I wouldn’t say I was really the marrying type.
As a little girl, I never dreamed of getting married. So when I was planning my wedding, there was no preconceived notion of what my wedding day would look like. I got married to the person, not the event, but I did marry the false expectations one has of marriage.
As we often hear, the divorce rate in the US usually falls between 40-50%. (I’ve heard some say as high as 60-70% but I haven’t found research backing that.) None of us walks down the aisle expecting to be that percentage of couples who don’t make it. There is a myriad of reasons marriage fails, but as someone who has studied psychology for years, I can tell you it comes down to our personal responsibility for healing and self-accountability to humility… times two!
Yep, it means both of those in the marriage have to show up 110% percent in this effort to bring healthy psychology to the marriage. Everyday.
When my marriage ended in divorce, and I unfolded the foil swan of my leftover feelings, what was left was the pieces of me I needed to work on. I mourned the death of my marriage, the dreams that would never be, and the version of myself that felt lost and alone. It was raw and isolating, but also clarifying.
Are marriage and a relationship the same thing?
Moving on meant I had to love my own company again and be a friend to myself. It also meant I had to face the parts of me that were hard to acknowledge and accept. Not so I could be in a healthy marriage again, but rather so I could be in healthy relationships with everyone in my life. I realized marriage didn’t determine whether I was in a healthy relationship or not; marriage was a legal document, and relationships are what we are all really seeking.
No, I’m not getting married again. It has been suggested by many, MANY people that I should.
Six or so years into my current relationship, we don’t do anniversaries so I can’t even tell you how long we’ve been together. I can tell you that the energy of commitment is stronger than a marriage certificate. The daily investment we make to one another adds up to a greater guarantee than a wedding costing thousands of dollars. I can tell you the investment in myself to heal and love myself deeply impacts my relationship more than the titles of man and wife. (There is an entire story about how I never want to feel like the property of a man ever again, but that doesn’t belong here.)
Does this mean you shouldn’t get married? Not at all. We are socially conditioned to believe this is the ultimate connection we can have to our partner. What I AM saying is don’t get married if you aren’t going to be invested in your own healing, growth, and responsibility.
What really makes my relationship work is letting go of expectations that often hand in hand with marriages that fail.
Let go of:
1) the idea of perfect and maintain perspective on what really matters.
2) the expectation that one person has to meet every emotional and physical need you may have. (Read that as you will.)
3) the social constructs that lead us down the aisle and ultimately make our happiness the responsibility of another person.
4) hope in the good moments of abusive people. Two unhealed people coming together in a union results in a psychological power struggle only one will win. If it is abusive, do not engage! Pun intended.
What I’ve gained in letting go of marriage:
I’ve taken back my power to know how to manage my money, to earn money, and to spend it.
There are pride and peace in the events, struggles, and self-inhibiting behaviors I’ve overcome. Getting lost in another marriage was never going to get me there without learning to overcome and heal.
It’s been really uncomfortable, hard, lonely, devastating, gut-wrenching, and heartbreaking. (I know, I’m really selling the single mom racket here.) But the growth I’ve created in myself, and the model I’ve become for my kids is undeniable.
What do I tell my daughters about marriage?
I tell them there are some great tax breaks to making a legal commitment to a partner. But they shouldn’t do so unless the relationship is based on self-responsibility, balance, mutual respect, mutual support of growth, and trust. Above all else, if the relationship feels bad or your intuition is telling you something is wrong, trust your gut!
And remember… Love is patient, love is kind, love is necessary first within yourself.
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