Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why should Marriage last a Lifetime?

We came close to divorce. Almost losing something precious gives you a heightened sense of gratitude and shakes up your priorities. Now there is nothing more important to me than my marriage and family. Just as the survivor of a terminal illness is filled with gratitude for being alive, we now appreciate every day we are together.

We survived a traumatic crisis and suffered remorse for the hurt we’d inflicted on each other and grieved for the emotional security and trust we’d lost. In all the soul-searching, we faced our past mistakes and how we had failed and resolved to be better partners to each other.

We have worked hard to repair the damage and heal our wounds and are fiercely committed to staying together forever, no matter what. Throughout this painful process, we reflected on the reasons why a marriage should last a lifetime. Here are some obvious points to consider before taking the plunge of the Big D.

Divorce can injure your health. The horrendous stress of breaking up is debilitating and the on-going conflict over access visits and other dramas with the Ex continue to erode health and well-being. Sometimes the impact on health is worse for men who were dependent on their wife for organising the cooking and a healthy lifestyle. Many divorced men fall in a heap and degenerate into bad habits.

Divorce decimates finances. By going it alone you halve the financial strength of a solid partnership and double your expenses. Many men are financially gutted by the an onerous court settlement and many women, with less earning capacity, end up financially crippled and struggling as single mothers for years (while desperately pursuing another relationship to ease the burden).

In marriage we create a family and a personal history with a treasure trove of cherished memories. How could we smash this continuity? How could we possibly share our memories with a new partner who wasn’t there (and has their own personal history)? How awkward it must be for second-time partners when it comes to reminiscing about the past. How do you integrate a past spent with another spouse and kids with the new family’s memories? I imagine it is difficult for all ‘old’ and ‘new’ family members.

As casualties of the marital battlefield know, divorce seems like an enticing escape route and divorcees try valiantly to minimise the impact on children and themselves. But divorce, I believe, is nothing short of a tragedy, which takes years of recovery.

Ex-spouses must free themselves from bitterness if they are to find emotional and spiritual peace. From what I see, many divorcees do not undertake the painful healing work and continue to blame their Ex and carry a sense of brokenness while their children’s lives are permanently complicated.

How attractive is the option of a new partner really? Once the temporary euphoria of infatuation and novelty wears off, any new partner is likely to be laden with their quota of flaws and a heavy load of emotional baggage; all the unresolved issues and unhealed pain of their past relationships. Hooking up with another wounded casualty is no solution to your own pain. The opposite happens: you compound the issues. Stepfamilies are a huge challenge.

Kids need their parents for life. Our job doesn’t end when they turn 21. Adult children need guidance and support from stable and wise parents as they navigate adulthood. And your future grandchildren will need a united Nana and Pa too.

When we give our heart to someone and share ourselves at an intimate level, we become immensely vulnerable. Such vulnerability must be cushioned by the security of lifelong commitment. We need to know our mate will be there for us always, in sickness and in health, for better or worse, and never bail out and abandon us when the going gets tough. As Dr Phil says, marriage ideally gives us “a soft place to fall.”

Finally it strikes me that we need an entire lifetime together to work out our psychological issues. It takes that long to break free from destructive patterns and to grow and mature and reach a resting place of real love, beyond all illusions.

These are not good reasons to suffer a miserable, loveless marriage or physical or emotional abuse from a violent, addicted or dysfunctional partner. However they are good reasons to try everything possible to redeem a bad marriage and transform it into a functional, healthy one.

Spare yourself the grief and sense of failure and dislocation of divorce and seize the courage to work through issues with your husband or wife. It takes two to be willing to change and grow and it is essential to find the right help through your own reading, counselling, support groups and marriage courses.

A successful, happy marriage is a worthwhile destination and I aim to reach it with the man I signed up with more than two decades ago. We are wounded but not broken travelling partners on the treacherous journey of marriage.

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