Sunday, June 28, 2009

Marriage Vows

I watched a couple restate their vows in church this morning. They've been married 50 years. It was an incredibly touching moment and I acknowledge the unlikely longevity of marriage nowadays. What struck me most was how I feel about marriage in general. It's work. Alot of work. But it is not impossible nor is it inevitable nor is it incredible.

I have been married 34 years. It will be 35 in January. I thought about the highs and lows and the hard parts and the good times and the bad times and thought, "What the hell, if you want it bad enough, you can make it work out."

Does this mean I'm super human or special or unique? No. I'm just somebody who wanted to make it work out for a variety of reasons.

I cannot tell you how many times my husband and I wanted to separate; how many fights we had when we threatened to "leave". We were divorced three years. That was early on. We'd been married five years, suffered through a natural disaster, and didn't weather the storm. No kids, no money, no fault.

We remarried three years later...three years we referred to as a "hiatus". We've never regretted that. It was necessary and it was awesome.

I can only say that whether our reasons for staying together make sense or not, they work. The reasons are many:

the children
the years we spent together
the fear of living without one another
the shared experiences
the children

Are those good or bad? Doesn't matter.

I am old school. I think divorce is too convenient. We take the easy way out when things get uncomfortable. Marriage is like a business, a partnership. It's for many reasons, not all of them are about love. There is the inevitable business of raising the family. If you have children, you owe them. It is no longer about you. It is now about the children. Too many people forget that. We, as adults, should be forced to take a test to have children. It's just too easy to have kids and walk away. Children are the future. We owe them. We've already made our mistakes. It's time to give to our children. I believe that more than I believe anything.

If children are the future, we owe them our best, no matter we've left our best behind us long ago.


Sixpence and a Blue Moon said...

a very lovely post!


Star said...

I'm not sure I agree with you entirely on this. It's not
ALL about the children. Children grow up and leave and then what? you are alone again. That is the testing time, I think. Will the marriage survive once the children are gone? Well maybe, maybe not, maybe time for another three year separation.
After all, we're not glued together. Being together should be free will, not a written contract. Just my opinion, t'aint right and t'aint wrong.
Blessings, Star

Linda Pendleton said...

There can come a time when it is no longer about the children but about you--you as a person, an individual.

But for those who stay together because they are in love, that is great.

Deboshree said...

Hey there,

Very well said. You are absolutely right. There are so many things to consider once we get married and take the plunge,as they say. It's nice to see that there are still people out there who believe in marriage more than divorce.


Ruth said...

I go in and out about this. At the moment I agree with you. But I have seen people who should not have stayed together, and it was bad for the children to see them tear each other apart. Did they think they didn't notice? Ultimately I think our children want us to be happy. But it is soooo complicated, of course, and so divorce pulls into it a lot of crapola. But wow, it's tough work staying together.

Don and I keep having the same fight - the same one we started with 31 years ago. I won't tell you what it is.

I don't know your husband, but from his photo here the look on his face kinda says to me, "I konw what she's saying about us, but I hope you'll like me anyway." And that makes me smile.

Marguerite said...

Once the children are grown, a marriage goes through a major test. If the couple still love each other, the marriage survives. If not, I think it's better to divorce. I know a lot of people who have divorced after 30 + years of marriage and are much happier, now.

Lover of Life/ Nancy said...

Coming from a Family Science point of view, you hit the nail on the head. Long-term studies now show that unless there is physical or emotional abuse in the home, wait until the kids are gone to divorce.

California Girl said...

Thanks 6P!

Star: I didn't expect alot of agreement. Actually, I think everyone has a pretty strong opinion on this. I do not think anyone should stay together if it's a bad relationship. I just think many of us give up before we should. I mean, I gave up on my marriage after 5 years.

Linda: Yes, staying together because you're in love is great. Sometimes the love gets lost for a while. And sometimes it changes.

Deboshree: I guess I'm old fashioned that way.

Ruth: you're a teaser! I read your line about "having the same fight" to my husband and he laughed. We think we keep having the same fight. Ours is always akin to sibling rivalry. He also smiled on your comment about his look.

Marguerite: ah yes, "once the children are grown"...I have known a ton of people who divorced after that. I knew alot of my friends' parents who divorced after we all left home. I found it sad but I get it. You are suddenly alone again and your world is freed up and you may just kick up your heels and say "buh bye"!


California Girl said...

Nancy: Have you read Judith Wallerstein's books "Second Chances" or "The Unexpected legacy of Divorce"? We read the first one back when we were going through a very rough time and the boys were young. It made such a case that we toughed out what probably would have been our second and final divorce. Ten or eleven years later, she published the second book mentioned which is a 25 year study of the children of divorce; how and when they were affected. Very heavy stuff.

ellen abbott said...

I agree with you that divorce is too easy. But I don't know where the fault lies. That the courts made it that way or we as people are too selfish to get through the hard times. There were plenty of years in a row that were not good ones and during that time we just kept committed to the commitment we had made. Because we worked together and needed each other in order to make a living, besides the kids, perhaps that was the glue that helped us stick it out. I don't know. We actually started getting along better after the kids were grown. There were years when I no longer thought I loved him but that came back. We fought, threatened to leave (he did once with suitcase in hand for all of four hours - he had no place to go), went to counseling more than once. Bottom line is we worked at making it work. We have a good relationship, marriage. doesn't mean we don't still get pissed off and yell once in a while, but now we know the other is not going anywhere. I don't think all divorce is bad. But yes, it is too easy. We'll have our 33rd anniversary in August.

my word verification...rebel. Seems apropos somehow.

Baino said...

Cali as a single (widowed a while back) I know which state I'd prefer. I'd much rather work on a relationship and have someone at my side than face my retirement alone. Fantastic that you actually remarried after your break up. Not many would go there. As for the children, well if yours are like mine, they're among your closest friends and a very good reason to 'give it more than a go'.
Cheers and thanks for your honesty.

California Girl said...

Ellen: Good of you to share your thoughts and hard-earned wisdom. I can't count the number of times I wanted to walk away and still do. But those are my moments of fury that are still simmering. Funny you said your husband was pack & ready to leave but had "nowhere to go". How true of most of us!

Baino: I believe you. It has to be terribly hard to be a widow(er). I am sure you ache. Hell, I'm just now wiping tears away after reading about Reya and Jake, her dog, on The Gold Puppy. The loss of a best friend, be it dog or spouse or...? No, I am not be facetious. I think loss is terribly painful.

Ima Wizer said...

Excellent post...I wish I had stayed married...I quit too soon! I just didn't know any better.....sigh.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

so much to think about reading the post and the comments. I've been living with my husband for 33 years - in december we'll have been 'married' for 31 years.

initially I fought the idea of bringing the state into our relationship, but acquiesced because we were expecting a child and we thought our parents would have a difficult time with us having a child w/o being married. ironic, because since we didn't get married in the church neither set of parents felt that we were 'really married' and 3 of the 4 parents actually 'boycotted the wedding' (since it wasn't real) - in time they changed their tune and came to accept us as a married couple.

in time I've grown to appreciate the benefits I've been awarded by the state by fact of being married and now I am active in promoting the right to marry is a basic human right, regardless of someone's sexual orientation.

that being said, I don't think marriage should be taken lightly and I strongly believe a couple should live together for a significant amount of time before they get married. perhaps if more people did this then we wouldn't have such astronomical divorce rates.

your first 'reason' for staying together is for the children.

divorce may have an affect on children, but children who are in families where the parents fight all the time and do not love and respect each other is more destructive than being a child of divorced parents - at least in my book and through my observations - -

I too have long said people have to have a license to drive a car or get married, but anyone can have a child -- and unfortunately too many people have children from no reason or the wrong reason....

well, thanks for sharing your story and giving us all so much to think about! it is definitely a thorny and complex arena to enter and think about!

btw, I'm feel very blessed - we have never thought of not staying together - we share love, friendship and values.... we may disagree and argue - who doesn't - and we have weathered all sorts of difficulties - but mutual love and respect always overshadows any disagreement and always give us the strength to weather a difficulty or a tragedy!

California Girl said...

Ima: I hear this more often than you might expect. I guess alot of people get married young, as we did, then divorce. We just happened to get back together three years later. One never knows.

kimy: I like your story. It has a positive approach. Ironic your parents did not initially accept the union as it was not sanctified in the church.

The children held us together through a very difficult time. We were very careful never to fight in front of them until they were older, i.e. teenagers. By that time, I did not want them to think we never fought. We worked very hard to get through that rough period and we did. My marriage has never been smooth sailing but it works. We each have "issues" we work on as individuals and try to improve our marriage through counseling when needed. I don't think anyone in a destructive marriage should stay together. I just wonder if people walk away before really trying to tough it out.


by Cole Scott