A Reality Check About Marriage

I have a couple blogs. One I use more for writing about writing and about my daily life. One of the things those readers know is that I suffered writer’s block for about six years. One of the little tricks I developed during that lengthy block as a tool for writing better was my “idea box”. It’s a recipe box filled with 3×5 recipe cards and a couple pens. If watching TV and a notion hits, I pull out a card and write on it. It makes its way in to my desk where it then becomes fodder for a post down the line.

This posting was inspired by the idea card on which I scrawled “An open letter to brides to be: BE SURE”. So, if you’re trying to be all bubbly about an upcoming wedding, grab some wood, have a seat, and take a breath. I’m about to burst that bubble.

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Divorce stats are changing. More and more, people who’ve been married decades are divorcing. Staying together because it’s somehow “easier” than facing the great unknown is now becoming less attractive than tearing your life apart in the hopes that something better might possibly see you out your days.

There once was a time that an employee would adopt a trade, an employer, and there they would dutifully spend their lives. It was just that easy. You find a job that needs doing, one that might have a future, something stable and constant, and there you stay until you get the golden Rolex and the coupon for a trip to Tahiti.

There once was that time.

That’s all changed now. One can embark upon any number of careers in the length of their working life, and instead of hoping for a good pension and gift receipt with the Rolex, they have investment bankers and multiple properties they own. It’s a different game. You do what’s attractive, or necessary, for any given time, and when that gravy train runs dry or gets chunky, you jet to a new stream and see where the flow goes.

Who’s to say the time for being married only once isn’t on the verge of getting cashed like a big fat reality check? Soon we’re going to chuckle and mirthfully remark, “Marriage? Pfft. That’s so 20th-century.”

There are those with the incredible luck, foresight, timing, and passion that just happen to find that one true love that’s gonna last ’em till their dying day. They ought to hold on and never let that go. We should all be so lucky. We should all find that.

But most of us will not. Most of us will decide it’s easier to either go it alone, or find someone new, than it is to keep settling for what we know is less than is possible.

What is possible is something stunning. True love, when you have it, changes your life and changes you. It changes everything. It takes work and commitment and a desire to keep it real, but it’s a keeper.

When love doesn’t work, when feelings are hurt or just not there, and communication is stilted, if it’s anything at all, then it’s safe to say that “love” is a destructive force that cuts away at who you are. When love isn’t working, it’s like living a failure all over again each day. No matter how good everything else in your life is, there’s that negative. And there’s only so long before that nagging constant just becomes unbearable, like a tap dripping water for five minutes too long, and you just snap.

I believe people take divorce too lightly and that they ought to work more at making things work, or why would I write as I do? But I also believe the taking lightly of marriage is inevitable and far too many people marry without understanding the gravity of the situation. It’s not just sex and cuddles and someone to split the bills with. It’s life ever after. It’s believing — truly believing — that seeing that face every single day of your life would be a step in the right direction. It’s about saying that no matter what comes, you’re in a partnership that’ll take all comers. It’s love hardcore.

And most of the time, it’s going to fail. Most of the time people won’t have it in them to survive the low points that every single relationship will have. Most of the time people won’t recall that our greatest joys come in contrast to our darkest times, and they’ll give up.

So let me say this now:

If you’re about to get married and you have doubt that this is a decision you can wake up at 63, roll over in bed, look at them lying next to you, and think, “I’ve spent these years well”, then maybe you wanna rethink your choice.

Have you ever really talked about sex with each other? Really been truly honest about your fetishes and desires? Are you really on that page together? If not, is there room for growth? And money — are you in sync there? Do you have a financial plan for your future together? Do their spending habits irk you now? Do you think they’re cheap?

If these sound like superficial questions, then wake the hell up. Sex and money are the two biggest reasons marriages fail, so you’d better know now what you’re getting into.

Love’s fantastic, but marriages aren’t easy to survive. Most die, and most die badly. The victims of divorce lay strewn across the globe. If anything in your relationship smacks of “well, we’ll work it out”, then maybe you should consider working that shit out and THEN getting married.

And don’t think that you’re due for your bliss and the good times will roll for ever after. Karma’s what we want to happen, but bad things happen to good people every single day, and sometimes it’s just your number the man pulls from the hat. Remember my heart-breaker letter* from the woman in her 30s whose husband became incredibly disabled, forcing her to become a caregiver even before her 40th? Life is gonna unfold differently from how you envision it. What if it can’t live up to your expectations? What if your lover can’t? What are you gonna do then?

It’s not silly, or nervous, or stupid, or unfaithful of you to reconsider that walk down that aisle — it’s the best gift you can give to you and your would-be spouse. Know you want it when you go there. Know it.

And if you can’t be confident, well, maybe there’s another path for you. And if after this you still know it’s right for you, then you have my best wishes.

(I took the liberty of copying and pasting the comments from the original blog to the comments on this site. Have a read.)