So I was reading this article on The Huffington Post (THP) yesterday, and I am surprised at what people have listed as reasons for divorce. Just a little background to the article: THP asked their Twitter followers to list reasons why they thought marriages end in divorce. Some of the tweets they’ve featured were very personal, and I presume they come from real situations and experiences. Anyway, these are the reasons from some of the tweets:
1. Some people are not meant to be monogamous.
2. Couples grow up and apart.
3. Some don’t put the ones they love first.
4. There was no love in the first place.
5. Trust is destroyed.
Call me Asian, old fashioned or just plain naive, but these reasons don’t seem to be good enough to break up such a special institution. Yes, it may be because I have not been married long enough, or I simply don’t know or understand what “older” couples go through. Whatever it is, these are my thoughts and hopes on/for marriage based on the values I have been taught and what the married couples in my life have shown me.
1. Monogamy is a choice
I’ve known some men who just can’t help themselves. Married, attached… it doesn’t seem to matter to them. This makes me angry, to be honest. People make mistakes. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve made some serious mistakes in my life. But to keep making them intentionally, despite knowing you’re hurting people right, left and centre… well, that’s another story altogether. It is my humble opinion that men and women who haven’t made the decision to be monogamous should not get married.
On this topic of monogamy; I think the natural reaction to a cheating spouse is to throw blame around like rice at an Indian wedding and walk out. But it is more difficult to dissect the cause of the cheating. This is a fact about humans: when our needs are not fulfilled, we turn to other people or ways to find what we need. So, perhaps there was something missing in the marriage in the first place. I know many will react very strongly to this reasoning, but don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that there is an excuse for a cheating spouse. I am merely saying that every action has a reaction, or to put it simply, every symptom has root issue. Unless your spouse is a serial cheater (then dump his ass!), it might benefit the marriage to find the root cause and focus on fixing the problem.
2. Love is a choice. And a verb
I went into marriage with the most pessimistic mind-set, I swear. I didn’t go into it with the illusion that love was enough for us, that our love was all we needed, or that our love would last forever. I expected the worst, to be honest. I know it sounds terrible, but you know what they say — expect the worst and hope for the best. And that’s worked out marvellously well. I expect if I continue being pessimistic, I’ll survive another 50 years of marriage, easily.
Anyway, back to my point about love being a choice… After 20 years of marriage, you don’t miraculously wake up each morning with this overwhelming rush of good emotions for your partner. To those who still do, please tell me your secret? I’ll let you pet my dog. But, I digress. While I may still be experiencing these good emotions now after four years, I think I’ll have another… five or six (?) years before it fades. And when that happens, I will have to make a constant decision to love my husband and I will have to put that into practice every day. With enough practice, it does get easier. I mean… this is how arranged marriages manage to work out. Both parties realise and acknowledge that love is a choice. And I know all about arranged marriages… I married into an Indian family.
Talking about practice brings me to my next point: love is a verb. There is an incredibly famous verse from the Bible tells us how to practice love every day. While it may come from a religious text, it is in a universal language most of us can understand. It’s a language of patience, kindness, humility, selflessness and forgiveness. Above all, it’s a language of hope.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
3. Trust is a choice
I know that once trust is broken, it’s incredibly difficult to replace. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it can never be fully restored. But there is hope. With a few choices (love, trust and forgiveness) and some practice, trust can be rebuilt into something that may resemble what originally was… only perhaps stronger in the knowledge that a great hurdle has been overcome.
4. Forgiveness is a choice
It’s so difficult to forgive. Sometimes, we just don’t feel like doing it. We feel that it may be weak to give in, or we feel like seeing the other party suffer before we pardon them, or we feel incredibly hurt and cannot bring ourselves to forgive. But I was taught a long time ago that forgiving someone shouldn’t be based on a feeling. We should forgive despite any feelings we may have, because it’s better for our emotional well-being, and it will help everyone move along with life (that does move on, whether we like it or not). Forgiveness is a decision. You make it, and then practice it. And hopefully, time will really make what you practice a reality.
On the subject of granting forgiveness, I should also speak about asking for it. When I was younger, I mistook asking for forgiveness as a terrible weakness. Because of this, I found it very difficult to ask for forgiveness, especially when I felt that it wasn’t my fault, or when I felt extremely hurt. But, I know now that it is not weakness, instead, it is a sign of strength and humility. It doesn’t matter if you’re less to blame for the situation, or whether you feel like you’ve done nothing wrong. Asking for forgiveness is essential to reconciliation, because if there’s anything I’ve learnt, it always takes two hands to clap. Even if you’re not clapping with the same velocity, you’re still making some kind of movement.
5. Don’t expect to feel “in love” forever
I remember reading an article in National Geographic in 2006 about love. It followed the studies of anthropologist Helen Fisher, who outlined the truth about being “madly in love” and experiencing “love at first sight”. The general gist of the article was about the chemical reaction in our bodies when we meet someone we are attracted to, as compared to an emotion (I’m sure and her group of scientists had some scientific basis to this finding). This chemical reaction is thought to be the cause of people feeling that they’re “in love” with the person they’re dating, when all it was, was their bodies undergoing a chemical reaction. Unfortunately, this chemical reaction has an expiration date, and when it fades, people choose to leave because they buy into the lie that they don’t love their partner anymore. You can hear one of Helen Fisher’s talks on romantic love here. Most couples split because they say that they “fell out of love” with their partner. But the truth is, love is a choice, and it takes practice.
6. Communication is key
I’ve seen couples who just didn’t communicate. A girlfriend would tell me how she really felt, and when I asked her if she had expressed this to her partner, the answer was “I don’t want to make the situation worse by bringing this up” or “He’s not going to understand even if I tell him”. And I can’t help but think A) the situation is going to get worse if everyone sweeps this under the carpet; and B) she won’t know what he does and doesn’t understand if she doesn’t open her mouth and say it.
Of course, it’s important to share your thoughts and feelings objectively and tactfully, to refrain from saying anything that could cause hurt or damage. My husband will be the first to admit that it took a while for him to get used to this, but it’s helped us get through many disagreements and fights. While it’s important for both parties to say what they’re feeling and thinking, it’s also important for them to learn how to handle it when their partner needs to communicate with them. Sometimes, the setting is also important when you share your thoughts or feelings. Pick an appropriate time when both parties can truly focus on what is being said and discussed.