I have a dentist appointment today (necessary), so we have to skip chat for another week. But I promise – next week, major quality time.
I notice that many writers complain that their marriage is no longer satisfying, the sex is not great anymore, they don't really know if they are still in love with each other (whatever that means), or they are obsessed with (or maybe thinking about cheating with) someone else. It makes me wonder what marriage vows they took.
My wife and I got married 38 years ago. We vowed "to have and to hold one another, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part." We had lots of good times "for better" and were "in health" for many years, but then things changed. My wife has been severely disabled for the past 10 years. That is the "for worse" and "in sickness" part of being married. Death has not yet parted us. We remain totally devoted to and in love with each other in spite of all of that. Those vows we took 38 years ago are even stronger now than they were back then, when we really did not fully understand what they meant.
My point is that younger married couples today really need to think about the vows they took. Married life is not easy, as the vows emphasize, but the goal is to stay together and work it out. I understand that some marriages may need to be dissolved because one partner is abusive, unfaithful, or in prison. But so many writers give only selfish reasons for wanting to walk away from their vows, like "he doesn't give me the sex I want,” or "she has gained too much weight,” or "I need to find myself and do what is best for me." Marriage is not just about pooling assets, cohabiting, buying a house, having sex, and raising children. It is fundamentally a lifelong commitment between two people "to have and to hold one another, for better or for worse, in sickness or in health." I can attest that living through the bad parts can make each partner stronger and can make the marriage stronger. Which is what married love is all about. Why are so many letter writers ready to leave marriages?
"Marriage is not just about pooling assets, cohabiting, buying a house, having sex, and raising children."
Well, let’s be honest. Marriage has been about different things at different times, depending on who you are and where you live. Some of these very heterosexual traditions we know of (bride's parents paying for a party) are rooted in stuff like dowries. The romantic "I love you" part of marriage is something that, over time, has floated to the top of a long list of reasons people become partners. But you do bring up a fair point; I'm not sure that everyone knows why they're getting married when they do. And if they do, I would never assume their goals match anyone else's.
You say you and your wife had lots of good times "for better" over many years. Your relationship sounds lovely, by the way. But please know that many of our letter writers seem to have coupled up with someone who doesn't want the same kind of highs, so everything feels like a low. Sometimes they were able to make great memories with their spouses when they were much younger people, but they grew into adults who were no longer a match. I wouldn't expect two people to struggle through a commitment that doesn't make anyone happy. Would you?
I have noticed that the number of letters about sex and dissatisfaction has spiked. We had a whole week of "This is boring, I want more, I need out of this marriage." letters. Sociologists will tell you that after the kind of crisis we've experienced over the past year, many people think about what they want and speed up decisions they might have been putting off. But those experts tell me it won't be all divorces and sadness. It'll also be new marriages, kids ... all kinds of living. All I ask is that you have some empathy for the letter writers who made big decisions before they had it fully figured out ... and that you accept that divorce can be the path to two people making the most of their lives with new people who can love them right.
Readers? Let's discuss.