It's Like a Black Fly in Your Chardonnay

[Content Note: Discussion of ending relationships; abuse.]

That is, not ironic. At all.

screen cap pf headline and story tease reading: 'Jen Heger / RADAR: Ironic Much?  VH1's 'Couples Therapy' Host Dr. Jenn Berman Divorces  —  VH1′s Couples Therapy host Dr. Jenn Berman has been granted a divorce from her husband of over 12 years, is exclusively reporting.  —  The popular licensed psychotherapist and author of several books… '

I don't know who Dr. Jenn Berman is, and I've never watched Couples Therapy, so I have no idea whether she is a competent doctor or whether the show is garbage—although, based on VH1's typical programming and the inherent subversion of a healthy therapeutic process care of its international broadcast, I can make some guesses.

But Dr. Jenn Berman's professional competency and the exact nature of the show itself is beside my point.

Which is this: No, it is not ironic that a relationship expert's relationship would come to an end. For many reasons. Like, for example, that being able to observe dysfunction and prescribe solutions for it doesn't necessarily translate into being good at relationships oneself. They are two separate skills. Or, as another example, being a relationship expert doesn't magically inure you from abuse.

But most importantly, there is this: A crucial part of being good at relationships is knowing when to end them.

Til death do us part may sound romantic as hell if you're in a great and fulfilling relationship you want to be in, but if you're in a relationship that makes you chronically and unresolvably unhappy, or in which you're unsafe, it's sadistic codswallop.

We have this pernicious idea that staying together, at all costs, is the only way to make a romantic relationship a "success." Anything less than the long haul is failure.

But letting go can be an act of love, too.

And going can be a necessary act of self-preservation. Preserving one's safety, or sanity, or sense of self.

Our only cause for public concern is when people cannot safely leave the relationships they need and/or want to leave. That is a failure. A community failure to create safe options for victims of abuse.

A relationship counselor getting divorced is not an occasion for public concern or judgment. And it's certainly not ironic. People go to relationship counselors for many reasons, one of which is helping them navigate a decision about whether they can and should stay together. Only in a culture where we imagine that staying together, at all costs, is the only conceivable success, and that a counselor's job is to find a way to make that happen, at any cost, would we find it "ironic" that a counselor would herself end a relationship.

Forever is romantic only when it's desirable. Otherwise, it's the cruelest curse.

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