My wife and I recently celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. It got me thinking about marriage, and about divorce and the following two lists.
Three elements of a successful marriage:
- A successful marriage includes two people who realize that there is no such thing as perfection. The sooner you realize the impossibility of perfection, the sooner you can stop looking for it, and realize that, ironically, you and your spouse are perfect for each other. (And I want to be clear that the list of my faults is way longer than a list anyone could make about my wife.)
- A successful marriage is built around shared values. Having a life partner is wonderful. It also comes with challenges, and a common set of values will help get you through them together.
- A successful marriage includes two people who are committed to being together. Marriage is not easy. You need to be committed to making it work if you want it to—and it takes effort and hard work to do so. Raising kids is hard work, but you don’t quit. You don’t quit your job just because it’s hard. I’m not talking about abusive relationships. I’m talking about typical marriages. Choose to try to make it work.
Three things that I’ve learned from divorce situations I have been around:
- There are two sides to every story. I had a friend who, for years, told me about his horrible ex, and I only learned much later that he had distorted and exaggerated his side of the story. That was a big lesson for me. Another friend of mine says about divorce, “There are two sides to every story—and then there’s the truth.”
- Try to settle peacefully. A divorce lawyer I know was telling me that he urges divorce mediation and a “no fighting” document. If you don’t do that, you get sucked into a negative process because, he explained, “Each side is being told by friends and relatives that the other side is trying to screw them. The kids get hurt, the parents lose money and time, everyone experiences tremendous stress, and the lawyers make a ton of money.”
- If you are involved in a divorce, please don’t put the kids in the middle. I’m particularly talking about young kids—kids who are still living with their parents. If you plant poison in your kids regarding your ex, your kids will one day realize what happened and will hate what you did, which could have an irreparable impact on your relationship with them. Watch the 30-minute, HBO documentary, Don’t Divorce Me, about divorce and kids. It’s both cute and a bit of a tear-jerker. I jotted down the “rules” that were provided by the kids, ages 5-10, who were interviewed in the film:
- Don’t put me in the middle
- Tell your kids what’s going on
- No telling kids that one parent is better than the other
- Listen to me
- Don’t ask me to spy
- Don’t fight with each other in front of me
- Respect my feelings
- Don’t take your anger out on me
- Don’t make each other cry
- Don’t talk about money (in front of me)
- Give us more love than we need
- Help me say goodbye
- Try to live close to each other
- Spend time with us
- Let us see each parent equally
- Learn to get along for our sake
- Be careful when choosing my stepparent
- Tell us it’s not our fault
- Don’t make me the messenger
- Tell me you love me
Happily married couples would do also well to follow these rules! Our children deserve nothing less.
What are your thoughts and experiences on marriage, and on divorce? Join the conversation with your comments…