absoluteM gives her perspective on this apparently controversial new K drama starring Kang So-ra and Jang Seung-jo about a divorced couple who are lawyers specializing in divorce. I chime in to give my two cents on this compelling drama and pontificate more broadly about marriage. We also speculate briefly about Jang Seung-jo’s script choices.
As mentioned, I had only partially seen Episode 3 at the time of the recording. Since then I have caught up with all the available episodes (up to Episode 4), I’m now in the position of making better informed comments. Episode 3 was a bit of a downer. Neither of the leads were at their best. But without it, Episode 4 wouldn’t have been able to weave its magic. Despite the revelations that emerged at the start of Episode 4, I’m not convinced that Eun-beom asked Ha-ra for a divorce just because he felt suffocated by the encroachment on his personal space or the lack of respect for said space. I suspect that there’s something else going on in his headspace that hasn’t been said. With the way he reacted to his client’s daughter’s accident, children must feature in his thought process. It also seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. The thought of bringing children into the world seems to have put the fear of God in him.
It’s true that Eun-beom could have spoken up at various points and raised objections to the encroachment. But clearly he doesn’t care for confrontations and postponed dealing with conflict as much as he could. I use the word “postpone” quite deliberately here. Because conflict avoided has a way of rearing its ugly head at inopportune moments. Now that he is working with her or even against her, the old festering wounds have resurfaced. Divorce hasn’t been the solution but a kind of trade-off. All of his issues about being in a long-term home building relationship are simmering below the surface. His insecurities, his past traumas have merely been swept under the carpet. This isn’t to say that Ha-ra who obviously just wanted to spend more time with him and naturally have a family with him was blameless in the entire affair. The problem with Eun-beom is that after a while all he could see were the negatives in their relationship and none of the positives. He felt stifled because in part he stifled his own vision by not articulating the anguish he was feeling with grace and honesty.
It has been said by people older and wiser than myself that marriage and children have a way of holding up a mirror to character flaws that would otherwise remain hidden. Marriage and kids can be deeply confronting by virtue of the fact that it’s 24/7 with another human being and often with no exit in sight. It is both terrifying and wonderful in that regard. It can be exhausting but it can be character building. Trials can be punishing but they can also be opportunities for growth for all parties concerned. The default position of course is to insist on the rightness of our respective stances to the point of obstinacy. The fear of what commitment demands from all of us can’t be denied but so are the rewards. As the old adage says… indelicately… No pain, no gain. Moments of crisis can make us… and break us.
That said, the human experience is diverse because of the array of choices on offer. For good or for ill. It used to be that the younger generation would take most of their cues from their elders and avoid obvious pitfalls. Received wisdom is the term that’s often used to talk about universal observations of life as passed down through the ages. These days, most treat life as a laboratory and suffer (to my mind) unnecessary heartache as a result.
It’s clear that both Eun-beom and Ha-ra have suffered as a result of their divorce. Their unresolved issues continue to haunt them. It hasn’t been the “solution” that Eun-beom might have believed it to be because the problems that led to their divorce has never been dealt with at their root. Ha-ra has been living with resentment because she was completely ignorant about what had driven him to that point. Both of them learnt nothing from that experience because the truth was shoved to one side. Unless both parties are truthful, the problems will never be resolved and will continue to visit them no matter how many other times they are married.
In a friendly online exchange someone said to me the other day that “marriage isn’t for everyone”. I didn’t respond to that comment because it would mean starting a prolonged debate that I’m not sure I’m ready to have. On a superficial level… yes… the statement might seem reasonable… banal even. But it’s not a statement I would agree with mainly because it assumes that we are all working from the same understanding of what marriage means. And that seems to me to be the rub. In this day and age of heightened consumerism, what does marriage mean? In fact if one sees oneself as a consumer, it’s not hard to see why the “marriage isn’t for everyone” line makes sense. Take for example the second divorce case featured in the show. In the end, the wife left the husband because she met someone else who said the right things to her, who met her immediate needs. If we were to think that marriage was primarily about two people meeting each other’s needs, then no wonder divorce becomes an easy way out when the tank becomes empty. However, if marriage is an institution in which adults and children flourish for their good and for the good of the community, then the conversation takes an entirely different turn. Marriage is the seed from which families are built and societies thrive. It’s where the next generation is nurtured. There are huge ramifications for social fabric when marriages break down. The cost to society at large on every level is incalculable. From the mental health of the children to the criminal justice system, the community suffers when marriages breakdown.
My point is that marriage isn’t easy for anyone and there are no obvious pairings. I doubt anyone is naturally good at marriage because we’re selfish beings. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to marital woes, there are universal principles that apply. Gracious, honest communication being one of them. How are children going to learn to communicate and deal with conflict if their parents don’t model it properly for them?
The running gag about this drama of course has to be the fact that in the backdrop of this drama there’s a law firm specializing in divorce and apparently they’re all rather “bad” at relationships. All the years of experience with couples breaking up and most of them are still clueless about the importance of good communication or what that looks like.