I just went to a friend’s wedding. Instead of jumping for joy that someone else was joining the club, though, my husband and I found ourselves thinking, “oh, no. They have no idea what they are in for.”
I shouldn’t be such a pessimist. This particular couple is incredibly compatible. But, there have been a string of divorces in my circle recently, and I think it comes down to one issue:
Ignoring the red flags.
All three of the girls I know whose marriages are ending have said the same thing: “I always felt like I was having sex with my brother.”
Ouch! If that’s not a red flag, I don’t know what is. So, why did they all ignore the flag and get married, anyway?
Perhaps it’s the need for stability. For some reason, we as a society think that if we are married, life can begin (those who think that life ends when you get married notwithstanding). Most agree that getting married means we won’t be alone ever again. And I mean ever. Like, if we need just one moment to ourselves, we are probably not going to get it. Ever.
But, we think we need to be with someone. And so, we get married… even though we know that we really want children, while he has made it clear that having kids is off the table.
Perhaps we ignore the red flag because we are getting older and thinking, “well, we want the same things, have the same goals, and it’s high time I get married before my window of opportunity closes.” So, we rush to have the wedding and start having children… only to discover that our atheism doesn’t fit with his desire to raise our children in a church.
Or maybe some of us just aren’t any good at being single. So, we look the other way at what we think isn’t that important. We tell ourselves that relationships are all about compromise.
The problem is, the red flags don’t go away. And if we don’t stand for what is truly important to us (and perhaps we didn’t even know just how important it was at the time), we lose not only ourselves in the marriage, but potentially the marriage, itself.
Sure, we can distract ourselves from the red flags–the distraction of the wedding, the distraction of being newlyweds in a new home, or the ultimate distraction, children. Once those settle down, though, we are left with only our partner. And while we as human beings can change, we don’t change that much. The person we marry is the same person who likes sex more than we do. Or less. Or isn’t as clean as we want them to be. Or they are OCD and can’t handle the way we squeeze the toothpaste from the middle.
You see, marriage–like life–doesn’t get easier. Surprise! It requires constant love and nurturing. The courtship may be over, but without it, our lover and best friend turns into our best friend and roommate. Well, we put up with far less from roommates than lovers.
Our spouse is the person we lean on, the person who has our back. But the more time we spend dwelling on those red flags we once ignored, the less time we spend nurturing our relationship. Once our spouse becomes not our right hand, but a right pain, we are no longer willing to compromise over the flags we once thought were no big deal.
The man who brings flowers gets a pass on never paying the bills. But even then, she’d still rather be with someone who’s fiscally responsible!
The woman who never wants to have sex at least keeps the house in immaculate order. But even then, he’d still rather have sex!
So how does our generation stop the divorce rate? The simple solution? We stop getting married. But that works as well as preventing teen pregnancy by advocating for abstinence: it’s simply not practical. So, if we insist on getting married, then we need to know that we are a) happy with all aspects of our future life partner, and b) willing to work at the marriage no matter what.
Because here’s the truth about living with a spouse: we have to put up with a lot of someone else’s crap. And that’s really what we are agreeing to when we stand up there in front of everyone and say, ’til death do us part.
We shouldn’t get married if we aren’t 100% sure that we will work on our marriage no matter how pissed we may get at some point. Or how bored. Or how much we change in one direction, while they change in another.
So, as I sit and watch my two friends tie the knot, I think to myself:
Happily ever after is possible, but only if they realize that the “ever after” isn’t here just yet…
And if sex with him doesn’t feel like sex with her brother!