schools, have tertiary educations, always had food on the table, television, extramural activities (even if we hated them). We have cars, jobs, phones and enough money to buy R85 cocktails. But grownup life… Its not that easy. Marriage especially has its challenges. And life throws you curve balls. Unexpected curve balls. Ugly curve balls. Money, work, family crappy curve balls. And, as a generation of 30-somethings that have never had that much crappiness, we don’t know how to deal with hard times. So it makes you want to quit. Because you’re too tired. Because opting out seems easier (better) than trying to work through all the shittyness (I realise I’m making up words like crappiness and shittyness, but anyway). Because if you’re honest, life until now has been easy and you’re not equipped to deal with difficult. With crap. And so you don’t feel like you should have to. And you choose not to.
Perhaps that’s it.
I get it though. I get wanting to quit. I also get wanting to (re)find yourself. I even get thinking that perhaps it’ll be easier. But…
How can you sign the piece of paper that says you no longer love someone when you signed a piece of paper that promised you’d love them forever? How do you stop loving someone you once loved so much that you promised them you’d be holding their hand when you’re 80? How do you stop wanting to fight to make it work?
Perhaps its not because we’re at that age at all. Perhaps its not because you don’t love them anymore, or stopped loving them at all. Perhaps you still do love them. But perhaps you just can’t make it work any longer.
**disclaimer. I admit, marriage isn’t all that appears in the smiley photos of facebook. And behind closed doors there may be abuse: physical, emotional and verbal. For all of these reasons, as well as reasons of cheating or addictions – leaving can not be seen as quitting ever. Sometimes, you do have to leave. Not because you want to, but because staying will kill you in one way or another.