Wednesday, September 30, 2015

On Marriage and Divorce

An inordinate number of friends and colleagues have been going through divorces lately.  I’m not sure if it’s the stage of life I’m in or simply a coincidence, but I have to admit it’s a little unsettling.  I get it – marriage isn’t easy – but it’s still unsettling.  I’ve always believed in the philosophy that life is short and everyone deserves to be happy (except that d-bag who bought the rights to the AIDS drug and raised the price like 5000%).  If you find yourself in an unhappy marriage with irreconcilable differences divorce is probably your best option.  But divorce is also messy and the emotional, financial, and logistical ramifications create unavoidable collateral damage for all involved (especially if you have kids).  So what’s the best way to avoid divorce (short of never getting married in the first place)?  Making a concerted effort to be a more supportive spouse?  Being a better listener and keeping open lines of communication?  Attending marriage counseling?  Medicating yourself with copious amounts of alcohol?  All of those things could certainly help, but what about simply marrying the right person in the first place?  Easier said than done, but I tend to think I know a thing or two about picking the right spouse.  Don’t get me wrong, my marriage is far from perfect (just ask my wife).  But there’s no doubt in my mind I married the perfect person for me.  Here’s 6 reasons why it’s worked out:

1)      I married someone completely different than me

She’s got a dominant personality.  I’m more laid back.  If I had the same personality as her we probably would’ve killed each other a long time ago.  If she had the same personality as me we’d never get anything done and our kids would be completely out of control.  She’s got a big heart, always puts others first, and genuinely cares about her fellow man.  I’m somewhat of a selfish wretch.  She makes me a better person and I give her something to fix - everyone wins J.  In stressful situations she always keeps a level head.  In stressful situations I freak out like a lunatic.  Put em together and you have a reasonably normal response.  Marriages are like the government.  They require a system of “checks and balances” to maintain order.  Because my wife and I are so different we balance each other out perfectly.

2)      But we share a common set of core beliefs

As different as we are in personality, our core beliefs are very much the same.  We both wanted to have children.  We’re both very traditional in that we wanted my wife to stay home and raise the kids while I went to work.  We’re both fiscally conservative but socially liberal.  And perhaps most importantly I agreed to raise our kids Catholic if she agreed to become a Charger fan (the second part was non-negotiable).  Net net you absolutely need to be on the same page for the big stuff.

3)      Our chemistry was evident from the start

From the very first time we met the spark of attraction between us was palpable.  Passion may fade as life gets in the way but if it’s not there at the start, there’ll be nothing to look back on in hard times and remember why you fell in love in the first place.  That’s why I’m always leery of friendships that turn into romances.  When you know, you know.  And passion is not something that develops over time.

4)      We lived together before we got married

Being a good Catholic girl, my wife’s parents were not happy when we moved in together (her dad literally refused to come inside our apartment until after we got married).  But until you’ve lived with someone and experienced firsthand all of their quirks, strange mannerisms, annoying habits, and idiosyncrasies you really don’t know if you’ll be able to tolerate them for the rest of your life.  It would be like buying a car without a test drive.  And then having to drive that car for the next 50-60 years.  It may be against your religion, but I would never get married without first living in sin.

5)      I sincerely enjoy spending time with her

Twenty years later and my wife and I still genuinely enjoy each other’s company.  The best part of my day is when we’re together.  That being said raising kids has created more disagreements, arguments, and conflicts than I ever imagined possible.  If you want to be able to weather that storm, you better still like each other at the end of the day when there’s nobody else around.

6)      We got married for the right reasons

When my wife and I met we were young, poor, and didn’t know any better.  We fell in love and I couldn’t imagine my life without her.  Getting married was the only logical conclusion.  We didn’t know it at the time but we got married for all the right reasons.  Marrying someone for anything other than love: money, convenience, an unexpected pregnancy, fear of being alone, or simply because you think it’s what you’re supposed to do is not a recipe for long term bliss.

Maybe this is a good blueprint for you too.  Maybe it’s not.  Maybe it’s too late.  I’m still figuring out plenty of shit in my life too.  But what I do know is this: A marriage is like a marathon.  The passion and excitement you feel at the start of any new relationship simply cannot last.  You’ll experience hard times when you think you can’t go on.  You’ll second guess every decision you’ve ever made including getting married in the first place.  You’ll scratch your head and wonder when things went so terribly wrong.  But then you’ll spontaneously make eye contact with your spouse.  You’ll see that same spark that led you together in the first place.  You’ll remember how warm and amazing you felt when you first met.  All of the special times you’ve shared and memories you’ve created together will come rushing back and you’ll fill up like a balloon.  She’ll touch your arm, give you that subtle smile letting you know that everything will be okay, and the world will stop in its tracks for just a moment.  Marriage isn’t easy.  But if you pick the right partner who you truly love and respect, you’ll have a fighting chance of making it to the finish line together.  Choose wisely my friends. 

And for those who’ve been divorced or are currently going through a divorce, please don’t take this post the wrong way.  Shit happens.  Sometimes you can marry the perfect person for all the right reasons, but then unforeseen circumstances occur that cause them or you to change.  Getting a divorce doesn’t mean you failed.  It just means you have a second chance at finding happiness.  Honestly some of the happiest couples I know are on second (or even third) marriages.  Just look at Kimye J. 

On that note this post is over.        

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