A couple things to keep in mind:
1. There is no right or wrong answer, only varying opinions.
2. Just about everyone in my family has been divorced—at least once.
3. Kids do not factor into my logic, as they change everything.
4. In my mind, the “open” situation involves two people with a mutual understanding of the situation.
I have a friend going through a divorce right now, which I realize is not entirely uncommon. She’s young and not unhappy, per se, but instead rather “meh” and not exactly happy.
What she’s struggling with is the fact that there is nothing glaringly wrong with her spouse—he doesn’t beat her or club kittens, for example—and in fact, he adores her. They met when she was at a difficult point in her life and needed different things emotionally. She has changed and grown, he hasn’t. She feels guilt because the person she’s become—more independent, confident, etc.— doesn’t fit with the person that he still as.
While she’s happy with her life, she’s just not all that fulfilled by her marriage, as it’s become more of a friendship. She has a sneaking suspicion there is something else out there for her—whether that’s the freedom of being alone or being with another person. But she’s struggling with thinking she’s wanting too much, or being selfish for not being happy with what she has.
One minute she is confident and says, “We only live once. If you grow apart, I don’t see the point of forcing togetherness.”
But the next minute she counters with, “But it’s SO HARD for me not to take on his feelings and think I’m a crappy person. I mean, maybe I’m expecting too much from marriage. I have this guy who is so nice and good-natured and smart and loyal (endlessly). Shouldn’t that be enough?”
Open Mind, Open Marriage
Let’s bring it back to me, as I usually do (my blog, my rules.)
I am almost 30 and single.
I am more New Age/hippie-dippy than I am hoity-toity.
I will most likely never legally “settle down,” as I can’t commit to a hair color for more than six months.
It’s not that I don’t trust love or am cynical about relationships. I’m just no longer delusional about relationships, either.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve known the joy an intimate relationship can afford and believe that “couplehood” is a lovely way to live for those who thrive in that environment. Whether you’re young, old, gay, straight—if you find something that makes your heart happy, it makes my heart happy.
I just think life-long commitment is a slightly dated concept given the way our society has evolved since the “start” of marriage, something often initiated out of obligation or survival. Best friend, soul mate, confidant—a wife and husband were expected to be everything to one another 100 years ago. And actually, they didn’t have a choice.
Under my line of thinking, there should be time limits.
For example, after a year, five years, etc. you go back and reevaluate the contract. If it works? Great. If not? Explore other options or cut ties.
That’s how it goes with business, and for the most part, isn’t that what marriage is? Along with companionship, etc. you get security of a position (insert inappropriate Kama Sutra joke here), insurance benefits and an agreement that you will perform certain responsibilities—visiting the in-laws and mowing the lawn, for example.
You would never sign on to work at a company until you died. Unless there was plenty of room for growth and advancement—something new—the mere thought of it would seem absurd and suffocating if presented to most people. It’s probably a safe bet that you don’t have the same friends you had 10 years ago, as you sometimes grow apart. It’s natural.
So what happens when one person grows and evolves but the other stays stagnant, when it becomes obvious that compromise—something necessary for any personal or professional relationship—might mean compromising your goals and settling for “not bad” instead of “good?” Is it wrong to want more?
I read about Arthur Aron and Gary Lewandowski, psychologists who recently published research about the things that make healthy marriages last. The degree to which a marriage, and one’s marital partner, helped an individual grow as a person and expand themselves, was the single variable most predictive of that person’s judgment of their marriage.
In other words, two healthy people operating under the concept of mutual respect who feel their spouse has helped them to grow as a person, to learn new things and become a better person, are most likely to view their marriage as a positive and healthy.
I think that’s great. See above.
But I’m also not under the impression that it’s for everybody, or that one should be expected to stay in a situation that no longer provides them with room for growth just because it’s traditionally expected. Neither party is wrong, simply changed.
I know I’m different in that I don’t hold onto some romanticized perception of how things have to be, but I’m fairly certain that the only kind of relationship that would interest me now is one where I don’t have to compromise my goals, freedom or need for solitude. It would need to be open-ended.
I’ve been happy in a relationship and I’ve been happy single. I’ve been lonely in a relationship and I’ve been lonely single.
Compared to the torture of feeling stuck beside someone I no longer love — and possibly hoping he gets hit by a bus to put me out of my guilty (suffocating) misery—I would much prefer to be alone, with the option to change my mind with no guilt.
My friend feels the same way even though she’s already taken some crap from people about her “selfish” decision. I think it would be selfish to stay with someone out of convenience and complacency, stunting both partner’s growth and development.
Like I said, there is no right or wrong. If marriage makes you happy, great. Some people don’t, and in that case, I see nothing wrong with cutting ties.
Whatever way works for you — single, married or somewhere in between— we all deserve to be loved for who we are and who we want to be.
That should be enough.
There’s no judgment. I (obviously) have an open mind, and I present an open forum.
Even if you’re anonymous, any thoughts? Are divorce and marriage looked at the same way they were years ago? Are there stigmas either way?