Marriage isn’t a forever commitment. It’s a commitment to try to love someone for as long as you can.
In so many important and ‘it’s about bloody time’ ways, we’re drifting away from the fairytale fantasies that have been pervasive for so long; women no longer need to be rescued and men don’t need to be heroes. Yet, somehow, the wedding and marriage script prevails: you fall in love, get married (maybe with a big ol’ white wedding) and promise to stay together forever. But, why forever? As far as goals go, ‘forever’ is wobbly and doesn’t make sense.
But it’s still the dominant goal because the definition and expectations of what marriage should be are outdated, overly narrow, and too one-size-fits-all. Within the standard expectations of what marriage means, we are set up to fail. The odds are stacked so highly against us that most of us don’t stand a chance at succeeding according to the standards we face.
The definition and expectations of what marriage should be are outdated, overly narrow, and too one-size-fits-all.
Because love, you say? That’s why we aim for forever? Ok, that’s fair. If you have found the kind of love that lasts through all of the crazy things life throws your way and through all of the ways you and your partner change, then absolutely hold on to that gold with all you’ve got. But if the love you find isn’t that kind, it’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Not even one tiny bit.
There are also many people in the ‘marriage isn’t supposed to be just about love’ camp. There are older generations that will tell you it’s about commitment first and foremost, and that love is a bonus. You know how, back in the day, couples stayed together and figured shit out when things got tough. Marriage was about hard work — a man had his role and a woman had hers. ‘Things were simpler then,’ when people did what they were supposed to do instead of always wanting more for themselves and giving up when the going gets tough.
Most of us have called bullshit on that way of thinking. Still though, there is a modern version of it – less ‘a man’s role and a woman’s role’ and more ‘marriage is hard work and you don’t quit just because it’s challenging.’ I don’t disagree. Any successful relationship – friendships, at work, with children and parents – takes a commitment to work.
Is the forever commitment for the sake of your children, if you decide to have them? Is that what children need to grow into healthy, strong, independent adults?
As a child of divorce, my ex told me that I had always considered it an option. I didn’t, though. It was literally the very last thing I wanted for my marriage. Yes, I was aware of it as an option but I never saw it as an easy way out. When you have built a life with someone, and especially when you have children, there is far too much at stake to throw in the towel just because it’s the easiest thing to do. So, no, I didn’t see divorce as a shortcut to a different life just because I’d changed my mind.
For some people, [marriage will] be decades long. For others, it will look different, but no less of a success as long as there was love, lessons, and experiences gained along the way.
Divorce was the safety release, the option you go for when there’s nothing else left to do if you want to get out in one piece. I felt awful, sick, mad, and sad, and I also felt like a failure. Then I realized that I wasn’t, and that the marriage wasn’t either. Fuck that. I did my best, and I worked harder at my marriage than anything else I’ve ever done. All things considered, we did well.
If when we fall in love with someone and want to vow that we will do our very best to love them, to make them happy, and to put in the work to make it a solid relationship, that is a fair promise to them and to ourselves. For some people, that will be decades long. For others, it will look different, but no less of a success as long as there was love, lessons, and experiences gained along the way.
Chase happy, friends. We all deserve it.
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