I am part of a therapy group that meets on Wednesday evenings. I love my group. We have been meeting since last August, and have lost one member and gained three, so we have a full group now with eight members. Our newest member is unhappily married and soon to be divorced. Because of confidentiality, I cannot even share in this format anything else about his story, but our meeting Wednesday night really made me think alot about marriage.
We have been married for 23 years. And I believe we will stay married for good. I was so distressed to hear the conversation at group about “taking care of yourself” and “honoring your truth.” I think there is a place for that kind of thinking, but when it comes to marriage, sometimes “taking care of yourself” can cause some huge problems in a marriage where one of the people is unwilling or unable to change his or her behavior. I do not advocate abuse of any sort. Abuse changes the reality and taking care of yourself is an extremely important thing to do.
I like to think there is a solution for most problems. Sometimes, or even most of the time, the choices we make as young people are not the choices we might make as forty-somethings, so the pragmatist might think that it’s a good idea to jettison “bad” choices and find true love now that he/she really knows what he/she wants in life. But I believe that marriage is a great refiner of each of us. We learn to think of someone other than ourselves. We learn to give of ourselves, even when we might not want to. When both people really love each other, I believe ANYTHING can be gotten through.
When Kepler was born, even as strongly as Greg and I feel for each other and are committed to each other, I looked at him one day in the first week and told him I could understand why tragedies (which Kepler’s birth and diagnosis were NOT, but it was still a difficult time) cause relationships to break apart. And I told him I thought we needed to be really aware of that possibility and re-up on the commitment side of things, and make sure we talked about what was going on. I shudder to think what might have happened if each of us had started focusing on “taking care of myself” to the exclusion of taking care of the other person at the same time.
How can anyone stay married these days without a sense of a larger meaning to life? If someone is unhappy in their marriage, why should they stay if they aren’t happy anymore? If what matters is only now, and only what I want, then divorce makes a lot of sense. But if we are part of a larger story, which I believe we are, then there are great reasons for staying and working through things.