Out of all the things I could be writing I have focused the greater part of my energy on neopaganism and divorce. Do it yourself dentistry would be a more fun topic to write. It’s daunting, it’s personal, it’s painful, and I truly believe it’s necessary. It’s so necessary that I’m not even all that concerned as to its salability: I’m putting something out there for someone to use, that’s taken years of my life both through my own divorce and through the research, writing and continuous editing of this book. It’s not that other books haven’t been written on the topic: Lorna Tedder got there first with her own experiences (warning, site has music that autoplays.) Most books about handfasting and neopagan marriage ceremonies include a chapter on handparting. It’s nearly impossible to go to a gathering without finding a few people who have been through divorce, often naming their religious calling as a factor in the splitup.
It’s covered, if not thoroughly, and there are even Christian-oriented spirituality books that include ceremonies to acknowledge divorce. It’s been years since my own divorce – many years. The person I was no longer exists, and the person I am has a completely different set of marital challenges and fears to deal with, although that person retains a burning hatred for the identity of “wife.” ((This is not something I will discuss further. Most questions about it fall into a “justify yourself to me” vein that I find distasteful.))
So why am I doing it?
Because it still needs to be done. I don’t think I can cure divorce. Really, the only way to reduce the divorce rate is to stop people from getting married. So far the U.S. is doing this by going to great pains to stop only same-sex couples from getting married, which is pretty much a red-herring issue. It also doesn’t work.
I also don’t think a high divorce rate is necessarily a bad thing. More people developing the sense to get away from each other because they’re bad for each other is a good thing. If they have the sense to do it before they have children, so much the better. If they have the sense to do it before they commit to each other for life, on paper, in health insurance, bank account and mortgage, even better. Pre-marital sex has done us a boatload of favors in freeing us from commitments we should never make. If we can get romantic pairings on a cooperative instead of competitive page, both marriage and not getting married have much better chances of working out well. The old Judeo-Christian model never did work for everyone, and while it’s fabulous when it does work, insisting everyone conform to it isn’t about what’s good for the world, it’s just about a small group with too much power winning.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who sees the whole Western marriage situation this way, and who still ended up pressured into a partnership that went against instincts. As much as I like to think of myself as strong, independent, even exceptional, even I can’t stand up to a cultural siege alone, and at the time of my first marriage, I was very much alone in that respect. Also, I live in a part of the country where a strong woman is viewed as a bitch that must be suppressed immediately, and this decision to actively suppress has no bearing on her actual actions. So what I got was a lot of “That’s who you’re marrying? He’s so normal!” This also meant that I did not get the support I very much needed when the somatic cues triggered by a marriage ceremony changed the nature of our relationship and my ex-husband allowed the whole truth about himself to be revealed, leaving me with both the burden of an unsupportive family pressuring me to conform to/repeat their life patterns and an in-law family that was mostly focused on what a bitch they thought I was. When I divorced at age 26, I also dealt with a lot of people who wanted to treat what I went through as a mere breakup.
No matter how young you are or how short the marriage, a divorce is not just a breakup. I went through a ceremony for my marriage, those somatic cues got triggered, our relationship changed and there was no going back or just forgetting as one might with a boyfriend or longtime lover. Also, since I was young and Wiccan, my own religious community took a dismissive attitude toward me. ((Not everyone. There are ALWAYS people who also treated me as who I was, rather than what my age was or is.)) While it’s changing, there’s a school of thought that you’re not a real person/your experience is not actually valid until you’re 40 – even though teenagers “need special attention.” So anyone between 18 and 39 can get treated somewhat dismissively, or worse, with suspicion, by the very elders that worry about the future of this religious group. It meant that I had no tools, when I went to local events with older people/people in my experience range I did face a risk of exploitation, and when I dealt with people my age and younger they just didn’t get it, not having gone through such drastic changes themselves yet.
I’d like to say the predictable “I’m writing this for people in my situation.” It’s altruistic. It’s virtuous. Hell, it borders on saintly.
Saints tend to start off as martyrs, and martyr looks like puke green on me.
I’m writing about divorce for myself. While I’ve cut almost all of my personal anecdotes from the book I intend to publish, I did need to write those passages to make sense of what happened to me and to understand that while I am responsible for all my decisions, I am human, and as surrounded by influences that shove women towards altars and on into closed-door relationships whether they belong there or not. I’m writing this because my most profound, life-changing, personality-improving relationships have been with men – as have all my most heartbreaking, finding the worst in myself relationships. I’m writing this because there are a lot of women at war with me, my non-participation not being relevant to them, and because there are women who have been my friend and cheered for me for years despite my not giving even a third of that goodwill back.
I am writing this book as an act of self-expression. I am also writing it because somehow, it tends to fall to me to say what a lot of people are thinking but are afraid to say. I’m writing it because it lends a symmetry to that part of my life: when I first started as a writer, how I got blocked as a witch, and how that chapter closed – by closing this book on it. By calling on the experiences of others, as well, I hope to point out both the extreme diversity of experience and how, despite our best efforts, even us scattershot Pagans end up having a lot in common.