Tough Love

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As part of my calculated attempt to remain up to date on all the important events in the world, I watched the reunion thingy of The Real Housewives of Orange County the other night. Low and behold, I think Vicki might get a divorce. And because crying in my bed with a pint of Guinness at my side was not an option, I decided to weigh in on this not so recent divorce trend. Because I am slow like that. And shy.

Years ago, when Prince fans all over Philadelphia were partying with big hair, I started writing publicly about my life. Because my life revolved around my repeated failures in love, loyalty and career, this is what I wrote. I had no shame then. At the very least I wrote how I felt even if I couldn't say why. More often that not, the blame of my failures was all mine. But by far, the biggest thing I sucked at was marriage. And that is why I am oh so qualified to talk about it now.
I should warn you - I am not the friend you go to when you are thinking of getting a divorce and you want someone to tell you that everything will be okay. When I hear that someone I know is getting a divorce or even thinking about getting a divorce I am most likely to say to that person, "Are you fucking insane?"

Divorce sucks. If you think that getting a divorce is the best thing for your family or that you are doing your spouse a "favor" by getting a divorce you are confused and ill- informed. The best thing for you to do when you have a shitty marriage is to suck up your pride and see as many therapists as you need until you find one who can help you and your spouse be honest enough and brave enough to take the needed steps to start treating each other with love and respect again. That means that admitting when you were unfaithful, crude, selfish, and just plain stupid is only the beginning. 

With the exception of those people who are leaving a marriage of violence and real abuse, I believe most couples get divorced because they don't want to do the work that creates and maintains a lasting marriage. At some point they realize that marriage is hard. No, like really hard. Just not fun all the time. Sometimes depressing. And it's just not what they thought it would be when they tied the knot.

For chrissakes, we are doing a horrible job of teaching our kids what marriage is. Because if we told the truth, maybe this epidemic wouldn't be happening. Maybe the 10 people I heard about in the last 6 months who are getting divorces because of "lack of love", loneliness, disrespect and unfulfilled expectations wouldn't be trying to convince themselves and me that everything will be okay when it clearly is not.

Several years ago I wrote a milk memo about marriage, mostly concerning choosing a mate. It's been said that choosing the right mate is half the battle to a successful marriage. What a crock! Choosing a mate is maybe a fourth of the formula. It's just the beginning. Then there's the little detail of completely rearranging your brain to be able to happily co-exist with another brain that is entirely different. Usually when people marry, they have yet to touch the iceberg of figuring out thier own emotions and plans and the reasons why they think or feel the way they do. In marriage that task doubles. Now consider all the outside forces in a marriage which cannot - in any way be predicted. (natural disaster, children's personalities, the rise and fall of economics to name a few). Throw in age - something that has an effect on everything from a person's health to their entire frame of mind. And what about extended family and friends? These roles are ever changing and those people have the ability to calm or warp your  marriage environment without any notice to you.

I mean, I hate to be the arresting officer of your blissful misconceptions, but marriage is a deal that you make and the gist of the deal is "This is the one deal I make that I won't back out of".

But let's be honest. You know all that, right? You knew it was a lifetime commitment. The problem comes when we doubt our ability to fix the problems in the marriage. And I get that. I've been there. This is precisely where our friends let us down. They think they are showing us compassion by saying that everything will be okay if we split up. They tell us that lots of people are divorced, that kids survive. I don't know about you but where I'm at, divorced people are not generally happy about it. And I want my kid to excel beyond the stage of "surviving" my marriage.

The fact is, going through a divorce is actually harder than going through the therapy and counseling and forgiveness that more often can make a marriage work. Don't get me wrong, the therapy is no party. But at the end of it you are not alone. And who better to go through that hard time with than the one person you pledged your life to - the person who knows you better than anyone? 

As I said, when people come to me about thier possible divorces, I am a tough pill. But it's because I know. I know that what needs to be shown is not an easy way out that likely leads to a repeated mistake in other relationships. What people need is the truth. And the truth is, we do have it in us to stay married. It is possible to rebuild relationships. Marriage is a promise that, by design, is the most valuable promise we will ever make. It is worthy of our sweat, blood, tears, embarrassment, humiliation, dedication and eventual adulation. You must work harder at your marriage than you do your career. Think about it more than you do your wardrobe. Cherish it more than you do your pride. Don't let anyone tell you your marriage can't be saved. It can. And I promise you. It will be worth it.

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