I was scrolling through a social media platform when it caught my eye. A cute photo of a couple I like. They were grinning from ear to ear, in the middle of the woods enjoying a little getaway as celebration for their anniversary.
Then, I read the caption.
It was a long lecture about the true hardship of marriage. How marriage takes work and strong people don’t call it quits. My initial brain response was to assume this lecture was directed at me, but I quickly remembered that we tend to center ourselves in everyone’s story due to bias, not because it’s an accurate reflection of reality.
Yes, marriage is hard work, I thought to myself after reading the first of many paragraphs. And then I scrolled on, and tried to convince myself that the post wasn’t at all about me and was indeed about the “hard work” of a marriage that is not yet old enough to drive.
I’ve experienced a lot of rejection in my life from people whose opinions actually mattered to me, so I was quickly able to put the thought aside. Yes, I chose to work hard at my marriage. I also chose to end it. I could have kept working. I know people who work for decades. Some make progress, others don’t. I knew that I would face push back in the form of lectures, rude comments, subtweets, people talking behind my back. Honestly? That stuff is small potatoes.
I chose the end of my marriage. I was not forced to. I could have held out longer. I may be a delicate flower but I’m also as strong as they come. I could have made it till death, maybe not well, but intact.
People with privilege and comfort believe that choosing the end is the easy way out. They believe it’s a decision made flippantly, by feckless, immoral, below-average people. With all due respect, people with privilege do not have the knowledge or the depth.
Choosing the end is in fact often an exercise in deep humility. A self selected burden with consequences. It is choosing to be ostracized from your social circle and family.
Choosing the end of something important is not a flippant decision. It requires weighing the pros and cons, laboring for months or years over next steps, trying to find your way in the dark. All while being condescended to by people with more time, money, support, education, access, privilege, talent, beauty, and faith.
The end of life.
The end of marriage.
The end of a pregnancy.
The end of religion.
The end of a parent’s access.
The start of new boundaries.
I am still fully human, even when I choose to end something that I promised I could finish. My ending is not a reflection of diminished morality, corrupted integrity, laziness, or weakness, regardless of what evangelical subculture may preach.
This narrative is a complete disregard for our experiences, our lives. The dismissal of our trauma as irrelevant to our outcomes. The arrogance with which they lecture us about how they made better, more moral decisions. When really they just got lucky.
Our reasons for choosing the end are valid. Hell, sometimes they are necessary. A matter of life or death.
My decision to end may have to do with my (low) place in the societal power structure.
So it’s easy for those who are higher on the socioeconomic ladder to look down on those below in scorn and derision. Especially when we are deemed to have made wrong choices.
I am functionally beneath them. It’s fairly easy to criticize those beneath you, and praise those above you. You can see this a million different ways in the comments section of the entire internet.
The gainfully employed enjoin the poor to “just move.”
Those with the protection afforded by distance from crime, claim people living in poverty are indifferent to violence outside their door.
Those who can afford a surprise pregnancy look down on those who can’t.
Those who are protected by organized religion sneer at anyone who would leave.
Those who are healthy demonize the chronically ill who choose to end their own suffering in the comfort and peace of their own home.
Those who live comfortably in our stratified society are told that they are there because they earned it through hard work, good attitude, grit, and determination.
Aspiration culture is a hell of a drug.
I am not a victim in any of this. I have what I have, I make choices and deal with the consequences, I’m thankful for the opportunities where I get to grow and change and do better next time. But I will not allow others to view my decisions through the lens of their own privilege without push back. Others are free to judge me of course, just as I am free to not care about their judgment. They are not living my life.
This doesn’t make me a better person than anyone but it maybe gives me more compassion and understanding than most.