I am supremely fortunate to be married to a wonderful woman I love, and who at least tolerates my quirks and habits and supports me in my various endeavors. As I write this, we’ve been married for 42 years (Groundhog Day, 1980, for those keeping score).
As I said, I’m an extremely lucky man.
And yet, I’m of a mixed mind on marriage.
Hear me out.
I believe marriage is a serious commitment. That “until death” thing is not something to take lightly. Not at all.
It was and remains part of my commitment.
On one hand, I’m disappointed and somewhat bemused by the number of people who say those words, who make that commitment, and then don’t stick to it. The number of marriages ending in divorce is frustrating.
Rushing into marriage without thinking it through is a one reason. They don’t take it seriously, or at least as seriously as they “should” (more on “should” in a moment).
For a variety of reasons, ranging from low self-esteem to convenience to financials to desperation to many other things, they marry not because it’s the right thing to do, but for some other reason. Almost by definition, it’s doomed from the start, either by self sabotage, or because it was to be nothing other than temporary from the beginning.
Sometimes it’s simply that people grow and change over time. While we’d hope they might grow together, it’s certainly the case that some grow apart.
So. Should folks get divorced?
Here’s where my mixed mind comes in.
I don’t know the criteria, because it’ll vary dramatically depending on the situation, particularly if children are involved. As painful as it might be, it could be best for everyone. Hopefully, the dissolution would be amicable, acknowledging a mistake, or a change, or something. A contentious divorce is just more data to me saying the marriage should probably never have happened in the first place.
I think we all know couples who should not stay married. There are those about whom we wonder why they remain together at all. (Obviously we don’t see the complete picture, but that doesn’t prevent us from wondering.)
In an ideal world, marriages would last. Many do. As I write this, I see no end in sight for my marriage, other than that “until death” thing. It’s wonderful. I’m grateful and proud and would want this for everyone.
If you asked me how we got here, I’m not sure I could answer. I might say we’re both stubborn. More likely, though, is that we’re friends first. When I’m asked who my best friend is, there’s only one answer: my wife. No contest. Period.
And that’s, perhaps, the key to failure: many people seem to marry people they like, but who are not truly their friend … their best friend.
Perhaps trials or contracts should exist more often. Have a mid-point between being acquaintances and a married couple. I know some do this. I know for some this is even the final state; having reached “couple” in what was perhaps a trial or just “shacking up”, they never felt the need to marry. Good for them.
Perhaps most important is to agree with your prospective partner. Be it an explicit trial, or a “til death” commitment, make sure you’re both on the same page, that you both truly understand what it is you’re signing up for, and then do what you need to do to meet the commitment you made.
Perhaps, above all, make sure you’re friends.