My mom usually hands me a stack of magazines whenever I stop by. There's always some article or the other that she thinks I'll find interesting. Usually she hands me the Atlantic Monthly, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, that sort of thing. When I stopped by to chitchat after choir practice on Wednesday, though she gave me the May/June copy of AARP.
She knew I would find this confusing, so she quickly pointed out the cover photo and article - a piece on Amy Grant and Vince Gill. Oooh, thanks mom!
I became an instant fan of Amy Grant when i was a sophomore in college. Somebody had a tape of The Collection (remember tapes! And having a Walkman! Damn, I'm old) and she hooked me from the start. Its not that she had this amazing vocal range or these deep and twisty lyrics, or even that she looked like this glamorous superstar. It was all of the opposite that drew me - her voice was lovely and just this side of untrained, her lyrics were simple and down to earth and so was she. There has always been an emotional framework in the songs she performs that says "I have the same challenges and fears and joys that you do, let me sing to you about them."
It wasn't necessarily as a Christian artist that she appealed to me. It was just her and the way that she sang. It wasn't just that she sang Jesus songs - she did, sure, but she also sang songs about life and about feeling insecure and lonely and silly and happy. I could relate.
I was lucky enough over the years to see her in concert a few times, and she's one of those artists who sounds just the same live as she does on her albums. I thinks she's been lucky to work with some really smart producers who wisely chose not to overprocess her voice and just let who she really is shine through her work.
Maybe her crossover pop was a little sugary and sweet, but I think there's a place in this world for music that speaks to the simple things of love and family and all the connections innate to being a woman - daughter, sister, partner, parent. In her music and in her interviews I always took away the feeling that she truly loved people just as they were, no matter who they were, and accepted them exactly where they are. Of course, the enormous amount of money and talent and time she has given to charity over the years speaks volumes to her deep compassion for others.
When Amy and Gary split in 1998 I was also going through a divorce. When she married Vince(with whom it was clear to anyone with eyeballs that saw the "making of" House of Love video she was deeply in love), I was also marrying my second husband. When she was pregnant with Corrina, I was pregnant with my daughter. I, too had endured the shaming and blaming that happens when marriages end and had left a church because of it; I empathized deeply with what it must have felt like for her to have that scrutiny amplified infinitely, a Christian artist getting divorced in front of the prying eyes of the world.
I loved the article and the interview. I'm truly happy that Amy and Vince are still together, still in love. Its hard, I know this, when you marry a person and you intend it to be forever and things go wrong and you realize at some point that its not going to work. Its wonderful when you find the person with whom you have a deep, loving and spiritual connection, who accepts you where you are and loves you unconditionally.
After I finished reading the article I thought about so much of what had been written about Amy and Vince and their respective first marriages/divorces. As I often do when something crosses my mind, I hit my search engine and Googled a few articles.
I came across an article by Wendy Zoba written back in 2000 for Christianity Today. The entire tone of the article was at best dubious about whether Amy had done the right thing by divorcing Gary Chapman. Zoba wrote:
"Anyone who has persevered in marriage will attest that in deed there are moments of "enjoying to the fullest," but that often attends many tedious, sometimes painful, stretches. The best premarital advice I received came from our pastor's wife: "There are going to be times when you'll hate each other's guts." Those moments have been few and far between, but when they have occurred, my husband and I recognized this was normal and would pass."
This is just so offensive to me.
Not that Zoba and her husband are fortunate enough to have the kind of marriage where the rocky times are few and far between. Not..not at all that. What chokes me is the assumption that she makes that Amy and Gary's relationship was just like hers.
Now, I don't know that it was or wasn't. But neither does Wendy Zoba. Neither does any other person who has pointed a judgmental finger at someone else for getting a divorce.
If two people are so fortunate as to have a marriage where the times they "hate each other's guts" are few and far between and that they mutually recognized that the bad time would pass, then of course I wouldn't expect to see them tripping over each other's feet in the race to find a divorce attorney.
But comparing her own relationship to the relationship between Amy and Gary, which by many accounts was troubled for years, or to the relationship of anyone who has sought a divorce for entirely legitimate reasons, if this is the basis on which she's concluding that people ought to stay together, no matter what, then I cry "foul."
I know a lot of people feel like marriage is supposed to be forever, that you're supposed to stick it out for eternity except in cases of infidelity or abuse. But I simply can't accept that as the case.
A marriage - or any sort of love partnership for that matter - is supposed to be a bond where the people in the relationship are both bettered by being with their partner more of the time than they are not. Every relationship, even those where a couple is starry-eyed smitten after years and years together, still has its rocky times. I've never personally met anyone who has been with their partner for a number of years who has never had a disagreement. But those couples, even though they've had a fight here and there, or even overcome a very serious issue, the relationship they shared contained more positive than negative, more good than bad, more light than dark.
But what happens when that's not the case? Is it really correct to tell people whose relationship brings them nothing but heartache and anger that they must stay married, no matter what? Can any therapist or minister truly counsel a couple who have spent years fighting, pulling each other down, whose love styles and personalities, beliefs or opinions are truly antithetical that they must stay together? What good does that do for anyone?
While other people might have opinions about why my marriage ended, only my ex and I know the whole truth of it. We were the ones living it, struggling with it day by day.
Its not that I don't think marriage is important or not to be taken seriously. Of course it is. But I think people need to be careful when making assumptions about what goes on behind the closed doors of other peoples' lives. Don't be so hasty to judge. Most people don't tell you the whole truth, we are taught from early on not to tell the family secrets, to minimize things, to keep what is private, private. I have been surprised many times by finding out someone was being physically abused or that someone was being cheated on, or even that people who seemed really happy whenever they were around friends and family actually had screaming fights constantly when they were home alone together. The announcement of their divorce was shocking, because nobody knew there was anything wrong.
Ultimately, I don't think its healthy for anyone to stay in a relationship that makes them miserable. There is no growth in that, there is nothing about it that makes you a better human being, a better parent, or closer to God. Sometimes the best that can be done is to accept that something is not working and do your best to carefully pick up the pieces and go forward, toward a happier future.