by Jay Johansen | Mar 25, 2000
While I haven't taken a poll on the subject, I'm sure most people who are getting married do not expect to get divorced. I'm sure they don't walk down the aisle thinking, "This may last a year or two". Most Americans probably think of divorce as a safety valve in case things just don't work out. They don't want to get divorced, but if there are problems, it is there as an option.
Once you start thinking of divorce as an option, even as an option of last resort, your marriage is doomed.
Okay, that's an exaggeration. There have surely been many people who, in the back of their minds, think of divorce as a realistic option, but who manage to keep their marriages together. But once you start thinking of divorce as an option in anything but very specific, extreme circumstances (like gross physical abuse or infidelity), you inevitably change the dynamics of your marriage in a negative way.
Consider: In every marriage, sooner or later you will have a fundamental disagreement, an argument, something the other person does that angers or annoys you. When that happens, what goes through your head? If you do not think of divorce as an option, then you will almost surely ask yourself, "What can we do to make our marriage happy again?" But if you do think of divorce as an option, then sooner or later you will start to ask yourself, "Will our marriage ever be happy again?", and "Is there any hope for our marriage or should I just quit now?"
Let me put it in more practical terms. Of the two people in your marriage, which one's actions and thoughts can you control? Obviously, the answer is "your own". There is very little that you can do to literally force the other person to do anything, and absolutely nothing you can do to force him or her to think something.
So when there are problems in your marriage, if you refuse to consider divorce, the question you will logically ask yourself is, "What can I do to fix this marriage?" But if you do consider divorce, the question you will inevitably ask yourself is, "What does she have to do to convince me to stay?" Or, "What does he have to do to convince me to stay?"
When both of you are asking what you can do, you will likely find a solution. If even one of you is asking this question, there is hope. For if just one of you is trying to make the marriage happy and pleasant, the other might come around. But when both of you are sitting back waiting for the other to change, nothing is going to get fixed. You will just make each other angrier and angrier. At least one of you must be willing to make the first move.
When you have problems in your marriage, don't ask yourself, "Can I live with this?" or "Just how much of this can I put up with?" A much more productive question to ask is, "What can I do to make my wife/husband happy, so that she/he will be interested in doing something for me?" It is no doubt true that some people are so selfish that no matter how much you do for them, they will never reciprocate. But at least give it a chance. If you make a serious effort, deciding ahead of time that you are going to keep it up even if you get nothing in return for months, then maybe you will bring the other person around. At least a plan like this offers hope. Realistically, if you threaten the other person and make it clear that you are going to be as nasty and inconsiderate as you can possibly manage until they start doing what you want ... do you really expect this to inspire them to be loving and accommodating to you? When was the last time you did something nice for another person because they threatened you? On the rare occasions when we give in to such threats, we certainly don't feel happy about it afterward. Such a strategy might possibly work with someone you're doing business with, when you really don't care how they feel about you, you just want to get this particular job done. But it's no basis for a marriage.If you decide that you are committed to your marriage -- that you're stuck here -- then your only alternative is to make it work. Once you decide that quitting is an option, then your incentive to make it work evaporates. And your marriage likely evaporates with it.
© 2000 by Jay Johansen