A Divorce Portrait
July 15, 2008 1:15 PM   Subscribe

Your feel-bad story for the day: as a follow-up to this, true love evidently doesn't conquer all. That having been said, your feel-good story for the day: this guy has freaking amazing powers of emotional recuperation ...
posted by WCityMike (65 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Looks like I picked the wrong day to stop smoking crack.
My heart aches for all of these young people.
posted by Dizzy at 1:19 PM on July 15, 2008


We all have those powers. It is the lack of trust in those powers which is the greatest obstacle to recovery from emotional trauma and taking further risks in one's life.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:23 PM on July 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


The homecoming is a triumph. He is a hero...

Homer: That Timmy is a real hero!
Lisa: How do you mean, Dad?
Homer: Well, he fell down a well, and... he can't get out.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:23 PM on July 15, 2008 [6 favorites]


Let us hope that the arseholes who wanted to somehow make this story into feel-good pro-war "ain't America grand" propaganda aren't matched by arseholes who want to somehow make it into anti-war "oh the terrible costs of war" propaganda. Let the poor bastards be.
posted by yoink at 1:27 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think we should stop calling them 'poor bastards' as well. Seems like they're both getting on alright.
posted by kingbenny at 1:29 PM on July 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


This is none of our business.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 1:30 PM on July 15, 2008 [11 favorites]


If it's not our business now, it also wasn't our business when they got married. It can't be both ways, unfortunately.
posted by yhbc at 1:35 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think we should stop calling them 'poor bastards' as well. Seems like they're both getting on alright.

I meant it in the sense of "poor bastards living their lives under the pressure of a media system relentless in search of easily 'moralized' stories." I think the part that really got me was this:

Going into the marriage? I’d never been married before. I think we were okay. The wedding – it was so planned. There was this thing... ” He breaks off and gets up to retrieve the framed certificate. It’s from the state of Illinois declaring his wedding a state holiday. “To call something like that off...”

Poor bastards seems about right to me.
posted by yoink at 1:36 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


It’s a different life. Whoever I marry doesn’t have to work – I get paid in VA [Veterans Affairs] benefits. We never have to worry about money.

I don't think any young marriage could survive this, disfigurement or no. True love? Bullshit. It was a simplified stereotype perpetuated by outside pressures (such as award-winning photographs). True love is about sacrifice. Something that idle hands will never experience.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 1:37 PM on July 15, 2008


I should clarify - that sentiment was directed entirely at the wife. For the soldier I have nothing but respect.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 1:40 PM on July 15, 2008


I meant it in the sense of "poor bastards living their lives under the pressure of a media system relentless in search of easily 'moralized' stories."

Yeah I can understand that. I guess one thing I took away from the story, though, is there is very little reason for pity here, and that seemed like pity. Carry on.
posted by kingbenny at 1:50 PM on July 15, 2008


A relationship with a lot of complicating factors, for sure. I hope they both find happiness.
posted by never used baby shoes at 1:58 PM on July 15, 2008


it just would have taken longer. “There were plenty of things I did wrong. Everyday-life stuff. Stuff boys do and girls hate.

Yeah, it's sad, but not really all that unexpected. I mean, sure his disfigurement probably played into it a little bit, but these kids got married really young, in between stretches of them being separated for a long time, and that is just a recipe for failure.

It's good that it seem mostly amicable.
posted by quin at 1:58 PM on July 15, 2008


I don't know whether to rage or weep at the knowledge that this man's story is multiplied by thousands. Thousands of faces, arms, legs, and minds burned away by the war. Thousands of lives broken and futures stolen. All that daily ongoing tragedy on top of those thousands who were killed outright and the countless many more who are unknowingly doomed to die yet. And that's just counting the American soldiers.

All that cost, so blithely and casually incurred by our "Leaders." And what is the benefit gained?

Damn them to hell.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 1:59 PM on July 15, 2008 [5 favorites]


I mean, sure his disfigurement probably played into it a little bit, but these kids got married really young, in between stretches of them being separated for a long time, and that is just a recipe for failure.

True. Very sad, hope they can both move on in healthy ways.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:02 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


They emerged from the marriage with warmth and affection for each other – not anger and recrimination.

That's pretty damn impressive. It's disappointing the marriage didn't work, but it's not a huge surprise. Thanks for the post.
posted by languagehat at 2:04 PM on July 15, 2008


Beat me to it - I was going to post it earlier today, but I couldn't find the original post about the couple.
posted by mrbill at 2:12 PM on July 15, 2008


I've read numbers as high as 85% for the divorce rate of wounded veterans.

My ex-boyfriend is a US Marine who went to Iraq a few times. He never received significant physical wounds, but I can identify with not thinking of him as the person he is at that moment, but who he used to be when you first knew him or fell in love with him. It takes a hell of a lot more than love, and I don't blame her (them) for not being able to do it.
posted by lullaby at 2:23 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is none of our business.

I wish this statement were true. Nice blinders you got there, though.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:25 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


The only person who possibly has the right to judge this young woman for having left is someone else who has spent a year taking care of a husband with such severe injuries whom she barely knew when she got married at 18.

18!!! Jeez, people. It is terrible for both of them and a real tribute that they are amicable. How many people in their 30's with no injuries manage to divorce that way?

I wish them both the best-- but I can certainly understand why she could not manage and absolutely cannot judge her for it.
posted by Maias at 2:25 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is there a link to the original photo? I can't seem to find it on the World Press site.
posted by arcticwoman at 2:26 PM on July 15, 2008


Yes; in the Marine Wedding section of the photographer's site.
posted by yhbc at 2:29 PM on July 15, 2008


arcticwoman: Ty and Renee
posted by lullaby at 2:29 PM on July 15, 2008


Hasty, ill-advised marriages are pretty much the norm among young soldiers, aren't they?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:36 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hasty, ill-advised marriages are pretty much the norm among young soldiers, aren't they?

If it was good enough for Grandpa and Grandma, it is good enough for us.
posted by Muddler at 2:40 PM on July 15, 2008


Maybe. But does that preclude some empathy, Optimus?
posted by jonmc at 2:41 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Amicable divorces are against the norm in general, I suspect.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:41 PM on July 15, 2008


When I first saw their wedding photograph, I was reminded of The Best Years of Our Lives. The Homer Parrish character is so real and so conflicted that even today you can feel what a groundbreaking film it must have been. As a narrative, the story is hackneyed. Homer's long-suffering girlfriend Wilma loves him despite his amputations and his depression and their marriage resolves all the plot's tension. Despite its narrative simplicity, the film was tremendously powerful for its time. It dealt forthrightly with what would come to be called PTSD. It showed the emotional and physical disfigurements of war unflinchingly, and it affirmed the entire range of responses these could provoke.

Alas, the "happily ever after" end of the film doesn't ring true, which is why Ziegel's wedding photo struck me as the same theme depicted in a realistic mode. The look on his new bride's face seemed like the expression Wilma could not show in the film. And I was left thinking that, instead of inevitable wave of combat dramas that is soon to come, today we need another The Best Years of Our Lives.

We need to see horrible disfigurement and emotional trauma. We need to think through, as a society, the costs of that and the tasks ahead. We need to learn how to move beyond simplistic narratives of heroism and triumph and to see representations of persistence and constancy dignified. To be sure, there are many reasons why these two young people might have split up. But it's absurd to think that Ziegel's wounds played no part. Our culture failed these people by not giving them a model of how they might endure such trauma. It doesn't take another film, obviously. But it certainly takes more than a tableful of pill bottles and a framed certificate from the State of Illinois.
posted by felix betachat at 2:44 PM on July 15, 2008


If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.
posted by Avenger at 2:45 PM on July 15, 2008 [5 favorites]


Maybe. But does that preclude some empathy, Optimus?
posted by jonmc at 2:41 PM on July 15


It has nothing to do with empathy. I'd have been surprised if the marriage lasted more than three years even if Ziegel hadn't been disfigured.

I have nothing against hasty, ill-advised army dude marriages: I'm the grandchild of just such a pairing like pretty much everyone here.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:46 PM on July 15, 2008


Everyone in that article comes off as pretty decent folk. Tyler has more strength than I would have had. And anyone who resents Renee for...whatever--I can't even imagine what it is you think her failing might be--read a different article than the one I did.
posted by maxwelton at 2:51 PM on July 15, 2008 [5 favorites]


Does he have amazing powers of emotional recuperation, or does he have morphine and "don't kill your wife pills"? My money is on the latter.
posted by cmonkey at 2:52 PM on July 15, 2008


It has nothing to do with empathy.

I don't know. regardless of the recklessness of their marraige, I stil feel for them as a human being, is what I'm saying.
posted by jonmc at 2:52 PM on July 15, 2008


Maybe. But does that preclude some empathy, Optimus?

Empathy for someone who has chosen to be in the public eye? Who are you and what have you done with the real jonmc?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:07 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anecdotally, my fiancé was on a submarine during peacetime between the first Gulf War and the present one, and he says the divorce rate of submariners was staggeringly high. These guys weren't even at war, and while being a submariner carries a certain amount of danger, it's a different danger than being on the surface. You don't get injured and come home, you just drown and die. So I'm reluctant to pin any of their divorce on the war injury.
posted by desjardins at 3:13 PM on July 15, 2008


pinky, I'd say a disabled war veteran trumps a pop star like Britney in terms of empathy, if that's what you're driving at.
posted by jonmc at 3:16 PM on July 15, 2008


Damn, I would really, really like to buy Ty a beer and sit down to chat with him sometime. Seriously.
posted by rollbiz at 3:25 PM on July 15, 2008


rollbiz: ditto, but for Renee. (Well, for Ty too, but she's so scared of people thinking she's a horrible person, and I really, really suspect she's not.)

Poor kids.
posted by kalimac at 3:38 PM on July 15, 2008


also, incidents like this are why seemingly corny songs like 'Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town,' were popular. Mawkish or not, it's an accurate portrait of some peoples' lives.
posted by jonmc at 3:49 PM on July 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


kalimac- Absolutely, I was just thinking more along the lines of wanting to get some kind of insight as to what, besides the pills, allows for that level of stoicism and balance. People can make all the comments they want about his meds, but there's tons of people who have been through less, take similar meds, and are still mental disasters.

I just think he sounds like a very cool guy.

I also feel for Renee, and I would love to hear her story. Too bad she (apparently) wasn't comfortable talking about it, but I can't blame her.
posted by rollbiz at 3:57 PM on July 15, 2008


It's a shame what people do for the sake of jingoism.
posted by Dave Faris at 4:01 PM on July 15, 2008


I could swear this was a double because I know I read the story about the divorce and how they are doing now. I can't for the life of me find it now. What a remarkable story. They were indeed too young with a major disaster imposed on top of them. It shouldn't be a surprise that their marriage couldn't last.
posted by etaoin at 4:20 PM on July 15, 2008


“He’s a farmer, he works for the phone company, he’s in garbage disposal, he’s in construction?” These men are men. Not a metrosexual in sight.

What a sad, anti-masculist statement - that you have to be some kind of salt of the earth blue collar worker to be a "real man".

/derail

posted by UbuRoivas at 4:25 PM on July 15, 2008


They emerged from the marriage with warmth and affection for each other – not anger and recrimination. She was there when he needed her most; she showed up and stood by him. That is more than many people will ever have in a marriage. It is something they will always share.

I think this was the whole point of the article, at least for me. Sometimes you don't judge the success of a relationship on its length, or on it staying in a static form. Sound to me like they are still friends, and that's a huge accomplishment. I wouldn't blame her for anything; as her former mother in law says, she was there when he needed her most. We should all be so lucky.
posted by jokeefe at 4:27 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


OK, so we're told at the end, to make us feel better, that they feel "warmth and affection" for each other, yet he's on "don't kill your wife" pills. And if all was well, I think she might have wanted to talk to the hack herself.

I can almost smell the vaseline on the lens. This is just as sad as it looked initially, people.
posted by imperium at 5:13 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I should carry around a copy of this story, rolled up, to beat over the head of every pro-war person I meet. Or every person who voted for Bush the second time for any reason.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:13 PM on July 15, 2008


On the one hand, I wanna make some sort of snark about how this will be blamed on gay marriage somehow; on the other hand, I kind of feel like this is one of those stories that actually does have a happy ending, where two adults realize that they're not meant to be married and so separate without acrimony or recriminations.
posted by klangklangston at 5:27 PM on July 15, 2008


Man, if I had married the person I was dating at 18, we would have been hard pressed to make it work. If I had married the person I was dating at 18, then she went away and had an extreme life changing experience, then came back and the whole world was watching us try to make it work...man, that is one shitty hand of cards to be dealt.

I don't fault anyone for anything here except the fuckers that started this war. These are *kids* who have no idea what the fuck they are doing, every decision they've made seems to be rooted in trying to do the right thing.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 5:45 PM on July 15, 2008


I should carry around a copy of this story, rolled up, to beat over the head of every pro-war person I meet. Or every person who voted for Bush the second time for any reason.

Didn't you read the article? They divorced because of his boy-habits (watching Nascar, and maybe leaving his socks all over the floor) and personality differences, like how she enjoys country music, but he likes rock.

I really can't see why you feel the need to drag Bush into a simple story about young people with different tastes & interests rushing into marriage too quickly.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:55 PM on July 15, 2008


Didn't you read the article? They divorced because of his boy-habits (watching Nascar, and maybe leaving his socks all over the floor) and personality differences, like how she enjoys country music, but he likes rock.

I really can't see why you feel the need to drag Bush into a simple story about young people with different tastes & interests rushing into marriage too quickly.


I'm going to paste this response into my dictionary next to the entry for "disingenuous".
posted by jokeefe at 6:06 PM on July 15, 2008


Wait a second. I need to recalibrate for sarcasm, don't I.
posted by jokeefe at 6:13 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Right? Right?
posted by jokeefe at 6:13 PM on July 15, 2008


No, I can see no reason why your sarcasm meter would be out of whack.

Seriously, now: the article itself pushed that line so hard, doing everything it could to present the breakup as being about nothing much more than personal lifestyle differences, tiptoeing around the elephant in the room, which might just have something to do with sexuality, as a totally uninformed, left-of-field stab in the dark.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:27 PM on July 15, 2008


Cite, Avenger, just 'cuz a few people may not get the reference . And I think the "elephant in the room" is so obvious in this case that to mention it would be belaboring the point.
posted by Floydd at 7:05 PM on July 15, 2008


Or what jokeefe said.
posted by Floydd at 7:07 PM on July 15, 2008


We all have those powers. It is the lack of trust in those powers which is the greatest obstacle to recovery from emotional trauma and taking further risks in one's life.

Well shit, if that "lack of trust in my own emotional recuperation powers" is preventing me from being horribly disfigured then I can't say it's a bad thing!
posted by delmoi at 7:22 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Didn't you read the article? They divorced because of his boy-habits (watching Nascar, and maybe leaving his socks all over the floor) and personality differences, like how she enjoys country music, but he likes rock.

So you're saying that they got divorced because they didn't think to buy a second TV and some iPods? Marriages routinely survive different entertainment preferences.
posted by delmoi at 7:24 PM on July 15, 2008


hey, don't shoot the messenger! i'm merely quoting what the interviewees were saying.

i think it would be better for them to have called a spade a spade, rather than to come up with some silly disagreement between country & rock music as an explanation for what went wrong.

they gave it a go, it didn't work out, but full points for having hearts in the right place.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:39 PM on July 15, 2008


Yes, it's entirely possible for a marriage to fail in America with neither Bush nor the gays having anything to do with it.

(In this case, Bush is at best, like, tenth level responsible at most. "If not for capitalism, I'd have no papercuts," sort of thinking.)
posted by klangklangston at 9:34 PM on July 15, 2008


the elephant in the room, which might just have something to do with sexuality, as a totally uninformed, left-of-field stab in the dark.

Wait... why do you think Tyler is gay?
posted by FuManchu at 11:00 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


This fact sheet on challenges faced by partners of veterans with PTSD paints a pretty bleak picture, and it's easy to spot many of the problems alluded to in the interviews.

Some symptoms, like anger, irritability, and emotional numbing, may be direct pathways to relationship dissatisfaction. For example, a veteran who cannot feel love or happiness (emotional numbing) may have difficulty feeling lovingly toward a spouse. Alternatively, the relationship discord itself may facilitate the development or exacerbate the course of PTSD. Perhaps the lack of communication, or combative communication, in discordant relationships impedes self-disclosure and the emotional processing of traumatic material, which leads to the onset or maintenance of PTSD.

... The study examined the connection between the cluster of avoidance symptoms and the decreased ability of the person diagnosed with PTSD to express emotion in the relationship. The results of the study suggest that avoidance symptoms, specifically emotional numbing, interfere with intimacy (for which the expression of emotions is required) and contribute to problems in building and maintaining positive intimate relationships.

These symptoms would be crippling to any marriage... and this wasn't really any marriage. They are both so young; had never lived together before; never had the chance to sort out even the most basic issues of co-habitation and partnership; had/have the enormous weight of the physical injuries to deal with, in addition to the emotional damage; and, finally, were in the glare of the spotlight with the incredible burden of everyone's expectations upon them to somehow endow this tragic story with hope and happy-ever-after. The stress of any wedding (just the wedding... much less the marriage itself) can be overwhelming and doubt-making among couples. Can you imagine how this one played out? They were tiny actors on the national stage, and they did what they felt they had to do to make everyone happy... but once the cameras were turned off and the medals tucked away, the the proclamations framed, and newspaper articles scrapbooked - they were left alone to struggle with issues that erstwhile happy partners of 20 years would find shattering.

They're both still holding up like heroes, really, in the face of what they have endured.
posted by taz at 11:19 PM on July 15, 2008


Am I the only one who thought this was poorly written? It's a compelling story but I wish some other journalist was covering it. The author takes the angle that he's looking past the postcard but it's still way too saccharine. The last two sentences, "That is more than many people will ever have in a marriage. It is something they will always share." made me cringe. And if the people involved don't want to talk too much about it, as might be expected considering the terribly invasive nature of the subject, then maybe the best choice would be to print an article cut by, oh say, 60 - 70%. Maybe that's expecting a little bit much considering that a 1/4 of the new releases I see at the bookstore look like they could be distilled into magazine articles without too great a loss.

Also, to be a bit petty, this story didn't have much to do with true love failing to conquer all.

Part of my reaction to the writing might be because there is nothing to really take away. It's a complex situation, and I'm not interested in making or hearing a judgment. It leaves me feeling like a voyeur, I agree with Stonestock Relentless, this is none of our business. Perhaps better coverage of the whole story would consist of the photo essay, 'Marine Wedding', a copy of one of the announcements of the state holiday, and a couple of sentences about the marriage coming to an end.
posted by BigSky at 11:44 PM on July 15, 2008


"And the young people ask, 'What are they marching for?' And I ask myself the same question."
posted by octobersurprise at 6:01 AM on July 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


apt reference, octobersurprise.

here's the original Eric Bogle version, with images of Aussies in Gallipoli, on which the song was based.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:37 AM on July 16, 2008


If only someone could have seen this coming.

Reading that thread today certainly is interesting.

The thing is, EVERYONE could see it coming. It's just not polite to say.

Even in a pseudo-anonymous internet forum like MeFi, we have to protect our pseudo-anonymous reputations. But everyone in that thread knew, on at least an intellectual level if not emotional, that this marriage had literally a 1 in a 1000 chance of success.

Do you know how unhappy an 18 year old girl would have to be to look that unhappy in a wedding picture?

By his own admission in this article, they didn't even want to get married, but felt they couldn't stop it. He is ambiguous about whether they both wanted to stop it or just one of them.

So, it turns out that people who look miserable in their wedding pictures probably are miserable. How unexpected.

They couldn't even hold it together for a year once the TV cameras left. A year.

And they had the audacity to blame it on music preferences and being financially setup to where neither had to work.

I think having a year off work would make me closer to my spouse, not more distant.

And yes, I am a dick, so I'll save someone the trouble. But I was also right. Which is really more important anyway, especially here.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:07 AM on July 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


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