Monday, April 17, 2006

Heartbreak Hill

I find it difficult to discuss marriage without considering divorce. With the wedding approaching last week, I felt it was inappropriate to discuss that aspect; but now that the wedding is past, I'll say what I've been thinking for the past few weeks: Marriage requires defiance.

Cynics insist that monogamy is an unnatural state, that man tends toward promiscuity and that his tendency is reinforced by our society's emphasis and attitude toward sex. I agree. Notwithstanding Biblical pronouncement, marriage is an unnatural state. But so is a skyscraper. Marriage is an achievement.

It's no wonder that divorce is so prevalent in our society. Divorce is a function of entropy. Despite what we tell ourselves in wedding vows and Hallmark cards, we aren't really expected to stay married forever. Last month, New York Magazine reported that the number of young couples planning to sign prenuptial agreements has more than tripled in the past three years. These days, your average marriage ceremony comes with an asterisk — "till death do us part" is pure sentiment.

I've written elsewhere that a successful marriage requires personal motivation. It has to be more than, "I love her." This might sound cold, but there has to be an element of yourself that genuinely wants to be married — irrespective of your spouse. And to that, I'll add another element: You have to possess a measure of personal defiance. You need to acknowledge the myriad forces, biological and cultural, pulling your marriage toward the rocks; and you need to be one of those people who feels impelled by that dare.

Dr. Phil is famous for asking his guests, "Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?" Any marathon runner will tell you that pain is impossible to avoid, that you have to run through it. With respect to Dr. Phil, I think a successful marriage sometimes requires two people who would rather win than be happy.


At April 17, 2006 10:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found a comment you put on a friend of mine's blog site and thought I would check out your site. In response to your is sad that two out of every three marriages end in divorce these days. I've recently been connected with highschool classmates of mine and all four of them are divorced and remarried. A couple of them are on their third marriage. How sad. I've been married to the same man for 20 years and couldn't be any happier today than I was 20 yrs. ago. That is almost unheard of anymore. I can only pray that my children (I have three) will find God's choice for them and be married to that person for the rest of their lives.

At April 18, 2006 12:47 AM, Blogger Stephen said...

I agree. I've been told that divorce statistics are skewed by such "repeat offenders." Two out of three marriages might fail, but that's not to say that two out of three first marriages will fail. On one hand, maybe that can reassure the perception for first couples; but the flip side is that it's sad to think other folks are on their third attempt and they still haven't figured it out.

At April 18, 2006 4:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From what I've observed, the reason most second marriages fail is that recently divorced people frequently rush into a second marriage. Maybe they need to prove to themselves and others that it wasn't THEIR fault that the first one failed or maybe they are just afraid to be alone after being with someone even if it was awful. As a consequence, the wrong people get married and it fails again.

There are so many reasons why first marriages fail. I think a big one is folks who get married young frequently grow in different directions. In today's society, people often don't even start their careers until they are in the '30's. Major life changes occur all through your 20's. There is lots of room for two people to take different non-compatible paths. Also, divorce doesn't carry the stigma that it had as early as 40 years ago. Women have much more opportunity to flourish financially independent of a man nowadays so they don't have to stick with the dope who beats them (physically or mentally).

In my case, I rushed into my first marriage and it turned into a disaster although it produced a perfectly lovely daughter who has turned out pretty centered all things considered. FYI, it was my ex-wife who was the more manually-inclined and asked for the divorce. I was willing to slog it through in misery. As a consequence, I waited six years to get married again after my wife and I dated very seriously for 3 years. In my case, second time is the charm. We are madly in love with a beautful daughter and a second child (of currently unknown sex) on the way. I would have never have found my soul mate if I hadn't gotten divorced the first time though.

At April 21, 2006 12:28 AM, Blogger Stephen said...

My parents' marriage was my father's second. Divorce seemed inevitable, but my parents stayed together for my benefit until I was an adult. I appreciate that sacrifice, and I respect them for it.

As I see it, any parent is a parent first, and both parents bear the responsibility for maintaining a safe, stable home environment for their children. Obviously, abuse is neither safe nor stable; and if one spouse refuses to work, obviously the marriage can't survive. But generally speaking, I think many parents justify the divorces they want by reassuring themselves that children can find happiness in divided households — and I think that's beside the point.


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