I don't know about you, but my biggest takeaway from divorce is cynicism. Before I got married and then divorced, I believed in all of the "happily-ever-after" fairy tales. I believed in the nonsense that rom-coms push down our throats about soulmates and forever and love at first sight.
It's not that I don't believe in love anymore; it's more that I believe that love -- like people -- is flawed. No matter who we are or who we are with, our relationship will always come with ups and downs. Love is not a guarantee for happiness, and in many cases, marriage is no longer a forever thing.
Knowing what I know and having experienced love, marriage and divorce firsthand, I find it very frustrating when people who have never been married insist that romance -- the way it is portrayed in the movies -- is not only possible, but probable. So I'm writing this article for all of those who insist on perpetuating the rom-com fairy tales -- not in an attempt to ruin your views on relationships and marriage, but to give you a glimpse into the reality I've experienced first hand.
Here are the myths that are perpetuated time and time again:
Myth: When it's right, your relationship will be easy.
You know when you watch those movies where the couple realizes that it's just so easy with their new love, so they decide to get married? In truth, easy is actually not a very good sign for your relationship. When I hear couples pre-marriage talking about how they never fight, it always makes me cringe a bit inside. If there is literally no fighting in your relationship -- ever, over anything -- then that means one of two things: first, there is either no passion, or second, that neither of you care enough to actually get in a huff about anything. Either way, it's not going to turn out well.
The healthiest relationships are the ones where a couple has learned how to fight and communicate effectively, and the majority of the time, that happens through experience. Every couple will fight. It's inevitable when you combine two different people, with two different goals, ideas and feelings into one life. It's how you make it through the fight that makes your marriage more (or less) successful.
And let's be honest, there is definitely something to be said for make-up sex.
Myth: Marriage is forever.
Statistically speaking, your marriage has no better chance of being successful than anyone else's. Statistics differ on this point, but the overall message is clear: close to half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. Of course, it is possible to tip the odds in your favor. For a marriage to be successful today, it takes more than saying "I do". It requires saying "I do" every single day, for the rest of your life. What do I mean by that? I mean that each person must actively make the marriage a priority. Effort needs to be made by both parties every day to make sure that the couple is happy and that the union is healthy.
I also think that the institution of marriage will evolve over the coming years, as societal perceptions of marriage, and modern-day life, changes. Many people have suggested that marriage should change from a lifetime contract to a short-term contract (i.e. seven years, 18 years, etc.).
I haven't decided how I feel about this proposal but I am definitely leaning towards agreeing that it would be a positive change for society and for the institution of marriage. If the new breed of marriages were available, I do still believe that some people would stay married for life, but the major difference would be that couples would have to actively make the decision to stay together. They would have to continually make their partner and marriage a priority, because they were no longer "stuck" in the relationship.
Myth: Getting a divorce means that the marriage failed.
The traditional belief is that if your marriage ended, it was a failed marriage, but I don't agree with that viewpoint.
Let's look at my marriage and divorce, for instance. I was with my ex for a total of nine years, three years of which we were married. While our marriage did end in divorce, I don't consider it to be a failure in any sense. While we were married, we were happy -- not simply content, like many other marrieds out there. We were actually happy. We would choose to spend time together instead of anyone else, even our best friends. We had fun every day and had a million memorable experiences. It just worked. Unfortunately for both of us, we got a divorce because I didn't work. I needed to leave to find myself so at the end of the day, it wasn't that the marriage (or my ex) wasn't good or successful, I just wasn't ready for marriage.
Today, my ex and I are still each other's biggest supporters; we are there for each other no matter what and I think that will always be the case. I look back on my marriage and now, on our friendship, and I don't see any element of failure in how things played out. We both still care about each other and I think that we'll both be happier in the long run because of the decisions that we made.
Myth: Being married is the be-all and end-all of life.
I do admit that I loved being married and that I would like to get married again. That being said, I also know that I would never choose an unhappy marriage over a happy single life, because I know that being happy is what matters most to me. Today, more and more people are making the same choice. Of course, it doesn't mean that they wouldn't prefer to be in a happy, stable marriage but they understand that if it doesn't happen, they can still live a full, happy life filled with love and meaning.
That is a healthy state of mind and one that will actually make you more interesting to potential marriage partners. It's a state of mind that we should all aspire to achieve because only then can we really appreciate the ups and downs of married life, and hopefully, make our marriages last forever.