5 Reasons to Stay

By

One
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.
While
researching my most recent novel, I sat down and spoke to women, men,
and married couples about why they do stay. And, sometimes, why
they
wished they had. This is the best advice I've found.

1. Love is a decision

Watching
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
Lodges. She
wrote that the only way to be in a Sweat Lodge -- to experience all
that
it brings -- is to sit far from the exit. Because if you sit too
close,
you will find a reason to use it.  

The
same is true of any long-term relationship. If you decide to look
for
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
with
who decided to commit to their marriages and relationships --
to
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
more joy
and peace they found there. 

2. There is No Weakness
In Forgiveness

I'm
not happy anymore
; or I'm disappointed; or I have
doubts.
Three
familiar catchphrases that free us up to not work to bring a
relationship back to a positive place. In fact, we are
conditioned
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.  

While
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
one
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
would
have experienced such good ones."

3. Someone New Won't Be New For
Long

One
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 . . .

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  • Over 75% of people who marry their partners from an affair eventually divorce.