July 18, 2002
The Reason Why
So, my divorce is now official. My marriage of three years, eight months is over.
And people love to ask me why we ended it. A cousin, a close friend, my dentist -- they just can't help themselves -- something inside them needs to know. They will pull me aside and whisper, "Vic, what happened, what went wrong? Who wanted it?" And my standard reply is, "It just didn't work out."
I used to think that people got divorced because someone had an affair, was an alcoholic, a gambler, a heroin addict. We never had such problems.
One of the most difficult parts of my divorce has been accepting that a marriage may legitimately end even if the reasons don't make for a titillating movie of the week or for a fascinating episode of "Oprah." In fact, most marriages end for less dramatic reasons. We had reasons. Our reasons.
In addition to a civil divorce, we also had a Jewish divorce, known as a get. This made our divorce official in the eyes of Jewish law, allowing a rabbi to remarry each of us to another Jew.
On Oct. 25, 1999, I drove to the University of Judaism to meet with my wife and the Rabbinical Assembly -- a group of rabbis who were to give us our Jewish divorce.
Three graying rabbis and a young scribe warmly greeted me as I entered a small classroom. Chalkboards lined the walls. The school setting seemed most appropriate for the occasion. My divorce had become the biggest test of my life.
After several minutes of quiet loneliness, the door slowly opened and my wife appeared. I was happy to see her. At the time, I didn't realize -- this would be our final "date" as a couple. She was wearing a pair of hip new glasses I had never seen. Usually, we went shopping for her glasses together. She looked pretty.
The Get ceremony was relatively simple. No band played, there were no classy black napkins fancily showing off our combined, glittery looping initials. There were no toasts, no videographers, no best men or bridesmaids. The ending is not as much fun as the beginning.
First came the perfunctory paperwork. We gave the rabbis our Hebrew names, our parents' Hebrew names and our dates of birth. A scribe listened on, furiously writing away our marital fate.
Then, a rabbi asked us to stand up, face each other and look into each other's eyes. I was unable to stare into my wife's blue-green eyes -- afraid of what I might see. And she was unable to peer into mine. Here we stood, just inches apart, as we had under the chuppah, nearly four years earlier. Today, no glass was to be stepped on and shattered -- only life dreams and "forever" expectations.
My eyes settled on my wife's soft, familiar neck and comforting shoulders. My heart filled with a warm feeling of "togetherness" mixed with a sense of ice cold loneliness. Yes, this was a terribly sad situation. But there was one consolation: I was sharing it with my best friend.
In one hand I tightly clutched the freshly hand-written document the scribe had just completed, as I repeated Hebrew and English lines after the rabbi. "This is your bill of divorce," I said to my wife. "Please accept this bill of divorce. And with it you are divorced from me -- as of this moment. And you are now free to marry anyone you wish."
I placed the document in my wife's outreached, cupped hands, and she symbolically walked four paces as a sign of her acceptance of the divorce. From this point forward, she would walk the rest of her time on earth without me.
My wife was a loving, beautiful, precious woman. I thank her for all the warm smiles, sweet laughs and rich life memories she gave me. We never had children or bought a fancy house. We did not grow old and die together. But we did spend a special part of our lives sharing, giving and growing. And that time will be ours forever.
The reasons marriages end are as private, personal and often as baffling as the reasons they begin.
I will not tell you what was wrong with my marriage. But I will tell you what was right -- and why I will always love the woman who was my wife.
TV writer Vic Cohen is single, living in Sherman Oaks and can be reached at email@example.com.