Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
My parents are divorced. Most of my friend’s parents are divorced. If I marry I want it to last forever! Otherwise why bother? I read that 60% of all marriages fail. With second marriages the statistics are no better. What can I do to ensure against the apparently overwhelmingly grim odds?
My Prince Will Come
In training to be an EMT (emergency medical technician), the first thing you learn is Look, Listen, and Feel. This means to evaluate a situation before you jump into it. In martial arts students learn that the best line of defense is to not enter into dangerous situations to begin with.
Too often in our culture, women are taught to act with their eyes closed and their mouths shut. One should always evaluate prospective partners with both one’s heart and one’s eyes. Ask questions and always speak up. Never make excuses for someone else.
It isn’t love that makes a marriage last, but duty. Yet duty won’t lessen life’s sufferings; love does.
Adults need to be able to balance love and duty. Most people are good at one or the other, not both. If you cultivate skills in both, you can recognize those skills in others. Make sure that you and your partners are equals and that neither you nor they are just children in adult bodies.
It helps to be involved in a constantly evolving conversation. Make sure you and your potential partner participate in what I call “playing house.” Talk about your intent. What do you want your relationship to look like twenty years from now? Keep checking in, and develop the skills to stay on track.
Too often, even if couples know they are off track, most deny it and go with the flow until problems are insurmountable. “Irreconcilable differences” is the number one reason placed on divorce papers. What this really says is there was never an ongoing conversation. I hear too often, “He is just a guy and doesn’t like to talk.” This simply means that he has no skills in sharing and negotiating. A relationship like this cannot last.
A last thought: it’s never a good idea to be islands unto yourselves. No one can be your everything. Everyone needs support. Have friends and connect with your family. But don’t get sucked into anyone’s’ BS. The quality of your life is determined by those you hang out with. If your supports are all dysfunctional, it can affect you on many levels. Your supports should be role models not disasters.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: If you can get the idea out of your head that your prince will come, that’s a good starting point to clear the way for a lasting relationship.
No prince charming will magically make your marriage perfect. It takes common sense and commitment to make a marriage work- along with love. Merely a sense of duty won’t do it- that’s what you feel towards goats if you keep them in your back yard. No woman or man wants to think that it’s duty that binds their mate.
But here’s the problem with love: nobody really knows what it is and it flits and flees like any other emotion. It changes without notice. Love alone cannot sustain a relationship over time. For that, you need skills and tenacity.
Most people don’t even want to think about whether a relationship will last or not. The very fact that it is of concern to you is half the battle. You are aware of the pitfalls- this also means you can do something to prevent them. Awareness is where control begins. I think you will do alright if you follow Dr. Brilliant’s advice and keep away from the creeps.