Strangely perhaps, getting married has felt very freeing. (Daniel agrees.) Both of us had spent most of our lives thinking marriage was not an appealing idea, not something that we particularly desired in the future. For me, that younger-self disinterest in marriage evolved as I neared thirty, and I could more clearly imagine an outcome where a life-long partnership would work.
As I’ve mentioned, Daniel and I have known each other since we were 20, have been business partners for over 5 years, but only entered a romantic relationship 2 years ago. A common question our friends pose: “so, what, you didn’t secretly have some crush or flirtation for the past dozen years?” Um, no.
When we got together, we both knew many couples who were separating, getting divorced, unhappy, cheating or otherwise disinterested in their marriages. I, fairly literally, tried to categorize and classify the problems other couples experienced, knowing that I wanted to have a long relationship with Daniel, but feeling skeptical that it was possible. Nobody else seems to know how to do it! So why should we dare to try?
Into my categories of why marriages fail went: having kids, not evolving together, conflict over who earns money, extensive business travel or semi-frequent geographic separation, and different values.
Having kids seems to change the nature of many relationships, as the relationship turns into supporting the children and ignoring the parents. I have no doubt that it’s tricky to maintain a passionate relationship and children. And, the social pressure parents feel these days to be super-achieving parents- well, that’s somewhat new in the scheme of humanity.
Evolving together- or not- is the problem that’s trickiest to predict. Personalities evolve, and at different paces, and towards different things. Really, why try to hold a relationship together if this becomes the core issue?
Money conflict: pretty straightforward.
Geographic separation: it’s easy to see why this happens. “oh, it’s a really high paying job in the city, and I’ll just be home every weekend. It’ll be practically the same with skype and all.” Or- “oh, I need to go to school, and he needs to work, and it will just be for a year, and we’ll see each other every weekend. And we’re both so busy anyway…”
But talking on the phone or skype is not real. It seems real, but it’s not. Only the strongest relationships survive the skype relationship.
right after we got married, one of our friends, who has been happily with his high school sweetheart for a long time, told us their secret. Talk all the time. Never get out of step with each other.
Values are a funny thing. Often, in the swirl of romance, it can take a while to unpack them. Most people keep their true values wrapped up at the core of their psyche, and it takes some prying and puncturing to understand them.
Even defining what values are is complicated: I can say I value truth a great deal, and someone else can agree with me, but mean a different thing. The idea of truth reveals itself differently in people, often based on how well they know themselves.
But back to the freedom of marriage: there’s the really lovely sense of working together to make a life. It’s great to have someone to encourage and to encourage you. To know that there is someone who will reflect back your best and help you deal with your worst.
It’s freeing, because it’s a clear boundary to work from. Margins and boundaries are essential for creating.