I see from the major national news outlets that San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom and his former Victoria's Secret model/currently Court TV legal analyst wife Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom are divorcing. The reason: he's living nearly full time in San Francisco and she's living nearly full time in New York. They claim to still love each other, but the distance is making their marriage impossible.
I was listening to comment on this turn of events on the radio while driving to work this morning. The range of opinions was interesting. Three people were on the air: a gay male host (who may or may not still be single after losing his long time partner to AIDS in the mid-90's), a woman involved with a 400 mile long distance relationship with a man, and a married man. The host largely recused himself from the discussion. The woman felt that a romantic relationship, even a marriage, could survive over distances of thousands of miles. The married man took the opposite view, saying that distance in a dating relationship is one thing, but that kind of distance in a marriage is something else completely.
As I listened, I found myself siding with the married man. To me at least, marriage represents a level of commitment that creates three entities in the relationship between a heterosexual couple: a man, a woman, and the marriage. While the needs of the man and woman are an important part of the whole, their needs must in some ways be subordinate to the needs of the marriage. I find the tension that arises in the creation and maintenance of that arrangement to be part of the both the joy and the struggle of married life.
I tend to feel that an intrinsic part of being married is being with your partner on a day to day basis. You need to deal with any uncomfortable tossing and turning in bed at night. There is always that morning alarm when you both get up at different times. An evening meal is a wonderful thing to share. Choices about time, money, and career must be discussed and mutual agreed upon. In short, it is about taking in everything together.
Now, I do not necessarily mean that a marriage requires spending every waking minute together. I think that kind of time together is something that leads to insanity rather quickly. Mrs. Geek has her hobbies and I have mine. We treasure our time apart each in our own way, but only because we are secure in the knowledge that separation will inevitably end.
I do think that there is a threshold involved, however. Too much time apart forces two people to begin making more and more choices solely based on their individual needs rather than their collective needs. On the radio, the married man and the woman in the long distance relationship differed most on this point. She said that being apart five days a week made their weekends all the more special, fun, and romantic. To me, that sounds more like a very committed type of dating however -- putting in "quality time" with your mate. I've always been a big believer in unstructured, "un-quality" time. If I just wanted "quality time", I would only be a serial dater... not happily married.
The folks on the radio also spent some time debating the traditional gender role-related aspects of the situation. Will Ms. Guilfoyle Newsom be criticized for moving so far away from her husband to pursue career opportunities? Perhaps. Will Mr. Newsom be criticized for letting her go? If he isn't, he should be -- in a very specific way. I think it's great that they both had great opportunities to pursue. I think that their choices were lousy, however.
Looking at my own life, I like to hope that I value Mrs. Geek's career as much as my own because it is very important to her. So, choices made for our marriage need to be made with both our careers in mind. Balancing those needs is not always easy. Our recent discussions about the ins and outs of buying real estate rapidly involved other big issues like careers and children; those discussions often became not only "intense" but also "tense". Yet, we both know that we need to make the choices that are right for our marriage as well as right for the both of us... and so we keep discussing until a decision can be reached that we are both able to live with.
To the soon-to-be ex-Mr.-and-Mrs. Newsom, I say (in my best American vernacular): duh! I think they're both idiots. He should have been very clear about his political aspirations and recognized that such desires force one to be grounded in a particular place. He should have recognized that his wife-to-be did not want this, and looked elsewhere. Likewise, she should have been more clear about her career aspirations and been more sensitive to his. Moving 3000+ miles away for an open-ended unspecified period of time to pursue career goals when your husband can't move is marital suicide in my book. I have the feeling that they were both more just "playing house" than being married... because marriage precludes the choices they made.
But hey, that's just my two cents.
on 2005-01-06 at 12:48 p.m.
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