I just watched the movie, Marriage Story, on Netflix and I had mixed feelings about it. I can relate to it, and I think that marriage could have been saved and had a happy ending. Only if they listened to their marriage mediator — to read their list about each other to each other, because on that list all they had were good things about one another.
The story revolves around the marital situation of Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johanson), their on-going divorce and how they were trying to protect their child in as much as they can from their break up.
Eleven years ago, I was in that situation. Getting out of the unhappy marriage, and yet trying to protect each other from being hurt and most importantly trying to keep the environment peaceful and normal as possible for our child.
I remember those days when my ex-husband and I were doing our best to be civil with each other. Like Charlie and Nicole, we wanted to separate amicably so that our daughter will not feel the tension. It was a mirror of my story in terms of the civility and protection we had for our child. We didn’t want her to feel the animosity that is growing in between us. Our child was the anchor that held us from crashing and crushing each other.
Lessons learned from the Marriage Story
Reconciliation is possible.
In the film, the couple was still showing attachment and care for each other. It showed that their marriage was fixable. The challenge their marriage was going through could have been resolved. There was still a solid reason for them to sit down and talk it through, and meet in the middle, maybe compromise for the sake of the child, and keep the family together.
Maybe had both of them gave the mediator or counselling a chance, the marriage got repaired. On their lists, both of them only had positive things to say about each other.
Had Nicole read her note about him, where she has written all the meaningful contributions of her husband to the family and how she admired him in many ways… Then it may have revived and reminded them of the reasons why they were married after all. Couple closes the door to reconciliation when pride takes over humility.
Divorce is painful.
As someone who experienced it, I say no matter what the reason is, divorce will always hurt. It doesn’t matter, whether you initiated it or you have all the valid reasons to leave the marriage it still hurts. This is why most often than not, in real life, each party becomes vengeful. In the movie, Nicole, although she initiated the divorce, there were times she was shown crying.
The court process is dirty.
When a marital conflict arises and you seek the help of lawyers, then it escalates and turns ugly. In the movie, the desire of both camps to settle their situation “quietly” or in an “agreeable” manner didn’t happen when the lawyers got involved.
Instead, it dug into their ugliness. Both camps were digging into the most negatives and the ugliest character or deeds they can use as ammunition against the other. Those “dirts” were used in court — not for the benefit of building the family back, but for the lawyers to prove who is better, and who will end up as the winner – in the name of protecting their client, and just doing their job.
A troubled marriage, when it reaches the court, it only breaks down relationship, never to rebuild a family.
There’s no full cut-off from ex-spouses.
If there’s a child out of that union, no divorce can really provide a complete disconnection from the other. As long as they exist in the child’s life, there will always be an opportunity to meet and see eye to eye. What more if they are co-parenting?
Communication is important.
It is the bridge that holds the couple together in marriage. When the characters in the movie refused to express themselves in a truthful manner, then the collapse of the family happened.
The child is caught in the middle.
The majority of children will want to be with their parents. However, at the time of divorce, the children are put in a situation where they have to favour one parent from the other. They get deprived of the presence and participation of one of the parents in some events in their lives.
Pushes you to be unjust.
When you allow others to decide for you, there’s a tendency that you become unjust to your child and your ex-spouse. There was a part in the movie where Nicole’s lawyer was telling Nicole how she successfully got 20% more of the time that was supposedly for her son’s father. Nicole didn’t intend to be unjust to her ex-husband but her lawyer wanted to prove she was winning, and as her lawyer said, Nicole has to just “enjoy” her win. Yes, she wins, but her son misses that time with his father. Who really won?
How to Keep the Family Intact
After my failed marriage, I believe I have learned my lesson and now realize that there are ways to keep a family together.
Among the things I keep in mind is that “Devil celebrates and is most pleased when breaking up families.” Family is the pillar of our society. The destruction of a family can bring more damage to society at large. If we don’t safeguard our family, then what will happen to our society?
Jabir reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, Satan places his throne over the water and he sends out his troops. The closest to him in rank are the greatest at causing tribulations. One of them says: I have done this and this. Satan says: You have done nothing. Another one says: I did not leave this man alone until I separated him from his wife. Satan embraces him and he says: You have done well.” (Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2813)
There is no guarantee that a marriage will last forever, it is a choice we have to make. Do we want this relationship to stay? If we choose to strengthen the family relationship, then we should consider taking actions toward keeping it strong, in shaa Allah (God willing). Here are some ways that I think can help.
I mentioned above how the couple deprived their family of the chance to be rebuilt when Nicole refused to read her list. When she refused to acknowledge the goodness in her husband, the admiration she has for him. Talk it over, whatever the issue is, there will always be a solution.
This was big in the movie. Nicole was unhappy in the marriage, wanting to pursue a career that would need for her to move to a LA. Meanwhile, her husband is managing a company in New York, and is not willing to move with her. There must have been a way to accommodate both their ambitions, without having to destroy the family.
Back to basic.
Realizing the role of each in the family. The husband is to provide, and the wife is to care for the home. Both husband and wife must maintain their roles. The conflict often arises when the wife wants to pursue a career. At instances like this, I believe the husband should support her and help his wife find ways to resolve issues that may get in her way. However, the wife should realize too, what her primary role is in the family.
In Islam, there are many aspects of marriage that are a source or opportunities of gaining rewards, or a way to please God. For this reason, it is worth it to find ways to keep your marriage intact in addition to keeping your family whole, protecting the children from the negative effect of a divorce.
It is important that we acknowledge and accept each other’s weaknesses, by doing so, we will not expect what our spouses to be what they are not. Expecting them to be someone else or do something they are incapable of is a source of disappointment and frustration that will only fuel resentment.
Forgive and Forgive.
We are not perfect, we should be ready to forgive our spouses and ourselves for whatever shortcomings that may come our way. There should be no room for high pride that will only serve as a barrier for you to resolve any issue.
I am sure there are more ways to keep a family intact, and it works depending on what our family situation is. For now, these are the ways I can think of that is working for my family. Please feel free to comment and add what is working for you.