We get married because it seems right. Strike that, we get married because it feels right. Nah, not good enough. We get married because we know it is right. Is this all a bit confusing? Let’s just agree that we get married for a lot of reasons that we believe to be good, necessary, or right.
Realistically speaking, not everyone who gets married does so without questioning whether it is right. Cold feet is not just a term of art, it is a real emotion, and often a valid one. On the day of my wedding at the ripe old age of 21, my mother was quick to tell me that she knew I did not want to get married. She could see the fear and uncertainty in my eyes. And yet, I felt that the wedding was necessary, maybe even good.
Between that wedding day and the day that I got divorced, I felt bad for my wife. I led her on for several years and while I tried my damndest to be happy and make it work, she never had a fighting chance. If any part of her feels like a failure for that failed marriage, she is doing herself a tremendous disservice, a fact that I remind her of every now and again.
Women, moreso than men, see themselves as failures when their marriage falls apart. I want to take this opportunity to remind them why such attribution is unnecessary, inaccurate, and just plain wrong.
1. Who you married isn’t always who you’re married to: Maybe you married Mark but his alter ego Markus showed up more often than not. You know what I’m talking about. Mark was an intellectually engaging guy that showed interest in your life but Markus barely makes eye contact with you and brushes off your attempts to converse. Are you really going to consider yourself a failure because the person that you married all of a sudden turned into someone else? Keep in mind, this is a very pedestrian example compared to the transformations that often occur after the ‘I do.’
Let me give you an analogy that may hit home for you. Let’s say that your daughter marries a guy that is super sweet. He shows just the right amount of respect, calmness, and logic when there is a disagreement. Two years into their marriage, he has become verbally abusive and has physically backed her into a corner a couple of times. Today, they are on the verge of a divorce. Does this make your daughter a failure? Of course not. And neither are you.
2. It takes two to tango: When the going gets tough in a marriage, cooler heads, open minds, and respectful discourse, are of the utmost importance. Both parties must bring these to the table or the end-state will be brutal. But what happens when both sides are not willing to be adults? Hell, in some cases, one side may not even come to the table, choosing instead to be passive aggressive. You can only put forth so much effort to make things work, especially when it is not being reciprocated. Walking away from a marriage under these conditions does not make you a failure.
I could also talk about infidelity, abuse, and other egregious, non-salvageable things that your partner may do. It takes two to dance the tango of marriage and if one of them is dancing in these dark circles, you leaving as a result in no way makes you a failure.
3. Young and ignorant is a real thing: First things first, I am well aware that the more common term is ‘young and stupid’. However, stupidity is about a lack of intelligence and ignorance is about a lack of information and experience. You can be a very intelligent student at Yale and still lack the experience necessary to understand the difference between love and lust. You can still get swept up in the comfort and humor of someone else and confuse it with long term compatibility. This does not make you a stupid person, nor does it make you a failure. It makes you an inexperienced person that took a big leap that you thought was right.
Another phrase that comes to mind in all of this is “you don’t know what you don’t know.” We dig love and everything that comes with it. Sometimes this means that we have blinders on and while that may lead to undeniable heartache down the road, there’s also something to be said about taking chances. Love is complicated, awesome, confusing, fiery, and hot. You’re a passionate being for giving it a go, and a courageous, intelligent one for knowing when to call it quits.
I do want to leave you with one singular thought: You are only misled for as long as you allow them to lead you.
Translation: You may not be a failure for being in a failed marriage but you are responsible for how long you stay in a situation that you know is wrong.