What we need from marriage

Hello, readers. I am truly sorry that I have not posted – I am sorry to you, because you come here to share your thoughts and ideas with me, and you value my words, and I appreciate that so much. And I am sorry to me, because blogging is something that I love, and I have neglected myself by ignoring it.

Update 5/31: I have come back to add a few more thoughts and better express the ones I had yesterday.

I come to you today moved to tears by a piece from the Matt Walsh blog. I do not always agree usually don’t agree with Matt Walsh, but I agree with him some of his sentiments today. He wrote a post entitled “My wife is not the same woman that I married.”

In this post, he discusses the phenomenon of the “divorce party” and people who celebrate the failure and dissolution of their marriages. As someone who had a “divorce anniversary party” to celebrate my first year of singleness after ending my marriage, I agree that people who celebrate their divorce are celebrating broken vows and promises… which is sort of backwards and disappointing. Why rejoice in brokenness?

Walsh says in his post,

“…it demonstrates this cavalier, celebratory attitude towards divorce. I think it’s really harmful, and it only perpetuates the problem.”

As someone who has participated in this practice, I think there are a lot of reasons people would choose to have a celebration in the wake of their marital end. Some can be seen as positive reasons, and others negative.

  • They want to show others that they are okay
  • They want a tangible event to provide emotional closure
  • They want a distraction from their feelings
  • Their marriage was abusive and it actually IS a cause to celebrate
  • They truly are pleased at the end of their marriage
  • They want their ex-partner to know that they are happier without them
  • They want to hurt their ex-partner’s feelings

Those are just a few ideas off the top of my head. I don’t know everyone’s motives, but I think many divorce parties start with good intentions of wanting to cleanse one’s spirit and move on. But it might grow into vindictiveness and an ex-bashing party. It’s hard to keep it classy when you’re actively celebrating about a breakup. Kudos to the person who is able to keep the theme of the party to growth and rebirth instead of jumping on a table and exclaiming how much better life is, now that jerk is out of the world.

Addition, 5/31: That said, whether or not you have a divorce party, there ARE reasons to get divorced. In discussing Walsh’s piece with some very close people in my life, they told me that they thought I was joking when I shared his post on my Facebook page. They didn’t appreciate Walsh’s all-or-nothing, divorce-means-you’re-a-quitter attitude. As a divorced person, I agree with that sentiment… I don’t want to feel harshly judged for making a mistake. Because that’s what I did, I made a mistake. Did I go into marriage expecting divorce? No, but I wasn’t exactly primed to make it in marriage, because I didn’t fully understand what marriage meant. (end addition).

Immediately following our dissolution hearing, my ex-husband and I filed our papers downstairs in the clerk’s office, high-fived, and went to lunch together, where I proceeded to silently weep into my burrito bowl while he audibly worried that the people around us would think he was being a jerk to me and making me cry. That sums up our marriage in a really sad way. I didn’t know how to express my feelings, and he was more worried about what other people were thinking. (Cue “womp womp” sound effect).

In Matt Walsh’s post, he describes a conversation with a thrice-married acquaintance. The man did express a cavalier attitude toward marriage and divorce, laughing “Check back in ten years” at the obviously silly notion that a couple could stay married for their entire lives.

“Guy: [laughs] I said the same thing at your age. You think of divorce as this scary thing, but sometimes it’s the only way to be happy. You shouldn’t stay in a marriage if you’re miserable. Things change. You wake up and suddenly she’s not the same person you married. It happens. Trust me.”

When did the concept of “til death do us part” become a foolish ideal? This breaks my heart. Marriage should be forever, and I say this as a divorced person.

Addition, 5/31: This is the part that my close comrades really closed in on – Grocery Store Guy. I had perceived GSG as being rude and laughing off Walsh’s desires and hopes to stay married until death. I was hurt at the idea that someone would laugh at me when I told them I never wanted to get divorced. Probably because people laughed when I told them I didn’t want to get divorced. I found out well after my divorce that some friends had placed bets on when my marriage would end. I’m not offended by this, mostly disappointed that literally everyone in my life could see that I was making a mistake and I did nothing to listen to them.

GSG is right – sometimes stuff happens and divorce is the only way to be happy. You shouldn’t stay in a marriage if you’re miserable. I agree with GSG, you should NOT stay in a marriage for the sake of marriage. I do think there are ways to prevent misery from setting in, but it takes a lot of hard work in your marriage. If you lack in communication, you will allow your problems and resentments to fester, leading you to one day wake up and realize you are miserable. And when that happens, when the trust and intimacy is gone, and hopelessness has moved into  your heart, and you feel resigned to a life you don’t really want – that’s when divorce can feel like the only option. You can fix a marriage with some leaks and cracks, but it’s hard to fix it once you see it’s been shattered.

Now, GSG, you should never wake up and “suddenly she’s not the same person you married.” That should not be a sudden realization. Your partner will change. Gradually. Just like you are changing.

It seems like GSG, on his third marriage (this one 11 years and counting), has figured some things out and learned from his mistakes. THAT is the key. I am divorced. And when I say that I will not consider divorce an option in my second and final marriage (ka willing), it is not naivete speaking. It is commitment and understanding that marriage is hard. It will be complete and total openness and honesty with my partner about expectations, dealbreakers, and issues as they arise. I won’t allow our marriage to die like I allowed my first one. Because I learned. And my future husband will learn with me, and we will figure it out together, one step at a time. (end addition).

There’s a little saying floating around the internet, something about how some proverbial grandpa describes marriage like a house. And when a lightbulb burns out, you don’t buy a new house, you change the lightbulb.

Long-term vows in a short-term world

I think the problem with marriage in the 21st century is that the generation of people getting married has grown up in a world of disposables. Everything is made and marketed to be used and replaced upon release of the new model or upon breakage. We have completely missed the point of taking care of our possessions, and, subsequently, our relationships. We don’t understand the point. When something no longer works, we just chuck it in the bin and get a new one.

I would personally rather repair than replace. Much of this mentality has come about since my minimalist journey began. As I realized what my consumer habits meant for the environment, I began to choose to re-use. I have grown a new appreciation for multi-use items and for re-usable options. I sew patches onto the worn spots in my jeans instead of throwing them out and replacing. I always try to find a new use for something I no longer want or need instead of throwing it away.

Another problem is that we buy things on impulse without considering whether or not we will even want them in another week, month, or year. We buy cheaply made furniture “for now” because we “can’t afford” quality items that will stand the test of time. Here’s a pro tip – if you stopped buying crappy things several times a year, you could afford to buy a few nicer things a year. I now save up to purchase things that will last. It delays the instant gratification of the Amazon.com mentality (if I can’t have it in two days, what’s the point?), but it’s well worth not having a house full of things I don’t want after a little time has passed and I realize I didn’t even want that in the first place.

Life is marketing. We are constantly – constantly – bombarded with images of things that are supposed to make us happy. This comes in the form of advertising for phones, computers, and gadgets, for toys, for music, for television shows we should watch, for performances we need to see. We check our email and see BUY THIS and BUY THAT and TRY THIS JUST $1! We go to an online store and fill a cart to hit the amount needed for free shipping. We celebrate stuff for the sake of stuff, and when the stuff breaks, we toss it.

The impulse purchase is the enemy. You should purchase nothing that you haven’t thought hard about and actually need or truly desire for good reason.

We read about and watch on screens the images of relationships we are supposed to have – we idealize best friends and boyfriends/girlfriends and the loss of virginity. We learn how relationships work by seeing how the relationships around us work, which can really mess up a child’s world view of functional relationships, because we assume our parents’ relationship is the ideal for us to achieve. We see and we will remember and we will do. It is my supreme goal in life that my children see their parents as role models and won’t be satisfied in a relationship until they find one that matches the dynamic of the example I set for them with my partner.

We owe it to our children to make marriage work. We owe it to our children to let them see that marriage IS work. We owe it to our children to teach them that marriage is WORTH the work.

What do we need from marriage?

After my wedding to my first husband, I remember opening and unpacking our gifts, many of which we had enjoyed picking out and adding to our registry. I remember thinking, “Wait. Why the hell was it so important to me to have a bunch of matching towels? Why was this a decision?”

I had become caught up in the whimsy of getting married. I went dress shopping with friends and relatives, I registered for dishes and picked towel colors and met with the caterer. I had my doubts about marrying him, but that’s just cold feet. Everybody gets that.

I will be brutally honest with you: Marriage was something I wanted to feel validated as an adult. My first marriage was an impulse purchase.

I truly believed that just getting married would make our lives (my life) better and complete. I had married my first boyfriend (read: LOOK AT ME, I DID IT ON THE FIRST TRY). I married the man to whom I lost my virginity (read: I AM NOT A SLUT). I got married right after graduating college and right before starting grad school (read: LOOK HOW SUCCESSFUL AND ADULT I AM). I got married to show people I was an adult. Which, consequently, is about the least mature thing I have ever done in my adult life.

Matt Walsh’s acquaintance pointed out that “Some day you might wake up and find that your wife isn’t the same person you married,” using this inevitable change as grounds for divorce. Walsh doesn’t see change as a legitimate reason for divorce, and neither do I, because change is the only constant, and marriage is about changing with a person. If you expect your partner to stay the exact same over time, you’re just crazy. Of course people change!

However, as I reflect, I am aware of this truth: I asked my husband for a divorce because I was not the same person he married. I’ve talked about marriage blah-de-blah before, so you can go through my archives to read all about my self-esteem journey. In any case, here I am, divorced because I changed and telling you that change isn’t a good reason to get divorced.

Seriously, what do we need from marriage?

Trick question. We don’t need anything from marriage. We need to give to marriage. We need to give EVERYTHING to marriage.

Marriage isn’t about happiness. It is about partnership and trust and hard work. It is about finding your life’s partner, the person with whom you cannot wait to grow and change. It is about working through the hard parts, fixing the damaged parts, and always coming back to the fact that you chose marriage knowing it was a pact for the rest of your life.

People in the 21st century are getting married too young, too soon, and without enough thought. It’s easy to get married. It’s hard to be married. It’s WORTH IT to be married to the right person.

Choose work, because a committed marriage will be the best job you ever have in your life.

And never stop working on it.




6 thoughts on “What we need from marriage

  1. Thank you for your beautiful words! I like how you compare marriage to mending and taking care of things instead of using disposables, the whole concept is so important. The funny thing is, over here, most people get married pretty late, often when they’re well into their thirties or even later – I got married last year when I was 25 years old, and I was asked by several people why I was getting married at such a young age! (And they believe it means I want to start putting babies into the world right away … nope, sorry folks. I married for love and companionship, not for babies.) But both of us knew beforehand that marriage is not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but just the beginning of a life long journey, and we agree on the idea of fixing relationship problems instead of running away. Whenever you start your new journey, may there be a good wind in your sails 🙂

    1. Thank you for your kind words. As I continue in life, I try to remember all these things I have learned from my past. Marriage is really and truly about mending and taking care of each other – it’s like that awesome pair of jeans that just fits perfectly and it’s important to find a partner that fits instead of pinching. I am enjoying this partner-as-pants analogy too much. I shall move on.

      I married at 21, and it was definitely too young. I am now 26 and will be closer to 30 when I re-marry and start with the babies, I think. I remember when I got engaged the first time, my dad actually said he expected me to be pregnant within 18 months – glad he was wrong! He’s now doing the grandkids dance, which I find adorable. “When are you gonna start giving me grandchildren?” Patience!!

  2. Caitlin, you must have heard me wondering about you. 😉 My grandparents often said that if divorces were as easy to get when they were young their marriage would have ended within the first year. Instead they worked through their problems and were married 61 years and were separated only by death. Their marriage wasn’t perfect and retirement changed the dynamic once again but they got through it.

    I was engaged right out of high school. When we decided not to marry I felt as if I were a complete failure and my self-esteem took a hit, but today we hear of marriages which last mere weeks. How can you know in only weeks that you made a mistake (unless you married while completely intoxicated or something).

    I agree with your assessment, everything today is disposable, so why not our relationships. It’s a sad commentary on today’s society.

    1. Lois, hello! Good to hear from you 🙂

      I think it’s way too easy to get married. And it’s really pretty easy to get divorced too. I sometimes think counseling should be all but required before you can do either. It is SO EASY to just go make a life-altering decision without thinking about it… it gets too big for my head. I just thank my lucky stars that life has happened the way it did and that I learned my lessons without too much turmoil.

      1. Caitlin, it’s good to see you posting again.

        I do believe we have become accustomed to having everything easily and instantaneously. A shame too as some things are worth waiting for and working on rather than letting it get away.

  3. A fantastic read, thank you for being honest in your post.
    It is so true marriage is work.
    I am not married but have a partner of 15yrs and two small children.
    We have to work at it everyday, to be the best we can be.
    Amy x

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