Just this week, a friend of mine told me that she's leaving her husband because she's not happy being married to him. They got married a month after Mr. Darling and I did (two years ago), and they're already calling it quits. In the past two years alone, five couples I know have divorced after less than three years of marriage. In two cases, one person was unfaithful, so you certainly can't blame the injured party for wanting a divorce. But in the other three marriages, one (or both) spouse(s) just decided that they weren't particularly happy being married, and they decided to get a divorce.
Now, I realize that what I'm about to say is not a popular opinion to express in today's society, especially for someone of my generation. And I'm hoping that it doesn't offend any of you. If it does, I genuinely apologize for hurting anyone's feelings.
I can certainly sympathize with people who get divorced because of infidelity or abuse or because one spouse is secretly a serial killer. To me, those are all understandable reasons to divorce. But (here comes the unpopular part), I don't think that not being "happy" is a valid reason to divorce. In fact, I think it's a really, really crappy reason to divorce someone. I can't speak for anyone else, but my wedding vows did not end with the words "...as long as you make me happy," or "...until I no longer feel like being married to you." Mine ended with "...until death parts us." They also contained the words "...for better or for worse, in good times and in bad..." In other words, my (and most other people's) wedding vows made a point of saying that there are going to be bad times, there are definitely going to be times when one or both of us is unhappy, but I am promising, in front of God, and our families, and our friends, that I will still love, honor, and cherish you, even when I don't particularly feel like it, until I am dead. Those words are the most significant, meaningful, important promises that have ever left my mouth, and I don't think that fleeting feelings should have any bearing on them whatsoever.
I think Dr. Laura sums it up best in her blog when she says:
"That’s why we have such chaos in our whole society - because you think “happy” at any one moment is the highest value. I think honor, sacrifice, and commitment are a higher honor than taking your daily “happiness” temperature, because a man staying true to his wife, who has terminal colon cancer, instead of dating is not happy. Is he happy? Then that can’t be the highest quotient!
If you want the world to deal on “happiness,” then you have to understand that your man will leave you any day you don’t make him happy, and will not honor you or any vow, because he doesn’t have to! You’ve already taught him that if you’re “happy,” that’s the only thing that matters.
I don’t think firemen are happy to run into burning buildings. I don’t think they’re “happy” doing that. I don’t think police are “happy” to surround a building where somebody says he’s going to shoot everybody. I don’t think they lay awake in the morning and go “Gee, that makes me happy!” They have honor and sacrifice and duty and commitment to something higher than “feeling good” in and of themselves. Don’t have children if you’re going to teach them about “happiness.” We have enough chaos in our society because people are doing what they “feel” like when it has no meaning and no projection into the future." Amen, sister.
And I know that the inevitable question I'll get is: "So, do you think your friend should just stay in a miserable marriage for the next 50 years?" and the short answer to that question is: Yes. Yes, I think she should keep her promises. Yes, I think she should honor the most important vow that she ever made in her life. Yes, I think that respecting a lifetime commitment is more important than allowing temporary and fickle feelings to dictate your major life decisions. I think she should work on her marriage, I think she should seek counseling, I think she should aggressively and proactively try to make her marriage better, I don't think she should be resigned to being unhappy forever but rather take decisive steps to help herself have a great marriage, but yes - I think she should stick it out.
The funny thing about the fact that this particular opinion is so unpopular is that it's totally normal in every other aspect of society. If a mom stops feeding and caring for her infant child because doing so no longer makes her happy, we call it child abuse, and she'll end up in prison. If the police suddenly decide that they are no longer happy enforcing laws, society will succumb to utter chaos. If a member of our armed forces decides he's no longer happy being in the military so he just up and quits, he'll be court-marshaled and probably do jail time. If in the middle of performing open-heart surgery on you, your surgeon decides he's not happy with his profession and leaves to become an astronaut, you're dead, and he's going to be facing a major medical malpractice suit. If you decide that you're not happy paying taxes, or showing up to work, or paying your mortgage, or driving on the right side of the road, or doing any one of the other thousands of things that make society run smoothly, you can expect major consequences if you act according to that "unhappiness." Heck, you can't even cancel your cell phone contract if you're unhappy with it without paying hundreds of dollars to the cell phone company. In NO other area of society is being unhappy considered to be a good excuse to just up and abandon your responsibilities or renege on your promises. In every other societal arena, you are expected to fulfill your obligations regardless of whether or not you're happy about it. But for some strange reason, our society thinks that being unhappy is a totally acceptable reason to break the most important vow that most of us will ever make in our lives.
This is one of the reasons that I think people should be very, very sure about their choice of spouse before they get married. 99% sure is not good enough. It's important that you know your future spouse well enough that you have a very realistic idea of what the "for worse" is that you're agreeing to when you say "for better or for worse." Because those words aren't just something you say because they sound poetic. They mean something. And once you've said them, simply changing your mind isn't a good enough reason to break your promises.
Agree with me? Disagree? Think I'm a raving lunatic? Want to nominate me for sainthood? Bring on your opinions! Niceness preferred, but not mandatory.
Sorry this is so long. If you actually read all the way to the end, you deserve a cookie. Go buy yourself one!