Robin Wright Penn and Sean Penn are once again in the California divorce system. That state has “no fault” divorce, though I think maybe it should be called “everyone’s at fault and there’s plenty of it to go around” divorce. Whatever. Point is, all you have to do is say you have irreconcilable differences and that’s the end of the story, at least as far as the judge is concerned. When I read the news blurb about the off-again Penn marriage, I wondered just what “differences” they have that are incapable of being “reconciled” such that their 20-year togetherness is kaput.
Seems to me that every couple has gazillions of differences they “reconcile” every day. He’s a dog person, she’s a cat person. He loves eggplant, it makes her gag. She’s crazy about opera, he’s a heavy metal freak. He loves to camp, she’s afraid of bugs. His favorite TV show is demolition derby, hers is Days of our Lives. She loves to scrapbook, he’s into chain saw art. Differences. They make us interesting. And, they sometimes challenge us. She’s Catholic, he’s Jewish—how do you raise the kids? He’s believes in spanking, she doesn’t—how do you discipline the kids? She likes to travel, he’s a homebody—how do you spend vacation time? Challenging, yes. Irreconcilable, no.
So at what point do differences really become irreconcilable? I think it’s the moment when you run out of the energy and desire it takes to do the hard work. There are times when you simply can’t do more, don’t want to do more, and just want out. I get it. I’ve been there. But let’s call a spade a spade, okay? Except in limited situations, e.g., where one refuses to stop smacking the other one around or refuses to give up side nooky, when a couple splits based on “irreconcilable differences” it really means they simply gave up. Maybe this a distinction without a difference, I dunno. But I’m thinking that maybe more couples would go that extra mile to work it all out if, when contemplating divorce, they ask themselves, “Are our differences really irreconcilable, or are we quitting?” In my book, it’s okay to quit—no judgment from this quarter—but not to pretend that you’re movin’ on because your differences cannot be reconciled.
As for Robin and Sean, I wish them the best.