The One Question to Ask if You’re Considering Divorce

One of my Facebook friends recently posted an article that essentially said if your partner/spouse isn’t looking deeply into your eyes while painting your toenails and declaring that you’re his soulmate, then you need to move on. I couldn’t help but laugh. It was all I could do not to comment, “And we wonder why the divorce rate in the United States is 50%.”

Sadly, too many people believe this pile of crap. They don’t want to acknowledge that marriage can be hard, hard work. That sometimes your partner will disappoint you or aggravate you or do something really bad or dumb, but you stay anyway. You stay not because you’re a sucker or an enabler or have low self-esteem. You stay because this relationship isn’t just about you. It’s about both of you and, more importantly if you have children together, it’s about them. The family unit trumps your individual needs almost every time.

This is not to say you should remain in a physically and/or emotionally abusive situation or tolerate chronic infidelity. If this is happening, please get help, stat. Let me just be clear that your spouse not saying “I love you” daily or asking about your work day or cleaning the bathroom doesn’t constitute abuse.

If you read my blog, you know that I sometimes disclose personal details about my marriage, especially as it relates to my husband’s job issues. I do this not to throw him under the bus, but because, well, this blog is about the truth, and the truth is that he’s having a midlife career crisis – big time. Sometimes his shenanigans make me feel so crazy and hopeless that I want to leave. I tell myself that life would be easier and more peaceful without him.

My life, that is. Not his necessarily, or our sons’.

I’ve been threatening the “D” word on and off for a while now. I’m ashamed to admit it, but there you have it, the truth on the table. As in, “If you don’t find a better paying job and stick with it, I’m leaving” or “If you use the charge card one more time I’m leaving” and “If you don’t start seeing a therapist I’m leaving.” I think you get the drift. By now he knows I’m the girl who cries wolf. During the most stressful times, divorce seems like it could be a fairly easy escape, if you don’t count my children being torn in two, our cozy home sold, and the remains of our family scattered around like dried up leaves in autumn.

It finally occurred to me recently that I had a decision to make – stay or go. Simple as that. No more idle threats; they are pointless and immature. As I imagined what it would be like to leave my husband of nearly 22 years, uproot my children, decide who gets the sectional sofa, a question popped into my mind like an epiphany.

What if leaving wasn’t an option? What if I had no choice but to adhere to my marital vows? How would I approach this frustrating situation then?

The answer came to me immediately. I would love him, support him, and do my best to build him up, knowing that he’s in crisis and doesn’t have the skills to cope alone. I am his life partner, his helpmate, and it’s my role to support him through the tough times. What kind of wife, woman, would I be if I just walked away and discarded him like an old sock in his hour of need? He would never treat me in such a shabby way.

What if leaving wasn’t an option? How would you go about resolving the issue if the status quo also weren’t an option? What creative approaches might you try?

We can’t change anyone. We can only change ourselves. The notion is truly empowering, especially when it places us in a position to have a positive and even soul-saving impact on those we love. There is almost always someone stronger in the marriage at any given time. If that person is you, try not to view it as a burden, but rather recognize it as a great gift you’ve been given, one of strength, compassion, and the ability to problem solve.

Advertisements

Has Feminism Ruined Marriage?

I had no intention ever of writing a post about feminism and marriage, but last week, while visiting my local library, I came across a book called The Proper Care & Feeding of Marriage by syndicated radio host and marriage counselor Dr. Laura Schlessinger.

I’d heard things about Dr. Laura, things that didn’t align with the liberal, somewhat feminist working mother and wife I believed I was. Yet I found myself taking the book off the shelf, flipping it open to the jacket cover description.

“Dr. Laura asserts that in order to produce and sustain a wonderfully satisfying marriage, spouses must recognize and appreciate the polarity between the masculine and feminine.”

Not what I’d expected. It sounded almost new age, like worship of a feminine and masculine divine. I turned to the introduction.

“This is not your typical marriage manual. I’m not going to present the usual psychobabble nonsense that has been dominating the marital therapy field since the sixties which condemns masculinity and disdains femininity.” (1)

Thank God for that. I hated psychobabble nonsense. I’d experienced enough of it to know that I was usually better off working out my issues on a yoga mat or in a journal.

I believe that the single most horrible problem for marriages today is a lack of understanding, not only of what is needed by a man in a woman but also what is needed by a woman in a man.” (1)

How simple; me Tarzan, you Jane. Not that such a backward concept had any place in today’s modern society.

263522_46d834e45ebbbe4eb43761570a2cff04_large

I kept reading.

“Chivalry is largely dead, and feminism is the murder. It soured both males and females on the joy, awe, wonder, excitement, thrill, satisfaction from, and mystery of femininity and masculinity…Spouses are more likely to suffer from behavior that resembles sibling rivalry where there is competition for resources and power.” (3)

OMG, I had to read this book. I whisked it off the shelf. At home, in my favorite chair, I read.

“Women today do not think of themselves in the context of helping “their man.” Women have been brainwashed into thinking that efforts in that direction are in the category of oppression, subservience, and catering to frail male egos…feminism demoted that singularly magical ability of women to transform deflated men into heroes and warriors into a notion of massaging the frail, pathetic ego of a weak man…” (14)

Dr. Laura’s traditional views on marriage were resonating with me, though they went against the conditioning my generation was raised on. The traitor-to-feminism feelings they invoked reminded me of the time, about two years ago, when I saw feminist Gloria Steinem speak.

At first, I was in awe to be in the presence of this women’s rights pioneer, whose efforts had made it possible for my sex to have choices. Then, about midway through her speech, I had a startling thought: What did this woman — who wasn’t a mother and hadn’t become a wife until late in life — know about the struggles moms and wives face? What qualified her to tell us how to live our lives?

She had never had to place her infant in the hands of another woman 10 hours a day in order to go to work. She had never had to wake in the night multiple times to nurse a baby, and then drag her exhausted butt to a job the next morning. What did she know about the toll this kind of lifestyle took on a marriage and a woman’s soul?

She knew nothing, at least not first-hand. Yet here she was, giving advice, saying that men needed to step it up, as if they were the sole culprits of these struggles, as if women weren’t making choices for their lives that left them feeling exhausted, guilty, and resentful.

Suddenly, I resented her, and have wrestled with conflicting feelings about feminism ever since.

Chasing career and personal goals with little regard to the impact it is having on your spouse and family is a map where all roads dead-end. Men who do this usually end up with heart attacks; women who do this end up with out-of-control families and Valium drips.” (113)

I never want America to go back to the way things used to be for women, when husbands took over their property, when they couldn’t vote, when they were forced to bear too many children, when they felt trapped in abusive marriages because they couldn’t earn a living and would lose their children if they left. Feminism freed women from all that.

I also recognize that there are couples who are making their marriages work, despite both working full-time and/or taking on non-traditional roles.

But what of the slightly over 50% of couples that aren’t making it? Divorce is taking a toll on our children, health, finances, and societal well-being. Men alone aren’t to blame. Women must acknowledge their role and responsibility in the demise.

Don’t use discussions about how bad your spouse is as entertainment with your friends. Do take every opportunity you can to build up your spouse in your mind by relating wonderful, positive stories.” (121)

I’ve been guilty of the former, of picking on my husband rather than finding things to appreciate and praise. Now I see that this says more about my state of mind than his character. Seriously, I could burn an entire meal and the man would eat it without complaining, yet God forbid he leaves his socks on the bedroom floor.

Dr. Laura claims that feminism “soured both males and females on the joy, awe, wonder, excitement, thrill, satisfaction from, and mystery of femininity and masculinity.” (3)

Is she right? Or are other factors contributing, such as the economy, fast-paced lifestyles, materialism?  Have we become a nation of whining, selfish adult brats who expect our spouses to resolve our childhood pains, meet all our needs, and mend our broken parts?

I don’t have the answers, but I suspect that helping one’s husband feel like a warrior goes much farther toward creating marital bliss than getting him to clean the toilets.

Happily Ever After?

 

Last month I did something that I could never, in my wildest dreams, have imagined doing: I officiated my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding ceremony. I didn’t realize doing this was even possible for an average person like me, but thanks to the Universal Life Church, I became an ordained minister simply by filling out an online form. Go figure.

I was both honored and scared by the request. I mean, holy crap, I was going to marry them! This was not something I could screw up.

Thanks to much preparation and collaboration with my sister-in-law, the ceremony went off without a hitch (no pun intended), if you don’t count the fact that the guests remained standing the whole time because I forgot to tell them to sit after the bride joined the groom.  Fortunately for them, the ceremony was short and sweet.

As I guided my brother and sister-in-law through their marriage vows, and saw the love shining in their young eyes, I couldn’t help but wonder what the next 20 years would be like for them. Would their marriage mostly be smooth and problem free? Or would it hit some major bumps along the way?

This past summer, my husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. We’ve encountered more bumps than I care to remember. Like most couples, we started off madly in love and full of hope for our future. Then the grind of daily life, amongst other things, slowly took its toll.

I wish I could say that I’m a good wife, but that’s not always true. When I feel stressed, over-burdened, or plain burned out (which is too often), I am known to whine, complain, and yell. I’ve never learned how to effectively handle stress, with the exception of engaging in regular, vigorous exercise and yoga, which I don’t always have time for.

I’m too easily influenced by my emotions; take the time I was so mad at my husband that I smashed my wedding ring with a hammer. This kind of crazy doesn’t always make for a good marriage, and sometimes I feel like it negates all of the good I do bring to the union.  I’d blame it on my Sicilian blood, but that would be lame.

My husband is hardly perfect himself. On the surface he appears to be a quiet, easy-going guy. In reality, he’s not. He also doesn’t think twice about making large purchases behind my back and then leaving me to figure out how to pay for them or replace the money. He has trouble with keeping his emotions bottled up for so long that he ultimately explodes, which leads him to do crazy things, like tell a boss to f#*% off.

Still, here we are, 20 years into it. We have created a home and a family and a life together. We love each other, in spite of the bumps. Things aren’t always crazy; we aren’t always crazy. Mostly our life together is routine, with spurts of excitement and special moments sprinkled in.

That is what the romance novels don’t tell you – what happens after you say “I do”. If they did, no one would read them because they’d be too boring. But you can’t tell that to a newlywed couple, and why would you anyway? They need to have their fairy tale beginning. It’s what will carry them through the inevitable hard times, and the monotony of daily routines.

Marriages are stories that are constantly unfolding. If you’re lucky enough (meaning with lots and lots of hard work and sacrifice and compromising that no one on the outside ever sees) to make it to the final chapter (meaning the “til death do us part” ending) and still love each other, that, in my book, is the true meaning of “happily ever after”.