I’m always surprised when people say to me that no one takes marriage seriously anymore. It’s usually either from someone really old or someone who is (generally) happily married.
The old people, it seems to me, have a different view of marriage. Basically, that it’s to be endured, no matter what. Because you said vows, or some other foolishness, you’re basically stuck, forever, no matter what happens. They believe that perseverance is more important than happiness, fulfilment, or even personal safety.
The (generally) happily married people often mean well, but they have difficulty understanding that not all marriages are created equally. Because they’re happy – or, at least, mostly so – they can’t understand why other people can’t just worth through the issues that come up. It’s not that they haven’t experienced issues; all marriages have them. It’s just that, for them, happily enough, the issues haven’t been insurmountable ones.
Let me be the one to hit you with some truth, okay? At the end of the day, there is no trophy or blue ribbon for having remained as long as possible in an unhappy, unsuccessful, unfulfilling, or abusive marriage.
Whether granny or grandpa was happy in their marriage or completely miserable, their misguided belief that you stick it out – that you ‘stand by your man’, as it were – is pretty much a relic of a bygone age at this point, and thank goodness for that!
When they say ‘no one’ takes marriage seriously anymore, in a way I do think that they’re reacting to a very real and very different set of values that exist today, as opposed to what existed in the 50s. People from that era dealt with adultery – or, at least, the wives did – and were expected to. Many women, too, would tolerate physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. It’s not just that they were a different type of person raised with a different set of values; it was also because they literally could not afford to leave, because they weren’t as well educated as their male counterparts, had no work experience, had no independent access to money, would lose custody of their children if they left, couldn’t get a loan or a credit card in their name, and so on.
The inequity, historically, has been really real, and a real barrier to otherwise would-be divorcees getting any kind of happily ever after.
And what is it with people who think that, because they suffered, subsequent generations have to suffer the same kind of trauma? No – I think, if we’ve learned anything, it’s that generational trauma has to stop somewhere, and who better with than YOU?
And, what? Stay in your miserable marriage – but why? What’s to gain, besides traumatized children and a lifetime of obligation and drudgery that, looking back, bears no resemblance to the life you always wanted for yourself?
I’m not pro-divorce, in the sense that I don’t feel like it’s my job to encourage people to seek one out. I don’t advocate for divorce, or push women who haven’t yet worked through their feelings to get one. Where divorce is concerned, I’m a realist.
The decision to get a divorce is a difficult one. I’ve never met a woman – never had a single client – who didn’t express to me how difficult it was for her to come to this decision. I’ve never talked to a woman who didn’t literally agonize over it.
A lot of women make the decision, meet with an attorney, and then, ultimately, reconcile. Of those women, some are able to save their marriages. Still others will be back, eventually, and will divorce then.
It’s a difficult thing to face with friends and family. While you’re still working on your marriage, you may feel like you can’t unburden yourself with family and friends, because then they’d take a poor view of your husband. They might even advocate for you to leave him. They wouldn’t understand, and they’d press you to do something – whether going or staying – that maybe didn’t feel authentic to you. If you left him and went back, many people who love you might have something to say about it, and it may or may not be something that you want to hear.
There’s lots of back and forthing in divorce. Literally no one EVER made the decision to divorce easily or lightly – at least, not that I’ve seen. So, when someone say something about how people just don’t take marriage seriously anymore, I always want to stop and be like, “wait, what? Who are YOU talking to?” because that’s not the experience I have at all. I can’t think of a woman that I’ve ever met who didn’t take her marriage seriously, and wasn’t really, really upset by the idea of a divorce.
No one just wakes up one day and decides to get a divorce. It’s not a whim. It’s a serious decision that women agonize over. Why? Because they took their marriage vows seriously. Because they loved their partner. Because they love their children. Because they, deep down, want the happily ever after.
Life doesn’t always give you a happily ever after. But, in this day and age, we aren’t expected to just ‘stand by your man’ indefinitely, either. We are educated, we have job opportunities, we stand a chance in custody cases, and we have access to things, like credit cards and mortgages, that make starting over a real possibility.
Divorce isn’t a bad thing. I mean, the process itself isn’t much fun, and anybody would prefer to have married Mr. Right so that they wouldn’t be getting a divorce. But divorce is opportunity. It’s an opportunity that women from previous generations didn’t have, and it’s one that, I hope, will be even easier for women of my daughter’s generation. I hope that the glass ceiling is shattered, that wages are equalized, and that opportunities for women abound.
It’s not that I WANT women to get divorced, but it is that I want them to have options. If they’ve made a mistake in their marriage, I don’t want them to feel stuck, or to feel like the only way to be thought of as a serious or honorable woman is to stand by that mistake. You have one life to live, and divorce can give you a second chance to life the life you imagined for yourself.
For more information or to schedule a consultation – we’ll NEVER push you to divorce if you’re not ready, but it can’t hurt to start gathering information! – give our office a call at 757-425-5200, or visit our website at hoflaw.com to read on.