Ben, Jen & Me

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are getting divorced.

Celebrity marriages are not usually associated with a long shelf life, so perhaps I was unwise in rooting for this couple to defy the odds. After all, hadn’t Ben ended the media circus of an engagement to former Fly Girl Jennifer Lopez to marry Hollywood’s quintessential girl-next-door? Three beautiful children followed in quick succession. Images of mom and dad cheering on the sidelines at soccer games persuaded me that here was a marriage for the ages.

Divorce sucks. No matter how logical or crucial the decision is to end a marriage, kids are left feeling abandoned. While infidelity or addiction can accelerate the decision, couples often struggle to identify that single moment or misstep which deflated a union.

Having come from a family with divorce, I naively decided it was a problem exclusive to previous generations. People once married far too young. Being chock full of romantic optimism and untested maturity, couples realized too late that common values and overall compatibility were actually absent from the marriage.

With the bulk of my friends taking their vows in their thirties, I felt certain we would be the generation immune from divorce. How selective and precise we would all be in identifying devoted spouses! I attended countless weddings and knew these unions would last forever.

Then the façade crumbled.

First it was a trickle, but over the last few years, it has progressed into a flood. Occasionally, an incomprehensible loss of a child was the impetus. Sometimes, there was someone else. But more often than not, couples who never once spoke a cross word between them separated without even a hint as to the cause.

It scared the bejeezus out of me.

I yell and cry and act irrationally on a monthly basis. I come from divorced parents, which increases my odds. Worst of all? I can’t scramble an egg without setting off the smoke detector.

What was my husband thinking when he married me? I would have NEVER picked such a flaky and nonsensical life partner.

With divorce lawyers able to predict couples who will break up based on eye rolling, the game was a lock. Actuaries can even determine how level of education, gender of children, and weekly church attendance play a role in the success or failure of marriage. It is overwhelming.

I know couples who have been married fifty years who never once felt it was “work.”

I also know people who have fought, struggled and sacrificed for decades before finally throwing in the towel, sad and tired.

Jen and Ben had unlimited advantages in terms of romantic getaways, child care assistance and even marriage counselors. So what did this mean for schlumps like Joe and me? My anxiety increased. After all, our last romantic evening was spent watching “The Making of the Mob” while Joe patiently explained why Vito Corleone wasn’t going to be making an appearance. He didn’t get aggravated when I kept confusing Lucky Luciano with Lucky Lindy.

And he didn’t roll his eyes even once when I did the worst impression of Joe Pesci ever performed.

I am terrified of divorce, mostly because things change on a dime. One bad day. One baited conversation. One irrational moment which solidifies over time and becomes irreversible. This is how it starts, right? Children would never recover.

Right around the time I began reading an article on “Top 10 Signs You’re Heading for Divorce,” Joe made popcorn for the big St. Valentine’s Day Massacre scene. He handed me the big bowl and a blanket because I had said I was cold.

Today, Jen and Ben reminded me of the pain of divorce, but also how family, faith, and love can be rebuilt, albeit with a few new neuroses along the way.

Joe also reminded me how important it is to never, ever take the big bowl for granted.

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