Why do we bother staying married?
You might have read this well-publicized article from July 2015 in the New York Times "The Wedding Toast I Will Never Give" by Ada Calhoun.
Eloquently and with humor, Calhoun describes her experience in an 11-year marriage which is not what weddings make it out to be. She illustrates sitting at weddings of her friends and listening to the romantic vows of “best friends forever” and “til death do we part” while thinking the honest truth, for her, about marriage:
I want to say that one day you and your husband will fight about missed flights, and you’ll find yourself wistful for the days when you had to pay for only your own mistakes. I want to say that at various points in your marriage, may it last forever, you will look at this person and feel only rage. You will gaze at this man you once adored and think, “It sure would be nice to have this whole place to myself.
The grist of marriage and committed relationships is where it is at as far as I am concerned. It is about the struggle…the trying…the failing…and the trying again. And of course, those sweet moments of success.
My husband (of 16 years) and I joke that we had a pretty bad marital run from 2000-2005.
Yes…5 years of 'pretty bad'. (And no, there was nothing funny about it at the time.) There was a terrible bike accident that left my husband in a hospital bed and then wheelchair...and then on the operating table two, four, six times. There was the unexpected death of a parent. Financial crisis. A child. A chronic medical diagnosis. And of course the day-to-day in there too -- dishes, laundry, new jobs, new towns, packing and moving, unpacking and settling.
And now, our situation is not really that unusual. It is just life...which happens while you are trying to be married.
We tried lots of things to make it work…we failed miserably at it ‘working’ but we limped and fumbled along anyway. Unwittingly, we were committed to the process of marriage (or more honestly staying together for the kid)…which ultimately was really a commitment to showing up, being vulnerable, being our worst selves and on a bright day being a better version of ourselves. We had moments of both tremendous victories and also terribly humiliating failures.
For me, and for many of us in the field of couples counseling…it is not so much about staying together but rather about being engaged in the process.
For many couples (statistically about half) that process takes them to divorce.
We help people travel through the process of divorce in an engaged manner so that they can learn and grow along the way.
We also help people travel through the process of marriage in an engaged manner so that they can learn and grow along the way.
And some couples…some couples need help discerning which path to take: staying together or getting a divorce. We do that too.
Until you have experienced both the sweetness of connection with another human being through commitment and the desolation of disconnection with another human being in commitment, you cannot appreciate the challenges that marriage has to offer. The challenges are many…as are the rewards.
So why do we even bother?
At the end of the day, we are hard-wired to want to have a “person”, to be in relationship, and to feel connection. Sometimes that will be with the person with whom you have said "I do". And sometimes not. Arthur Ashe has famously said, "It is about the journey, not the destination" and in life as in marriage I would whole heartedly agree.
If you are interested in having someone guide and support you through that journey, call us today and our Client Ambassador will get you all set up! (720) 457-3342.