Sep 4, 2009

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Love Like A Dog – Scratching the Itch

         I was watching Letterman the other night and Rumor Willis was on the show.  Willis is the twenty something daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis.  She was literally gushing over how much fun it is to get together in Vegas to celebrate her 21st birthday or riding roller coasters at Six Flags with her whole family.  Letterman feigned amazement at the notion of a divorced couple being able to happily co-exist in the same space.  It is not that difficult a concept to embrace.  Aside from the fact that money seems to heal all wounds — as long as there is enough to go around — Moore/Willis seem to have their priorities in order.  Nothing is forever and if you are going to do something you damn well better enjoy it.

            My parents divorced when I was 20.  I had been off in England for half the summer and had sublet my apartment in the city while I was gone.  I still have a very vivid memory of the moment my father picked me up at the airport.  I was planning on being home for a week before heading out to California for another month.  He said, “I have good news and bad news. The bad is the person you rented your apartment to move out in the middle of the month.  The good news is I have someone who is willing to rent it” I asked, “who?”  He said, “Me”.  And that was how I discovered my parents had gotten divorced while I was gone.  It was clean and simple as that.  No foreboding and dark months of parent squabbling.  My mother just woke up one morning, asked for a divorce and my Dad said, “Okay”.  They have been cordial ever since.  My Mom moved up to Amherst, Massachusetts and my dad down to Florida.  A few years later I asked my father about it and his response was rather simple.  “I would have gladly stayed married.  But (all the kids) were all grown, so if she didn’t want to be married to me, why fight it.”  I don’t think he regretted the move.  I know my mother had second thoughts.  When she made the decision it was based on what she perceived as missing, rather than taking inventory on what was there.

  I’d like to suggest that if you take expectation, obligation and guilt out of the equation, relationships would be easier to navigate.  If you are in what appears to be a dead end marriage you really need to ask yourself, “is the marriage dead or am I?”  More often than not you are the problem, not the relationship.

            A lot of forward thinking companies insist their employees go off on sabbatical at critical stages in their careers; I am of the opinion a healthy marriage would seek to do the same.  Taking tine off allows one to really appreciate what the relationship brings.  I am not advocating debauchery during the sabbatical just a break in the routine.  Every summer, Dorry and I get that break while Orli is off at camp.  I am confident it is prepping us to deal with the empty nest when she eventually moves out of the house.  Her absence won’t seem so jarring.  Dorry has many occasions to “appreciate” the void that exists when I am gone.  She’d probably say I am gone too much — this past Fall — I was on trial for two months in Kansas City — but it might explain why she keeps telling me she couldn’t imagine me not in her life.  She’s experienced the absence and knows the grass is not so green on the other side.

I had a similar experience when Dorry went off for a seven day retreat.  I hated being alone and felt like a total fish out of water when Orli came back mid-week and Dorry was still gone.  The hiatus was great for the relationship because it reminded me of all the things I took for granted. 

I’d like to suggest that scratching an itch need not be fatal.  It is important to acknowledge it as such and not to confuse the what or why behind what you are doing.  The real danger is in expecting to find something better than what you already have by looking outside of what you already know.  I am sure we have all shaken our heads over the 50 year old man who leaves his wife for a twenty year old, claiming his former wife “couldn’t satisfy him any more.”  It is only a matter of time until he realizes the twenty year old is woefully deficient in satisfying his emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs.  Sometimes an itch is just an itch and scratching it does not leave permanent damage unless you scratch too hard or too long.

Before taking that step outside, take an inventory and be clear with yourself about what you are looking for.  For my father it was easy.  Living ion Florida in close proximity to his siblings had greater appeal than living on Long Island near his kids. There is no right or wrong in the decision and no judgment.  Conversely, my mother was never clear on where she wanted to be and she has been searching and feeling unfulfilled ever since.

So the message is simple, before you go anywhere, it is best to know full well where you are.


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