Part 2- Starting Over Again
By Harlan L. Jacobsen (Copyright 1996)
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO YOUR MARRIAGE ANYWAY?
If you are still trying to figure that out, you're wasting your time and a considerable amount of emotional energy. You say, well I want to figure out what I did wrong so I don't make the same mistake again.
Analyzing this one to death won't keep you from walking into another similar trap...
EVEN WITH A DEGREE IN ANALYZING WHY MARRIAGES FAIL, YOU WOULDN'T LEARN ENOUGH FROM YOURS TO BE WORTH A HILL OF BEANS.
If you grew up sometime in the last 60 years you have a lot of misinformation, incorrect programming and expectations about marriage. Most of all, we all have a lot of misconceptions and screwed-up ideas about why you and half the married population get divorced.
TRUE - ALL MARRIAGES ARE HAPPY...IT IS ONLY AFTER THE CEREMONY THAT THE TROUBLE STARTS. Trying to figure out what you did wrong might have done differently over the years of your marriage is like going back and trying to remember where you went wrong, what move was critical in losing that last checker or chess game. If you had made even one move differently, it would have changed the game but all subsequent moves would have been different and likely the game would have ended the same way, only maybe even sooner. Going back over it is a complete waste of time and is crazy- making.
STOP GOING OVER YOUR MARRIAGE AND ITS DEATH. Bury your dead marriage. Mourn a little over that loss and then get on with your new life. Rehashing your marriage and divorce is like digging the body up again every day. Soon your life smells.
We like the idea of a funeral for your marriage...a divorce is a formal coming apart ceremony conducted by some churches now...a formalized ending of a relationship that is attended by you, your ex, your children and friends. It gives a definite announcement to the world of the end of the marriage and the relationship. All publicly admit the marriage is over. We feel everything along this line, even sending out divorce announcements, help make it final for you.
STOP ALL THE "IF ONLY'S.
They get you nowhere. Just admit it is over. Having done things differently probably would not have changed the outcome, only delayed it, and rehashing things is all just speculation and a waste of your time. Concentrate your efforts now on growing as a person, learning how to improve and enhance all relationships and to make your life work.
It is like a baseball player at bat. You have to lay down the bat and get your feet off of home plate before you can run around the bases. You have to let go of the marriage and let go of your disappointments and hostilities before you can get on with a new life...
WHAT MAKES YOU THINK YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO MAKE YOUR MARRIAGE WORK INDEFINITELY WHEN EVEN THE EXPERTS CAN NOT?
Dr Ferson of a San Francisco college that trains counselors states flatly that making marriages last forever is "un-doable." Most counselors say use my method and your marriage will work. Ferson says his research shows these "experts" that have all the answers supposedly have as high or in most cases a higher divorce rate than the general public.
EVEN ANN LANDERS COULD NOT STAY MARRIED. Her marriage ended despite the fact it was damaging to her career, that she has tremendous input on what is going wrong in marriages throughout the country, and despite the fact she has access to all the "best" advice on keeping marriages together of nearly anyone in the country. She too, could not make it last forever.
STOP CONSIDERING YOURSELF A FAILURE BECAUSE YOUR MARRIAGE DID NOT LAST FOREVER
The average marriage duration now is eleven years. Second marriages, 7 years. If yours lasted longer, you are above average in hanging in there.
YOUR EXPECTATIONS ABOUT MARRIAGE WERE WRONG AND UNREALISTIC. You were programmed by fairy tales that said right after they got married they lived happily ever after. That is exactly what it was, a fairy tale... Yet you heard it so often, over and over again in movies, stories, TV and theatrical performances, all fantasies...
WHEN YOUR MARRIAGE DOESN'T LAST FOREVER - THEN YOU FEEL CHEATED. You blame yourself for goofing; you must have "failed" not doing something you should have - or you are angry at your ex for not making it last. Your expectation that your marriage would last a lifetime was fantasy and totally unrealistic.
Ann Landers, with access to the pulse of the country on her input on married life as a popular columnist, and with access to the experts, to studies, marriage research, etc., says the following about marriage...
one out of 25 marriages is VERY GOOD
four out of 25 are OKAY
seven out of 25 are BAD
eight out of 25 are a REAL DRAG
five out of 25 are DISASTERS.
She is saying only one in five marriages are not in the "bad" or worse category. Yet you still cling to the idea that you alone somehow failed - that somehow, you should have been that "super" person that overcame all obstacles and made it work, even when others can not.
PRACTICALLY NO ONE GETS DIVORCED TOO SOON OR TOO EASILY. Most should have gotten divorced up to two years before they did, before they tear each other apart emotionally. Those that try to make it harder and even more difficult to get a divorce, do a great disservice to the people involved in ending relationships.
Almost all splitting couples get involved in a crazy-making situation of one or the other trying to revive what is in truth a "dead horse". They use up tremendous energy and time before they finally do come apart.
You can get married in a few hours but it takes months and even years of turmoil to get apart. It should be the other way around.
YOU DO NOT LIVE IN THE WORLD YOU WERE PROGRAMMED FOR. Your marriage programming came from another century. The world has changed tremendously but no one up-dated your programming to keep pace.
The traditional marriage ceremony and format were set up more than a century ago when being married forever was 10 to 15 years. Life expectancy was under 35 and rarely did they both make it that long...one or the other died. If you had been married 8 years, for example, and you are 28, statistically then you were looking at being married with only a couple years to go. Now at 28 you may be looking at, do I really want to be married to this person for the next 50 years? The answer likely will be NO I do not.
IN THE PAST YOU NEEDED TO BE MARRIED JUST TO SURVIVE. THAT IS NO LONGER TRUE. Marriage used to be primarily functional. Now they are primarily affectional. When that is gone, the need for the marriage is gone.
When my mother grew up, she knew she would not be able to survive on her own. She needed someone to support her. There was practically no option available to her at that time.
My father farmed. He worked long hours necessarily then to make any type of living and he could not survive at this unless he had someone to prepare his meals, gather and laboriously store, process and prepare food that was needed for the survival over the long winter.
He needed someone to wash and maintain his clothes as well as keep up the house, tend the garden and chickens and all those other things necessary for survival that he didn't have time for. They both needed each other to survive. Even if the affection had gone they would still have stayed married to survive.
Now, when the affection is gone - who needs you? The man can cook for himself, prepare foods in his microwave oven in minutes. He has an automatic washer that washes his clothes that now never need ironing. (My mother used to spend one whole day washing clothes and one whole day a week ironing clothes.) Therefore a man no longer needs a woman to survive.
Nowadays she can get a job (often more readily than he) and support herself quite nicely. She doesn't need to work all day either and then come home and be his domestic slave for the next 8 hours.
So the reasons for staying married have changed dramatically, yet society and your programming have not caught up to that.
Relationships are enhanced and strengthened when you overcome obstacles and conquer the world together. My parents on the farm overcame the potato bugs together, nursed the sick calf back to health and built up a strong herd of cattle over the years. In the past, couples overcame problems together out of necessity that helped glue a relationship strongly.
Nowadays what does a couple do together? Little, other than watch TV together, which does nothing for the relationship. Wives do nothing in common with their husband, who with the assistance of his secretary is slaying dragons all day and together they are overcoming the world as a team. As a result, he winds up feeling very close to his secretary and closer than he does to his wife and she still has no idea why that happened.
The left wife now feels she failed. She should have tried harder or she feels he should have resisted that temptation. I say that is baloney...the set up was wrong and it was predictable...it was human.
Becoming more attached to someone outside the marriage is easier when there is nothing going on in the marriage to keep it together...and that is not your fault...it is the situation nowadays, things are different than they were even a few years ago.
YOU USED TO HAVE TO BE MARRIED TO FILL YOUR SEXUAL NEEDS. Yesteryear if you have any sense and you were a woman, you had better be married if you were going to have sex. If you had sex, you were going to have kids and you darn well had better have someone tied down to support the inevitable children. Therefore the programming you received then, that No Marriage equals No Sex was indeed appropriate.
The pill changed all that. Now you don't have to be married to nicely fill your sexual needs because of a technological advancement that simply overcame that problem.
WHAT REASONS THEN DO YOU HAVE LEFT FOR YOU AND YOUR EX SPOUSE BEING TOGETHER? PROBABLY NONE.
You might say, well I want to be married, society says you are supposed to be married, I don't know how to be single, besides, I need someone to look out for me - I have always had a babysitter.
EXPECTATIONS FOR MARRIAGE HAVE INCREASED. When a couple come apart today, it is often because their expectations of the marriage exceed the performance. Expectations are increased by media which shows the ideal couple doing their thing. He sees the centerfold of Playboy and expects his wife to look like that. She watches romances on TV and expects her spouse to act that way.
She hears that things are suppose to be different in relationships now and they are not in hers. He has all the old expectations from watching his mother in marriage, plus all the new media-promoted expectations for marriage and she doesn't measure up to all that. Their expectations have been raised to where no one could meet all of them. So they are constantly resentful and disappointed that the marriage is not working out like it "should".
PEOPLE DIDN'T CHANGE MUCH IN THE PAST. Now they have input from hundred of sources every day. They grow rapidly and change constantly.
They move every few years. They are in a much more mobile society and move away from "close people." So they no longer have much necessity to conform to other's expectations. They change jobs every few years.
Very seldom do they grow at the same rate and direction. One partner stays the same and the other grows and expands their world or even worse they both grow but in opposite directions. She works, for example, and puts him through college. She has little opportunity to grow or expand her life. He outgrows her and they are no longer compatible and she bitterly wonders how he could do that to her, when he moves on. It was predictable.
In the past if you found someone compatible, you probably stayed compatible or you both changed at such a slow rate that the other could adjust. Now, everyone changes rapidly and soon you are no longer compatible nor do you complement or fill each other's needs. So you move on, one of you often realizing the need to do so before the other fully does.
You no longer stay in the same job all your life like people used to do. You outgrow the job or the job is changed and outgrows you. You no longer stay in one home for decades like you used to. Your needs change--your friends move away, etc. Everything is moving faster and faster. You no longer stay in relationships like people used to do. You outgrow the need for each other and this is true in friends, as well as intimate relationships.
ACCEPT COMING APART AS NORMAL...A PART OF GETTING ON WITH LIFE. Sure, I know telling you that doesn't make it any less painful. Understanding what is happening to you and your world does help, however.
Next we will take up getting past the pain and on to a better life.