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Dana Parsons

Ex-Husband Is Well-Qualified to Be Divorce Counselor

September 08, 1993|Dana Parsons

If there's one area in which I've become an expert over the last dozen years, it's marriage.

Other people's marriages.

But then, who isn't an expert when it comes to other people's marriages? Or, for that matter, other people's problems?

Aren't you amazed at the clarity of your friends' insight when it comes to your problems, but who, when it comes to managing their own lives, show all the savvy of Howdy Doody? What happens? Do they read the how-to book all the way through but then fall asleep when they get to the last chapter: How To Avoid Making a Royal Mess of Your Own Life.

I must be honest, it's getting darned frustrating being the only person I know capable of giving brilliant advice to others while at the same time conducting his own affairs in sterling fashion. (Fear not, friends. Despite the pressure, I will not shrink from my responsibilities to you.)

I've often said that it shouldn't be tough to stay married. Oh, sure, the history books will show that my own foray into the field coincided exactly with the Carter Administration (1976-80), but I don't think being a one-termer disqualifies me from a claim to expertise. To the contrary, just as President Jimmy Carter is now seen not as an inept bumbler but as a noble man who just got too carried away with details . . . well, you get the point.

So, I say it shouldn't be tough, but people keep proving me wrong. Over the last dozen years, I've talked to men about marriage and I've talked to women about it, and the reasons why one party or the other wants out always seem to come down to the line from Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin.' ":

"You keep same-in when you oughta be changin." ' Marriage is on my mind, I guess, because divorce is once again swinging its heavy club around me.

People close to me are in its grip, with no relief in sight. I can do little but watch the marital reel unwind. Divorce has become just one long-running sequel for my generation, and I've seen the movie way too often.

As a perverse little test, I started writing down the names of friends or close acquaintances who have gotten divorced in the last 15 years. I got to 30 without breaking a sweat, then quit. It was an amazing collection: siblings, cousins, best friends, bosses, youngsters, oldsters, successes, middle-of-the-roaders.

The latest addition to the list is a couple that just sounds very tired and angry when they talk about their impending breakup. It's not as though no one saw it coming; it's just hard to believe that it might actually happen.

I've known them both for 15 years, so I've been on the phone recently to both of them. After all these years of being able to say everything to them, I'm now wary of saying anything to them, fearful of becoming ammunition for one to use against the other.

And because this is a case where I've seen their kids grow up (they're both under 10), it's even more painful. I've surprised myself so far by rather pointedly talking to the parents about the children's best interests--now all we have to do is agree on exactly what those best interests are.

So, why can't people stay together? Is it that hard for adults to share a household?

A woman friend said she could spell it out for me using only three letters: M-E-N.

I think she was kidding, sort of.

One thing I do know for certain is that if she remarries, it will be to a M-A-N.

One of the more surprising conversations I ever had came with my grandma a few years ago. She must have been 96 or 97 but still had all her faculties. I don't know how we got off on the subject, but she mentioned that she considered divorcing Grandpa somewhere in the 1920s. Given that they ended up being married for 67 years before Grandpa died, I considered the revelation almost comical.

But, say, if you want to contemplate the randomness of your existence, consider the implications of your grandparents getting a divorce.

Oh, well. My friends will muddle through their divorces, and I guess I will, too.

They'll call me when they need me, and I'll have my pearls of wisdom to dispense.

Let's face it, getting divorced has become one of the modern era's great shared experiences.

Dana Parsons' column appears Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Readers may reach Parsons by writing to him at The Times Orange County Edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626, or calling (714) 966-7821.

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