When I got married, most of my family and friends were supportive, but there were a few doubters. They weren’t very vocal, just the odd raised eyebrow, the split-second of something more than surprise when we told them our news. Their worry was clear: what if it doesn’t last forever? Well, it probably won’t, and that’s fine.
Almost half of marriages end in divorce. Those of us in the Young Married Club are familiar with this fact because it’s frequently pointed out by drunk old men in bars: almost half of all marriages end in divorce. Even though my husband and I have the best intentions, those aren’t great odds. Do we really think we’re in the lucky 50%? Sure, it’d be great to think so, but we’re both intelligent, logical people.
We got married young. The divorce rates for couples aged 25-29 is twice the national average in the UK, with the most couples getting divorced between the four and eight-year marks. Again, the statistics don’t look promising, but maybe if we make it past eight years, we’ll be OK?
We both grew up in broken homes. Don’t worry, I’m not about to say that we all turn into our parents (I’m just going to keep living in denial about that one). Actually, I mean this as a positive thing: my partner and I both grew up in so-called “broken homes” and turned out alright, so we realize that splitting up, even after having kids, doesn’t have to mean the end of the world for everyone involved.
A lifetime is long. Five hundred years ago, a member of the aristocracy who had survived to age 21 could expect to live up to 70 years old, so getting married at 20 might mean a partnership of 50 years or so if you were lucky. These days, even us normal folk could make it to 100. That means the time we’ll spend together if we remain married until one of us dies could be more than 50% longer than our 16th Century friend. Maybe it’s unrealistic to expect marriage to translate to a world where “until death do us part” is so much longer.
Marriage isn’t what it used to be. Marrying for love is a relatively new concept. Historically, in most cultures, marriage wasn’t much more than a business deal; the strategic linking of two families. Sure, if my marriage was all that stood in the way of war between England and France, I’d probably stick it out, but compared to that, we really don’t have much to lose.
We’re not dependant on each other. In my wedding vows, I said that my partner wasn’t my “other half” but that we’re each our own, whole person. I don’t need my partner to “complete” me (and vice versa), but right now we’re better together. If that part stops being true, why stick around?
It often comes down to luck. Most marriages break down due to change or external circumstances: money (or lack thereof) is a big marriage-killer, as is having or not having kids. Since we can’t always control these things, is it fair to blame us if they take a toll on our marriage?
We’re not religious. I might be more likely to stay married forever if I believed my marriage to be an agreement not just between my partner and I but with God (or equivalent) too. As neither my partner and I are religious, if we decide it’s no longer worth it, it’s no big deal, you know? We’re only human.
Ending a marriage isn’t automatically a failure. OK, so what if we get divorced after 10 years, five years, or even three? Would it really be the end of the world? To me, the important things are that we’re kind and respectful to each other throughout our relationship and that we have the self-awareness to call it quits instead of letting it get messy. Sure, it’ll be sad if it doesn’t work out, but even if we get divorced tomorrow, we’ll have made some pretty good memories while it lasted. Not everything is as clear-cut as “success” or “failure.”
It makes it better while it lasts. It’s a familiar story: a couple has cohabited for years, but after they get married, something just doesn’t seem right. Perhaps knowing they’re tied together forever creates too much pressure, or maybe the thrill of the relationship disappears as soon as it’s a done deal. Not the case for me. I’m not saying that I wake up with butterflies in my stomach at the smell of my partner’s breath on my face every morning, but the fact that we don’t know we’ll be together forever means that we put considerable effort into making it happen. If we assumed we’d never split up, there wouldn’t be much incentive to try and we may even end up resenting each other. This way, we know we’re lucky to have what we have right now, so we work to keep it.
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