Lessons Learned From Having Been Married, Then Divorced, I Want To Share With Others
You, your potential spouse. and any future children may be glad you read this
“The great marriages are partnerships. It can’t be a great marriage without being a partnership.” — Helen Mirren, actor
So you’ve found someone you want to “settle down with” in the traditional sense of getting married. Good for you!!! Let me offer heartfelt congratulations! The giddy happiness, deep passion, the “head-over-heels” feeling of walking on air when you see/hear/think of him or her … all are wonderful feelings that everyone deserves to feel.
To those of you contemplating making your relationship a legally-binding commitment that one expects will last their lifetime, I would like to offer — along with lots of good wishes — a few points to ponder. Not as a marriage counselor, but as a divorced women who is rather observant, who loves to watch people and their behavior, and is an avid, long-time student of psychology …. a woman who has been watching and participating in relationships for — well, let’s just say many, many years.
It is from these observations of numerous other couples, married and not, along with my own two experiences of marriage, that I gleaned the following pieces of advice that people might want to chew on before they book a church and buy the dress/rent tuxedoes, etc.
(I’d like to add that when I did a search for relevant information, I found tons of articles on “questions to ask before you marry.” Some listed 100 questions, others said 20, 13, 43 to ask, and so on. So there are numerous sources to check in to, and some might even be very helpful.)
“So, it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me, everyday” — Nicholas Sparks
The latest statistics say that close to half of all marriages will end in divorce. This statistic has been pretty static for several years. From my perspective, I think one of the problems underlying marital problems is this: Some (many??) people perhaps get married with lofty (possibly unreasonable or unattainable) expectations of what the marriage will be, how it will play out, and what it will do for them.
In other words, some people are getting married for what might be seen as “the wrong reasons.”
Sometimes the problems stem from the fact that one or the other (or both) people in the couple didn’t really think through the idea of a long-term, presumably monogamous relationship, one that may involve having kids. They just “go through the motions”, allowing themselves to be swept along with the tide down the aisle and supposedly on to “happily ever after” … without a whole lot of thought about it in advance. Oh yeah, and if one is “being rushed” or pressured into marriage, this just might be a big red flag worth noting in itself. Pay attention. You’ll thank me for this later.
“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship, that makes unhappy marriages.” — Friedrich Nietzsch
Entering marriage (or anything, for that matter) without much forethought could b a huge mistake; one that could lead to misunderstandings, unhappiness, arguments, and in the worst-case scenario, divorce. So for what it’s worth, I’d like to offer some points to ponder if you are seriously serious about tying the knot.
- Assess your relationship honestly. Are you a good couple who works and plays well together? Who genuinely enjoys being together, no matter what you’re doing? Can you see yourself with this person day in, day out, year after year, in good times and not so good times? Are you not just your partner’s lover/companion but also their very good friend who gives time, energy, a listening ear, and other things to you that any good friend would do? Or is there pressure from outside sources — parents, friends, “society” in general, a so-called “biological clock” — that is urging you to just go out and grab someone and make it legal?
- Do you have arguments/disagreements, and if so, how is your conflict resolution practices as a couple? Some people claim they “never fight” which is hard to believe,. That might just mean they don’t tackle “serious” issues, but rather might just sweep those issues under the rug and don’t deal with them. Not a good idea. I look at this as similar to when you have health problems or issues with your car: if you keep ignoring the “little things” (like a knocking in your engine) it could lead to some really big (and expensive) repair (like a complete overhaul). Attend to the little things before they blow up into big things, but pick your fights wisely. Some things just aren’t worth the time and effort of fussing about.
Some couples get stuck into a pattern of “circular arguing” where they have the same argument over and over again, with no satisfactory conclusion. For example, one “nags” that the other doesn’t (pick one) “ever put out the garbage/put the cap back on the toothpaste/never cleans up after him- or herself. According to an article I read on the Perspectives of Troy (couples counseling) website, these “little arguments” that never get solved may actually be about some underlying larger issue in the relationship: such as thinking that other person is lazy, thoughtless, or doesn’t pull his/her weight in the relationship. It’s smart to look for any possible underlying issues.
3. Before booking the venue, ask all kinds of questions. Tackle the aforementioned “serious issues”: expectations of the marriage, gender roles and how that will play out, who will be the breadwinner (one or both of you), whether you want children, where will you live are some of the big ones that come to mind. How much time to spend with the in-laws, how to spend and save money, and whether to have pets also come to mind. Oh, and if you can’t or don’t want to discuss these and other important issues, here’s a spoiler alert: you might want to seriously re-think the whole getting married part. Just sayin’.
4. Marriage doesn’t always mean “security”. This stems from the old traditional gender-role-specific model of marriage in which women who got married often stayed home to be housewives and mothers, while their husband “brought home the bacon.” Some people (mainly, though not always, women) may have this outdated notion that they will be “taken care of” by their spouse in this manner. Modern marriages usually include two people who both hold down paid employment, often out of necessity. It’s just a fact of life.
5. Put some serious soul-searching thought into it. You don’t want to go into any endeavor (much less something life-changing like marriage) without first doing a lot of thinking about it. I cannot stress this enough, as there are probably lots of people out there who didn’t do this, and now they have their second thoughts, regrets, a divorce (or two, or more) as a result. Don’t be one of them. Think it through, discuss with yourself, your partner, maybe a marriage/couples counselor, any trusted person. Better to go into it mindfully aware and with a clear head. An old saying goes, “Keep both eyes open before marriage, and one eye shut afterward.”
A few more thoughts: One, being married does not automatically mean you will live “happily ever after” like the fairy tales of the olden days used to tell us. It takes work by two mature partners who are fully invested in the relationship and its success and happiness. If you aren’t happy with yourself and who/what you are, OR you aren’t overall happy with your partner and who/what they are, you might want to do some re-assessment of your relationship.
Two, if you are part of a dysfunctional duo that argues a lot (and/or includes some form of abuse), can’t constructively deal with conflict, and/or just generally unhappy/unsuitable as a couple, please don’t think that getting married will “make it better” because it won’t. Trust me. Numerous counselors will agree with and support this point.
On the other hand, if you’ve been lucky enough to meet someone who is your friend and confidante, makes you feel good (and you genuinely want to make that person feel good), who accepts you as you are, warts, quirks and all (and you accept them as they are). that’s a good thing a worth celebrating! Also, if you can discuss the “big issues” that come along in marriage and if you can’t agree, you have decent, mature conflict-resolution skills AND you both really, truly want to enter into a lifelong partnership …. well, congratulations!!! I wish you well on your journey to a happily married life!!
“The secret to a happy marriage is if you can be at peace with someone within four walls, if our are content because the one you love is near to you, either upstairs or downstairs, or in the same room, and you feel that warmth that you don’t find very often, then that is what love is all about.” — Bruce Forsyth
Michigan Couples Counseling, www.perspectivesoftroy.com
“20 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Tying the Knot,” by YourTango, published in HuffPost June 8, 2015