Waiting for D-Day

Mary and Dave are getting divorced after 25 years of marriage. My question is, what's the rush? Why did they wait 25 years?
Waiting for D-Day

Photo: Larry Sultan

Mary and dave are getting divorced after 25 years of marriage. My question is, what's the rush? Why did they wait 25 years?

I don't want to get into specifics here, like Dave's billion-dollar putter collection or Mary's aspiration to sell her pottery at the next craft show. I don't want to tell you that Dave's goal in life is to upgrade his home theater and that Mary's goal is to find herself, especially far away from Dave.

I don't want to tell you these details because one of the first things you learn in adult life is that the only relationship you can judge is your own.

Some people scrap like dogs and cats and still manage to stay together; on the other hand, a quiet argument about nothing can break a couple into two, with nothing left in common except legal bills. Relationships are tricky things, and it's easy to lapse into tired formulas like "it's all about the money," or "it's all about listening," or "it's all about getting an unattractive but effective housekeeper, secretary, or gardener."

Despite his sports car, golf membership, and HD plasma screen, Dave is a pretty bitter fellow. He says he had no early warning that Mary was unhappy. He thought their relationship was peachy keen. "Geez, a little warning and maybe I would have tried to change."

Mary says that she's been biding her time, waiting for a chance to escape. She was tired of the endless grind of her role. She not only works full-time, but she looks after the household.

"Listen, the shopping, cooking, cleaning, care-taking – isn't there more to life than back-stopping a man? I need time for me."

"Time for you?" shouts Dave. "Have you been in prison for 25 years? We've got a nice house, great friends, and a place at the ski hill. I didn't realize you were suffering so much."

"You don't get it," replies Mary. "You do whatever you want. I'm tired of picking up your damn socks."

How can both people believe they are getting the short end of the stick? Can these mid-life divorces be about both a woman's desire for self-actualization and a man's shock that emotional laziness does not a marriage make?

"Nobody bothered to tell me that the rules had changed," says Dave. "Nobody told me that women have all the choices and that all men get is combat duty."

"Let me be perfectly honest," says Mary, "I want to live life in a meaningful way. I want to be fully alive. I want to enjoy all that life has to offer. I'm not interested in being someone's wife."

"Nobody told me that ‘wife' was a nasty four-letter word," says Dave.

It's nothing new to say that men and women can fundamentally misunderstand each other's needs, but it may be interesting to begin mapping out a new territory for marriage, especially if marriage is to survive beyond children and mortgages and sleek waistlines.

Is it any surprise to you that, according to a recent piece in The Globe and Mail, the majority of divorces above the age of 40 are initiated by women?

Is it any surprise to you that marriage is one factor that statisticians say has proven to increase our life-spans? Just as we spurn it, we discover that marriage is the best thing for us.

"I'd rather have a short happy life than a long miserable one," quips Mary.

"That can be arranged, honey."

As more and more people separate, choose to live alone, or decide not to be married in the first place, marriage becomes the exception, not the norm.

Traditional gender roles have changed but many couples are still confused because they don't know what the new rules are. What does he do? What does she do? Who decides about the position of the toilet seat? How do we find the right balance between our own needs and the needs of our partner?

Baby-boomers are not only facing retirement surrounded by issues such as the "meaning of my life" and the "legacy of my life," but they also have to pay for the Darn Good Life, and we all know it ain't cheap.

Downsizing is no longer a top priority for so-called empty nesters. Making your success obvious has moved, with a bullet, to number one on the list. Thus, the custom wine cellar business is booming. Luxury automobiles are selling like hot cakes (the list of luxury items that were once optional and that have now become mandatory is endless).

Expectations concerning retirement have changed too. No longer do we want to pay off our mortgages while we save for retirement. No, we want it all.

And we want it NOW.

Everyday, the luxo-monoculture slaps us in the face like our friend's spanking new convertible or whatever else your friend has but you don't have, and it cannot help but make us incredibly dissatisfied with our lives.

Who has the power to resist the pressure to make our consumption so conspicuous?

"We're in debt up to our eyeballs because Mary wanted the big rancher with the lake view," says Dave. "You just couldn't stop competing with the ladies at the club, could you? You wanted a bigger stove, more granite, a killer powder room."

"Yeah? Who bought the turbo, the saltwater pool, the steam shower, the electronics? Nobody twisted your arm, Dave. We both bought into the lifestyle of impatience."

"And now it's not good enough for you, Mary?"

"Sorry, Dave. I've got no time for it."

"Mary, go ahead and dump me by the curb, but don't think that your life is suddenly going to be instantly different. The problem, Mary, is you. It's not me. Not having me around anymore won't be the quick fix you think it will be."

"It'll be a nice start."


"No, thank you, Dave. It's nice that you're finally looking me in the eye and talking to me.

Don't forget for the past 25 years I've been a work widow, a sports widow, and lately, an internet widow. Dave, we've been divorced for a long time; you just never bothered to notice because the services weren't discontinued."

"Darling, ‘service' isn't exactly what I'd call last night. You've been phoning it in for a dog's age."

Some say divorce can be a good thing. It can allow people to start again. A new perspective can be gained. Mary may travel the world, make love to a stranger on the beach, and sell her awful pottery to world fame – or she may wonder what she and Dave could have done years ago to make their marriage work.

Would it have been worth the effort?

Dave may lease a twin-turbo, date a couple of hot women with screaming kids, spend a couple grand on space-age golf clubs and he may wonder, every day, perhaps, what he could have done to better support Mary's aspirations.

When people feel a lump on their body, they see a doctor as soon as possible. When people sleep next to what they think is a lump, they'll wait five, ten, maybe 25 years to do something.

When I come to bed, often late at night, sometimes I listen to my wife breathing, and I think to myself how lucky I am, and then, as I lay my head on the pillow, I wonder if I am really the partner she needs me to be. Or am I just a lump?

_Stan Chung is a writer and Associate Dean of Arts and Foundational Programs at Okanagan College in Kelowna, Canada. [email protected]

52 comments on the article “Waiting for D-Day”

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To say that consumerism caused this is to say the tail wags the dog. Consumerism is a cause for the destruction of our planet, but is merely symptomatic of our society.P Both parties were guilty of misbehaviour, but consumerism was only a mask to hide it.P That's what we humans like: a solution we can buy... Like fear ;

Rob Moir

The consumer ratrace blinds people to the fact that love isn't about buying someone nice things. A small act of kindness and love will echo longer than a large and expensive gesture.

Mike Smith

Marriage should be a commitment by BOTH people involved, not a domination of one over the other.


Sadly, this looks just like the relationship my parents are having. That's why I'm not going to get married. Sorry dudes, but I'm off the market.


Sounds like that old Tubes song...

What do you want from life
To kidnap an heiress and threaten her with a knife
What do you want from life
To get cable TV and watch it every night
There you sit a lump in your chair
Where do you sleep
and what do you wear
when you're sleeping
What do you want from life
an Indian guru to show you the inner light
What do you want from life
a meaningless love affair
with a girl that you met tonight
How can you tell when you're doin' alright
Does your bank account swell
While you're dreaming at night
How do you know when you're really in love
Do violins play when you're touching the one
That you're loving

What do you want from life
Someone to love and somebody you can trust
What do you want from life
to try and be happy
While you do the nasty things you must

What do you want from life
What do you want from life
What do you want from life
What do you want from life

Well you can't have that,
but if you're an American citizen
you are entitled to:
a heated kidney shaped pool,
a microwave oven don't watch the food cook,
a dynagym, I'll personally demonstrate it in the privacy of your own home,
a king size titanic unsinkable Molly Brown waterbed with polybendum,
a foolproof plan
and an airtight alibi,
real simulated indian jewelry,
a Gucci shoetree,
a years supply of antibiotics,
a personally autographed picture of Randy Mantooth,
and Bob Dylan's new unlisted phone number,
a beautifully restored Third Reich swizzle stick,
Rosemary's baby!
a dream date in kneepads with Paul Williams,
a new Matador,
a new mastadon,
a Maverick,
a Mustang,
a Montego,
a Merc Montclaire,
a Mark 4,
A meteor,
A Mercedes,
An MG,
or a Malibu,
a Mork Moriarty,
a Masarati,
a Mack truck,
a Mazda,
a new Monza,
or a Moped,
a Winnebago,
hell, a herd of Winnebagos,
we're givin' 'em away,
or how about a MacCullough chain saw,
a Las Vegas wedding,
a Mexican divorce,
a solid gold Kama Sutra coffee cup,
or a baby's arm holding an apple.

The Tubes: What do You Want from Life?


Money is the root of all evil... Nothing on earth will EVER satisfy us. We are tricked into thinking that our posessions mean something. Yet, we can't take them with us when we die. It's funny how wrong our thinking is in society. Maybe if we cared enough about eternity, the small petty things like the plasma tv wouldn't matter as much. The fact that they grew lumpy toward each other seems to be a lack of communication. Tv, radio, keeping up with the Jones's destroys actual living. When's the last time you read a book or enjoyed nature or played with your kids instead of letting them play Nintendo for hours? A lot of people never do, they are content sitting infront of the TV and watching life then they are content in living it. Its sad.


I think marriage is a great thing when partners don't rely on stupid material possessions. Only if the both sides love something that can love them back forevernot kids of course they can fulfill the role of their marriage. And that one thing is God. You can never satisfy your love for God unlike another new car or a house. Find a religion that promotes moderation in everything and that doesn't tell you that you are the power, you are the most important thing in the world. ie; islam, which means submission.


Relationships are always in a state of change and both partners need to keep in touch and its hard work for both parties.


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