Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Marital, err, advice-ish

Before I get started, I should tell you up front that I have absolutely no business offering marital advice. I'm not a counselor, I'm not a social worker, and most of all ... I’m divorced.

I was married to my first husband for five years. And, after going through a pretty brutal divorce almost six years ago, I vowed that I would never, ever again enter into the institution of marriage (which, at the time, certainly felt institutional). I was convinced that nothing could make a marriage happy, besides perhaps insanity or very strong medications (or some combination thereof). In that relationship, I had the odd (and backwards) experience of feeling sheer terror (mixed with a bit of nausea) on my wedding day, and complete bliss on the day my divorce was--finally--final. And now, although happily married to the man of my dreams, I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.

Oh, you’re still reading? I thought for sure I would have lost you after that introduction.

* By the way, when my current husband and I first got married, I often told friends that being married wasn’t so bad when your husband isn’t a jack*ss. And while I believe that would make an excellent bumper sticker, it probably isn’t the most resounding support for marital bliss. I’d like to think I’ve evolved since then.

So, here goes ... the key to a happy marriage is this: Decide to make it work.

What, you’re not impressed? I realize it sounds simplistic, and of course, marriage is far from simple. But, I truly believe that’s all it really boils down to.

A lot of the hard work should really happen before you ever say “I do.” Finding yourself, knowing who you are and what you do and don't want (dating works wonders for this, by the way) is crucial. And, of course, the work of choosing your life partner wisely is paramount. But, once you’ve found the person whom you trust and respect and actually like being around (very important), then it’s just a matter of believing that this is your one-and-only, the one you will be with forever, and then making it happen.

This means that when s/he does something that drives you crazy, you talk about it rather than storming off or threatening to leave. (Hint: Don’t threaten divorce unless you mean it. You can’t take those words back). If you feel as if you are being taken for granted, talk about it rather than sulking or seeking revenge. In every decision you make, your end goal should be to make your marriage, your friendship, your family, your bond stronger. This means looking past your own insecurities and ego and deciding that, as a team, you can and will make it work.

Of course, I'm not saying that leaving is never the right option. There are certainly marriages that should end (case in point: my first). But, if you are married to someone who respects, loves, and cherishes you, and you feel the same for him/her, then nothing short of the big deal-breakers--infidelity, physical or emotional abuse, addictions, or whatever your personal list includes--should be able to bring down your union.

I should reiterate that I don’t have this all figured out yet. (As if my introduction didn't make that perfectly clear). And I don’t think anyone completely does. But, after making peace with commitment and marriage, and nearly three years after saying “I do” to my partner and best friend, I can truly say that I’m glad that I did. And I know that whatever this day, this week, this year, this life has in store, my husband and I are in it together. And that, my friends, is something worth working for.

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