If you have read my memoir, Becoming Alice, you will know that when I was growing up, all my parents ever seemed to do was fight. To make matters worse, my aunt and uncle had a marriage that was even more nasty than my mom and dad’s. I didn’t know what other parents did, but it I had the feeling that some of them didn’t fight.
I knew there were other kinds of marriages because my best friend’s parents were always in a good humor, smiling, and laughing at each others stories and jokes. My parents pretty much ignored each other when they were in the company of others; at least they didn’t fight. As a teenager, I swore I would never have a marriage like my parents. I’d choose to stay single before I’d go into such a relationship. Luckily, I didn’t need to make that decision.
When I fast forward the years since then, a lot has happened in the way men and women relate to one another in our society. Women have fought for and gotten freedoms they didn’t have before. They can stand up for rights they didn’t have before. They can support themselves. If they are in a “bad” marriage they can afford to get divorced. Today, there is no stigma attached to being divorced. They are no longer looked upon as having some sort of personal flaw.
So, now our divorce rate in California is somewhere around 55%. Imagine, more than half of all those who get married will end up being divorced. I’ve seen it happen sometimes for valid reasons, sometimes not. I know one couple very well. They came to a bumpy patch in their marriage after a few years and wanting to make it all work, they went into counselling. Each partner was made aware of what behaviors contributed to the problem and accepted the advice that was given to them. The therapy was a success. They reconciled but made no changes. They went back to to the same patterns that caused the split in the first place. They are now divorced.
Some couples divorce and remained single the rest of their lives, perhaps not bothered by their “bad” relationship, but still not much happier than when they were married. On the other hand, I have seen couples who developed really strong antagonisms toward one another in mid-life, somehow didn’t divorce, and in later years came to accept and appreciate one another .
Then there are those who have been the luckiest of all, just as lucky as the ones who married the “right” person to begin with. They are the ones who learn a little something along the way and are able to find a partner with whom they establish a really sound relationship.
What did I learn from all that I have seen so far? I learned that love is not enough for making a marriage happy. I learned that most people don’t have the judgement as young people to know what kind of person will actually work for them as a spouse. And I learned that the best of all worlds belongs to those couples who feed their relationship with love every day of their lives.