Divorce is almost always a cancer, rarely ever a heart attack. It creeps up on you slowly. Unless you’re checking for lumps and other symptoms every now and then, you’re usually too far gone by the time you realise.
We often hear about marriages “crashing” but the truth is they seldom do. Most times they die slow deaths, often very painful. It may have ended in an affair, an act of violence, or just someone ‘suddenly’ deciding to leave, but it’s never really sudden. Whatever ended it started a long time before The Crash.
As humans, our bodies are dying every day by default. There are people who proactively slow down this process — eating healthy, exercising, resting well, investing in skincare, taking supplements to make up for whatever may be lacking in their diet— and others who let it happen without doing anything to delay the inevitable. In marriage, the default is to grow apart, not grow together.
Couples simply do not drift towards togetherness; you have to be intentional about it. There’s no auto-pilot, no cruise control. You have to do marriage.
Being intentional in the early days is easy, but as time goes by, the secret killer of marriages, always lurking around, finally slinks in. Its name is “See Finish”. As smoking is to cancer, so See Finish is to marriage. Nothing presents as much of a threat to marriage as this.
A couple usually starts out very much in love and looking forward to a life of married bliss. “Happy Married Life”, isn’t that what they write on souvenirs? At what point do things start to go wrong? It’s not when challenges of life happen. Money issues, infertility issues, and in-law issues in and of themselves are not powerful enough to destroy a marriage. Otherwise, almost no marriage would make it.
Things start to go wrong when the enemy, See Finish, slithers in. We then find that we can’t be bothered to do the things we used to do before. For no other reason than the familiarity that comes with living in close proximity with someone and seeing their flaws and foibles up close, being affected by their bad choices and decisions, and simply just living life, they somehow become less precious in our eyes than they were on the wedding day.
In the beginning we recognise when our partner isn’t looking as cheerful as usual. We notice when they’re unusually quiet. We are concerned when their smile doesn’t reach their eyes. We make it our business to know how their business is doing, and we take their every problem, hurt and pain as our own. Their happiness, well-being and fulfilment matter to us too. We actually make the effort to keep looking hot for them. Are they sexually satisfied? Emotionally fulfilled? We want to know. Yes, in the beginning we’re usually trying to outdo each other in love. Then See Finish enters, and we’re not even conscious of it, until we hear a crash.
The Crash is usually preceded by the days of offending without bothering to apologise, the days without hugs, without kisses, without tender words. Heck, it’s a challenge to even be polite. In the early days you used to go to the loo to fart, and you excused yourself when you belched. You always said the magic words you learnt in nursery school; please, excuse me, I’m sorry, thank you, pardon me. The days of See Finish are the days of flippancy, the days of haughty looks and contemptuous hisses.
The days leading to The Crash are the days of unshaved legs and underarms, the days of scruffy, smelly hair, the days of ugly nails, the days of dry, uncared-for skin, the days when the smell of sweat replaces that of cologne. These are the days without sex, the days of sex that touches the body and not the heart, the days of sex that brings release to one but not the other. These are the days when conversation only centres on the children, when text messages are only about stopping to buy bread for tomorrow’s breakfast, the days when less and less is shared in common, the days when their opinions don’t really count. These are the days of See Finish, the days of simply not caring that much anymore. These are the days when love turns to indifference, which in many ways is worse than hatred.
Cancer can sneak up on anyone, at any time. Early detection can save your life. It can also save your marriage. Be intentional.
Don’t let See Finish finish your marriage!