When it comes to marriage, I still like the idea of committing to a monogamous relationship with one person for the rest of my life. I don’t mean that everyone should do this, just that this is my preference for my life. Traditional marriage vows in the United States reflect this version of marriage, but current divorce rates would suggest that not everyone who takes these vows actually means it. Can people change their minds? Of course! I never went through with divorce, but I certainly considered it on more than one occasion. I also encourage other people to consider divorce or separation when they’re in unsafe situations, such as an abusive relationship.
It’s not my place to judge other people’s life choices, nor to decide whether another choice would be better, but I can’t help but wonder how it is that so many people vow to stay with one person forever, and then later change their minds. I think part of the problem lies in how we decide that somebody is “the one.” When I got married at twenty-two, I chose my life partner based on the belief that he was the one who would make me happy. I thought he would be a good source of emotional and financial stability for me and my children. I thought we would make a great team and live, more or less, happily ever after. That’s not exactly how things went. So did I choose the wrong partner? Could I have found someone else that would have made me happy in a way my husband hasn’t? No. How do I know I didn’t choose the wrong partner? Because I don’t believe a right or wrong partner exists. Could someone else make me happier? Nope. Guess who makes me happy? ME.
So if it doesn’t make sense to choose a life partner based on who will make you happy, provide you with stability, etc., how do you choose? Ask yourself if this is a person you want to love for the rest of your life. I’m talking about the verb to love. For me, loving someone includes things like being emotionally available, being a good listener, being honest and faithful, and doing things for that person that they appreciate. I will never love perfectly, but I can certainly have that as a goal. Once I decide that this is the person I want to love forever, it doesn’t really matter what they do for me. If they don’t listen, I can find friends who do. If they don’t spend time with me, I can find friends who will. I can love myself, make myself happy, handle my own finances, do things that I enjoy. If I’m able to share these things with my partner, that’s fabulous, but I can be happy either way. And hopefully, even if we do have periods where we feel disconnected, we’ll find that in the end we can become a great team and live, more or less, happily ever after.