The Two Paths to Solving Divorce: Which Will We Choose?

The easy way or the hard way

(Image/iStock)

There are two ways to solve society’s divorce crisis.

One is pretty easy, which is great! We like easy things because everyone can do it!

The other is hard, which is a bummer. We generally prefer easy over difficult, and most of the time it makes sense to choose the easier way when the result is the same.

I think divorce is the great social crisis of our time.

The consequences of divorce on individual people and families are nothing short of life trauma for one or both partners, their children, extended families and close friends. There is often financial suffering, and more importantly, suffering of the mental, physical, spiritual and emotional variety.

The trickle-down effects of divorce on society as a whole have been well documented. Children in unstable homes often grow up struggling emotionally, have trouble in school, experience dysfunctional relationships and never learning what healthy ones look like, all of which leads to sick and broken people who hurt others, commit crime, and repeat the cycle.

Is it Fair to Label it a ‘Crisis’?

Of course it is.

First, marriage is a thing which affects 95% of all people (in the United States, but I’m super-confident this applies everywhere).

Second, marriage consists of two people VOLUNTEERING to commit the rest of their lives to one another, most of the time doing so in front of hundreds of witnesses and spending $30,000 on a big party to celebrate it. These two people are serious, and you can tell since they’re investing so much in it. The vast majority of the time, both people exchanging vows are totally convinced they will love and honor one another forever.

Third, despite that, 5-10 years later, more than half will divorce. Those brave enough to marry again end up divorcing 67% of the time, even after experiencing what didn’t work the first time.

Fourth, (and most frightening) is that so few see it coming. We date and we’re happy. We want to get married. We get married. Then millions of things happen both good and bad over the course of many days, and emotional ups and downs, and perhaps children and other life changes.

And then it breaks, and people die inside. Then they get divorced, and most of the time, can’t even tell you how it all happened, because there’s rarely some big thing to point to as the reason. It’s many countless little moments no one knew were important until they looked back later and identified their missteps. Which some never do.

Fifth, (and most disturbing) is that it seems so few talk about it, making me wonder how things can get better if no one ever talks about it.

The Two Divorce Solutions

Solution #1 is Easy! – Redefine Divorce, making it “less painful through rebranding and rethinking.”

OMG! YES!!!

This sounds awesome! After all, I’m a huge proponent of the power of mindset, asking the right questions, and reframing problems to find solutions!

Maybe divorce isn’t a crisis! Maybe it’s an opportunity!

Here’s what a couple of super-smart doctors had to say about this exciting new method of dealing with the end of a marriage—The Inconvenient Truth About Love and Divorce, they say:

“Divorce is intrinsically hard, but our attitudes make it harder than it needs to be. Guilt, shame and a sense of failure significantly raise the emotional cost of divorce.”

They continue:

“…people contemplating divorce are generally profoundly unhappy. America has taught us that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human right — yet because our society feels threatened by divorce, it does not particularly want to attach that concept to the dissolution of marriage. We want to talk about love and happiness on the way into marriage, but after the exchange of rings, we demand an old-fashioned narrative, one of self-sacrifice, loyalty and hard work.

“These attitudes are rooted in the past, when marriage was an economic institution designed to build wealth and raise children. While it was surely the case that humans longed for love and happiness as much then as they do now, those feelings were not expected to derive from marriage. The pursuit of love and happiness was not considered to be an adequate reason for marriage, and it certainly was not an adequate reason for divorce.

“Today, in contrast, the vast majority of Americans marry for love. We promise at the altar to love one another until death do us part. We do not pause long enough to ask ourselves what that promise signifies, because we do not want to know the answer. Can anyone commit to feel an emotion in perpetuity? No, of course not. We can force ourselves to be loyal and self-sacrificing, but we cannot force ourselves to love. We humans have little control over our hearts.

“This truth is so inconvenient that we try to tell ourselves stories about how love can be created through determination and hard work, but we don’t really believe our own stories. If we did, we would all still agree to arranged marriages. In reality, some modern couples are held together by a strong bond of love, but for other couples, love fades, leaving behind an existential question: If we married for love, what does it mean, now, to be married without love?

“If we, as a society, were honest with ourselves, we would admit that it is not reasonable to expect people to marry for love yet not to divorce for lack of love.”

Maybe you didn’t pick up on this earlier, but I think the co-authors’ take on love, marriage and divorce is about the dumbest, shittiest, unhealthiest and damaging take on this topic that I’ve ever seen.

Maybe murder would be better dealt with using simple rebranding and rethinking!

Is murder really so bad? After all, everyone dies anyway. By demonstrating empathy and support for murderers, we can see that what they really did was simply accelerate an event which was inevitably going to happen anyway. There’s no evidence the deceased is suffering. Let’s not think of it as “murder,” and start telling ourselves different stories!

Maybe I’m being an asshole. That’s probably not a very good example.

I shared this TED article written by Astro and Danielle Teller yesterday on Facebook, curious what others may think and feel about it.

I think frequent MBTTTR commenter Lisa Gottman summed up my initial thoughts nicely with this:

“One aspect of love is emotion, but it’s also involves our cognitive choices and relationship skills and biology. So many people get divorced because they don’t understand where love went or how to fix it.”

And then kicked more ass with this:

“Also, by these authors’ premise, we could also apply these principles to children. That used to be a practical way to get help for the farm or just a lack of birth control. We now have children for love. But you know what, we don’t feel love for them sometimes, or when they’re teenagers maybe not at all for years.
“Should we consciously uncouple from them too? How about our annoying relatives? The mom who is not abusive but just has poor boundaries. Do I get to consciously uncouple from her because I don’t feel a lot of touchy feely emotions of love each Thanksgiving when she criticizes the meal?”

Because I read that article and was totally dumbfounded. The Tellers are brilliant, highly accomplished people. Astro is a successful entrepreneur, scientist and author. Danielle is a physician, scientist and author.

And if THEY don’t know, then it’s no damn wonder so many people out there don’t know either.

LOVE IS NOT AN EMOTION.

Love is certainly something we feel. But it is NOT a “feeling.”

And I needn’t say more than Lisa already did regarding our feelings toward our children or family members. We don’t “feel” like waking up and going to work sometimes. But most of us do it anyway because it’s what we must in order to achieve something we desire—paying for homes, food, transportation, electricity, TV and internet service, eliminating debt and every other life expense. We WANT these things, so we do things we don’t want in order to acquire them.

We don’t wake up every morning for the rest of our marriages feeling the same emotional waves of infatuation and lustful desire as we might have in the early days of our relationship. We’re soul mates and best friends!!!

Umm. No you’re not. And it won’t take long for hedonic adaptation to firmly take hold of your brain and make you shittier at several aspects of human relationships.

It’s your job to KNOW you will get bored. It happens to every person about everything. Always, always, always. You can’t trade in your boring spouse for a new one who will magically never bore or upset you one day.

The Tellers are smart. But on this, they’re terrifyingly wrong.

LOVE IS A CHOICE.

Solution #2 is Hard! – Wake Up Every Day, and Make the Choice to Love Hard, Just Like You Promised

The Tellers called it “old-fashioned.”

They labeled “self-sacrifice, loyalty and hard work” as being outdated concepts we should all move past. If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it!

Yeah, great message. That should do wonders for the world’s youth who don’t want to go to school, and who want governments to just give them things without making any discernible societal contribution.

When you don’t mow your grass, your lawn looks shitty and your property becomes ugly.

When you don’t exercise, you gain weight and your muscles atrophy, and you look worse and literally become less healthy.

When you don’t educate yourself or develop skills, you end up ignorant and unskilled, and a life of difficulty and poverty is likely. (Yes, I know there are layers of complexity related to certain unearned advantages here.)

When you neglect Things Which Need Done, or even just Things We Should Do, your life suffers in whichever areas you are neglecting. This is a universally true thing, applicable to everyone in every culture, since the beginning of recorded human history.

We must DO STUFF—some of which isn’t fun and maybe doesn’t “feel good”—in order to achieve something we want, or maintain a particular state of being.

Treating marriage or any long-term monogamous relationship as something that lives outside this universal truth is dangerous, delusional, and fuels the problem we’re already having.

The Problem: We’ve Cheapened Marriage

We’re all probably a little guilty.

I am with the Tellers that a “non-confrontational approach to divorce” is a better way of doing things. Kindness almost always has merit. And I’m totally cool with “conscious uncoupling.” Two people calmly and collaboratively agreeing to go their separate ways. That’s awesome. Good for them.

Just do it before you get married.

Because, Marriage = Forever. That’s the entire point. Any hesitation to sign up for forever lends itself, I think to simply NOT getting married.

Succeeding in marriage and avoiding divorce has NEVER been advertised as something easy to do. That doesn’t make it “old-fashioned.” It just makes it true.

The solution to achieving future love and happiness is NOT encouraging everyone who doesn’t feel loved or feel happy to treat their relationships like an older-generation iPhone they want to upgrade.

The solution to achieving future love is to actually love—because when we give, we receive.

The solution to achieving future happiness is to realize there’s no such thing as a life destination where Happiness lives. We don’t arrive somewhere, discover we feel happy, and then simply stay there forever. Happiness is something we feel along our various life journeys in our endless pursuits of whatever it is we choose to chase.

Choose to love. Choose gratitude and contentment while doing so.

It’s rarely easy. It’s often hard.

But it’s always good.

Life is full of hacks and shortcuts.

Like with physical fitness, education, and our individual pursuits of excellence, in Love and Marriage there are no shortcuts. Just the long way.

No one promised it would be easy or feel good every day. Only that it’d be worth it.

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95 thoughts on “The Two Paths to Solving Divorce: Which Will We Choose?

  1. Travis B. says:

    That final line was perfection.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      I understand people wanting easy. I understand people ignorantly entering marriage believing it to be easier than it is because marriage problems are not a thing people want to discuss publicly. But I don’t think I understand people’s seeming unwillingness to sacrifice comfort for their spouse and children and work cooperatively to achieve a mutually beneficial relationship.

      People are faced with three choices:

      1. Working together to make marriage great.

      2. Having a crappy marriage.

      3. Divorce.

      Some people are beyond saving.

      But MOST people recognize there’s only one good choice there.

      The problem has been, and will continue to be, a simple lack of awareness.

      Like

    • ShellyM says:

      Wow!!!! When my husband came home one day and told me he filed for divorce—after 2 years of marriage, infertility and cancer– his word were
      “This is too hard”
      “and when you were sick it “weighed” on me”

      Six months later I’m still struggling to digest this.
      I’m sad every day and he is on to the next.
      A new girl with less problems as dating is simpler than marriage IMO.

      I have come to the conclusion that he wanted our marriage to be easy and is a quitter.
      Or maybe he is not the man I thought he was.

      I have been reading for awhile now, but this posting really resonated with me.

      Thanks Matt, for your words.
      Keep it up.

      Like

  2. latenightblond says:

    I think I’ve made the comment before that I was raised as a child to believe that love was a ‘doing word’ – the SHOW and tell part of life. Listening to my parents and older relatives made sense to me because I come from a long line of long marriages (50 yrs +) back into the great great greats. My generation is the big hiccup. Some of my cousins are divorced. I went through a divorce. What I find sad (and you missed as a third solution) is that many are choosing not to marry at all. They live together and have partners. They miss the wedding and the expense and the promise too. I’m not sure how it helps however – because when I’ve seen it end, the destruction looks the same.

    Like

    • zombiedrew2 says:

      “My generation is the big hiccup.”

      I feel the same. In my parents generation and beyond, divorce was more the exception. Due to that, I suspect a lot of people stayed in marriages where they weren’t really happy – because they wanted to avoid the stigma of a broken marriage.

      Now that it’s more common, the stigma is lessened somewhat (though it’s still there), and having it be more acceptable almost seems to make it happen more frequently. Reduced stigma and guilt is good, increased frequency probably isn’t.

      Where I think our generation has it wrong is in a belief (which was stated in the post) that happiness is somehow a basic right. And if we aren’t happy, then something is wrong.

      Sorry. I think it’s great when people are happy, I really do. And I wish people were happier. But no one has a “right” to happiness. I have a right to try and pursue my own happiness, but that doesn’t mean I’ll find it. And I struggle with how many people are willing to us “I just want to be happy” as an excuse for things that often leave considerable damage in their wake.

      I’m not always happy, and that’s alright. It’s not a destination, it’s not a perpetual state. I see happiness more as part of the journey, and a byproduct of other things that we do.

      Liked by 1 person

      • nights7 says:

        Yes, we don’t have an inherent right to happiness, we have a right to pursue happiness. Pursue, it’s a verb that implies chasing or working towards achieving something. It implies work. And even that right to pursue happiness comes with an oft overlooked caveat: once our pursuit of happiness infringes on anyone else’s basic human rights it ceases to be a right. We aren’t even entitled to an unadulterated pursuit of happiness.
        There SHOULD be some stigma to divorce. It’s a terrible, sucky thing all around. The commitment of marriage should be taken seriously and abandoning that commitment even more seriously. Divorce shouldn’t make a person a social outcast or anything but it shouldn’t be taken lightly either. There needs to be a balanced amount of divorce related stigma. Besides, some of the people who just aren’t happy in a marriage are probably not going to be any happier outside the marriage. Like you said, happiness isn’t an end destination or perpetual state.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      An excellent point. When you play house, and enter into long-term committed partnerships, the dynamics are essentially identical to marriage.

      Everyone gets to decide for themselves what their boundaries are. I’m all for not marrying. But it’s foolish to think we can avoid the negative consequences of breaking up/divorce simply by avoiding the words “I do.”

      People who don’t want to marry should maybe not mimic marriage.

      Being stabbed in the chest with a knife probably hurts a lot even if, instead of calling it a “stabbing,” we call it a “gentle feather rubbing.”

      Like

  3. zombiedrew2 says:

    I’m mostly with you, but not all the way there.

    Marriage “should” be forever, and that is the intent. I suspect a lot of marriages fail because we go in with broken understandings of what marriage is, and what it will do for us. Additionally, many people equate the “feelings” of love with love, and when those feelings aren’t constant it becomes seen as a sign of something wrong with the relationship – which can lead to a downward spiral (especially if someone finds themselves able to have those feelings for someone they aren’t married to).

    So I’m totally in with the concept of hard work, and of understanding that things won’t always be rosy, and we only get out of something what we put into it.

    But I still struggle with the idea that there is no “out” if you one day come to the realization that things aren’t working for some reason.

    Imagine after many years you find out your partner is a serial killer. Well, it’s pretty safe that you may not want to be with them anymore so divorce is a pretty good option.

    What about if they are a pedophile? Or a serial adulterer? Again, pretty good chance you want out.

    What if your favorite color is blue – and you find out that *gasp*, they actually hate the color blue. That might not be a great reason for divorce.

    Thing is, when there ARE justifiable reasons for it then it’s really tough to determine exactly what constitutes a good reason and what doesn’t.

    As you said, often people aren’t even sure why they want out. They just have got stuck somewhere, and it’s been long enough that you have completely lost hope that they ever will get out. So divorce seems like a way out of a bad situation.

    I’ve seen many cases where someone divorces because they believe the relationship is the problem/reason for their unhappiness. And they feel validated when they meet someone new, and everything is magically better. For a while. Then the same problems come up, and they realize the problem wasn’t the relationship, it was them. Or more precisely their understanding of what it means to be in a relationship, and their expectations from a relationship. Generally those have to be addressed before someone can actually be happy in ANY relationship.

    The hard part is that education of what healthy relationships actually are. And what healthy conflict is. That is something that’s hugely missing from our educations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      We think the same on this, Drew. There just aren’t enough words to cover every single base.

      I pride myself on pragmatism.

      OF COURSE people should end relationships under certain circumstances. I’m a huge proponent of ending abusive relationships, one where crime or violence is prevalent, where there was a major breach of trust, where children are endangered in some way, etc.

      You’re right. It’s all awareness and ignorance. Most people just don’t know what they don’t know.

      I hope I never seem like I’m advocating people staying in shitty marriages with an overtly or irresponsibly neglectful spouse.

      I’m of the strong opinion that MOST divorce is what Lisa has been calling “stupid divorce.”

      The ones I refer to constantly.

      The two good people who marry on purpose and love one another, and end up sad and angry on accident because neither of them knew all these little secrets that shouldn’t be secrets about one another, nor how to communicate effectively.

      The people who tell you that they both love each other but they no longer “like” each other, so they’re going to divorce and break up their family, and intend to go try again with someone new.

      It’s so pointless because the vast majority of those couples will discover they have the same problems a few years later.

      I find it all needlessly wasteful. And I think MOST people who divorce would tell you they regret that it happened.

      The answer is not to chalk up marriage and commitment and love as archaic, but to simply stop doing things incorrectly in ways long demonstrated to be ineffective at best, and extremely damaging, at worst.

      Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Yeah, totally agreed. My point about divorce being understandable when you find out your partner is a serial killer, while probably not being understandable if they don’t like the color blue was that when you are “in the mess”, it’s really hard to determine what is a valid reason and what isn’t. Do you hold on and try to make things better, or do you let go because you have determined things will never get any better?

        There’s no easy answers there, and like nights7 said above, probably there shouldn’t be. Divorce *should* be a difficult decision, and it should be the nuclear option.

        I’ve seen situations where a couple splits up because “the relationship” is the problem, and one or both are in the exact same situation with someone else a few years later. In those cases, it seems it’s definitely about how they have approached things (and not learned from mistakes) that has caused the problem. I’ve also seen cases where a couple splits up and it seems like it was the right decision for them as they are much happier.

        I know one guy who tried holding on in the hopes that things would improve. Things just got progressively worse, and when they eventually divorced his only regret was that he didn’t pull the plug earlier as the time/energy he spent trying to hold on felt wasted. I know another couple who was on the road to divorce, and decided to stay together. They learned a lot about themselves and each other, and now thier relationship is stronger than it was.

        It’s so hard to know what can and will happen. All you can really do is your best I guess. And if things are in a bad spot, set boundaries and celebrate small improvements and victories when they happen.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Donkey says:

        Yeah, like Drew says, it’s hard to know what the right decision is, and like Lisa says, many commenters here have worked so hard for years. Personally I can relate to the other commenter wishing their parents would divorce too.

        I so believe that people should truly work on their side before leaving, and see if their relationship becomes good.

        If you DON’T work on your lack of accepting influence/boundaries/attachment problems/unrealistic expectations/intimicy problems and so on, and want to be married or live with someone again? Do you think it will be easier to figure it out now that you’re older and more set in your (dysfunctional) ways, with someone else who’s probably also older and more set in their (dysfunctional) ways? If you have kids, do you think it will be easier to navigate parenting and daily life with someone who doesn’t love your kids as much as you do? Not to mention, you’ll maybe have to deal with their snotty little…err, sorry, prescious little miracles too, who maybe also blames you for mommy and daddy not living together anymore? I’m sorry if I’m offending parents, I don’t mean to be rude, but parenting sounds SO challenging. Do you really want to do it with someone elses kids too?! :p

        Like

      • zombiedrew2 says:

        Donkey, parenting can be pretty rewarding but you right that it can also be really difficult. Personally I think a lot of “relationship” issues for parents is really related to the stresses of parenting

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey and Drew,

        It’s easier to just operate separately before kids. The lack of relationship skills show up clearly after kids add to the need for maturity and teamwork.

        Here’s a quote from Gottman’s blog. There are relationship fails on the wife’s end too like maternal gatekerping. But since it’s Mother’s Dat we’ll blame it all on the men today. ;)

        “In the first year after baby arrives, 67% of wives experience a precipitous plummet in their marital satisfaction. Lack of sleep, feeling overwhelmed and under appreciated, juggling mothering with a job, economic stress, and lack of time to oneself, among other things. Why do the other 33% sail through the transition unscathed?

        What separates these blissful mothers from the rest has everything to do with whether the husband experiences the transformation to parenthood along with his wife or gets left behind.”

        The 33% number seems eerily similar to the 35% of men who accept influence in other studies doesn’t it? Wonder if this magical relationship skill is the secret to happy wives and mothers?

        Yes, yes it is!!! And it becomes even more important as the sheer volume of self sacrifice and grunt work increases with the arrival of kids.

        If a man doesn’t accept the challenge of full partnership and chooses to becomes the helper, he will have an unhappy wife and most likely a divorce.

        Like

      • Donkey says:

        Thanks Drew and Lisa.

        Again, I’m sorry if I stepped on anyone’s toes, it was probably a bit tonedeaf to talk about snotty kids on mother’s day (mother’s day is at a different time where I live though). So, happy mother’s day!

        Personally though, I feel like I now maybe have the maturity to soon be able to parent…an esygoing dog. A labrador or something. 8)

        Lisa, thank you for using your superpower for the common good here. :) Feel free to hold the wives accountable too.

        Anyway, it would be very interesting to know why a significant minority of husbands, the 35%, do accept influence. How did they become Jasons?! :) And the women with good boundaries, how did that happen? :p

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Donkey,

        You’re not stepping on any toes here. You know what I asked for Mother’s Day? To clean the house. Accepting influence is still low on that topic but we are working on it. Still getting served a lot of shit sandwiches there but it’s all a work in progress as I serve up a few myself regularly on other topics. ;).

        It’s on the list of topics for our counselor (whose name is Jason by the way. I named our ideal partner in the Steve discussion after him even though he tells us we think too much ;)

        Ok on to parenting, I think parenting is easier or harder depending on how healthy you are are if you have good relationship skills before the kid is born.

        If you are lucky or blessed to be born with a secure, happy family, and marry another person with same you will already know a lot of skills necessary like accepting influence and setting healthy boundaries.

        If you also have a low Big 5 personality neuroticism level (meaning low anxiety or depression or high happiness set point if you will) then parenting will be easier.

        If you have a kid who is “easy” and/or low in neuroticism, parenting will be easier. If you have a happy marriage in true partnership, parenting will be easier. If you have a strong family, friend, or community support system, parenting will be easier.

        If you have the financial resources to not worry about paying the bills, live in a safe environment, and to hire a babysitter, parenting will be easier.

        If you all are in good physical and mental health, parenting will be easier.

        Each one of these things and many more makes it easier or harder to be a good parent.

        The most critical one though I think is getting the right relationship skills because that is the foundation for having the ability to deal with any of the rest of the shit that gets thrown in the mix.

        So the fact that I had some relationship deficits is what made marriage and parenting harder for me. I’ve talked before about my shitty mom ways of wanting my daughter to be easier and more like me.

        That is a lack of differentiation and a lack of accepting influence. So I’ve had to work hard to correctly diagnosis the problem and learn the skills and how to apply it.

        I’m working now to correctly diagnosis the skills I need to fully fix my marriage. I defintely brought some relationship skill deficits into it as did he. I think most people do.

        And that’s ok as long as you recognize that and fix it. Hopefully sooner than later to save a lot of pain and misery and/or stupid, unnecessary divorces.

        If I have good relationship skills with myself and other people, we can fully support each other in healthy ways to deal with the inevitable sadness and hard stuff in life.

        So that is why it is foundational to everything including all relatonships. And good relationships, however defined, are critical to a meaningful life.

        What do you think?

        Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Drew,

      I posted this comment on your blog but I believe it so strongly I’m shamelessly posting it here too.

      Here’s another thing drives me crazy. The proper use of “should”. I had a very difficult time finding an individual therapist who would understand what I was talking about when I said “should” is a very helpful concept.

      As you know “should statements” are one of the 10 basic distorted thoughts in Cognitive Therapy. And of course it can be a problem. But where I find it helpful is in understanding what the proper goal is in treating ourselves and others well.

      There are some “shoulds” involved.

      I should take care of my children.
      I should treat others with respect.
      I should take my marriage vows seriously.

      I grew up in a kind of generally well intentioned but Orwellian environment. Sometimes basic shoulds were see as optional or even needy and selfish.

      So I developed a strong sense of “shoulds”. It was helpful. It still is helpful to me as part of being mature when everything in my fast brain wants to lose my temper and scream at people. I “should” treat people with respect, so I don’t (most of time anyway😉)

      But of course this is a crude tool. And many different interpretations are out there for the meaning of treating people with respect as an example. That I understood but what shocked me was going to individual therapy and being told there are no shoulds. Everything is relative, subjective. Sigh.

      I just think that is so dysfunctional. Our society now has changed and needs the right kind of shoulds.

      Not the stupid kinds like I should be a size 4 or have a successful career to be worthy of love. But the kind of shoulds about basic relationship skills and love. Taking care of each other even when it’s inconvenient.

      I think a lack of healthy “shoulds” explain a lot of stupid divorces. The husband “should” treat his wife with respect and accept influence. The wife “should” expect and insist he treat her with respect.

      When the marriage could be fixed with the right help. It’s just so easy to walk away. Because it’s hard and (usually the wife) is just understandably exhausted and hurt and sad. And our society says divorce is no big deal.

      Our responsibilities to others and ourselves. Those kind of shoulds. We can discuss and debate the details but we “should” at agree there are some healthy shoulds.

      I have found Bill Doherty’s point of view so helpful to validate my thoughts. I have given up on finding a therapist who does. They are trained to not agree with this. I think it causes a lot of suffering and stupid divorces and cut offs in family relationships when things get hard. It’s so common to have family members that don’t speak to each other and haven’t seen each other for years.

      Here’s a short clip of him talking about values therapy

      Like

      • Linbo says:

        Lisa,
        I was just reading about therapies that want to deconstruct peoples “should’s”. I think the clinicians are using it wrong. It’s original intent is to get rid of unrealistic and self defeating ideas about who they are supposed to be and how they are supposed to behave.
        It does, however, come across as relativistic and makes everything permissible. Which distorts the purpose of it. *sigh ..:)

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Linbo,

        I agree that those kind of shoulds ought to be questioned. All “shoulds” ought to be questioned. Like everything else, the correct understanding and balance must be struck. And people will have different opinions.

        The problem is that ALL “should” moral boundaries are considered ill advised. All guidelines for behavior are deemed as this article describes it as an “old-fashioned narrative, one of self-sacrifice, loyalty, and hard work”.

        I was reading a blog the other day asking how to honor a difficult mom on Mother’s Day. I was amazed that so many people said they had cut off contact with their mothers and would advise the same for peace and happiness.

        Now, of course, there are situations where this is necessary. But let’s be honest, that’s not most cases. I just think there is such a loss of “shoulds”. I should as a default love and honor my mother. Why? Well she’s friggin mom that’s why. (Assuming she’s not abusive but just not easy.)

        How I do that and what boundaries I need will depend on the circumstances and how mature my mother is. Or how much maturity I can muster up on a given day so I can show kindness and not lose my temper.

        But for most people cut offs are a sign of my immaturity and unwillingness to do some hard work and set healthy boundaries while still showing love and kindness.

        This is one I have to personally wrestle with. But at least I can mail my mom a card, send her flowers, and wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. Most people “should” at least be able to pull that off or something equivalent.

        Or at least start there. If there are reasons why I truly can’t do that because of a toxic relationship, at least I will have started from the default position of showing kindness and I will have thoughtfully made a different decision.

        But to just flippantly say it’s ok to cut off contact with your mother because she is not easy? Part of the same disease as the authors prescribe as a cure for marriages. When it gets hard, just move on.

        It’s such a wrong, immature way of not challenging ourselves to grow up. I fail at it pretty much every day but at least I know I “should” listen to people who tell me to keep trying.

        Like

      • Linbo says:

        Lisa,
        I can agree with you (even though I know that is just so boring!!:)
        Especially in the particular of “mom’s”. My mom was a sucky mother. She hated it, I hated it, we all hated it. But she is not an out and out bad person .
        She made dumb choices about her priorities- choosing her boyfriend over being a parent and pretty much just leaving us to care for ourselves (A 7 and a 9 year old). Right now, even though she has one daughter (my sister) who has done exactly what you are talking about- cutting off ties with myself and my mom, (and I believe has a tremendous amount of emotional problems) and another daughter (myself) who has spent her entire adulthood recovering from the neglect of my mom and the verbal and emotional abuse of my father, she refuses to acknowledge anything was wrong.
        I don’t think she can.
        She would rather blame any problem I have or my sister has on “your fathers genes”. (Maybe that’s were my aversion to genetics comes from? lol- joking.)

        She is business savvy, smart, funny, and can charm just about anyone. I also know she has a mountain of her own hurts that she has struggled with. I know she got married too young, and to the wrong guy. I know she regrets the years we have spent when we didn’t have contact. I see her as a human being. Our relationship now is at times awkward and stiff, but it’s getting better. I am driving 2 hours to go see her tomorrow. I will probably stay for 1 hour- because that’s about as much as we have to talk about, then I’ll drive another 2 hours back.

        It’s worth it to me to continue to build that bridge with her. She failed- no lie. She failed in her duties as a mom. But, I don’t disregard her as a person. It grows me to be able to be here for her.

        Like

      • Lisa Gottman says:

        Limbo,

        You are a mature and loving person to reach out to your mom after all the pain she has caused you. I can’t imagine how painful having a childhood that you described must have been.

        Bravo to you Lindsey! Showing love and grace and forgiveness while setting healthy boundaries. You are walking the walk even when it’s hard. I really believe living up to our own integrity matters more than how the other person responds.

        I hope you have a lovely day tomorrow. You should be proud of yourself!

        Like

      • Linbo says:

        Thank you, Lisa.
        I will. Ya’ll have a good night. I’m signing off. :)

        Like

      • Linbo says:

        O-yeah,
        Congratulations of the marriage proposal! Lol.
        That was great!
        Good choice, Mike! Maybe there will be someone as good as Lisa for you down the road. :)

        Like

  4. Linbo says:

    “America has taught us that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human right ”
    What you say is true, but I think America has it wrong. We miss that the freedom to seek out your own happiness is a privilege, so we miss any chance of gratitude. It doesn’t take too long to see how constantly chasing the dragon of what feels good becomes something other than freedom.
    …Also, one thing I think most couples miss early on is that there should be a goal in marriage. I think most people dont think about it because “Duh- we’re in love” as if that were the end goal. It’s not.
    Being rich, or having 2.5 kids, or retiring to Bora Bora are not the goals I am talking about, either. I’m talking about the goals of defining who you want to become, what kind of relationship do you want to have when your 50, 60, 70 or 80? I think we all have an image of what we want our lives to end up like, even into the grey years (or maybe that is just me- I dunno). Talking about things like that, and keeping that image in your mind and making choices that steer your life towards THAT can help not only keep a marriage on track, but I think can re-incentivize the interest in the marriage.
    When we are younger we imagine who we want to be when we are 16, or 21. We plan on going to college and imagine how we want that to be, and we seek after that experience. We imagine our ideal mate, and the 2 cats in the yard. Then people get it and it all goes to shit. People typically still have separate career goals, or parenting goals, – and then there is just the hectic what do I need to do today goals.
    But do many couples have shared relationship goals? I think that could make a huge difference.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Matt says:

      Shared relationship goals.

      I think those are often discussed in superficial ways. “I want a lake house in the mountains.” Or “I want a horse farm.” But in the context of really outlining what they day to day dynamics should look like between two people in a long term relationship.

      I think many guys avoid those sorts of talks. Maybe they think it’s stupid. Maybe it makes them uncomfortable. I don’t know.

      But I think honestly communicated boundaries, and mutual alignment on shared relationship goals over the long haul would change everything.

      If that was a thing everyone did. That’d be a big deal.

      Like

      • Linbo says:

        Matt, you said “If that was a thing everyone did. That’s be a big deal.”

        I don’t think you know, – well I know you don’t know because I haven’t shared it, but some of the conversations I have read on this blog have honed my “Graduate Project.” I cant give a lot of details because it also has the potential to evolve into a Doctorate project and something I actual want to see implemented. (Not that I really want to get a doctorate, I really, really don’t! : P)
        But I can say it would involve some of these ideas (and more) being taught in the school system.

        I think its kind of funny that a non-academic group ( not to mean not well informed and educated!) has the potential to inform academia. It used to be the other way around (or it was supposed to be). But, yeah, sadly some “Academics” and “Experts” have devolved into the same need to be new and exciting in order to succeed, instead of being honest and accurate.

        Like

  5. Julie says:

    To be honest, I’ve always grown up with the feeling that divorce is a positive thing. Reason being is because my parents stayed in a toxic relationship for 20+ years, only finally separating when I turned 18 and left for college. They’re both happily remarried now. When they were going through struggles, and when I begged them to just get divorced, they said they were staying together for ‘the family’ or ‘the kids’ but, to be honest, the family and the kids didn’t benefit from this. Watching my parents argue, degrade each other, inflict emotional and physical pain caused a lot of issues for me growing up that (even though I’m now a young adult in my early 20’s) will probably have to sort out and deal with for some time. It caused me to fall into depression, develop axienty, insomnia, and more. I sometimes think if only my parents just got divorced and I got to live in a peaceful and calm environment, I would have a little less issues to deal with. The emotional trauma it left me with wasn’t worth them fighting for their relationship and ‘keeping the family together.’

    Now this is just one perspective and one story, but its my story. I still think that in many cultures and religions divorce is still a very taboo topic. Growing up my church actually shunned me and my family because they were contemplating divorce. At 15 my closest friends (at church) stopped talking to me, inviting me over, and started avoiding me.

    No, I don’t think that divorce should be an ‘easy way out’ or shouldn’t be given thought to. But, it doesn’t have to be frowned upon and it shouldn’t be taboo. It is OKAY to get divorced. I wouldn’t want anyone going through emotional abuse or physical abuse to feel like they didn’t love enough or try hard enough. Each situation is different and divorce can occur from infidelity, emotional abuse, physical abuse/violence, neglect, mental illness, or can occur from change and growing apart.

    I don’t think its fair to conclude that we have a divorce epidemic because people are just not trying hard enough or not loving each other enough. I remember reading a prior post of yours that mentioned that we don’t really learn how to act or be in a healthy relationship growing up and I think that’s part of it. Maybe we need more education on creating healthy and lasting relationships, and less of society’s push to get engaged, married, buy a house, have kids, etc.

    Anyway, I always find your posts insightful and thought provoking. Thanks for voicing your point of view.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nights7 says:

      I understand what your feelings that it probably would have been better if your parents had gotten divorced sooner rather than later. It sounds like a relationship that’s better off dead BUT ,had they divorced when you were younger, it probably would have been a turbulent ordeal that you and any other kids involved were put in the middle of. If their relationship was toxic and they constantly inflicted emotional and physical pain on each other that would have intensified exponentially during a divorce. I say from the perspective of a parent who divorced from ac toxic relationship; I’m glad I didn’t wait longer to get divorced but it’s been years of pain and turmoil for my kids. I’m not sure it was better for them in the long run even though I intended it to be.
      My point being, maybe they did do you a favor by waiting to get divorced. And now you know exactly what not to do in relationships. Just something to think about as you move forward as an adult in your healing. Best of luck.

      Like

      • Julie says:

        You do have a point. I recently was just hanging out with my dad and we were talking about relationships and how to deal with certain situations & we got into the topic of divorce and I asked him how come it took so long for them to get divorced. He mentioned that it was difficult when we were so young because my sister and I would beg him to stay with us (something I don’t remember being so young) so I guess that’s another aspect. Small children naturally want their parents together.

        Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Julie,

      Thanks for sharing your story. I read some research that backs up your statement that “watching my parents argue, degrade each other, inflict emotional and physical pain caused a lot of issues for me growing up”.

      In the kind of toxic environment you experienced the research shows that it is better for the parents to separate or divorce so the kids can live in a healthier environment I am sorry you had to experience that and are still sorting out the after effects of all that trauma. It lives in your brain and body and takes so much work to get back to neutral!

      And you’re right that many cultures and religious communities don’t support families when it is healthier to separate or divorce.

      It seems we can’t as a culture get the balance right. It is true that in some unhealthy marriages with constant conflict and/or abuse, divorce is the best available choice.
      The families should not be shunned or shamed but given the support they need, especially for the kids.

      But the authors of the article go way too far in the other extreme. That divorce is no big deal. That the kids are fine. The research shows that in marriages where the parents are unhappy but there is no open conflict or abuse, the kids do better if the parents stay together.

      It is just not true that if the parents are happy, the kids will be happy. Sometimes, like in your case it is, but in most divorces the kids would be better off with the parents together.

      Now obviously, the idea would be to fix the underlying problems in the average “dishes” divorce. These are very common patterns that can be fixed with the right help. And then the parents and the kids can all be happy. That’s the goal. But there are several problems that prevent that.

      1. The lack of educations and modeling for healthy marriages. So many of us don’t even know what love really is or looks like.

      2. Men especially are socialized that they shouldn’t spend a lot of time reading books or talking about relationship cause that’s girly.

      3. Women put up with too much dysfuctnional crap early and end up unhappy.

      4. If they do try and get help with their marriage, they will often have individual therapists who have attitudes like these authors. They will be encouraged to divorce rather than try and do the hard work to look at their part and understand the problem.

      5. If they do seek marriage counseling, it will usually suck.

      6. They will then feel like they’ve tried everything possible, and it is just time to divorce.

      So many divorces are really unnecessary if the couples could get the help they need.

      But there are couples like your parents that create a toxic environment for the kids that are better off divorced or at least separated until they can work out some issues.

      We just need to get both of these ideas correctly balanced.

      Like

      • Julie says:

        Hi Lisa,

        The way that you explained the need for balance really resonates with me. It’s true that, although divorce can be necessary for cases involving toxic relationships/abuse/etc. we shouldn’t go into the other extreme where divorce is simple and easy. After deciding to spend your life with someone, getting married, possibly even having kids, just walking away without seeking the right counseling would probably end up causing feelings of regret. Relationships take work. They must be nurtured, cared for, and continuously built up. There are many things that take our focus away and can cause us to neglect our relationships like jobs, finance issues, school, health issues, and more. I agree that there are many unnecessary divorces, and if only they got the help they need, their marriage could have ended up working out. Thanks for your reply.

        -Julie

        Like

    • Matt says:

      Hi Julie. This is a great example of perspective and how much our individual experiences influence us.

      I’m really sorry you grew up viewing your parents relationship as something so unhealthy that you WANTED them to end it. That’s not something I’ve ever seen personally, and I won’t pretend to understand.

      But please trust that I am NOT for dysfunctional marriages where children are subjected to so much unhappiness and conflict that they actively root for divorce.

      I just didn’t specify or explain myself well enough, because I’ve written it a bunch of times before and foolishly forget that most people haven’t read most of those old posts.

      Divorce is important as a means to protect oneself or children from abuse or some other type of danger. I’m genuinely glad it’s an option for people. Marriage should NOT be prison.

      That’s my whole point. People do this ON PURPOSE. Voluntarily. No one makes them.

      But then so many are terrible at it and dislike one another so much years later, that they go through hell to get away from each other.

      It’s mostly awful for most people. Hence, the whole #2 ranking on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.

      I want people who desire forever-marriages (as designed and originally agreed to) to avoid “accidental” divorce.

      The breakdowns that so few of us see coming.

      I would never celebrate two miserable people sticking it out only to prolong horribleness and subject children to things they should never see, hear or feel.

      Thank you for sharing your story and perspective, Julie.

      I’m sorry I wasn’t more clear with my writing, and infinitely more sorry that you’ve seen all that you have.

      Like

      • bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit says:

        Julie,

        My siblings and I also begged my mother to leave our dad. We feared what he was capable of doing so many times. The police got involved on a few occasions. He beat her, he beat us, he cheated, he hid behind his religious beliefs. Drowned himself in alcohol etc.

        She finally left him when I was 15. But then the “dating” started and it exposed us to more insanity. My father would come by and watch her every move, he would barge in on her and her boyfriend(s). It was a horrible time. I left home just shy of 16 yrs old to escape the madness. I don’t know what was more damaging. Before of after she left him, because now I was on my own. Figuring out how to take care of ALL of your own needs at that age is extremely challenging…

        Both my parents came from EXTREMELY abusive upbringings.

        My daughter told me a couple of weeks ago that when she was 5, she KNEW I would eventually get a divorce. She also told me that she wishes that I had left him sooner, not because she doesn’t like her father, but because she feels that it would have been much easier at a younger age. That she would have felt less of a shock of this change at a younger age. I often feel the same. I often think, “if he only hit me” (and he NEVER did), then I would have “known” that it was not meant to be. The years “I waisted” in believing and HOPING things would get better but only got worse.

        It’s often difficult to know (like Drew says there), the difference between what is “worse”, to stay or leave because we don’t know to what extent the damage being done is. I will say it again. I don’t think my husband was a horrible person. He just didn’t have the tools to know how to treat me or others. To be my partner, while allowing me to have my own individuality. To encourage growth instead of controlling HIS environment through me. And I didn’t have the tools to enforce boundaries, or how to grow my self-esteem, to take care of my own needs, my mental and/or physical health. I put years into trying to “save” my marriage as opposed to saving myself. I think if I had left him years ago, I may be a stronger, healthier individual today. I made it more challenging for myself today for that reason, but I will try to live in the moment and not live in the past.

        All I can say, is that in all of the bullshit you have lived, you’ll never know really if it were more damaging than not if your parents had have left each other sooner because of the unknown of what may have happened if your parents had left each other sooner. It may had been worse… as it had for me and my much younger siblings.

        What I hope for you is that knowing how damaging it was for you to see your parents and having that family experience, that you can find who YOU are. Grow your strengths and recognize what kind of friendships/relationships will enhance your being and not tarnish it.

        Choose wisely… choose yourself.

        Like

      • Julie says:

        Hi Matt,

        I completely see where you’re coming from. I myself am on a journey to learn to establish healthy relationship habits and to make good decisions regarding how I act and communicate within a relationship. I’m engaged and have found someone that I do want to spend the rest of my life with. Knowing the statistics of the success/failure rate of marriages I want to make sure that I do everything that I can to build up and grow in my relationship. Based on my experience with my parents getting divorced & having an unhealthy relationship, I have grown up with this mindset that divorce is a good thing (in these types of situations). But, it doesn’t mean that I ever want to get divorced or experience this type of situation. As you mentioned in one of your previous posts that most people don’t go into marriage thinking that they’ll get divorced in a few years. Thanks for replying.

        -Julie

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Mike says:

    Matt,

    1) Your posts are fantastic. You really nail some of these relationship concepts. Instead of raising my son I may just require him to read your blog.
    2) Your commenters are just as fantastic. I’m amazed at the quality of dialog and that it adds so much to the original post.
    3) I want to marry Lisa Gottman. Please have the hamster send me her contact info.

    Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      This is exciting! Usually people just complain that I am too theoretical.

      Matt gets internet marriage proposals all the time but this is my first so I am counting it even if there is no way in hell I could give up my beloved hubby who lis finally learning to grill delicious burgers instead of shit sandwiches ;)

      I’m glad you add your insights here Mike and provide more male perspectives on relationships and parenting. I know you said you read a lot of books so I hope you join me in driving Travis crazy with more theory on this blog. At least it will be dude theory ;)

      Like

  7. Lisa Gottman says:

    Hey thanks for the shoutout Matt. I agree with your post, It is one of the things that drives me crazy. “Experts” who say absolutely ridiculous things giving experts a bad name. And they act like this is new! This is recycled stuff from the 70’s.

    I am not saying divorces are not sometimes necessary. But so many case of divorce happen because couples get stuck in dysfunctional cycles that can be fixed if they had the right help. I can attest to the very terrible therapists who either encourage you to divorce for your happiness or offer ineffective couples therapy when good information exists.

    It’s like massive deaths that could be prevented with a round of available antibiotics. But these stupid experts say, “Oh, circle of life, everybody dies eventually”. Or instead of the doctors giving you the antibiotics they give you poisoned water (sit on the couch and tell each other how much you suck!) and then you die.

    One of my favorite experts in this area is William Doherty. He tells the evolution of marriage and divorce and therapy. We’ve swung from telling abused women to suffer to the other extreme of divorcing as a neutral thing. He changed from a divorce neutral therapist to one who talks about the moral decisions involved. Here’s Doherty describing his training in the 70’s

    “In graduate school, we were eagerly reading books like Open Marriage, followed by Creative Divorce. … “(sounds a bit like conscious uncoupling doesn’t it?)

    “Although I wanted my own marriage to last a lifetime, I was an enthusiast for the new therapeutic culture of divorce… “(yes, let’s just get rid of lifelong marriage, no big deal right?)

    “In my therapy practice, I learned to be strictly neutral about divorce. It was the clients’ decision, not mine, and not much different from career choices and deciding whether to stay or leave a job.

    A senior therapist once told me what he said to the couples he saw: “The main thing is what you think will make you happier in the next phase of your life. If you think you’ll be happier staying married, I’ll help you do that. If you think you’ll be happier getting divorced, I’ll help you do that.” Another senior therapist put his motto more succinctly: “The good marriage, the good divorce—it matters not.”

    “More conflicted inside than I realized, I made my therapy work tow the happiness line by helping clients make divorce decisions strictly on rational-choice terms: what was in it for them to stay versus leave. I sometimes had clients write answers to the following questions in four boxes: How might it benefit you to stay? How might it benefit you to leave? How might it disadvantage you to stay? How might it disadvantage you to leave? It was like an analysis-of-variance table.

    When clients inevitably raised concerns about the kids, my colleagues and I assured them that if the parents do what’s right for themselves, the kids will be fine. When clients “shoulded” themselves about being faithful to their marriage vows, we steered them on the more authentic path, in keeping with the second line of the Gestalt therapy credo: “I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”

    “In the past two decades, the academic literature has arrived at this consensus: children do best in stable, reasonably low-conflict married families. Family breakup is associated with a decade or more of difficult transitions for children, meaning relocations, new schools, and new partners moving in and out of their lives—what sociologist Andrew Cherlin calls the “churning” of family arrangements.”

    “In a way, therapists and social scientists are just catching up with the lived experience of our fellow citizens. Clients have always told us about their painful soul searching in deciding whether to break up their marriage, especially when they have children. Few people end their marriage without considerable pain, and many people don’t want the divorce that their spouse is insisting on. (Divorce is rarely a consensus decision, at least at the beginning.)

    Surveys consistently find about 40 percent of divorcees eventually have regrets about their divorce, including whether they and their partner worked hard enough to prevent it. And most initiators of divorce experience a moral dilemma: whether to keep their commitment in the face of personal unhappiness, how much weight to give to the children’s needs versus their own, how hard to work before feeling justified in ending the relationship, and in recent decades, whether they have a duty to try couples therapy before making a final decision.

    Indeed, divorce may be the most significant moral conundrum in adult life, and the one we see most often in therapy, but we dress it up only in clinical clothing because that’s what makes us most comfortable. We’re like physicians who make everything biomedical because that’s what they’re prepared to respond to.

    The problem isn’t our lack of moral sensibility about life’s dilemmas. It’s that we’re not sure how to engage clients’ self-interest and their responsibility to others in therapy, the former being well codified in our techniques and the latter being, well, vastly underdeveloped. We have a hundred ways to ask “What would be right for you?” and hardly any to ask “What would be right for others in your life?”

    Here’s the irony: while therapeutic language is libertarian at the personal level, most therapists believe in social responsibility at the community level. Talking about interpersonal responsibility hangs us up, and it’s hard for many therapists to believe that it’s possible without lapsing into shaming clients and driving them away. So we stay in our safety zone, coming out only in cases of abuse where we’re mandated reporters and upholders of legal and ethical norms.”

    Doherty talks a lot about reclaiming divorce as a moral decision. He equates it as an amputation, sometimes necessary but all effort to be made before cutting. There are so many cases that a round or two of antibiotics with a lot of effort in physical therapy would have cured the infection and taught new ways of walking.

    https://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/magazine/article/13/reflections-on-the-divorce-revolution

    Like

    • Linbo says:

      Lisa,
      “Experts” who say absolutely ridiculous things giving experts a bad name. And they act like this is new! This is recycled stuff from the 70’s.”
      Couldn’t agree more. It’s basically recycled poo. And I couldn’t think of anything less appetizing then that.

      Like

  8. I haven’t visited in a while, so I haven’t had the opportunity to tell you how much I enjoy your perspective in a while, but this:

    “When you neglect Things Which Need Done, or even just Things We Should Do, your life suffers in whichever areas you are neglecting. This is a universally true thing, applicable to everyone in every culture, since the beginning of recorded human history.”

    borders on genius. Now I have to go wade through all the comments, but really, you nailed it.

    BB

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “Make the Choice to Love Hard, Just Like You Promised” – so funny to hear that out loud, but I am reminded of a verse in Andrew Peterson’s song: “Dancing in the Minefields” -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Gs3fg_WsEg

    “We went dancing in the minefields
    We went sailing in the storm
    And it was harder than we dreamed
    But I believe that’s what the promise is for…”

    Here’s choosing to love hard… just like I promised.

    Like

  10. “I think the co-authors’ take on love, marriage and divorce is about the dumbest, shittiest, unhealthiest and damaging take on this topic that I’ve ever seen.”

    LOL! You scared me Matt, until I got to this sentence. I was afraid you were going to condone this rubbish.

    This is it, it really is this simple, “Choose to love.” My husband and I have managed to do that, yes through “self-sacrifice, loyalty and hard work,” but that’s not good enough, it must also be pleasurable, fun, full of love and romance. There is only one person I can blame if it isn’t, and that is ME. That’s a tricky one because there are two people involved, but my feelings, emotions, perceptions of my marriage all stem from me. That is what puts us in control of our own marriages, accepting total responsibility for them.

    Abuse of course is always the exception, but even if we find ourselves married to a lunkhead, well, I chose him, there is something just as flawed within me that drew me to this person. So taking personal responsibility even if one’s spouse is deeply flawed is critical, too. We tend to blame the defective unit we married rather than the defective unit who married him.

    Like

  11. Lisa Gottman says:

    You know I woke up this morning thinking of commentors like Fromscratchmom. Women who worked hard on themselves and their marriages. They took their marriage vows seriously but eventually made the decision to divorce.

    I hope this post and my comments intention of pushing back at the idea that divorce is no big deal doesn’t give the message that many people try very, very hard in marriages but are with a spouse who makes it impossible to be in a healthy marriage.

    I think there are clear cut cases where divorce is the best option. Most especially when physical or emotional safety is involved. There are many people who take marriage vows seriously but are married to someone who is emotionally abusive or just unwilling to do the hard work to look in the mirror.

    But that is very damaging too and creates a toxic environment and unless the spouse will fully acknowledge this and seek treatment to change, divorce is the healthy option of the available choices.

    There are many commentors who have written such anguishing stories where the decision to divorce has nothing to do with a lack of effort or not taking marriage vows seriously. I can’t imagine how it must rip your heart out to be ready to change but not be able to save the marriage because the spouse just can’t or won’t.

    And both people have to be willing to do the hard work for a marriage to be healthy. Both people have to be involved and committed.

    I don’t know where the decision is drawn to divorce when there is no toxic environment but the spouse just doesn’t own their shit or accept influence or whatever and you’re caught in endless dysfunctional cycles.

    That was my marriage for many years and it was friggin miserable. So I understand why people would divorce when they feel hopeless and things get worse even when you’re trying to make it better. I’m not judgmental of people who divorce.

    I’m just sick of experts saying that divorce is no big deal and that the ultimate goal in life is chase happiness with love as some magical unicorn of emotions. That is just stupid, immature advice about how to live a mature, authentic life.

    Love is sacrificial but it also has boundaries. Marriage is a forever commitment but it there are also deal breakers. Parenting is about raising kids but it is really about me finally growing up. Both true at the same time.

    Divorce is a painful amputation but sometimes the healthiest choice. Divorce is also far too common because experts like these authors feed a wrong narrative about love and commitment and happiness. Divorce is all too common because we get into dysfunctional cycles and can’t get the right help to get out. These are stupid, unnecessary divorces.

    Marriages that could be happy again are dissolved because one spouse loses hope and asks away. In the William Doherty comment he has a statistic that 40% of marriages are unilaterally decided. The other spouse wants to stay married. I know that was Matt’s case and other commenters here.

    Many of these marriages could be saved with the right help. Those are the marriages that will end in stupid divorces partly because of stupid advice like these authors are shoveling.

    Anyway, the authors get it wrong to say divorce is no big deal. Even when a decision is made that divorce is the best option available, it is often a horrible process when kids are involved. It takes so much courage to walk away and rebuild your life from scratch. Trying to heal yourself which you help your kids heal. I can’t even imagine how hard that is.

    Like

    • Linbo says:

      Lisa,
      You said “…chase happiness with love as the magical unicorn of emotions.”
      I am now wanting to dissect exactly what that emotion is when we “fall in love”.
      I have to get some studying done, and I have to think more about this- but it was something that struck me. I know people have studied that sort of thing before, but I’m trying to think of the experiences I have had when I felt “in love” and I’m trying to figure out if it really is a bunch of self satisfying emotions- is it all about me feeling good, or is there a feeling of wanting to love this person outside of what they can do for me? If its about me feeling good, then maybe it needs a new name (or it has one: infatuation?). Is that the emotion we are really seeking after?
      Hope to come back with some more thoughts on this.
      Have a beautiful day : ).

      Like

    • Fromscratchmom says:

      Aww. Lisa Gottman, I actually totally agree and love your resistance to divorce “normalization” in our society. I think I’d rather be an outcast than watch the divorce rates continue on as they are. I’m glad those aren’t the only two options but if they were….you get the idea. If the other person in my marriage had been willing to choose healing I would have gone back into therapy with him. I’m quite literally in a Matthew 19 divorce. My husband is very happy in his affair and will most likely marry her eventually. I’m just in survival mode going through what was a reluctant divorce at first, although I am now praying for a swift legal resolution.

      Also, I totally agree that many/most divorces are stupid and could and should be avoided. I think my divorce is pretty stupid too…I just assign the bulk of the stupid to the emotional abuser/neglectful husband/adulterer character in our little drama. ;)

      I’ll be out of town with no internet for a week starting tomorrow. I am going to miss y’all! Pray for me that it’s the ultimate in peaceful, relaxing and healing to decompress dip urging my uber cheap but also super uplifting group campout!

      Like

    • ^This was my divorce – after many years, I left what I know now was an emotionally abusive relationship. And while it SHOULD have been the obvious choice…it wasn’t. It was an agonizing decision that took years to make – and it was the HARDEST thing I ever had to do. Even now, years later, I know I really needed to do it, but I still question it. That’s insane.

      Fast forward to now, remarried for 10 years, having some struggles. I actually have a few “good” reasons where we could go our separate ways – but I’ve chosen to stay, to stick it out, and to try really, really hard to fix it. Because I know how exhausting divorce is, even when it’s really in your best interests to have one…and part of what saved this marriage was just being too damn tired to do it again. (Hey, whatever works. If your life jacket is emblazoned with the Boyz 2 Men logo, you’re not gonna take it off and let yourself drown, right? Cling to what you get!)

      Like

  12. marilyn sims says:

    Hi Linbo & Lisa,

    I’ve quoted from this source before and I hope the following helps, I’m skipping over some paragraphs because it refers to information given in previous parts of the book and may cause some confusion. From: “How To Be An Adult in Relationships” by David Richo:

    “We can be fooled by how things look during the romance phase and feel betrayed when the glow fades and our partner returns to his (her) original fears, priorities, addictions and basic instincts. OUR PARTNER WAS NOT LYING, only FALLING in love and FALLING OUT of his/her usual CHARACTER. He/she will revert back to CHARACTER after the ball is over.”…

    “As adolescents we were taught that the way to tell we are in love is by our loss of control, our loss of will, and a compelling sense that we could not have done otherwise. THIS FALLING IN LOVE contrasts with reality of RISING IN LOVE with conscious choice, sane fondness, intact boundaries and RUTHLESS CLARITY. …..”

    “But we can also feel the excitement of romance without deluding ourselves or setting ourselves up for disappointment. How do we tell the difference? Healthy relationships lead to interdependence and unhealthy ones to dependence or domination.” ….

    Romance transports us to the world of soul, so its no wonder that a partner may be called a soul mate.

    To feel grief at the end of this phase is appropriate, but we usually fail to address, process or resolve it. Often when “the thrill is gone” it turns to blame and disappointment, or even anger. Paradoxically, when couples grieve together, they strengthen their bond, and the first grief they confront together may very well be THE ENDING OF ROMANCE.”

    I highly recommend this book. It stresses MINDFUL LOVING, A concept which is foreign to a lot of folk, a group in which I must claim membership.

    Like

    • Linbo says:

      Soaking this in. Really good stuff, Marilyn!

      Like

    • Lisa Gottman says:

      Marilyn,

      “THIS FALLING IN LOVE contrasts with reality of RISING IN LOVE with conscious choice, sane fondness, intact boundaries and RUTHLESS CLARITY. …..”

      Yes, this is really good.

      Emotions are good, falling in love is good, it’s part of the process of romantic love. If we’re lucky love and our emotions will go through lots of different phases over a lifetime of loving and growing old together.

      Like

    • anitvan says:

      I have this one as well. Co-dependents will find this one helpful.

      Like

  13. Autumn Grayson says:

    Great article. Reminds me of a question I’ve been thinking about lately. If we aren’t willing to put up with the trials that come with human relationships, if we just leave when things get hard and stop caring much about the other person, do we really love anyone? Love is caring about someone through all things, not just when things are happy and fluffy and feel nice. I do think there are times when divorce needs to happen, like when one spouse is a constant, unrepentant cheater. But I sort of struggle now with my desire to be happy or at least somewhat content in life vs wanting to be loyal and loving to people around me. It makes the idea of marriage terrifying, I worry that ten, twenty years from now I won’t be able to stand the guy and will desperately want to leave. That’s why I am trying to work on relationship skills with my boyfriend now, and we seem to be doing ok in that area for now.

    Thinking about the relationships of people in stories that I see, I compare them to people that give up due to unhappiness and have to wonder who truly loves at all. Sometimes there’s family or spouses that hurt and betray one another for years on end, and there are still those that love the hurtful people and will do anyhing to help them get back on the right path. But I tend not to see that around me, or at least not outside parent and child relationships. I know that people can truly love each other, but I worry that such a great relationship will elude me in the future. Or that I can truly love someone but that he won’t love me enough to work on our relationship like we would need to.

    Like

  14. Marilyn Sims says:

    Hello,

    Here I am again, same “bat-time, same bat-channel”

    .. “There is a phase preceding romance. It is INVESTIGATION, the subject of the previous chapter. This is the time to ask for disclosures of all kinds, to ask about past relationships and what worked or did not work in them. A wise gold miner wants to see what pans out before he yells,'”EUREKA!”. No one would think of hiring someone for a job without checking references and carefully interviewing the candidate. Yet we often hire on a partner without much inquiry except from parts of our body that do not always make the wisest assessment or from feelings that say more about our neediness than about ANOTHER’s GIFTS.”

    We bond in adult relationships the way we did in early life. If there was dysfunctional bonding there, then, we maybe sitting ducks for an addictive bond later. A CELLULAR MEMORY from childhood triggers a cellular reflex in our adult selves. From the empty seascape of our past, we peer out, looking for an island paradise.”

    Like

  15. marilyn sims says:

    Hi Autumn,

    I hope this helps : “Many of us married out of social convention rather than out of a choice that reflected our deepest inclinations, readiness, and personality. People who have it in them to only be friends, never spouses, want the rhythms of distance AND closeness that friendship provides….this is a legitimate option!

    “Marriage and family are a special vocation not meant for everyone. It is an individual not a collective choice. It is for those who will enjoy a commitment to lifelong working through, working on, and working within the context of family. It is equally legitimate to choose a celibate life, a gay life, serial relationships without children or marriage, or any variation of these. THE ISSUE FOR A HEALTHY ADULT IS NOT WHICH CHOICE SHE MAKES BUT WHETHER IT REFLECTS HER TRUE DESIRES AND IS CARRIED OUT WITH INTEGRITY.

    Like

    • Donkey says:

      Ooooh, is this also from “How To Be An Adult in Relationships” by David Richo? That books sounds very interesting to me. Speak right to my Jungian-ish inclinations. :)

      Like

  16. karnykern says:

    Very interesting ( u should warn your readers how long it will takes, to read the post). You put all the aspects that might be the reasons . but somewhere you wrote in your awn words, that the main thing is by changing of awareness of the world and the targets. And this is (I think) the extract all the “marriage/divorce juice”.

    Thank you for lighting my knowlege about it*.

    Karny

    *( I’m making some eforts to explane myself, this is not my language, even though, it is not prevent me to make a comment).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      You did a great job, Karny. I probably know less than 50 words in my second-best language (Spanish) and cannot put many correct sentences together.

      Thank you for reading and commenting. You’re absolutely right about letting people know how long it will take as Medium does. I should improve many parts of this blog’s design. :)

      Have a great day, please. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. marilyn sims says:

    Hi Autumn,

    I was re-reading my response to you and I felt I missed the mark. To me, the last few sentences were the most important. You said,” I know people can truly love each other, but,
    I worry that such a great relationship will elude me in the future. Or that I can truly love someone but that he won’t love me enough to work on our relationship like we would need to.”

    Let me try again. Again, from David Richo,. “Perhaps the best partners come to us when we neither seek nor avoid the possibility of finding someone. We simply live in accord with our deepest needs and wishes and notice people we meet. We must trust the universe and its miraculous power of synchronicity to bring us just the person who is best for us. But even more important than finding a partner is taking care of our hearts in a dating game that can be a devastating enterprise of broken promises and disappointed expectations. Caring for ourselves while dating means not betraying our true nature in a desperate attempt to get someone to want us. We have to retain our boundaries intact if the process is not to end in self-abandonment and self-deprecation.”

    From Henry David Thoreau, “I will come to you, my friend, when I no longer need you. Then you will find a palace, not an almshouse.”

    I hope this is better and best wishes for your future.

    Like

  18. marilyn sims says:

    Hi Matt,

    Somewhere in your blogs you mentioned that the majority of divorces are initiated by wives. I hope the men who have been commenting will “weigh-in” here.

    There was a study made in the ’70s which resulted in something called the “marriage benefit imbalance” In short it said that if you wish to live and happy life, the best decision you could make would be to wed.. “Married men perform dazzlingly better in life than single men. Married men live longer than single men; married men accumulate more wealth than single men; married men excel at their careers above single men; married men are far less likely to die a violent death than single men; married men report themselves to be much happier than single men; and married men suffer less from alcoholism, drug addiction and depression than single men.”

    “Dishearteningly, the reverse is not true. Modern married women do not fare better than their single counterparts. Married women in America do not live longer than single women. married women do not accumulate as much wealth as single women; married women do not thrive in their careers to the extent single women do; married women are significantly less healthy than single women; married women are more likely to suffer from depression than single women and married women are more likely to die a violent death than single women –usually at the hands of a husband…”

    I am quoting from Elizabeth Gilbert’s: “Committed: A skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage”

    On further reading, it seems there has been a SLIGHT improvement in the imbalance, most likely because women are now more empowered to direct the course of their lives. But if married women are “at risk” in so many areas of their lives, why do so many passionately desire the state of matrimony?

    Like

    • Linbo says:

      Marilyn,
      I’m thinking about your question- “why women so passionately desire a state of matrimony”. It looks like, from the recent statistics that people are marrying later. Which is a good thing. I think part of the reason people rush in is because they have all the feel good feelings, and they likely are 100% “in love” through what ever chemical reactions are going on inside their brains. But, because they are young they really don’t know the realities of what being married means.
      They just know love feels good, and we are supposed to get married when we love someone. It looks like the last few generations have slowed that down a bit.
      But, you’re right- I still believe that most women want to be married. This, like men being powerful and successful, could be a part of the gender socializing that goes on.
      For centuries (maybe more correct to say millennium’s) women were the “weaker sex” that depended on marrying to survive. So, girls becoming women waited for their “knights” to show up to take them into their next stage of life. I think that is how it has become socialized.
      But, that doesn’t answer the question of why we fall in love to begin with. Why do we feel that way in the first place?
      I dont know the complete, scientific answer, but I do know people are relational beings. Life by yourself sucks.
      I dont need to get married, but I still want to be married. I want a partner to experience life with. Just like seeing a child grow (which is an amazing, amazing thing) I want to see my partner grow more into who they are, I want to see the relationship grow. And I want that one person who is committed to knowing and loving me.
      I think a lot of what I see (especially on dating web sites) is people listing out the kind of person they want. This reinforces my idea that the love people have become accustomed to is basically some kind of self gratification. This kind of person, or that kind of person does something for them. And I know attraction and chemistry are important, but like what has been stated ,in different ways throughout, is that is not enough. Many people still just focus on what they can get out of the relationship.
      When people are lonely and desiring a mate, they ask “Who am I looking for?” instead of “What am I looking for?”
      I don’t think we would all be better off being single. I don’t think we’re better off with serial relationships, either. I don’t think that allows for the depth and stages of the relationship to unfold.
      It is sorrowful when that is not allowed to happen.
      I think growing through the stages of the relationship help make us more wise and understanding of people in general. I think it helps grow and mature us.
      I have seen deep satisfaction in those who have “made it” and frankly have been super jealous that they get to reap such great fruit and satisfaction.
      It’s part of being able to look back on your life with a feeling of fulfillment and contentedness.
      I don’t want to make that sound like you cant be content without marriage, but I think in a marriage the contentment and satisfaction come with knowing you can work through those stages and have grown individually and with your partner.
      Anyway, to answer your question- why do we still desire a state of matrimony?
      Because we are a slave to our human-ness, I guess… :)

      Like

  19. marilyn sims says:

    Hi Matt,

    It seems that I must use a disclaimer to the last post, according to later and more up-to-date research, some of what was “true” in the ’70s has been questioned and the data used by the author of the study, Jessie Bernard, has been either shown to be “wrong” or called into question. However, for use as a point of departure for a discussion on why women seem so much more dissatisfied with marriage, I think this may be of value.

    Like

  20. marilyn sims says:

    Linbo,

    I am sure, as you said , that our human-ness demands attachment, community, continuity and probably a kind of bonding that is translated into “love”. In that light, it seems strange that we are not better, or more skilled, in finding ways to grasp and hold tight to those qualities that are essential to our happiness and our survival as a species. So our collective insanity resides in the willful neglect of too many hapless parents to give (model) to children the necessary SKILLS, incentive and discipline to learn how to LOVE WELL! LOVING IS A SKILL BASED ACTIVITY!

    The crisis of divorce in America is not new. It has been part of our transmitted “dis-ease” for several general generations now. Despite what is referred to the “good old days” when men and women were more likely to remain married for their life-times, not much is said about the issues like poverty, sickness and disability that foreclosed on the possibilities of “moving on”..

    I don’t want to minimize the personal responsibility of partners in marriage to find ways to prevent divorce, yet I have always felt that the underground fault-lines” that suddenly rip open seemingly stable marriages have never been exposed and discussed as significant cultural and health issues.

    I found (or more accurately, re-discovered) a book that speaks about the ” silent and unspeakable” conflict that is inherent in American marriages. It revolves around issues of power. The book, “Marriage Shock” by Dalma Heyn has this to say,

    “Any fundamental change in marriage requires that it be moved from the realm of power into the realm of pleasure where mutuality and reciprocity replace hierarchy and control. Such a shift is constrained, however, by unequal power in the world for men and women. The constraint is there even when the shift is fervently desired by both partners–a desire which is itself constrained by unequal power in the world. It is important that we acknowledge this limitation so that we do not mystify ourselves and our clients.”

    I began to look through some other sources I have used here and found this by Terrence Real:

    “You cannot speak of women as oppressed without speaking, then, of the consequences. You cannot say that women learn to be indirect without saying that they learn to manipulate. You cannot say they stop telling the truth without saying that they lie. Men know very well that women lie to them, manage them and virtually every man I have ever spoken to feels some measure of mistrust and bitterness about it. We will not heal the profound and abiding enmity between the sexes until we start naming the truth on all sides–including the truth about women’s covert aggression. If we acknowledge women’s disempowerment we must also reference their rage toward their subjugators, rage that, no matter how graciously disguised, in the close quarters of marital life, rarely misses it mark.”

    I know I’ve wandered rather far-afield of where we started. It’s just that something has been nagging at me about the crisis of divorce and I wanted to find something that holds us accountable for our negligence, our ignorance, laziness, blindness and lack of discipline yet did not blame us for those things over which we have no control.

    Like

  21. 'Becca says:

    Today is my 22nd anniversary. My partner and I are not married but have been together longer than the majority of American marriages. It’s not always easy. It doesn’t feel good every day. But it’s totally worth it! We explained our attitudes in a lot of detail when we were interviewed for Redbook a decade ago. These are a few points that I think are relevant here:

    We celebrate our anniversary on May 10 because that was the day we first felt a special bond between us. It was not something we planned, the way people plan a wedding, and it was private rather than public; to us, those things make it more “real” than any formal ceremony could be.

    To me, it seems very simple that when people want to live together and start a family, they can just do that. The idea that it’s somehow wrong or won’t work if they don’t say certain words in front of certain people and fill out certain government forms, strikes me as completely wacky. I thought maybe I just didn’t understand because I hadn’t tried to live with a partner, but now we’ve been living together longer than many marriages last, and marriage still seems like somebody else’s religion that doesn’t make sense to me.

    Most of all, we know that we are together because we want to be. Every day, I know he’s here because he loves me, not because of a promise made a long time ago. It is because he could leave but doesn’t, even when things get difficult, that I know our relationship is important to him.

    I just wanted to share this in support of your suggestion that people who are skeptical of a “forever” commitment just NOT get married, and in response to Latenightblond’s comment that it’s “sad” when people live together without getting married. We are not sad. We are thriving. But what’s absolutely crucial to the success of our relationship is that we AGREE about being together but not being married and that we TALK and THINK about what we’re doing on a regular basis.

    Like

    • marilyn sims says:

      Hi Becca,

      Congratulations! I am truly happy for you and your partner who have carved out a comfortable stable life in the midst of an American landscape littered with the corpses of discarded love-affairs and marriages.

      That being said, I have wondered what it takes to survive as a couple without the security offered by a conventional marriage and its offer of “forever”.

      The other part of my musings is this: “Who is marriage really for?” I know in the past, it has been said that women and children must have the tie that binds in order to survive in a world that offered them little/nothing in the way of material wealth.

      Since women and children are no longer considered “property” and women have re-claimed the right to exist outside married life as whole un-fettered beings, What does the “institution” offer that is irresistible to both men and women? Once inside the institution it becomes a matter of choice how a couple shapes their life together.
      Now marriage is truly a choice for both men and women and there is no lasting stigma if co-habitation is a “stop” along the way.

      Case in point: A man and woman are married and live in different states because of careers, they have no children. They meet as often as practicable. They are faithful to one another during periods of separation. Are they, according to the “marriage contract” a viable couple?.

      Another couple, after years of frustration and counseling, have declared themselves sexually incompatible. They love one another, they are best friends and have no intention of divorcing they have two lovely children whom they adore. They have found a solution to the problem — it involves another person. Both are more than O.K with the choice. The children see “The Other” as an extended family member.
      Is the couple still married in the “spirit of the contract”?

      Does it really matter what a couple does inside the “institution” as long it is truly an ethical and fully acceptable practice to both? There are no such things as “marriage police”; so who enforces the traditional meaning of marriage? It doesn’t really matter whether men and women are given “permission” to re-construct marriage to fit themselves. They do it today as soon as they enter that private space called “home” The lives of children must be love-filled and joyous for the long-term health of our society. We are NOT doing an admirable job of insuring our children reach adulthood with the teachings and tools needed to live ethical, joy-filled lives today. Traditional marriage seems to have failed us in that respect (proscribed roles for each according to gender). Or is the failure more likely due to our individual short-comings, lack of understanding etc.? Marriage is usually a public affair with all the celebration, cost and emotional investment that makes it memorable. If it were a more private affair with only the couple and the state official present, would that substantially change the dynamics of the couple’s life together? Is “for better or worse” made before family and friends helpful

      Like

  22. OKRickety says:

    Overall, this post is very good.

    However, I question a couple of early statements providing background.

    “Third, despite that, 5-10 years later, more than half will divorce.”

    There seems to be a consensus that the accepted axiom that “50% of marriages end in divorce” is not true, but the actual percentage is lower. It may be true that divorce occurs at an average of 8 years.

    Second, marriage consists of two people VOLUNTEERING to commit the rest of their lives to one another, most of the time doing so in front of hundreds of witnesses and spending $30,000 on a big party to celebrate it.

    Hundreds of witnesses? $30,000? That may be the average, but that doesn’t reflect the weddings I’ve attended over the years. I suspect the median cost is much lower, and the median attendance is under 100.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you. The math gets fuzzy when you’re talking about more than 6,000 marriages and more than 3,000 divorces every day.

      Those averages are something I’ve cited (and linked to) and a variety of occasions. I wish I could give you source.

      I think there were 350 guests at my wedding and it didn’t seem particularly large to me. (I’m Catholic and from Ohio. Lots of big families here.) However, I haven’t been to many $30K+ weddings though with inflation, mine would have probably cost that much in 2016 dollars.

      Anyway.

      Avg. groom age: 29
      Avg. bride age: 27
      Avg. engagement ring price: $6K
      Avg. salary for 29 year old: $35K
      Avg. cost of wedding (and presumably honeymoon?): $30K
      Avg. attendance: 250

      It’s all noise anyway. None of that really matters.

      I’m only trying to establish that two people REALLY want to get married and REALLY believe they will love one another forever.

      It’s super-important to see the frequency of divorce in the context of regular, normal people. These divorces aren’t just crazy, dysfunctional people. They’re MOSTLY “regular” people, MOST of whom spent all this money and invited all these people as a demonstration of how much it mattered.

      And then (statistically) like clockwork, the math bears out. Half of marriages fail. So what if it’s 40% even. I’m no longer convinced MOST married people are honestly happy in their daily lives. I think a marriage failed even if they stayed together, but hated it.

      Marriage. Love. Family.

      These things matter. And they can be beautiful. But I don’t think most people know what they need to know, and might lack the fortitude (but only because of flawed thinking about “replacing” their partner and feeling happy with someone new) to make the small daily sacrifices to reap the lifetime of rewards.

      Until people recognize the rewards, they’re not motivated to want them.

      I know, because that’s me.

      Many of us learn the hard way. It’s unfortunate.

      Like

      • Linbo says:

        Matt,
        I just want to point out that everyone has some level of dysfunction, in some area. There are no “regular” people. THAT is the reason there are breakdowns in communication and mal-adaptive behaviors, and divorce.
        A successful marriage does not depend on how screwed up they started out- it depends on them owning their shit and empathizing with their partners shit and learning how to function in their own particular circumstances together so that both are relatively happy and healthy.
        I am highly functional in most areas of my life. On the outside I can appear “regular”, even “successful” but I am acutely aware of my issues that make other parts dysfunctional. …
        I just get a little perturbed that it is assumed that because someone has issues that they can’t be in a successful and happy relationship. I think it’s more along the lines of knowing that there will be issues opens the door for a successful and happy relationship.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          I used “regular” in quotes intentionally. :)

          We are ALL “abnormal.” There’s no such thing as The Way. That’s at the very root of everyone’s anxiety and self-esteem issues. So many of us grow up believing in The Way.

          There’s no The Way. Travel somewhere far away and everyone’s The Way, and everyone’s “normal” looks different.

          It’s the fact that EVERYONE is “weird” which ironically unites all of us.

          Because we are all human and have human things going on inside us.

          Everyone is unique. And that’s what makes us one.

          Like

      • OKRickety says:

        The problem with using specific statistics is that there is some, often significant, variation between sources. Your point would have been adequately supported if you had said “a large percentage will be divorced in less than 10 years” and “most marry with dozens, maybe hundreds, of witnesses and spend thousands of dollars ….”. I only speak for myself, but statements that I doubt, especially those with statistics, immediately make me question the rest of the writer’s work.

        “I’m only trying to establish that two people REALLY want to get married and REALLY believe they will love one another forever.
        It’s super-important to see the frequency of divorce in the context of regular, normal people.”

        I agree that people want to get married, but I’m not so certain that they “really believe they will love one another forever”. I want to think that, but I really have my doubts.

        Divorce is extremely frequent, and I don’t see how any one could not be aware of that. Unfortunately, it is so common that it is generally accepted, and thus more likely to occur.

        “But I don’t think most people know what they need to know, and might lack the fortitude (but only because of flawed thinking about “replacing” their partner and feeling happy with someone new) to make the small daily sacrifices to reap the lifetime of rewards.”

        I think the primary reason for divorce is the failure to fully commit to marriage. Without the commitment, there is no willingness to make the effort when marriage gets tough (and it almost certainly will). Making the effort requires the fortitude to endure the “worse” and work toward the “better”.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          I don’t accept that the premise that the majority of people whose marriages end think of it like an inconvenience.

          When you write down all of the horrible things which can happen to people, divorce makes the short list of The Really Bad Things.

          I think they commit. I just don’t think their expectations are accurate. They’re every bit as committed as they have been throughout the courtship period up to that point. Everything mostly felt good and easy. Fights are easily fixed with hugs and sex and words of affirmation.

          All that crap goes away after seven years of marriage, boredom, resentment, a couple of kids, etc.

          They are even more committed after seven years. There’s so much at stake for everyone.

          But now? Nothing is easy. After seven years, things we brush off while dating are war crimes during a marriage’s hard times.

          We don’t teach kids, teens or young adults how to have healthy relationships. Even though that’s WAY more important to quality of life than money, everything we learn is mostly centered around growing up to find work and pay taxes and buy things. It’s NOT about having healthy relationships with partners, children, co-workers, friends, or ourselves.

          Most people just don’t know.

          There are a million levels to the macro Why Divorce Happens conversation.

          One of those levels is: Both marriage AND divorce are harder than people realize before experiencing them.

          The only way to make anyone realize it is to talk about it. Because most people are afraid to.

          Like

      • OKRickety says:

        Matt,

        “I think they commit. I just don’t think their expectations are accurate.”

        We seem to have a different understanding of commitment. Inaccurate expectations don’t trump commitment. When couples today say “for better, for worse”, they unknowingly add “unless I think it’s terrible, in which case, I’m out of here.” That’s not the commitment necessary for a marriage to thrive, much less survive.

        “One of those levels is: Both marriage AND divorce are harder than people realize before experiencing them.”

        Truth. Individuals and society would benefit if it was more difficult to divorce. Provide good help to avoid divorce when reasonable. It would be far easier to work on the marriage, rather than bailing out into all of the associated pain.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linbo says:

        Matt,
        I really appreciated this quote that you wrote a few posts back.
        “Living fearfully is no way to live. That’s why it helps to be mindful of the boat. How we’re all in it. This isn’t A way. It’s THE way.”
        I took it slightly out of context because you were saying not to be afraid of dying, but to be mindful of it so we know what is important. For me I added: But before we die, we are all going to live- a very human and flawed existence, with other people that are just as flawed. The fear in my example wasn’t of death, but of what other people think.

        Yesterday, you wrote:
        ” “We are ALL “abnormal.” There’s no such thing as The Way. That’s at the very root of everyone’s anxiety and self-esteem issues.” (Head nod, Yes, yes).
        I know you are using the term “THE way” differently. I believe in this instance you were using it as something everyone can measure their normalcy up to. And that just doesnt exist.
        Given that you also said this yesterday:
        “It’s the fact that EVERYONE is “weird” which ironically unites all of us.
        Because we are all human and have human things going on inside us.
        Everyone is unique. And that’s what makes us one.”
        I want to propose the use of ” THE way” to be used as the latter :” Be mindful of the boat. How we’re all in it. Because we can count on dying, and we can count on living a flawed human existence with other flawed humans. This isn’t A way. It’s THE way.”
        That seems like something you can count on enough to claim its normalcy, as “THE way” .
        Also, I oppose the use of the term “regular” ,as some people strive for that their entire lives, and never achieve it..&it only gets harder with age..
        (that was a joke,re-read it ha!ha!) …ok, I wont try to be funny…-_-…

        I’m just glad you think this is true.

        Liked by 1 person

  23. Travis B. says:

    OKRickety said,

    “We seem to have a different understanding of commitment. Inaccurate expectations don’t trump commitment. When couples today say ‘for better, for worse’, they unknowingly add ‘unless I think it’s terrible, in which case, I’m out of here.’ That’s not the commitment necessary for a marriage to thrive, much less survive.”

    I believe that Matt’s use of the word “commit” is used in the context of saying “I commit to this state of being; I commit to the joy we take in each other’s company, the support, the mutual effort toward a common, united future together, and I will champion my spouse before all outside pressures and influences.” However, when the joy falls away, the mutual perception of effort, and there’s a sense that the one partner is not doing their due diligence to protect and champion the other partner’s mental and emotional health–in other words, when the scenario becomes “the enemy within, instead of from outside”, then it can be justifiable to break that bond. It’s very case specific, but in general, I’ve never gotten the impression that Matt would rank a marital commitment above ongoing and enduring damage to someone’s mental and emotional well-being.

    OKRickety said,

    “Individuals and society would benefit if it was more difficult to divorce.”

    As a champion of marriage, an enemy of divorce, and a defender of putting in one’s full share of hard work and due diligence, I couldn’t disagree with this statement more strongly. Me and my spouse should be the only ones with the power to dictate the terms of our marriage, not the state, nor the church. We own ourselves, we own our bond, we own our boundaries. All outside forces are welcome to offer influence, but never control.

    Like

    • marilyn sims says:

      I think your last paragraph is both awesome and elegant! Wow! And somewhere in the background I hear, “… we hold these truths to be self-evident…”

      Like

    • Donkey says:

      …shouldn’t it be “My spouse and I”, not “Me and my spouse”? 8)

      (I hope it’s obvious I’m just having a bit of fun here. I know you Travis has given me the courtesy of never once correcting my many grammer and spelling mistakes and typos.)

      Like

  24. Linbo says:

    From Brene Browns “Rising Strong”
    “The goal of the process is to rise from our falls, overcome our mistakes, and face hurt in a way that brings more wisdom and wholeheartedness into our lives.
    The Reckoning:Walking into our story
    Recognize emotion, and get curious about our feelings and how they connect with the way we think and behave.
    The Rumble:Owning our story
    Get honest about the stories were making up about our struggle, then challenge the confabulations and assumptions to determine whats the truth, whats self protection, and what needs to change if we want to lead more whole hearted lives. (cant stress this part enough- how often do we fill in the blanks believing we already know what the other person is thinking/feeling, what are we experiencing that is coloring our perception ect., )
    The revolution:
    Write a new ending to our story based in the key learnings from our rumble and use this new, braver story to change how we engage with the world and to ultimately transform the way we live, love, parent and lead.

    She refers to the Hero’s story as a metaphor as to how we struggle with conflict.
    There are 3 phases:
    1.)The call to adventure with “the inciting incident”
    2.) The protagonist tries every comfortable way to solve the problem- this act includes the lowest of the low…usually significant failure.
    3.) The protagonist understands what needs to be done, and is willing to prove it at all costs…this leads to redemption.

    In her own example, her call to adventure was a fight/miscommunication with her husband. Her rumble included being pissed and reactionary, and thinking of stories that “paid back” her husband. This was the most comfortable way to try to solve the problem. Her redemption was in figuring out that she needed to tell herself a different story as to why her husband was acting this way “one where Steve’s intentions were not bad”. So, she started asking herself questions: “Could I be that generous, Do I have a part in this? Can I trust him? Do I trust myself? What’s the most generous assumption that I can make about his response while skill acknowledging my own feelings and needs?” ..And finally the questions “What are the consequences of putting down the weapons and taking off the armor? What is he is hurting me on purpose? What if he’s really an insensitive person? …If I give him the benefit of the doubt and I’m wrong, I’ll be doubly shamed for being rejected and naïve.”

    It’s a really good book and can be applied in several different areas, but I thought it was fitting.

    Like

    • marilyn sims says:

      Hi Linbo,

      I really like the last part of the challenge –i.e. her redemption — wherein the protagonist is posing different questions in order to find a solution. It’s like Matt said in one of his previous blogs, the wrong diagnosis can sometimes be fatal… and half ( or the major part) of finding the solution is asking the right questions.

      Like

      • Linbo says:

        Those are questions we hardly ever stop and ask, especially in the middle of feeling really emotional. It’s easier to blame and find fault and tell ourselves the same story we always have. The sad part is, we always get the same ending.

        Like

    • Linbo says:

      Travis, Drew, Matt- I’d like a male perspective on this. (But anyone else could certainly chime in! :) )
      Above I wrote some questions that Brene Brown asked herself during an argument with her husband- in order to put down her own armor and defensiveness so that she could tell a story where her husbands intentions were not bad.. To recap the questions went like this: ” Could I be that generous? Do I have a part in this? Can I trust him? Do I trust myself (I’m thinking “in the moment”) What is the most generous assumption that I can make about his response while still acknowledging my own feelings and needs? What are the consequences of me putting down my armor? What if he is hurting me on purpose? What if he’s really an insensitive person?”
      Her conclusion to the consequences of putting down her armor would be shame for being rejected and naïve.

      Brene Brown is all about vulnerability- about risking hurt to find connection.
      Do you think that contradicts what you guys are saying about putting down hard boundaries?
      I think women tend to want to connect and are more willing to be vulnerable, but you guys are saying that doesn’t lead you to respect or listening to your wives.

      Can you help me reconcile these two things?

      Like

      • Linbo says:

        Travis, Drew, Matt and any of the smart as a whip women out there:):
        Wrote this a few days ago, but would really like some input:
        From Brene Browns “Rising Strong”
        “The goal of the process is to rise from our falls, overcome our mistakes, and face hurt in a way that brings more wisdom and wholeheartedness into our lives.
        The Reckoning:Walking into our story
        Recognize emotion, and get curious about our feelings and how they connect with the way we think and behave.
        The Rumble:Owning our story
        Get honest about the stories were making up about our struggle, then challenge the confabulations and assumptions to determine whats the truth, whats self protection, and what needs to change if we want to lead more whole hearted lives. (cant stress this part enough- how often do we fill in the blanks believing we already know what the other person is thinking/feeling, what are we experiencing that is coloring our perception ect., )
        The revolution:
        Write a new ending to our story based in the key learnings from our rumble and use this new, braver story to change how we engage with the world and to ultimately transform the way we live, love, parent and lead.

        She refers to the Hero’s story as a metaphor as to how we struggle with conflict.
        There are 3 phases:
        1.)The call to adventure with “the inciting incident”
        2.) The protagonist tries every comfortable way to solve the problem- this act includes the lowest of the low…usually significant failure.
        3.) The protagonist understands what needs to be done, and is willing to prove it at all costs…this leads to redemption.

        In her own example, her call to adventure was a fight/miscommunication with her husband. Her rumble included being pissed and reactionary, and thinking of stories that “paid back” her husband. This was the most comfortable way to try to solve the problem. Her redemption was in figuring out that she needed to tell herself a different story as to why her husband was acting this way “one where Steve’s intentions were not bad”. So, she started asking herself questions: “Could I be that generous, Do I have a part in this? Can I trust him? Do I trust myself? What’s the most generous assumption that I can make about his response while skill acknowledging my own feelings and needs?” ..And finally the questions “What are the consequences of putting down the weapons and taking off the armor? What is he is hurting me on purpose? What if he’s really an insensitive person? …If I give him the benefit of the doubt and I’m wrong, I’ll be doubly shamed for being rejected and naïve.”

        It’s a really good book and can be applied in several different areas, but I thought it was fitting.

        I’d like a male perspective on this. (But anyone else could certainly chime in! :) )
        Above I wrote some questions that Brene Brown asked herself during an argument with her husband- in order to put down her own armor and defensiveness so that she could tell a story where her husbands intentions were not bad.. To recap the questions went like this: ” Could I be that generous? Do I have a part in this? Can I trust him? Do I trust myself (I’m thinking “in the moment”) What is the most generous assumption that I can make about his response while still acknowledging my own feelings and needs? What are the consequences of me putting down my armor? What if he is hurting me on purpose? What if he’s really an insensitive person?”
        Her conclusion to the consequences of putting down her armor would be shame for being rejected and naïve.

        Brene Brown is all about vulnerability- about risking hurt to find connection.
        Do you think that contradicts what you guys are saying about putting down hard boundaries?
        I think women tend to want to connect and are more willing to be vulnerable, but you guys are saying that doesn’t lead you to respect or listening to your wives.

        Can you help me reconcile these two things?

        Like

  25. marilyn sims says:

    Hi Linbo,

    You are right about how hard it is to stop the reflexive behaviors we all use when we are being stirred in a hot cauldron full of raw emotion.

    I wonder if you are willing to do some more reading from my favorite author, Terry Real. He has a book titled, “The New Rules of Marriage: What you Need to Know to Make Love Work”
    It offers remedies to hot “perception” battles and other kinds of disagreements that only add heat to an argument, rather than light. What makes this different is that both partners must
    sign-on to the new behaviors and absolutely swear to abide the guidelines — NO MATTER WHAT!

    For instance there will times when one partner gives the agreed on signal that he/she is in danger of trespassing into forbidden territory. The other partner MUST LEAVE
    THE ROOM/HOUSE IMMEDIATELY WITHOUT UTTERING ANOTHER SOUND
    and go to a designated “safe-place” for an agreed amount of time (one hour) While there he/she must NEVER attempt to talk to the partner. After the agreed amount of time has lapsed the partner may return. If the situation has not changed, The partner MUST LEAVE again and go away for another predetermined length of time.(usually 30 minutes to an hour)

    Here, there are remedies offered if the offended partner cannot seem to descend from the place of anger/fury. What makes this work is that one partner does not have to justify his/her use of the signal. It is a totally unilateral decision. The departing one may not after returning from “exile” question the use of the signal. The discussion must be geared toward resolving the issues that caused the disruption. The agreement to disengage is (I think) a written
    document that has been hammered out during counseling.

    There are remedies offered to remedy the reoccurring arguments that drive most couples to
    distraction and finally to divorce.

    Like

    • Linbo says:

      Marilyn,
      That was really the solution that the author suggested?
      I understand giving space, absolutely. And, I’ve never been married so I don’t know what its like to be as angry as that (or at least I haven’t been that angry in a long, long time :) . If someone is that angry, it seems like that would be a core personal issue. I’m not saying the anger isn’t justified, but we have to learn how to experience it in a way that doesn’t take us over. Being that angry doesn’t do anyone any favors. I have come to the conclusion that anger is usually roused out of a feeling of injustice, and the subsequent feeling of helplessness at the injustice. We believe we have power in our anger. We want to regain control so we exert it through anger (We at least feel powerful in the middle of it.) The author I quoted does state that when shes angry, its usually because she is hurt. So asking yourself about why you are hurt is a good place to start.
      Banishing the person who sparked your anger seems like a good idea for a moment. But it would seem like all of sudden the person who is angry has the control over the situation, which is exactly what they feel they need, but it does not lead to effective communication, or reconciliation.
      You have to understand that during an argument there isn’t just one person feeling high emotions, the other person is likely feeling anger, hurt, frustration too. By cutting them off and making them leave (for more than just a “lets calm down and think about this” time) kind of abandons them. Not being willing to listen to their experience is showing a lack of empathy and can sever the relationship.
      Looking at arguments in a different way- thinking of arguments as tools to find different solutions, instead of a way to establish who is right or wrong is critically, critically important.
      Both people are important in the relationship.

      Liked by 1 person

      • marilyn sims says:

        Linbo,

        I appreciate your concern and I somewhat share your hesitation to “buy-in”. I think the problem is two-fold. Lack of context and a lapse in my memory of what was actually offered. Its been a long, long time since I read the part of the book I am discussing. At the time it seemed to me an eminently practical solution to a big problem. I think the couple had been in the habit of throwing dishes — actual dinnerware– at each other!!!

        I hope I have not misled you too terribly and I would absolutely agree that finding solutions and not establishing who is “most right or most wrong” is what we hope to achieve.

        Like

        • Linbo says:

          Hey Marilyn,
          No problem. Honestly I don’t usually buy in 100% to anything. :) That’s because we are all just feeling one part of the elephant. I think I’ve heard of Terry Real, I may have some time to read up, but I already have a reading list for my break time that’s pretty full. I’m supposed to be unplugging from all things tech. just to read stuff I want to read this week. …seriously hard habit to break…:)

          Like

  26. marilyn sims says:

    Linbo,

    Your last post addressed specifically to Matt, Travis and Drew and its contents is good stuff.
    I would(again) suggest more reading from Terry Real — I love his use of a therapeutic device called (my paraphrasing) discovering CORE NEGATIVE IMAGES.

    It is a written document used to disclose the hidden assumptions and predispositions
    we have that prevent us seeing our partners realistically. It uncovers the “big-negatives” that we often DENY exist within us. It uncovers unresolved disagreements we had with our parents that left us in deep pain. The pain is like a “hot-potato” we’ve carried
    in our subconscious for decades until we get a chance to “throw” it at our SO who because of his/her subconscious desires is willing to “catch” it. So the game — no matter how destructive– continues unabated.

    Like

  27. marilyn sims says:

    To All:

    For some reason, today seemed like a good day for “full disclosure”. I am an adult child of an alcoholic father. I have been divorced for more than thirty years and have remained determinedly single for all of that time; I have two daughters who live in another state and we are not emotionally close. At one time we were.

    I married because of an unplanned pregnancy and divorced because there was no love between us. The “marriage” lasted five years. The union lasted long enough so that my oldest daughter was very attached to her father; the youngest, almost not at all.

    Oldest daughter suffered, more than I knew from the divorce;; youngest daughter once told me, “Mom, thank God you divorced that man!” He was also an alcoholic.

    I’ve attended Adult Children meetings and done extensive reading about co-dependency and the effects of living within the toxic confines of a home suffering from addictive behavior. I often feel overwhelmed by all the information (old and the newer findings) about what it means to (1) love well (2) to be a fully functioning adult within intimate relationships (3) to parent effectively.

    Thanks to forums like this, the journey to understanding is made substantially less difficult and lonely. Thanks to all who contribute here.

    Like

  28. Matt, have you ever been divorced? I naively thought upon entering my first marriage that nothing could unmake that. Raised a very judgmental fundamentalist (thankfully mostly recovered from that), I never dreamed I would ever get a divorce. Nevertheless, 4 marriages and 4 divorces later, here I am. I realize that I am the common denominator, and like I used to judge, I can easily be judged by others. But until you have walked in my shoes, you are in the “Cheap Seats!” as Brene Brown puts it.

    Like

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