I work at a publication that finds sustenance in the fluctuations of celebrity and real-life relationship problems (if the names Jon and Kate Gosselin don’t immediately ring a bell, you have some pretty good selective memory). This means that all day long, I hear about divorce. Whether because of abuse, spousal disagreements or the ever-common infidelity, divorce has become more of a green light to investigate than a red flag cause for mourning. It’s gotten to the point wherein reading a story about how two individuals vow to stand by one another in sickness and in health makes me uneasy inside, because the questions immediately bubble forth: How long will this last, really? Did the pair decide to sign a prenup? Does she know about his sordid past? Will she change?
As a journalist, reporting on divorce – or worse, the aftermath – has become just about as common as reading a release on the latest reality star’s jaunt into the music industry. Neither is particularly pleasant, but both also captivate readers in a kind of train-wreck curiosity. The scary part about it all is that readers often begin taking sides, analyzing public marriages and divorces as though the public personas they are familiar with — the red carpet smiles, the publicity-driven acts of charity and the bouts with the paparazzi — are anywhere near the genuine essence of the marriages they read about.
In the public eye, divorce has become a speed bump. It’s a tedious process that is more of a hassle than an emotional ordeal. Time used to be that divorces were a rarity, deemed a sort of failure on both persons’ parts; now it is an ugly sometimes-necessity for people who know better than to try to work it out. What this teaches children, and subconsciously ingrains into the minds of young adults everywhere, is that there is an easy alternative to the strife of marriage: get out.
This is an age of quick-fixes, and if it’s okay for celebrities to count their number of spouses on their two hands, then it must not be that terrible to split from what troubles us as well. Critics would argue that this is because marriage as an institution is outdated, that some people would rather have long partnerships than get married because of the many implications marriage holds. I would counter that the main reason divorce is now no longer viewed as a terrible fate is because of the pace of life. Change needs to be instant — think plastic surgery and crash diets — and there isn’t much that can’t be fixed with a little money. This means that, in a strange way, divorce has become a weird status symbol of sorts. How much did she get after the settlement? How much did they invest into the case? People have to have a certain standard of living to be able to afford divorce procedures.
In reality (and not reality TV), however, divorce shouldn’t be such a callous business transaction — and it’s usually not. When I think about the children who have to endure the pains of back-and-forth battles between their parents, I think and know that their own take on marriage down the line will be severely impacted. Distrust or lack of commitment become the way for them to approach the once-sacred institution, and the cycle continues on.
As proven by way of reality TV shows, society is fascinated with watching other people’s lives onscreen. Or perhaps more gratuitous still, watching an altered version of themselves onscreen and then mimicking that in real life. It’s a dangerous blurring between real life and the glamorous pictures on the other side of the glass, but it’s also unfortunately all too common. Divorce as we know it today, divorce as I read and write about on a daily basis, is the modern common cold — easily caught, a hassle to deal with, swiftly dealt with.