Marriage and the best-laid plans

Tuesday was my twenty-first wedding anniversary. I’m very happy and I’ve already had a nice dinner out, so I don’t need to be congratulated. The occasion just reminded me of this Slate article I read last month, “The Work of ‘Marital Maintenance’ Is a Privilege,” in which the (divorced) author argues that working on your marriage is a lot harder when you’re poor. The vast majority of people responding to this article on Twitter said something like “give us a break, lady.” Actually, that’s a nice way to render the responses, most of which were personal attacks on the author’s intelligence, maturity, and character. Commenters cited the longevity of their own marriages, which was due not to material comfort but to hard work and commitment, something this woman would obviously know nothing about. A few pointed out that she began badly—having a kid before the marriage—so she was kind of doomed from the start. Why should anyone listen to this [screw]-up?

Actually (ack-shually), the author concedes that her marriage had more problems than just a lack of money, but her main point was that lack of money makes everything harder, including—maybe especially—marriage. And as far as I’m concerned, she’s not wrong.

I say this as a person who got married under circumstances that look terrible on paper—my husband was unemployed and had just finished his second year of undergraduate work, I had a low-paying job and was recently bereaved (my mother died four months before the wedding). On top of that ill-advised decision, we also had a baby before our first anniversary (not quite as on-purpose as the wedding had been, but still). I quit my (low-paying) job (that was providing us with health insurance) to take care of our daughter, and my husband worked two jobs in addition to going to school full-time to support us (and pay for private health insurance, which was a thing back then). Talk about some spectacularly bad choices. Of course, we were poor for the next several years (and kept having babies, like dummies), and life was rough. The marriage was rough. The first ten years were really, really hard. But we stuck with it, and here we are 21 years later, still married and no plans to divorce.

What was our secret? Well, I’ll tell you: I don’t know. If I’m going to be honest, and I guess I am, I have to tell you that there were times when I got real with myself and knew that the children and I would be much worse off without my husband. (I can’t claim he wouldn’t have been better off without me. I was kind of a handful.) I couldn’t afford to get divorced. [1] It would be too much work. Fortunately, my husband was a fundamentally decent man, not an abusive jerk. I’d like to think that if he had been, I would have appealed to my family for help. (I was fortunate enough to have family that could and would have helped me.) But I can easily see why women stay in abusive situations because the thought of making it on their own is too overwhelming. Is fear a good reason to stay married? Probably not—and I certainly had other, non-financial reasons to stay married, but it would be dishonest to say that the financial reasons were irrelevant.

Also fortunately, my husband’s and my marital problems eventually sorted themselves out…right around the time we became financially comfortable. (COINCIDENCE?) We lived in relative [2] poverty for years, but it was not the kind of poverty the actually-poor live with. We were temporarily poor while my husband was in college and graduate school—by choice, not by fate. We were making a conscious sacrifice that we had reason to believe would pay off in a few years (which it did). One of the things that helped keep us going when things were terrible was the reasonable calculation that when we entered a different stage of life, things would inevitably get easier (which, quelle surprise, they did).

Of course, money wasn’t our only problem. Money was never the problem at all. If someone had asked me if my husband and I fought over money, I would have laughed. We didn’t fight over money—we fought over important things, like the kids and housework and who was more selfish and who was more of a martyr. Even rich people can fight over those things, of course. But have you ever heard anyone say, “The best thing we ever did for our marriage was hire a housekeeper/gardener/babysitter/rent a storage unit [3]”? Of course you have. (Maybe you’ve had occasion to say it yourself.) There’s no question that you can sometimes (often) buy your way out of certain marital conflicts. Or at least that paying for outside help decreases stress within the marriage.

I remember listening to Dr. Laura back in the day (I was a mother of pre-schoolers and had no television, don’t judge me) and women would call in complaining about how their husbands wouldn’t do the yardwork or some other manly chore, and Dr. Laura would often advise them to just “hire it out.” (Complaints about husbands not doing housework were met with…different advice.) [4] When the woman responded that she couldn’t afford hired help (being that she was a SAHM and theirs was a single-income family, as God and Dr. Laura intended), Dr. Laura would cut her off and say, “Just put it in the budget.” It was times like that when I wanted to throw the radio across the room, if only Dr. Laura’s face had been on the other side of the room to receive it. No, Dr. Schlessinger, we can’t just “put it in the budget.” Our budget is for food, shelter, and gasoline. When I say we can’t afford something, what I mean is that we actually can’t afford it, so you just shut your stupid face.

Whatever happened to Dr. Laura? Don’t answer that. I need to get back on track here.

Anyway, as I was saying, not having money is stressful. Not only is worrying about paying the bills stressful, but having to divide the household chores—physical and emotional labor—is stressful and leads to conflict between husband and wife. Unless you or your spouse is just awesome and does everything without being asked. (You all can shut your stupid faces too, incidentally.) Being able to outsource certain chores can do wonders in terms of reducing tension and arguments. Can a couple work these things out without resorting to divorce or paying strangers to do the jobs that should rightly be theirs? Of course. People do it all the time. (And brag about it in comments sections on the internet.) But another thing they do all the time is “put it in the budget” and “hire it out,” and that works wonderfully well too. (In fact, it’s what Dr. Laura recommends. Or used to. I don’t know, is she dead now? Don’t answer that.)

People in the business of giving marital advice always talk about the importance of couples spending time alone together. This didn’t used to be so important to marital success. I very much doubt our great-great-great-great-grandparents spent much quality time together. But divorce also used to be illegal and women had no rights, so we’ll just leave aside the good old days for now and focus on contemporary life. Church leaders stress the importance of regular date nights, even if you can’t afford babysitters and have to get creative (like trading babysitting with another couple or putting the kids to bed early and, I dunno, whatever you all do when the kids are in bed). But it’s so much easier not to have to get creative. And people who give advice like “spend a weekend away, just the two of you” tend not to be the creative type themselves because if they were, they wouldn’t suggest something as difficult as getting away for a weekend with no money. As the author of the Slate piece points out, time is money, and that’s never more obvious than when you’re poor and need to use your time to make money.

Then there are those times when professional counseling is warranted. If you don’t have money, good luck with that too.

Obviously, there are ways to make marriage work that don’t involve having gobs of disposable income. You don’t have to tell me, bro. I lived it. But I don’t assume that my marriage worked out because my husband and I worked harder (or smarter) at it than other people whose marriages ended. Our marriage might have ended too, if circumstances had been slightly different. We made sacrifices and compromised and all of the things you’re supposed to do to make relationships work, and we also got lucky. One of the ways we got lucky was with money. “Lack of financial disasters” ranks high on my list of marriage-savers. (If you can arrange to avoid all financial disasters, that is really working smart.) This is just one of the ways we got lucky, mind you, but it’s a biggie. Money doesn’t solve everything. It just solves so many things.

The take-home message of this much-maligned Slate piece, for me, is that people in successful marriages often give useless advice because they don’t recognize the role that luck plays in their success. This particular writer chose to focus on money, but I think the principle applies more broadly than that. Sometimes we just get lucky with circumstances. Sometimes we aren’t tested beyond what we (or our spouses) can bear. And we can never know when someone else is. One of the challenges of marriage is that so much of the conflict has to be resolved privately, just between the two of you, with no disinterested party to mediate. We don’t want to air our dirty laundry, so to speak, and we don’t want to be disloyal by talking about our marital problems with people outside the marriage. That can lead to thinking that our problems are uniquely bad (as opposed to common problems that most couples face at one time or another). Also, it is a lonely, difficult road. Would it help if we could talk more openly with other couples about our struggles? Would it make things worse? I don’t know.

I think the temptation to be judgmental about divorce is the same as the temptation to be judgmental about people who lose their children in freak accidents. You want to reassure yourself that you can stop this horrible thing from happening to you. Your child will never get hit by a car or kidnapped by a stranger because you’re so vigilant. You’ll never get divorced because you’re committed to keeping your marriage together. We don’t want to admit even to ourselves that you can be vigilant and committed and crap will still happen because that’s what crap does. I don’t mean to devalue the work that goes into building strong relationships. Commitment and sacrifice are essential to a successful marriage. But no one can know how their marriage would hold up under strains they’ve never experienced or circumstances they’ve never had to imagine. The same events that bring some couples closer together can drive other couples apart, and it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with how hard anyone’s working to stay married. Sometimes you can’t do what’s necessary to stay married. Sometimes that’s just impossible. Me, I feel reasonably confident that my marriage will last, if only because my husband and I are too lazy to split up. (Also, we kind of like each other now.) But I thank God for my good fortune. If you’re happily married, you should too.

 

_____________________________

 

[1] In fact, getting divorced is usually more expensive than staying married, which fact seems to undermine the author’s argument. But again, the author never claimed that financial worries were entirely to blame for her divorce.

[2] I don’t claim poverty status for myself at any point in my life because overall, I’ve lived a very privileged existence indeed. But when you realize that you have ten dollars and change to last you the rest of the month and there are twenty-five days left in the month, you do feel the pinch. Even when you’re a college-educated white girl in the late 1990s.

[3] Renting a storage unit is currently #1 on my list of Things I Can Do To Improve My Marriage.

[4] Most of this advice can be found in Schlessinger’s best-selling book, Men Are from Mars, Women Suck.

Comments

  1. Happy Hubby says:

    I agree with most of your points.

    Growing up money was an issue (half my youth clothes were thrift shop/hand-me-downs), but we always had enough to eat and had some simple vacations and such. I remember in my late teens learning about an amazingly talented mother in a nearby (MUCH better off) ward. Even though I was a teen I was truly amazed with how much she got done. She played multiple musical instruments, received and gave voice lessons, etc. Then I found out that she had a live-in nanny and a separate housekeeper. She had a daily exercise class where she left her kids at home with the nanny. She took a hour+ nap everyday and the kids were kept away from her during this time so she could sleep undisturbed. I didn’t feel she was being a bad mom, but I realized my mother with her 6 kids and 10+ year old car was in a different world.

  2. Kristin Brown says:

    Very real with a happy ending….I liked that.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Luck has an awful lot to do with it, I’ve always felt. We were 18 and 21. What did we know? Two years and one child in, my husband was sent overseas for a year (Viet Nam.) I learned a lot during that year, most of all, life was much better living with him, than it was living without him. That knowledge has served me well, whenever I have felt less than pleased with him I just remember how hard it was without him. Liking each other makes a big difference, as does respecting each other. Without those two things a marriage will fail, not matter how much income.
    Fifty-two years this June. But whose bragging? (and congrats anyway)

  4. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    I would be very surprised if Dr. Laura’s son turned out to be a remotely healthy, well-adjusted person. Her willingness to put blame on a rape victim for studying with a boy disgusted me even at age 13, too.

    I hope she’s done some penance for all the bile she spewed, but I sincerely doubt it.

  5. Agreed. I had the similar thought about certain aspects of LDS culture and doctrine.

    The law of chastity – For people who need to divorce and then marry someone else, the rich can afford a divorce and remarriage, the poor cannot. Excommunication or disfellowship follows. This one really bugs me how much the poor are hurt by this.

    Word of Wisdom – For those that need to medicate, the rich can afford doctors to prescribe them anti-depressants,stimulants, etc and can afford therapy. The poor’s choice is self medicating with alcohol or other drugs. Therapy for the poor is AA type programs which can be emotionally damaging to some.

    Tithing – I will just leave this here.

    Consecration – Very little spare time for the poor to give.

  6. I have noticed how rich people like celebrities tend to stay married.

  7. To me, marriage advice is at about the same level of advice given to drink acai juice or to cut out all wheat from your diet; glad that worked for you, I might try it, but I don’t expect any “magic bullet”.

    I love hearing peoples’ stories of their marriages, successful and unsuccessful. I’ve had a bad and abusive marriage where I admittedly didn’t do as much as I could have and now a good marriage of 16 years. I’ve no idea what the key has been, but I do know we’ve both continued to work at improving ourselves and our marriage, not just the marriage.

    Thanks for the post. :)

  8. Rexicorn says:

    This is helpful in explaining why I didn’t find the first few years of my marriage nearly as hard as I was promised they’d be. My sisters and mother were adamant that marriage is HARD, they hardly made it through those first two years, in fact, but you have to STICK WITH IT. And I’ve always felt weird that my marriage feels incredibly easy. Reading this, I realize: they all got married while one or both spouses was a college student. They all had children within the first 1-2 years. Whereas my husband and I met when we were past entry-level in our careers, and we most likely aren’t going to try to have children until at least year 7. It’s a lot easier to just enjoy hanging out with each other when you have comparatively few stresses hanging over you. (We’ve also both had access to therapy when we needed it in our pasts, which shouldn’t be a privilege but it definitely is.)

    People tend to underestimate the emotional/stress toll that poverty has. It’s a layer of worry – and serious, justified worry! – that hangs over your entire life. Of course that would affect the emotional health of a marriage.

  9. Rexicorn says:

    By the way, I don’t know if there’s a correlation between divorce and income, but there is a strong connection between income and choosing whether or not to marry in the first place.

    http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/14/as-u-s-marriage-rate-hovers-at-50-education-gap-in-marital-status-widens/

  10. Kristine says:

    “people in successful marriages often give useless advice because they don’t recognize the role that luck plays in their success.”

    Yes, this. x a million. ALL advice from church leaders falls into this category.

  11. Married 47 years in a couple weeks. Life is a crapshoot.

  12. AuntEmily says:

    One important concept I learned from spending the majority of my adult years in single’s wards (college, up to mid-singles, mid-singles and one where there was not an upper age limit) was how many of the divorces went back to mental illness and the trauma it brought into people’s lives. So many of the ward members told stories of their own diagnoses, often following five or more divorces and an excommunication; the serious mental illnesses of their spouses, with all the trauma that accompanied that situation; or the mental illness of a parent or step-parent. Figuring out these situations, with all the well-meaning but inaccurate information and advice presented at church and then attempting to heal and learn correct ways of relating to people, was the work of decades. I find it telling that the rate of serious mental illness in the population matches fairly closely with the divorce rate in Utah County.
    So, do fights over money sometimes cause divorce? Of course. But not like fights over your husband calling you at work to tell you he had sex with some stranger the night before and then blaming it on you because you stopped wearing bright red lipstick. Or his manipulating the bishop and other ward members to try to get them to despise you then falling apart when you no longer wish to attend church with him.
    I am sorry, but I feel I am attending earth school with spiritual novices. I am happy your marriage has worked out. I hope when the truly impossible tests of mortality hit either you or your children, you will remember, you have been warned they are coming.

  13. Rebecca J, thanks for this. My wife and I love each other and have money sufficient for our needs and most of our wants. (I mean I WANT a Tesla Model S and summer home on the Mediterranean, but I also have 5 kids.) Even with all that, my wife and I have occasionally talked divorce. (I’d say most of the time our odds of staying together are 70%, but some days it drops below the 50% mark. I’m sure you’ve had those days.) Most recently my wife and I considered getting divorced just so on our son’s FAFSA we could use her piano teacher income instead of my corporate salary.

    There are so many factors that lead to divorce, but I’m convinced that lack of money definitely creates an environment primed for breaking up. It’s like cancer: many possible causes, but you’re more likely to get cancer if the environment is right. You’re more likely to get divorced if your environment is a two room apartment because you were downsized during the Great Recession than if you have that summer home on the Mediterranean.

  14. Happy Hubby says:

    AuntEmily – First so sorry about your situation. Second I have to agree with you on mental illness being a factor. I have seen countless cases where I would have to say that the core was mental illness. Even non-pathological “personality flaws” can grind on a relationship over the years.

  15. jpv – None of that money will do you any good if you don’t follow all the other useless advice.

  16. MDearest says:

    Congratulations on your anniversary. I enjoyed reading this, and I’m always glad to hear about a married couple who like each other more than they don’t. Thank you for not dispensing any advice, but still it made me weepy. Not your fault. Marriage is indeed a crapshoot. Life in general is a crapshoot, even though some of us struggle like heck to improve our odds. I’m glad your struggle has paid off. So far.

  17. Kristin Brown says:

    I have to agree with Aunt Emily and Happy Hubby. Someone needed a ride to a singles ward so I volunteered to help. I stayed for the meeting. It was Fast and Testimony Meeting. The stories were overwhelming. Many spouses with mental illness also cannot hold down jobs which causes financial problems. Sometimes they go hand in hand. Very tough. Good insight Rebecca on how finances affect a marriage.

  18. Kristin Brown says:

    Sorry, wish I could edit. That should say, When a spouse has a mental illness…..

  19. Kristine N says:

    Ha! I hadn’t realized the Slate article was much maligned. It made perfect sense to me, as the child of divorced parents for whom money was a huge stress point.

    MTodd–when my parents were separated during my sophomore year of college their expected contribution when *up* because both parents were expected to pay toward my education independently when they were in separate households. Completely coincidentally, my parents got back together for my Junior and Senior years and then got divorced at the end of my first year of grad school.

  20. Good thoughts to think about, especially for those who have never been poor. Thanks for the article.

  21. The really sad thing is how much I hate having to attend family wards. As someone who suffered through a terrible marriage with off the charts craziness, I finally felt happy in an adult singles ward. I was not required to listen to women in Relief Society discuss relationships with their spouses or in-laws or be forced to listen to another priesthood holder preach eternal families. It was just Church members trying to follow Christ. As a friend once expressed, the only place she was not treated as single was in the singles ward. So sad they have age limits. So sorry to have to worship with the married members. Such un-Christlike places in our wards.

  22. Money makes a difference. No doubt. But I suspect there’s a marginal utility kind of effect. It seems fairly obvious that:
    1. Health care, including mental health care, matters and money makes a difference.
    2. Having options and something to look forward to matters. Feeling locked in to a difficult situation can play havoc on a marriage. Money can make a difference.
    3. Having some backup for hard times matters. Living in constant fear is debilitating. Money can make a difference.
    But I wonder how much more is better, for the sake of the marriage? Of course more is better in lots of ways, but if there’s enough to smooth out the bad fortune–from the couple’s own resources, from family, from government safety net programs–I suspect that other factors gain prominence in the success or failure of a marriage. (Obviously a Maslow hierarchy sort of argument.)

  23. Happy Hubby says:

    christiankimball – I can’t recall the exact numbers, but I did read a study that said that (in general) for lower income families that a raise in income does improve “happiness”. But as you continue going up on the income ladder, the same amount of increased income gives a smaller increment in “happiness” and this reached a point that it actually reverses and more money actually decreases “happiness.” I can’t remember what that point is, but I seem to recall $200K/year (but that probably is different if you are in the SF bay area or a small town on the central plains and variances person to person).

  24. I think one thing that doesn’t come up as much as it relates to “luck” in marriage is how you and your partner will change over time. All kinds of personal traits and preferences evolve over the course of decades: views on child rearing, views on the gospel, views on intimacy, views on money, new hobbies, changes in physical appearance, etc. You just hope and pray that the person your partner evolves into and the person you evolve into are as compatible as the people who got married 20 years ago. Part of that is choice, for certain, but part of it is luck, for lack of a better word.

  25. Jack Hughes says:

    Excellent post, Rebecca.

    I’ve been thinking about how the student debt crisis affects marriages. It’s not uncommon for students to graduate today many thousands of dollars in debt; when two undergrads marry, as they often do, their shared debt burden potentially goes way up. I’m not trying to be judgmental of people who borrow to pay for school (I certainly did, as did my wife), but starting out in a marriage being crushed under a mountain of debt with no end in sight adds a lot of additional stress–the kind of which certain privileged folk can buy their way out of, or avoid completely. For those in serious debt, unfortunately, the traditional model of a family with several kids and a SAHM may not be a realistic expectation anymore.

  26. Jack Hughes says:

    On the other hand, my brother-in-law is in the midst of very contentious divorce negotiations. He and his (soon-to-be-ex) wife each brought significant debt into the marriage (his from student loans, hers from credit cards). They both worked full-time in low-paying jobs that kept them barely above the poverty line, but also had a habit of living beyond their means. Money issues were perhaps the most obvious symptom of their troubled relationship, but when peeled back they reveal more relevant factors (lack of mutual trust/accountability, personality conflicts, selfishness, etc.). Overall, it’s a toxic relationship and I think it still would have failed (though not as quickly) even if they had better paying jobs, disposable income and other resources of the privileged.

  27. Luck is a huge part of it. My first marriage was a good one, but it was hard. Mental and physical illness, and the crush of medical expenses that went with both put a huge stress on our marriage. But we still believed that we could get through anything as long as we were together. And yet here I am

  28. (hit Enter too soon) here I am, seven years later, still dealing with the guilt over how much better life is for me since she died.

  29. The only comment I have to offer comes from my personal experience. At 22 years of age I married in the temple the man God instructed me to marry. God warned me that terrible things were going to happen. They did. It would be almost 30 years later before I figured out his problem, a severe personality disorder form of mental illness. Still no good drug treatments available for it.
    I have given up trying to educate others about mental illness. They would rather debate gun control than needed funding for research for better treatments and changes in the laws allowing family members to hospitalize the sick. Gun control is cheap. Hospitals would increase their taxes.
    Church leaders still convene church courts when they should instead put the phone numbers of psychiatrists on speed dial. And they actually dare inform members their situation was caused by their failure to remain active. Or to write pieces in the Ensign using the stories of the mentally ill to warn others about the consequences of sin. Perhaps what we really need are some pieces about the consequences of counseling with untrained bishops and living in wards with silly ward members.
    I am glad the author’s marriage has succeeded. Honestly do not believe having more money would have changed any of her learning life experiences for the better.
    So grateful I got to attend wards without married people in them. I find married people so wearisome to be around.

  30. I was recently thinking about this topic, as I wrote a memoir about my medical education a few months ago. Those were lean years, and very stressful, and you keep waiting … waiting … waiting for that pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow, which always turns out to be … another 4 years away. I got married during the summer between freshman and sophomore years of college, right at the beginning of this 13-year education adventure. We felt so lucky that we dodged so many opportunities for economic disaster.

    Unfortunately some doctors make it through undergrad, medical school, internship, residency, and fellowship with their loyal spouses … and then divorce a few years into practice. That happened to one of my partners, and it just blows my mind! The hard times can really glue a marriage together, but then the true test is prosperity, as Brigham Young warned.

    Anyway, thanks for your thoughtful and very entertaining post!

  31. James Stone says:

    I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the luckier I get.

  32. Excellently written, Rebecca! Thanks for the thoughtful and thought-provoking piece.

    @James Stone. While I understand your sentiment, I think perhaps you don’t understand the ramifications of your pact little platitude in the context of this OP. If you do, it seems you are saying that people who suffer unexpected losses, cancers, deaths, job-losses, mental illnesses, abuse, etc. really just are working hard enough and it’s their fault. Maybe you believe that. But that’s not the Gospel.

  33. *”aren’t just working hard enough and it’s their fault.”

  34. I really like this post, Rebecca. I’m with Kristine on generalizing your point about why advice on marriage is often bad. It seems like it’s true of (pretty much?) all advice. One person has one experience going through something (marriage, parenting, whatever) and they overgeneralize every little thing and decide it must have been crucial. It’s like interviews with people who have lived exceptionally long lives, and they pull out random life experiences that might have had an effect (but probably didn’t). Really, though, it’s a sample of one. What does anyone know from that?

    We need more people who say things like this when asked for their advice:

    https://local.theonion.com/114-year-old-attributes-longevity-to-sheer-random-chanc-1819563850

  35. There’s a great Bo Burnham bit where he makes fun of celebrities telling kids to follow their dream. “Of course that’s what YOU think! You’re Taylor Swift!” He points out that, in the same vein, a lottery winner’s best life tip would be “buy a lot of scratch-off tickets!”

  36. I too am grateful for singles wards. When I have been to married wards, too often my thoughts are: Thank you God for my divorce. Without it, I could have ended up as shallow and pretentious as some of these people.

  37. Not a stab at the author. Just married people in general. The author of the post seems pretty grateful and self-aware.

  38. I’ve got feelings on this, and they all agree with you.

  39. Mean mama jones says:

    Ziff
    I love your post it really resonated with me
    This post is so wonderful it speaks to me
    I really liked what you had to say here it really Rings true

  40. jimbob – I think one thing that doesn’t come up as much as it relates to “luck” in marriage is how you and your partner will change over time. – Yes, exactly. I wanted to say something about that specifically, as it’s something I often think about, given how many couples I know who have either left the church together or separated over religious differences that arose during the marriage or who managed to stay together despite such changes. There’s so much growth and change that takes place in an individual over a lifetime. If you’re lucky, you and your spouse grow together. I really don’t know another word to use.

  41. Kristin Brown says:

    Hear! Hear! This would be a great post all on its own.

  42. Hamilton says:

    I have found that the lucky, whose marriages worked out, are usually only smug about it up to the time the marriages of their children fail, either because their child was immature and expected something different than reality or because their child turned out to not be a big believer in chastity or unselfishness or because their child married someone who was a total jerk or mentally ill or something else they had not really considered a life possibility for righteous Latter-Day Saints. Then the statements about no one really wanting to marry a divorced person cease to be made. Just my observation as someone who went through a divorce many years ago.
    If you are happily married or just not dealing with violence or cheating or constant lies, get on your knees and thank God. You have won the lottery.

  43. I loved this post. Happily married seventeen years, but like many, I’m reminded of what Charlotte Lucas says, “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.”

    I’m not saying we should all close our eyes and marry Mr. Collins, but there is so much truth in the idea that people change, sometimes very radically, as they live their lives together. I’m very glad we live at a time when divorce is an option. I don’t think we do enough to acknowledge and honor the courage of many of those who divorce. It is, in an awful lot of the cases I’ve seen up close, the brave choice.

  44. Kristin Brown says:

    I have enjoyed this post and the comments. Rebecca, since you have been married 21 years I hope you will return and write your thoughts 21 years from now. After 42 years of marriage it would be interesting to compare your thoughts to this OP. How much of your thinking remained the same and how much it changed over the years.
    Also, it would be interesting to study how consistent long periods of travel away from home affects a marriage. So many marriages these days have a spouse who travels for work.
    My father once said, “You don’t ever get rid of problems, you just change them.”
    I have to agree with my father and the comment from Hamilton. So………. if you are not dealing with the big issues stated above as the song goes, “Love the one your with – do, do, do do, dodo, do do!”
    Well written Rebecca. Thank you.

  45. “The hard times can really glue a marriage together, but then the true test is prosperity, as Brigham Young warned.”

    Alan, there’s another explanation for the phenomenon you observed: It could be that the marriage was rough all along, but the couple attributed their difficulties (not unreasonably) to the stress of medical school, residency, financial stress, etc., only to discover when all those factors had disappeared, they were still unhappy.

  46. Jeremiah Stone says:

    First of all, hugs for Ellen [[[Ellen]]]

    Second of all, I have spent many years bemoaning my fate as a single gay man. I am now kind of glad I’m not married.

  47. Thanks, Rebecca. This is a good reminder of the role luck played in my divorce. Money is a big factor in whether one can divorce, and I was fortunate enough to afford divorce. When I encounter the misguided sympathy of married people wondering how I manage my career, household, and parenting as a single person, I’m generally unable to effectively explain how lucky I am. I am lucky to be rid of the pervasive hopelessness of my 14 year marriage.

  48. Corrina says:

    Rebecca J, I love how you write. Your posts are always my fave.

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