Let’s get this out of the way first.
I’m a happily divorced, ethically non-monogamous guy who thinks marriage ruins relationships — so take what I’m saying with a grain of salt.
What I’m going to suggest will be wildly unpopular among “normal” people, since it goes against everything we’ve been taught to believe about marriage.
Ready for it?
Don’t get married unless you’re willing to get divorced.
Right off the bat you might think I’m a cynical jerk, but consider for a moment the importance of this statement.
Don’t enter a marriage without being willing to end it.
We’re taught that “marriage is forever” and while that’s a nice thing to write on your wedding cake, it’s not only ridiculous but not true. Most people that get married don’t stay married, and a large percentage of those people who stay married would probably have been happier getting divorced.
Marriage isn’t a binding contract that you can never get out of, because if it was most of us wouldn’t do it.
I don’t care how conservative you are, if you knew that without-a-doubt you could never leave the person you get married to, wouldn’t that be enough reason not to do it? Sure, I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t like the idea of one person for life, but can we just be honest here for a second? Am I that different than most people?
Since Paula and I broke up last summer people have said things to me like “oh, I thought you guys were married?” (we were) and I would reply with “yes, we had a very successful 4-year marriage” (which we did).
Hey — it’s not the dark ages, the Pope doesn’t have to approve your divorce, and marriage isn’t forever.
Fear Is The Enemy of Real Communication
The problem with couples that try and convince themselves they are the exception and will be together “forever” is they are afraid of anything that might lead to a break up — so they avoid difficult conversations like the plague.
Fear leads to avoidance, avoidance leads to resentment and resentment leads to pulling away. Pretty soon you have two people staying together who don’t really like each other, and if they are lucky they might break up.
That’s if they are lucky.
The reason couples who are afraid of breaking up can’t have difficult conversations is that a true difficult conversation (how I’m defining it) is one where you are willing to put the future of your relationship at stake.
That’s the meat of this article, so don’t miss that part.
A couple must be willing to have the conversations that put the future of their relationship at stake.
This shouldn’t be done from a place of idle threat or manipulation, it’s simply an honest look at what’s working, what’s not working and both parties being willing to make each other’s happiness more of a priority than winning a relationship lifetime achievement award.
Longevity is and always has been a shitty metric for relationship “success”. We should aim for things like happiness, depth and growth, and when it becomes clear that we would have more of those things apart, the relationship should end for the sake of the people involved.
When I say “don’t get married unless you’re willing to get divorced” it’s with the intention of creating the happiest relationship possible. You’ve met people in unhappy relationships, and the one thing that’s keeping them from being happy as individuals is the simple fact that they can’t let the relationship die after it has run it’s course.
Alright, now I’m feeling like that divorced dude who rants about marriage all the time — but it’s all I want to talk about these days. We cling to our relationships like a security blanket and then wonder why we aren’t having the fulfilling, nurturing, healthy relationships we hoped for.
Acknowledging that your relationship might end may be scary at first, but it’s the best medicine for ensuring that your relationship is fulfilling and happy.
I can say with no hesitation that I didn’t have the longest marriage out there, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. The time we spent together was real, it was intense and when it had run it’s course, we ended it — and yes, breaking up was hard, and yes there were emotions, and feelings, there still are. But you know what’s worse than all those feelings and emotions?
Staying in a relationship that needed to end long ago.