Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

The Divorce

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on January 10, 2014

The attraction, the dating, the romance, the marriage and then the divorce. This journey captures my imagination as the bonds which draw people in, also serve to break them apart, and yet, no one knows going in, that they are on a path towards destruction. All couples begin with hope and enthusiasm, but when divorce happens, the hope is often transformed into despair. Is it age, boredom, wanting something better, maturity, or just going in different directions? Izzy, sixty-one, female, and Leonard, sixty-seven, come to mind. They are both married for the second time, for twenty years. They both brought teenage children into the marriage, but now they are all grown. They both express confusion as to what went wrong, but both agree that they must split up. There were no betrayals or lies. “I just do not want to grow old with him,” Izzy says bluntly, in front of Leonard. “I don’t want to grow old with her either,” Leonard says, obviously hurt by Izzy’s comment, but wanting to save face. “When did things go sour?” I ask, trying to get a timeline on their relationship. “I think we were raising our kids and we were busy, and now that it is just the two of us, we have time to reflect on whether this is right, and I don’t think it is,” Izzy says, with characteristic succinctness. “Yea, we were desperate raising our kids alone, so we were like the Brady Bunch and now we don’t need each other in that way,” Leonard, once again, echoes Izzy. “It is sad for me to hear this,” I say, having known Izzy and Leonard for many years, but also wondering if they are sad, as well. “Yes, it is sad, but we don’t like to go there,” Izzy says, speaking for the two of them, as if they are still a couple. “Are you guys open to working on your marriage?” I ask, given that they are in my office with the implicit assumption that they do want to persevere. “Yes, but there is little hope,” Izzy says, as if to hurt Leonard, once again. “I heard the word hope,” I say, suggesting that maybe Izzy is trying to save face, given how definite she was about going their separate ways, earlier in the session. “You have been married for a long time, it seems like that warrants some effort in seeing whether this is a bump in your journey, or whether you each need to find a new path,” I say, hoping to infuse more thoughtfulness into their interactions. “OK” Leonard jumps in, leading me to further believe that he is hurt by Izzy, but he is not ready to cut the cord.

2 Responses to “The Divorce”

  1. Shelly said

    Why doesn’t Izzy want to grow old with Leonard? How does Leonard feel about Izzy? Have either expressed to you what it is about the marriage that feels wrong, and why they need to go their separate ways? Do they feel lonely in their marriage? Are they better alone than together? When you ask, “Are you guys open to working on your marriage,” what does that mean? Because of the marriage is bad in the first place, then who wants to work hard at saving it? If they love each other and all it takes is work, then it is salvageable, but if they really don’t like each other, then nobody will be willing to put in the work.

    • I am afraid it is not that linear. All of the feelings are mixed. Izzy and Leonard both have mixed feelings towards each other, which, at different times, bubbles up to the surface, leading to “discussions” of divorce. As Izzy and Leonard, at the moment, are not completely in touch with their mixed feelings, they have moments of “clarity” where they feel they have to separate, alternating with moments of being scared to make a change. The feelings of loneliness are intermittent, and not necessarily from marital discord. When you ask if they are better alone or together, the answer is yes, meaning sometimes one and sometimes the other. My question is intended to help them pause and reflect so that they can see the entire landscape as opposed to the immediate vicinity. This marriage, like so many marriages, is a story of shifting sands, and as such, no easy conclusions or definitive statements can be made. Thanks.

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