Marriage in Name Only


On a recent vacation, a friend of mine made a statement that I should not get too jaded. The topic had turned to marriage, well divorce actually her divorce after being married for over 20+ years. Most of the time, we talked about relationships because her situation is still fresh and painful. I did not mind letting her vent but I also noticed that my point of view on marriage was lopsided to the negative side.

My history with marriage. My parents celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary a few weeks ago; my grandparents passed within a year of each other and they were in their 70’s and 80’s and still married. I grew up with married people abound. It never fully dawned on me until high school that not every child grew up with two parents. Despite all that togetherness, that level of commitment to another person was not something I wanted. I wanted my freedom to grow and be my own person without having to share me and make compromises.

For many years, I could not say the word marriage or any derivative because it gave me an anxious feeling of being trapped. Most people would think that I did not understand the intrinsic nature of marriage due to my many years of stating “I don’t want to get married.” On the contrary, the reason I stayed away from it was because I fully understood how much commitment that is required and trading in ‘I’ for ‘We’ was a necessity. I also realized at a young teen years that if you plan to make that commitment to someone, then you better be sure. I saw marriage as a serious life-long willing commitment and divorce did not enter my mind. If I understood the value of marriage back then, how is that so many people seem to completely miss that concept?

My jaded feelings now are not about my inability to commit (I got over that) but seeing how many people take those vows knowing deep in their subconscious that it is not the right decision. I am jaded because I get to see behind the hidden curtains of how some of the married 50% destroy a well-meaning institution. As I listen to my friend go through her hindsight, it is clear that her and her estranged spouse were not compatible. It is also funny that knowing how incompatible and out of sync they were, she would have continued with the charade if he had not left. I have another friend who complains about her spouse incessantly but gives the caveat “don’t get me wrong, I love….”  I was having another conversation  with a Christian family member who is separated and going through a divorce. I made the comment that maybe next time God will…. and her response was ‘I thought God was involved’ in their union. Finally, the jaded nail in the coffin is being aware of a married man who wants to have an affair. Sadly, I have more negative marriage stories in my head than positives,

What’s the point of marriage if it is in name only? I am not in any judgment of anyone’s relationship. People make decisions about their partners based on their feelings and thoughts at the time. I understand that our decision-making can be clouded by hormones and unrealistic fantasies of the future but I am starting to think I am surrounded by people who just make shitty decisions based off of desperation. Yes, I know that my job puts me in a one-down position to hear the worst; however, those handful seem to be representation of a portion of the 50% that are still married.

I do think there is a large aspect of marriage that have lost its intended meaning. In the old days, people were forced to marry by a certain age to conform with society. However, today, people are choosing to make the same mistake to still conform to society – ‘you need to be married by (insert age) and you need to have kids already.’ The church and conservative communities are the worst peer pressure culprit. Pre-marital therapy is designed to be an evaluation period but that is a joke. Many couples do premarital therapy as a check off the list item because they already made up their minds to marry and they already planned their wedding by that time. Even if there were any serious issues that came to light, people would ignore them or find someone else to carry out their plans.

I really do not disagree with people who choose not to marry because they do not see a really good reason for the institution anymore. Even the ones running the country have a difficult time with fidelity and keeping marital promise. The president have been married three times and his interactions with his spouse seems as warm as licking a frozen pole AND he has the full support of the evangelical community. Where are the consistent images of couples who exemplify a good marriage in public and behind closed doors? Where are stories of couples who could teach us a thing or two about smart choices in mate selection.

The consistent theme is commitment. Individuals put more attention and commitment into things, hobbies, other people but cannot muster up a portion of that commitment for their marital commitment. The divorced 50% and the unhappy married all have a few things in common but most importantly their focus was distracted. The distraction is either by something else, someone else or their shattered selfish fantasy in the face of reality. There is no perfect relationship but people believe they will get a 100% out of 50% or have a delusion of 100% are recurring themes. ‘Once we are married it will all be better’ and sadly I have actually heard that before and chuckle to myself. Trying to help people to step back and see before they leap is as helpful as trying to talk reality to someone in a psychotic episode. At least for the psychotic person, there are medications that can help but for the determined but misguided single, there is only time.

I should get a better attitude about this. However, I doubt that it will happen the more I become entrenched in the negative side of people who are married in name only.

Silence Is Golden


There are at least 1-2 people in our lives that we put in the important category. Whether it is lovers, friends or family, these are the people that we support and who can be supportive to us in one way or another. You may have heard the concept that honest and effective communication is important and I am sure we all strive to be that open person in those important relationships. However, being honest, when it is not good news, can be difficult to express.I would be lying if I said that I am always straightforward with others. No matter the connection, there is always silence in a relationship. While this is not the best practice, it does seem to happen.

Do I look fat in this dress?” If you say yes even though it is the truth, it can impact the relationship negatively. While one would say that this should not be the case, it is the reality. Sure, we should all be tough adults who can handle the truth or someone else’s thoughts or questions on a matter. However, people tend to take offense and believe that the other party does not have the best intentions. I remember many years ago I raised concerns about the person a friend of mine was dating. Needless to say, I got a lot of pushback and the friendship ended. When I used to do therapy, I would get the same response from some clients.

A 15 year marriage recently ended due to one individual having an affair. Actually, the marriage probably ended long before the affair started but regardless at what point in that relationship did either the couple or the people who cared about them went silent? If a friend is making questionable choices or acting differently, when is it your place to intervene or keep silent?  If a family member is making potentially life altering choices who says you should always speak up?

I keep silent for a number of reasons. I keep silent because I don’t think the person is ready or willing to hear my observations. I keep silent because I believe I have nothing more I can say. I keep silent because the other person may be too sensitive and may perceive my insight as hostile. I keep silent because sometimes I feel too tired to want to deal with the resistance. I keep silent because I take the person’s cue that he is not open to suggestions at all. Frankly, I keep silent because sometimes I just don’t feel like getting involved.

So when is it a good time to break that silence? When you notice something is a little off? When there is obvious danger? Or after the person have fallen off the cliff and is broken? For people that you care about, it can be very difficult to keep silent and allow that person to find her own path no matter what the consequence. It is sort of like seeing the issue but quietly praying for the best. Does that make you the bad person in that relationship? I once read a book in which a Christian wife said that she knew her husband was making a mistake but she kept silent because she believed it was God’s role to correct him, no matter the consequence, not her. Yep, I snickered and vehemently disagreed. However, over the years, I have found myself in that silent role praying that God or someone else take the responsibility off my hands to speak up.

So, the worse things than can happen if you speak up is to lose a relationship with the intended audience, hurt feelings, or your assessment of the situation could be wrong. What would Jesus do? Well, He had both direct and indirect ways of passing on his messages. Lucky for Jesus, He knew his time was short and he was not highly dependent on others for a lifetime of relationships so his example may not fit. Exhibiting classic cognitive dissonance, I don’t believe in silence in a relationship; however, I do practice the thing in which I do not believe. Welcome to the complexity of the human nature.

Interestingly, if I were the one making errors, I would want the people closest to me to speak up. Yep, totally hypocritical!  I have had one or two people point out some things to me of which I was not fully aware. I had to take a moment to ponder and acknowledge that they were right. It was a catalyst for change. I appreciated those people’s honesty and criticism of my behavior. I have slowly learn that someone else’s view of me can be critical to my life in various ways. However, I am not dependent on others’ views but it is insightful.

Frankly, I am not sure if I have the balls to always be cold-call honest. However, when given the right circumstances and when I am in the right mood, I tend to break my silence – very directly (I have a hard time beating around the bush). I can admit that I am not holding up my end of the relationship bargain with silence. I can admit that it is not the best practice. Silence is not always golden. For the people who are important in our lives, we have taken the role of being the other person’s keeper. Being confronted  IN LOVE and TRUE CONCERN with  difficult questions, harsh truth or criticism, is not meant to be an attack but can be there to provide you with perspective that is different from your own egocentric tunnel vision views. So what if your ego is bruised, you will recover. Sometimes we just need to get a thicker skin with an open mind.