of my favorite quotes about love and marriage comes from Oscar Wilde: A
Man can be happy with any woman as long as he does not love her. While
that saying makes me laugh, Wilde is also getting to something
important: Marriage is tricky. And in today's society where the
martial woes of everyone from the Sanfords to John and Kate Gosselin
are headline news, we are presented with every reason in the world to
give up on our relationships -- and fewer and fewer reasons to stay.
researching my most recent novel, I sat down and spoke to women, men,
and married couples about why they do stay. And, sometimes, why
wished they had. This is the best advice I've found.
1. Love is a decision
Governor Sanford stand up over these past weeks and speak about how he
found his soul mate in his Argentinean lover reminded me of something
Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun and author, wrote about Sweat
wrote that the only way to be in a Sweat Lodge -- to experience all
it brings -- is to sit far from the exit. Because if you sit too
you will find a reason to use it.
same is true of any long-term relationship. If you decide to look
an exit, you will always be able to find it: whether it comes in the
form of another lover, or another life. But the couples I spoke
who decided to commit to their marriages and relationships --
be present for them, to help them grow more sacred -- told me that they
were immeasurably rewarded for that decision. The more committed they
grew to their marriages -- the further they sat from the exit -- the
and peace they found there.
2. There is No Weakness
not happy anymore; or I'm disappointed; or I have
familiar catchphrases that free us up to not work to bring a
relationship back to a positive place. In fact, we are
these days to believe that the brave thing is to move on when the
honeymoon is over. But that very standard makes it hard for any
long-term relationship to survive inevitable disappointments.
some would argue that it is brave to pick up and start a new life when
a relationship begins to ebb, the truly brave thing -- the hard and
valuable thing -- is to figure out how to find a new flow together. As
couple, who is happily married after 40 years together, informed me,
"The most invaluable gifts come on the other side of the bad
periods. If we hadn't forgiven each other for the hard times, we never
have experienced such good ones."
3. Someone New Won't Be New For
factor is consistent in all studies of marriages and long-term
relationships: a main cause of divorce and separation is infidelity.
Those that stray (statistically, women as much as men these days) sight
many factors as reasons: a breakdown in passion, a breakdown in
communication, a breakdown . . .
But statistics also tell us that the chance of a relationship
born from infidelity being successful is less than 1 and 100. Less
than 1%. More often than not, the best thing someone new has going for
him or her is being . . . new. And, once they aren't anymore, you are
in an even more precarious position.
you choose -- it always comes down to one thing. How hard are you
to fight to make the relationship work? How easily are you willing to
give your relationship away?
4. Often the Person You Are
Running From Is You
of all the reasons couples gave me for why they chose to end their
marriage or relationship, the loss of love or mutual friendship was
often notably absent. It often came down to something else: the desire
to start a new life. To not grow old. Or, at least, to not
is difficult to stay with the person who knows you best when you don't
like what we see in the mirror. It may be easier to blame your
than to take a hard look at yourself. But, at the end of the day, it
isn't your partner's responsibility to change your self-image, or to
fix your self-doubt. It's yours. And, if we want to like
better, running out on a person who likes us the way we are isn't a
wise starting point.
5. You Don't Need A Reason
anything worth having in this life, marriage and long-term commitment
are hard work. Sometimes knowing that can be enough to help us not pick
at the scabs while they are healing, to not make things worse as
opposed to letting them feel better. As a lovely couple in Seattle
Washington reminded me, things will feel better. "Be good to each
other, be patient. If you allow it, love always lives through
©2009 Laura Dave, author of The Divorce Party: A Novel