Can you smell my sarcasm from here?
When Eva Mendes jokingly said that sweatpants are the number one cause of divorce, the Internet lost its damn mind. Pundits took sides, open letters were drafted, hashtags were made; every major news outlet covered it.
Why? For one, this Age of Social Media (which could also be called the Age of Collective Outrage) means that people are recreationally offended on a regular basis. But there's another reason her silly comment struck such a nerve. A deeper reason.
I don't know if you know this, but we're all pretty insecure about our marriages. It's obvious — not just because marriage inherently requires risk and sacrifice and faith, all of which makes us vulnerable and defensive, but because of the sheer number of "How To Prevent Divorce" articles that circulate through clicks and shares.
We follow "seven-step formulas for marital bliss" in order to "divorce-proof our marriages." We hold our breath through Divorce Month, past the culturally constructed Seven-Year Itch. We devour other people's mistakes, peeking through their hard-earned perspectives, desperate to absorb their wisdom.
Heck, I do it, too. Putting some awareness and effort toward our marriages can't be a bad thing, but if our end goal is to truly divorce-proof our marriage, there are only THREE WAYS to ensure 'til death do you part. Heed my advice:
1. Never change or grow in any way.
If the two of you could just stay as you are with your compatible perspectives and common goals, and somehow keep this phase, this season from fading into the next then you, my friend, have a very good shot at staying married forever.
Except that's not how reality works for anyone.
We change. The person we love at 25 years old isn't the same person we love at 40. And so all of the checklists and Divorce Prevention efforts can't predict all the nuanced ways you will change and all of the nuanced ways your partner will change. Riding through the seasons, accepting and loving each version of our partners as the years pass, well that's beautiful. And possible.
But that doesn't negate the hard truth: As long as you're evolving and changing, you're at risk to one day look across the table at a stranger of a person and quietly ask yourself, "Are we good for each other anymore? Is the most loving choice to stay together? Or is the most loving choice to let one another go?"
Because sometimes we grow in different ways and staying together only inhibits that growth. We're quite judgmental about divorce, labeling it with a big neon "FAILURE" sticker. While a long-lasting marriage can be exquisite, equally exquisite is a relationship that comes to its natural conclusion and bids farewell with love and clarity. Holding onto an unhealthy relationship isn't love, whether we made a vow or not.
Which brings me to...
2. Have full control over your partner's mind and heart.
A sacred marriage vow doesn't negate the fact that we're marrying an ordinary human. A flawed, inconsistent human with baggage or trauma or deep-set quirks. A human with his own free will to make hurtful, damaging choices.
You can put 100% effort into a marriage, read every article on "How To Keep Your Marriage Hot" and every blog post on "The Best Trick That Saved My Marriage" — but you, and you alone, cannot save a marriage. If your partner isn't willing or able to put in some sort of effort, then that's that. It takes two to keep a marriage afloat.
So put down that heavy burden and understand that sometimes our partners change in a way we can't accept or hold on to. Sometimes our partners leave. And you can't predict or prevent that. That doesn't make you a failure; it makes you a human.
3. Don't get divorced, no matter WHAT.
If you simply don't get divorced, no matter what, then you'll stay married forever. Ta-Da!
There's something to be said for the "divorce is off the table" approach for marriage. There's evidence that even the most flat-lined relationships can be rejuvinated with stronger connection and understanding than before. Marriage practically ensures that, at some point, we'll be mucking through dark, muddy times together and those kinds of struggles can be quite transformational. We grow through suffering, and in the case of marriage, it can bond you closer together.
Except, of course, when there's abuse, infidelity, and downright misery — things that are bigger than our "I promise to stay with you forever and ever pinky promise" vow. (It would be nice to live in a world where vows are spiritually binding, but again, we're all human.)
So what's my point? Is divorce inevitable?
Of course not.
But if you're looking for ways to divorce-proof your marriage out of insecurity and fear, as if preventing divorce is the ultimate end goal, then take a deep breath. Relax into the uncertainty and the unknown and realize that the health of a marriage is much more important than the length of it.
Marriage depends on so much more than sheer will or proper research or even conscientious effort. There are factors outside of our control and that's okay. That's life.
I promise you'll be okay, no matter which direction your story ultimately goes.