There’s no timeline on healing or love

time

When I turned 25, I made a five year plan. Become debt free and a mother by 30, in April 2018.

I am now 31 and neither of those things happened.

In fact, as 30 approached, I was facing a lot of other huge life circumstances. In August 2016 I got married and immediately started trying to conceive a much wanted baby. In January 2017 I stopped speaking to my mother, until February 2018 when I unwittingly made contact with her through my stepdad’s phone. She tersely let me know he had cancer, and through speaking with my siblings I came to understand that she had deliberately kept the news from me to punish me for cutting her out of my life. (I wrote about this experience here).

Within a ten day span in March 2018, I left an abusive marriage, packed everything I owned and moved into a new apartment, endured transatlantic cyber bullying at the hands of my husband, and watched my stepfather die of lung cancer. Oh, and accepted a book deal.

Life did not give one iota of a shit about my five year plan. I still have student loans and I never did get pregnant (thank goodness).

The timeline of healing

After I left my abuser, I committed to only casual relationships on a non-monogamous basis for at least a year. And then I fell in love. And I fought it. I didn’t want to be in love, I wanted time to be single and to heal.

My sister gave me some sage advice: There’s no timeline on healing or love. You’re allowed to fall in love whenever you fall in love.

I decided I could work on healing from my abusive upbringing and marriage at the same time I was enjoying a relationship. I continued going to therapy and reading books that helped me process my trauma, and I had fewer panic attacks and C-PTSD episodes as time went on. I was healing.

And then our relationship imploded, as did another year-long relationship of mine, and I found myself newly single again.

But I noticed something important. While it had taken me years to realize my marriage was harmful, it took me only months with my boyfriend and mere weeks with my girlfriend. Of course, looking back, I can see that there were signs of the unhealthy patterns long before I realized them, but it was proof of my healing. I was doing the work. I wasn’t putting up with unhealthy behavior once I realized it was happening.

The timeline of love

Letting myself feel my feelings and fall in love was important. Fresh out of an abusive marriage, I really needed to feel loved again. I am a big fan of taking time to be single and focus on self-love, but I’m also not upset that I spent my first year away from my ex feeling loved and supported by two partners.

When those relationships ended, I was much more able to take time to be single. Seeing that I had fallen into similar behaviors (serving as one partner’s sole emotional support to my own detriment, allowing the other to continually violate my boundaries and forgiving them because each time seemed individually like an honest mistake) as I had in my marriage, because on some level I was still scared of being seen as too hard to love, was something I needed to realize. And now that I’ve had those experiences, I have realized them.

This has given me new targets for therapy.

Your responsibilities in a relationship

Some fundamental truths I’ve stumbled upon in therapy include the following:

  • I am not responsible for making my thoughts and emotions comfortable for other people. How many of us do this? We feel hurt or upset but keep our pain internalized until we’ve either ignored it or whittled it into something tiny and non-offensive that we can bring up to our partners apologetically and hope to stand up for ourselves about it. The trouble is, when we’ve been taught over and over again that our hurt feelings aren’t valid, we just start invalidating them ourselves. “I won’t talk about this with him, I’m probably just overreacting.” No, we’re not doing that anymore. If you feel hurt, tell your partner. The discomfort of this conversation is important: if the discomfort gives way to healing and repair, then that’s a sign of a healthy relationship. If it gives way to invalidating blame, then that’s a sign you aren’t with someone who values you and wants to treat you well.
  • Managing my partners’ behavior is not a normal part of a healthy relationship. I’ve always been the PR spinner in my relationships. With my abusive ex, I would post cute stories about our conversations on Facebook and my friends fawned over how sweet we were. “Get a man who makes coffee in the morning and does the dishes!” I’d say, to a chorus of “He should teach a class on being a husband!” and “Can I borrow him so he can teach mine??” But the man only had three regular chores and didn’t do any of them completely. If I wanted to continue getting coffee in the morning and have him washing dishes at 50% competency, I had to put on the happy face and brag about him in a public way so he rewarded me instead of punishing me. I also had a habit of staying mentally two steps ahead of partners’ behavior to make sure they didn’t do something problematic. I also did this with my parents: I’d have to watch to make sure dad didn’t harass a waitress with a sexist comment or keep an eye on mom’s mood to warn my sister to behave. I have always had to stay aware of everyone around me to reduce the risk of danger/abuse. Turns out this is not a normal part of a relationship.
  • I give my love away freely so people never feel like they have to earn it. Realizing this was hard. I have always felt like I had to behave properly in order to receive love – I had to earn it. If I was a bad kid, I didn’t get love. If I was a bad wife, I didn’t get love. Subsequently, I wanted to make sure no one ever felt like that’s what I was doing to them. I didn’t want to paywall my affections and make someone earn them… so I had no boundaries because I always wanted people to have access to my love. This is unsustainable. Love is unconditional, but access is not, and sometimes I have to say no to something or someone in order to take care of myself and avoid burning out. Boundaries are a form of love too.
  • I am not responsible for making other people love me and treat me with value; that is their job. Seriously. If you are in a relationship with me, I shouldn’t have to convince you I’m worth loving, appreciating, or being with. Having to perform at this level with so many partners has been exhausting, and I don’t do it anymore. If you don’t want to be with me, stop being with me. I should not have to earn your time and attention.

Single part two

As I mentioned, after these two breakups I’ve been spending time being single and casually dating, but I’m not in any serious relationships. I still consider myself single. But I’m also feeling like I may be ready to start dating a little more seriously soon. My plan is to stay single until the new year, but we all know that life laughs at my plans. And if I end up feeling ready before then, that’s okay too. Because I decide when I’m ready, and it doesn’t mean I can’t dial things back if I find I still need single time later.

The same is true for you. You can’t heal on a timeline and you can’t control when something happens off your plan. But you can choose to lean into your vulnerability and your love and let something wonderful happen. (And you can also choose to pull back and say no, I’m actually not ready yet. It is up to you!)

Read more from me

If you dig my brand of encouragement, you might like my Patreon page, where supporters receive a weekly pep talk post! You can sign up at varying levels for different content access, starting at just $1 per month.

You can also support my work by purchasing my book, The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation. I’d love for you to let me know what you think of the book, so please give it a read and leave a review on Amazon. If you’re morally opposed to Amazon, I have some other links here.

 

 

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How to ask for the love you need

 

worthy

I recently did something that I thought would be silly, or selfish, or outlandish.

I wrote a manual on how to love me.

It gives the basics about me and my background, includes a list of my favorite things, discusses how to best communicate with me, describes how I interact within each of the five love languages, and has links to blog posts and book recommendations to help understand my trauma and triggers. It even has tips on how to help me through a panic attack.

I posted about it on my personal Facebook page and I expected some laughs and comments about how I was being super type-A.

But the response was nothing short of love and encouragement.

It’s okay to ask for love

It’s okay to ask for love in the ways you need it. It’s okay to say, “Hey could you love me this way instead?”

For me, one of the worst things is to ignore me or make me do all the work of initiating conversation or contact. Feeling like I have to chase affection is deeply painful. I am still learning that love is abundant and available, that I don’t have to earn it, and that I certainly don’t have to beg for it.

An unexpected message from a loved one can light up my whole day, reassure me that they are thinking of me, and show me that they care.

When I shared my manual about how to love me, people thanked me.

The next day, I posted a status to “love me louder,” and I got some people sending gifs and hugs… but I also noticed several friends leaving comments about how great a friend I am, how they’ve been inspired by me, how proud they are of my writing and my work. And that small shift in the way I asked for love felt really good.

It can be scary to ask for love

When I was in sixth grade, I was living with my dad after my parents divorced. I told him “I love you” multiple times a day. It was an easy way to check in, to receive that “I love you too” back. I was trying to ask for love. And one day his response was not, “I love you too.”

It was “You say that a lot. Seems like you might be trying to convince yourself.”

It has never really felt safe to ask since then.

It’s been twenty years since I felt safe asking for love.

When I check in with someone to ask for something they aren’t giving me automatically, my heart pounds. Tears prick my eyes. My whole body feels hot. I want to be anywhere but vulnerably in front of them showing the truth of what I need. Risking myself like that is physically painful.

I learned as a child that love can be faked.

Every time I ask someone to change the way they love me, it feels like I’m being ungrateful and selfish. Like I should change the way I need to feel loved rather than ask them to speak my native tongue.

It feels like I am flinging myself off a cliff and hoping they might catch me.

Sometimes it feels easier to sit around wondering why someone doesn’t love me than to say what I need to feel loved. Vulnerability is scary, but it’s where we get our needs met. It’s where we find resolve in our worth and value.

It’s where we remember who the fuck we are.

Vulnerability at work can look like asking for a raise or promotion. You’re risking a no. If your boss says no, you might feel unimportant or not valued. If your boss reassures you that you’re doing great and puts together a six month plan for you to be in a place where they can offer that raise when they have the next budget meeting — that’s a reward for your vulnerability, even though it initially feels like rejection.

Vulnerability with a partner can look like saying, “I feel like I’m chasing you down for affection and I want to hear from you more during the day.” This feels scary, because they could say no. They could say that’s not how they operate their love languages and they aren’t willing to learn yours. They could say this feels like a lot of work.

Or they could say, “I’m sorry that I’ve been loving you in a way you weren’t receiving, and I will remember that you need loved this way. It is safe to remind me, and please do until I make it a habit.”

Being told I’m hard work is one of my top triggers. It’s something that has been said by a parent and by a partner, and its message is clear: My love for you is conditional on how easy you make my life.

Relationships take work, but people are not hard work

It’s rare for two people to connect in a way that is 100% flawless all of the time. But if you are important to each other and there is mutual trust, respect, and caring, asking for what you need is a blessing. It’s a road map and a manual. It’s cheat codes to making sure you feel loved.

Interpersonal communication takes practice, and this can feel like a tough job.

But if people didn’t want to do the work of learning how to best love me, they wouldn’t be out here loving me.

Tell your partner your love languages and be specific

Your partner can reference your top love languages for a reminder that you really get a boost from a love note in the middle of the day or them offering to pick up dinner on the way home so you don’t have to. Maybe they buy you an awesome gift because you feel loved when you receive a thoughtful present.

Whatever your love language, it is okay to communicate it to your friends, family, and partners. In fact, it should be a regular part of interpersonal relationships.

Not sure what your love language is? Take the quiz here to find out and learn about all five languages, which are:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts

The hidden benefit of telling people how to love you

When you tell people how to love you, and especially when you tell people what makes you feel downright unloved or unappreciated, you have a measuring stick for people’s respect for you.

Once you’ve told someone several times what you need to feel loved and they repeatedly ignore it, it can help you see who doesn’t belong so close to you. You deserve an inner circle of people willing and eager to speak your language.

It doesn’t make people inherently toxic or bad for you if they don’t speak your language, but it is okay to place distance between yourself and them.

Normalize love

Normalize talking about love languages.

Normalize telling friends you love them.

Normalize asking for what you need, without apology.

Read more from me!

If you dig my brand of encouragement, you might like my Patreon page, where supporters receive a weekly pep talk post! You can sign up at varying levels for different content access, starting at just $1 per month.

You can also support my work by purchasing my book, The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation. I’d love for you to let me know what you think of the book, so please give it a read and leave a five star review on Amazon. If you’re morally opposed to Amazon, I have some other links here.

 

 

 

 

The healing power of non-monogamy

polyamory meme

I couldn’t find a good image so I created this one.

In March 2018 I left an abusive marriage and entered into a new phase of life: the casually slutty phase. My dating app profile included the line, “I am dedicating 2018 to non-monogamous exploration.” I had my first one time hookups, met my first friend with benefits, and soon met my first long-term partner after the split. 

Me and this guy couldn’t get enough of each other, and I stopped putting energy into other dates because I was excited to see him again and again. (Real talk: Dating is hard work and takes a lot of energy). We dated a few weeks before he asked if I wanted to be monogamous. “No,” I said, “Staying non-monogamous is really important to me after leaving my marriage.” He said, “Okay, it just seems like a lot to balance, I thought maybe monogamy would feel safer.”

In retrospect, this was a yikes, but at the time I did not realize that. We continued dating and I met another long-term partner; both relationships lasted a little over a year each. 

A little background 

This was not my first non-monogamous rodeo. In 2010, my first husband and I opened our marriage at my request. It was definitely uncharted territory, as he was my first partner ever and he had only had one or two serious partners before me. Neither of us even knew non-monogamy was an option, but I had been researching online to try and figure out why I felt so unfulfilled in our marriage and thought that perhaps adding other partners was a great idea and would help me feel more worthy of love. My entire first 28 or so years of life were plagued with terrible self esteem and emotional abuse that led me to seek fulfillment and validation from others to feel good about myself.

I reached out while writing this blog to ask him what his thoughts were when I asked to open our marriage. He said he felt defeated overall that our marriage was so unhappy and he was willing to try anything to make it work. (PS. this is a bad reason to open a marriage, and I definitely made a mistake opening my marriage this way). 

We made some of your typical new-to-polyamory mistakes. First of all, we opened from a place of fear and desperation to make things work, rather than getting our relationship on solid ground first. We had lots of rules, lots of possessiveness, lots of “well you got to do it so now I get to do it too” tit for tat behavior. 

I made mistakes. I treated my partners like they were beholden to my expectations without treating them with the same respect. I treated other people like they were pawns I could move around my relationship chess-board, trying to find the configuration that would fulfill what I felt like I was missing. Maybe dating another couple would work better, maybe this, maybe that. 

By 2018 when I sought out to be my authentically non-monogamous self, I had learned much more by following polyamory-positive accounts on social media (like Poly.Land), learning about relationship constructs like relationship anarchy, seeing my own friends in my social circles practice healthy polyamorous relationships, reading books like More than Two, etc. 

When I left my abuser, non-monogamy the right way was my goal. Because monogamy had trapped me in a cycle of making my partner the most important thing in my life. More important even than myself. 

Weaponizing monogamy

When people say “toxic monogamy,” it might offend you as a monogamous person. You might think I’m saying that your way of living life in your romantic relationships is toxic or bad. That’s not what I’m saying. 

Similar to toxic masculinity, which is “masculinity that is toxic,” toxic monogamy is “monogamy that is toxic.” Examples of toxic monogamy include creepy wedding decorations with a ball and chain or handcuffs, not allowing your spouse to have friends outside of your marriage, expecting your partner to be your “one and only” person in life, being possessive of your partner, going through your partner’s phone to see if they are talking to other people or following accounts on social media you don’t approve of, threatening to harm other people who you perceive to come between you and your partner, etc. 

My mom and stepdad had a couple they were friends with whose origin story went like this: He beat up her boyfriend, so she went out with him instead because he proved how much he wanted her with physical violence. And they’re still together decades later. Aww, sweet. (No, not sweet). 

Toxic masculinity and toxic monogamy go hand in hand, but that’s a blog post for another day. 

My abuser had weaponized monogamy in our relationship. We met when I was in my first marriage, as was he. I had a girlfriend at the time, whom he was also seeing. He met with her for a dinner date, she talked about me on their date, and he then connected with me and feigned surprise when I asked if he was in fact the gentleman who was seeing my girlfriend. (Read: He lied about not knowing who I was when he made contact). He dated us both until he decided which of us was easier, and it became apparent when she started calling out his possessive behavior that he needed to get her out of the picture. 

He convinced me she was too jealous and unstable for us to attempt a polyamorous triad, which had been our initial hope as three people who were dating each other. I broke things off with her and he did soon after. Once I filed for divorce, my abuser suggested that we be monogamous with each other, because non-monogamy was clearly too hurtful and too complicated. I readily agreed, because I had just had such a bad experience with that “crazy girlfriend!” I didn’t want to have to guard myself against that again. It really was better to just be monogamous so I couldn’t get hurt again. I was enthusiastically in agreement. 

I was happily monogamous, so long as I accepted whatever treatment he gave me. He was in charge of the love, affection, and sex I received, and I had no leg to stand on to ask for more. 

Bisexual erasure in a straight-presenting relationship

I am bisexual: attracted to people of similar and different genders than myself. As a bisexual person in a relationship with a straight cisgender man, I was subject to some of your typical bi erasure tropes. His erasure took one of three forms depending on my behavior, confidence, doubts, etc. and the result he needed to achieve to maintain control in our abuse cycle. 

  1. You’re not really bi, you’re just narcissistic. Any time I looked upon myself favorably in the mirror, he’d say I was preening like a bird and joke that I wasn’t actually bisexual, I was just really into myself. Looking back, I now see that this was meant to poke holes in my confidence by judging how “into myself” I was. 
  2. If you need to explore your bisexuality, that’s fine… in a threesome. My husband routinely told me that he wanted to be monogamous, but if I felt the desire to explore my sexuality with a woman, he was open to that. All I had to do was ask! So once, I did ask. I asked if I could have sex with a close female friend of mine. My husband was livid. I called him a liar, because he said that I could explore if I wanted to, and I was communicating that desire with him. He then explained that what he meant was I could be with a woman if it was a threesome with him. 
  3. Your bisexuality means you’re twice as likely to leave me. If I had managed to get through the first two layers of bi erasure from my esteemed life partner, this was always an option for him to bring out. When we talked about my sexuality, he’d say “I take your bisexuality very seriously. It means twice the people you could leave me for.” I honestly can’t even begin to unpack this nonsense. I guess he was implying that any attraction I felt for not-him meant a risk of me leaving him, but it didn’t occur to him to maybe not be a shitty partner.

In his mind, bisexuality was a threat to him and therefore he did everything he could to reduce its importance in my identity. If I wanted him to feel reassured that I wouldn’t leave him, I talked less about my sexuality. If the only acceptable way for him to accept my bisexuality was in a threesome I was unwilling to have, then I just didn’t bring it up. What seems obvious in retrospect as psychological abuse was, at the time, just what I needed to do to keep my husband happy and reassured of my commitment to him. 

His undermining of my sexuality tied back into his skewed expectation of monogamy: that he and he alone should have been all I needed. 

Relationship orientation

Again, I am not saying that monogamy is unhealthy or toxic. It can be extremely healthy and fulfilling. Just like polyamory or other forms of non-monogamy can be healthy or unhealthy. I’ve had healthy and unhealthy friendships, I’ve cut toxic and abusive family members from my life, and I’ve quit jobs with toxic bosses — any relationship has the potential to be healthy or unhealthy. 

I’ve found that there’s a spectrum of identifying as polyamorous, non-monogamous, etc. similar to sexual orientation. This doesn’t mean straight polyamorous people should have a unique space at Pride or that they remotely face the same struggles as queer people. Polyamory is not a sexual orientation, but it is a relationship orientation. 

You can feel called to a polyamorous relationship orientation as a very important part of your identity. You definitely need access to multiple relationships to feel romantically fulfilled, and it’s a non-negotiable aspect of your dating life. 

Or maybe you enjoy non-monogamy and don’t feel that monogamy is an inherent default, but if you connected with a partner who preferred to be monogamous you could enjoy monogamy as well. 

Whether you are non-monogamous by necessity and identity or you simply don’t default to monogamy, your relationship structure outside the norm of monogamy is valid. 

The healing power of non-monogamy

For me personally, being non-monogamous has been a critical piece of my recovery from abuse and trauma. Being ethically polyamorous is part of who I am now, and I won’t be changing that. Dating multiple people helps me level set the bar for behavior and treatment I accept, helps me stay true to my boundaries, and just feels really good because I’m allowed to make connections with whomever I want. 

I clearly communicate my expectations, desires, and limits with partners, and because I know love and affection is plentiful and available to me, I don’t settle for poor treatment or someone repeatedly ignoring my boundaries. To me, polyamory means that there are infinite opportunities to make loving connections. I no longer feel like I have to “lock somebody down” to make sure they stay interested in me,  or that I have to be everything my partner wants or needs, or that I have to limit myself to avoid making people lose interest in me. More love is around the corner, and if somebody doesn’t love me the way I like to be loved, I don’t have to change the way I need to be loved, I need to change who is doing the loving. 

Read more from me

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll be thrilled to know there’s a whole chapter on relationship structures including polyamory and relationship anarchy in my book, The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation. Millennials didn’t invent these relationship types but we are fairly noisy about normalizing them. I’d love for you to let me know what you think of the book, so please give it a read and leave a review on Amazon. If you’re morally opposed to Amazon, I have some other links here.

You can also follow me on Medium and clap for this story to support me for the low low cost of your Medium membership.

I’ve also just set up a Patreon page which will get sneak peeks of upcoming topics, an opportunity for you to suggest topics, and additional Patron-only bonus content. Check it out, Patron levels start at just $1 per month to help support my writing.

 

What we need from marriage

Hello, readers. I am truly sorry that I have not posted – I am sorry to you, because you come here to share your thoughts and ideas with me, and you value my words, and I appreciate that so much. And I am sorry to me, because blogging is something that I love, and I have neglected myself by ignoring it.

Update 5/31: I have come back to add a few more thoughts and better express the ones I had yesterday.

I come to you today moved to tears by a piece from the Matt Walsh blog. I do not always agree usually don’t agree with Matt Walsh, but I agree with him some of his sentiments today. He wrote a post entitled “My wife is not the same woman that I married.”

In this post, he discusses the phenomenon of the “divorce party” and people who celebrate the failure and dissolution of their marriages. As someone who had a “divorce anniversary party” to celebrate my first year of singleness after ending my marriage, I agree that people who celebrate their divorce are celebrating broken vows and promises… which is sort of backwards and disappointing. Why rejoice in brokenness?

Walsh says in his post,

“…it demonstrates this cavalier, celebratory attitude towards divorce. I think it’s really harmful, and it only perpetuates the problem.”

As someone who has participated in this practice, I think there are a lot of reasons people would choose to have a celebration in the wake of their marital end. Some can be seen as positive reasons, and others negative.

  • They want to show others that they are okay
  • They want a tangible event to provide emotional closure
  • They want a distraction from their feelings
  • Their marriage was abusive and it actually IS a cause to celebrate
  • They truly are pleased at the end of their marriage
  • They want their ex-partner to know that they are happier without them
  • They want to hurt their ex-partner’s feelings

Those are just a few ideas off the top of my head. I don’t know everyone’s motives, but I think many divorce parties start with good intentions of wanting to cleanse one’s spirit and move on. But it might grow into vindictiveness and an ex-bashing party. It’s hard to keep it classy when you’re actively celebrating about a breakup. Kudos to the person who is able to keep the theme of the party to growth and rebirth instead of jumping on a table and exclaiming how much better life is, now that jerk is out of the world.

Addition, 5/31: That said, whether or not you have a divorce party, there ARE reasons to get divorced. In discussing Walsh’s piece with some very close people in my life, they told me that they thought I was joking when I shared his post on my Facebook page. They didn’t appreciate Walsh’s all-or-nothing, divorce-means-you’re-a-quitter attitude. As a divorced person, I agree with that sentiment… I don’t want to feel harshly judged for making a mistake. Because that’s what I did, I made a mistake. Did I go into marriage expecting divorce? No, but I wasn’t exactly primed to make it in marriage, because I didn’t fully understand what marriage meant. (end addition).

Immediately following our dissolution hearing, my ex-husband and I filed our papers downstairs in the clerk’s office, high-fived, and went to lunch together, where I proceeded to silently weep into my burrito bowl while he audibly worried that the people around us would think he was being a jerk to me and making me cry. That sums up our marriage in a really sad way. I didn’t know how to express my feelings, and he was more worried about what other people were thinking. (Cue “womp womp” sound effect).

In Matt Walsh’s post, he describes a conversation with a thrice-married acquaintance. The man did express a cavalier attitude toward marriage and divorce, laughing “Check back in ten years” at the obviously silly notion that a couple could stay married for their entire lives.

“Guy: [laughs] I said the same thing at your age. You think of divorce as this scary thing, but sometimes it’s the only way to be happy. You shouldn’t stay in a marriage if you’re miserable. Things change. You wake up and suddenly she’s not the same person you married. It happens. Trust me.”

When did the concept of “til death do us part” become a foolish ideal? This breaks my heart. Marriage should be forever, and I say this as a divorced person.

Addition, 5/31: This is the part that my close comrades really closed in on – Grocery Store Guy. I had perceived GSG as being rude and laughing off Walsh’s desires and hopes to stay married until death. I was hurt at the idea that someone would laugh at me when I told them I never wanted to get divorced. Probably because people laughed when I told them I didn’t want to get divorced. I found out well after my divorce that some friends had placed bets on when my marriage would end. I’m not offended by this, mostly disappointed that literally everyone in my life could see that I was making a mistake and I did nothing to listen to them.

GSG is right – sometimes stuff happens and divorce is the only way to be happy. You shouldn’t stay in a marriage if you’re miserable. I agree with GSG, you should NOT stay in a marriage for the sake of marriage. I do think there are ways to prevent misery from setting in, but it takes a lot of hard work in your marriage. If you lack in communication, you will allow your problems and resentments to fester, leading you to one day wake up and realize you are miserable. And when that happens, when the trust and intimacy is gone, and hopelessness has moved into  your heart, and you feel resigned to a life you don’t really want – that’s when divorce can feel like the only option. You can fix a marriage with some leaks and cracks, but it’s hard to fix it once you see it’s been shattered.

Now, GSG, you should never wake up and “suddenly she’s not the same person you married.” That should not be a sudden realization. Your partner will change. Gradually. Just like you are changing.

It seems like GSG, on his third marriage (this one 11 years and counting), has figured some things out and learned from his mistakes. THAT is the key. I am divorced. And when I say that I will not consider divorce an option in my second and final marriage (ka willing), it is not naivete speaking. It is commitment and understanding that marriage is hard. It will be complete and total openness and honesty with my partner about expectations, dealbreakers, and issues as they arise. I won’t allow our marriage to die like I allowed my first one. Because I learned. And my future husband will learn with me, and we will figure it out together, one step at a time. (end addition).

There’s a little saying floating around the internet, something about how some proverbial grandpa describes marriage like a house. And when a lightbulb burns out, you don’t buy a new house, you change the lightbulb.

Long-term vows in a short-term world

I think the problem with marriage in the 21st century is that the generation of people getting married has grown up in a world of disposables. Everything is made and marketed to be used and replaced upon release of the new model or upon breakage. We have completely missed the point of taking care of our possessions, and, subsequently, our relationships. We don’t understand the point. When something no longer works, we just chuck it in the bin and get a new one.

I would personally rather repair than replace. Much of this mentality has come about since my minimalist journey began. As I realized what my consumer habits meant for the environment, I began to choose to re-use. I have grown a new appreciation for multi-use items and for re-usable options. I sew patches onto the worn spots in my jeans instead of throwing them out and replacing. I always try to find a new use for something I no longer want or need instead of throwing it away.

Another problem is that we buy things on impulse without considering whether or not we will even want them in another week, month, or year. We buy cheaply made furniture “for now” because we “can’t afford” quality items that will stand the test of time. Here’s a pro tip – if you stopped buying crappy things several times a year, you could afford to buy a few nicer things a year. I now save up to purchase things that will last. It delays the instant gratification of the Amazon.com mentality (if I can’t have it in two days, what’s the point?), but it’s well worth not having a house full of things I don’t want after a little time has passed and I realize I didn’t even want that in the first place.

Life is marketing. We are constantly – constantly – bombarded with images of things that are supposed to make us happy. This comes in the form of advertising for phones, computers, and gadgets, for toys, for music, for television shows we should watch, for performances we need to see. We check our email and see BUY THIS and BUY THAT and TRY THIS JUST $1! We go to an online store and fill a cart to hit the amount needed for free shipping. We celebrate stuff for the sake of stuff, and when the stuff breaks, we toss it.

The impulse purchase is the enemy. You should purchase nothing that you haven’t thought hard about and actually need or truly desire for good reason.

We read about and watch on screens the images of relationships we are supposed to have – we idealize best friends and boyfriends/girlfriends and the loss of virginity. We learn how relationships work by seeing how the relationships around us work, which can really mess up a child’s world view of functional relationships, because we assume our parents’ relationship is the ideal for us to achieve. We see and we will remember and we will do. It is my supreme goal in life that my children see their parents as role models and won’t be satisfied in a relationship until they find one that matches the dynamic of the example I set for them with my partner.

We owe it to our children to make marriage work. We owe it to our children to let them see that marriage IS work. We owe it to our children to teach them that marriage is WORTH the work.

What do we need from marriage?

After my wedding to my first husband, I remember opening and unpacking our gifts, many of which we had enjoyed picking out and adding to our registry. I remember thinking, “Wait. Why the hell was it so important to me to have a bunch of matching towels? Why was this a decision?”

I had become caught up in the whimsy of getting married. I went dress shopping with friends and relatives, I registered for dishes and picked towel colors and met with the caterer. I had my doubts about marrying him, but that’s just cold feet. Everybody gets that.

I will be brutally honest with you: Marriage was something I wanted to feel validated as an adult. My first marriage was an impulse purchase.

I truly believed that just getting married would make our lives (my life) better and complete. I had married my first boyfriend (read: LOOK AT ME, I DID IT ON THE FIRST TRY). I married the man to whom I lost my virginity (read: I AM NOT A SLUT). I got married right after graduating college and right before starting grad school (read: LOOK HOW SUCCESSFUL AND ADULT I AM). I got married to show people I was an adult. Which, consequently, is about the least mature thing I have ever done in my adult life.

Matt Walsh’s acquaintance pointed out that “Some day you might wake up and find that your wife isn’t the same person you married,” using this inevitable change as grounds for divorce. Walsh doesn’t see change as a legitimate reason for divorce, and neither do I, because change is the only constant, and marriage is about changing with a person. If you expect your partner to stay the exact same over time, you’re just crazy. Of course people change!

However, as I reflect, I am aware of this truth: I asked my husband for a divorce because I was not the same person he married. I’ve talked about marriage blah-de-blah before, so you can go through my archives to read all about my self-esteem journey. In any case, here I am, divorced because I changed and telling you that change isn’t a good reason to get divorced.

Seriously, what do we need from marriage?

Trick question. We don’t need anything from marriage. We need to give to marriage. We need to give EVERYTHING to marriage.

Marriage isn’t about happiness. It is about partnership and trust and hard work. It is about finding your life’s partner, the person with whom you cannot wait to grow and change. It is about working through the hard parts, fixing the damaged parts, and always coming back to the fact that you chose marriage knowing it was a pact for the rest of your life.

People in the 21st century are getting married too young, too soon, and without enough thought. It’s easy to get married. It’s hard to be married. It’s WORTH IT to be married to the right person.

Choose work, because a committed marriage will be the best job you ever have in your life.

And never stop working on it.