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nikipedia's avatar

What does marriage mean, or how bad would it have to be to get divorced?

Asked by nikipedia (27300 points ) July 16th, 2011

For most of my (short) grown-up life, I have been of the opinion that marriage should be forever, and once you make that commitment, you better honor it. My father left my mother when I was young, and it was a terrible situation for my mother and for us kids. So, ever since, I have thought that once you get married, you should be in it no matter what.

Recently, I have come to know someone who was in this situation: the marriage wasn’t horrible, but over time, they came to realize that they would both be happier without it. There wasn’t any abuse, or even constant fighting. Both partners grew to want different things, and they mutually agreed they would be happier outside the marriage than in it.

This contradicts the no-matter-what view of marriage, but I think they made the right decision. And it made me reconsider what marriage really means—if it really is wise to commit to something no matter what, when that specifically means that we might be sacrificing our own happiness.

I guess these are kind of a lot of barely connected thoughts, but I would be interested to hear what you older and wiser folks have to say on the matter.

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24 Answers

Coloma's avatar

Nothing is ‘forever.’ Rule # 1 in life.

People change, things change, and being unhappy IS a good enough reason to leave a relationship.
Not to be mistaken that anyone else is responsible for your happiness, they are not, you are.

However, if there is stagnation and lack of growth, and two people cannot overcome and grow together, the best choice is to go separate ways. Most people choose the opposite, they spend years in either outright combat, or check out.

Many people measure the ‘success’ of their relationships in terms of years spent together rather than true intimate communion.

” Oooh, we’ve been married for 35 years!” Yes, and, you haven’t really SEEN or communicated with the other person in 32 years. haha

Hardly a barometer for growth and connection.

bob_'s avatar

Well, I’ve never been married, but to me a marriage proposal means “I love you, and I want to spend the rest of our lives together, but if at some point living together feels like a living hell, then maybe we could reconsider the ‘forever’ part of the deal.”

I don’t think staying together for the kids, no matter what, is a good idea. Kids are more likely to be happy if they live in happy homes, not just in a home with a father and a mother, even if they hate each other.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

If the marriage is religious based, then there are standards, each religion having some way out claus to end the marriage.

If the marriage is law based, then the standards are set by the couple getting married.

Either way, the marriage has some degree of accountability. Either way, there’s a way out.

I think marriage is like any long journey. First, make sure you are compatible with your traveling companion. That means to know them and their quirks for a very very long time before hitting the road together. Once the journey begins, that’s not the time to discover surprising personality disorders. But if you do, then the person you married isn’t the same person that you thought you knew. Upon discovering that the person you married doesn’t really exist, then there should be no problem ending the journey immediately.

The journey is meant for discovering the world together. Not for repairing the psychosis of someone who turned out to be different than you thought.

funkdaddy's avatar

A lot of people see marriage as an extension of a boyfriend/girlfriend (or bf/bf, gf/gf, etc.) relationship. Which to me means a romantic relationship but also generally two individuals who spend time together. You keep your own identity and so it’s pretty easy to move on if needed, at least early on.

If you add marriage to that, it can seem like you’re giving up yourself because you’re always attached to that one person. Bills, shared property, public perception as basically one person, shared friends, living space, kids, and shared responsibilities can be pretty confining.

A marriage only works as long as nobody quits. If either side decides they’re done, that’s it. I think to get through the tough patches it helps to think of your spouse (life partner, special friend, whatever you’d like to call them) as family instead.

Would I ever remove a family member from my life? Yes, but it would take a lot more than it would take me to leave someone I was dating. They would have to be caustic and damaging to me, and having me around would probably have to be damaging to them as well before I’d call it quits.

For me it’s the same with my wife. It would have to become a situation where we were both damaging to the other. “I think I can do better” or “I’m happier without you” wouldn’t be enough personally to end it. At the same time it’s not quite “no matter what”.

Everyone has their own situation and experience, and we’re talking about real people here so not trying to step on any toes. That’s just where I’m at with my special someone and I hope she sees it about the same.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

In my opinion marriage means committing to putting in the work. I think that it means accepting that sometimes people are going to screw up really bad, and sometimes we are going to be annoyed or angry or bored. But that there will be effort made to grow together and to make it work. Sometimes that means that one spouse has to pull a little more of the load until the other spouse ‘snaps out of it’ and gets back on board. It isn’t always pretty, and it certainly isn’t the fairy tale I’ve seen in the movies… but I think it is a learning experience, which is better in my opinion, because it gives us a chance to grow as people.

I agree completely with funkdaddy, in that I approach it like a familial situation. I’ve said this on Fluther many times before, but that really is a very important part of it, for me. I feel confident in my own marriage because I believe that we have reasonable expectations, and that we are both aware and accepting of the fact that we are human and will most likely screw something up bad at some point. And, when one of us fucks up, we discuss it, learn from it, and grow.
I think if we lost the ability to communicate and learn from our experiences… and instead turned it into finger pointing and name calling and blaming, that would probably be toxic to the relationship. Much like what was said above, when one person gives up, I think the marriage is more or less doomed. It really does take two.

linguaphile's avatar

@nikipedia Right now, I’m going through a separation/divorce and it’s like fighting to get out of a cocoon… not comfortable at all, but necessary for growth. I did not come to this decision lightly… it actually took me about 18 months of agonizing over the decision before I was able to take the first steps towards separation. My mom has been married 5 times and when I was younger, I resented her for it, so I decided when I got married that I “refused to become my mother,” and would stick through no matter what.
When things started to get bad for us, I bought books, went to therapy, came up with “game plans” to improve our communication, our problem solving skills, our relationship, you name it. Every 4 months or so, here we go again, discussion, game plan, let’s start over. We married in 1999, but the “cycle” started before we got married, and I got so tired. So, so, so tired, empty, sick, soul-dead… it was horrible, but I stuck with it because I didn’t want to give up.
Then someone from my past, a jerk from college, showed up. The only thing he did was remind me of who I used to be- full of life, funny, passionate about causes and ideas, driven, kinetic, animated and…. I saw myself as I was. I don’t think there was a day worst than the day I woke up and saw my two selves now and then ‘side by side.’
I realized I had held onto something so unhealthy and destructive just to hold onto an ideal, only for an ideal. It was not worth it.
I realized now that I was doing all the maintenance in the marriage, among other things, and I had a choice between myself and this horrible empty shell of what was left of me, and hey, that’s a no brainer!!!
I now think marriages should last as long as it enriches both parties to whatever their liking is.
This is not a great question, no, it’s a wonderful question!

Hibernate's avatar

The couple should make it work even when things aren’t that peachy.
It’s lame to see a couple divorcing when they started a marriage. What I mean is if they wanted to be together then they need to give the best they have to make it work. If not then better not get married and live together without the papers/blessings.

MilkyWay's avatar

Staying together forever? Even if you get all frustrated and hate each other’s guts?
No thank you.
As a child, it’s extremely hard to live with parents who are constantly fighting with each other. Not healthy at all. Splitting up would be less stressful for the kids if you ask me.

rooeytoo's avatar

In a perfect world, people would never change nor grow apart. Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world and even though when I married, I truly meant “til death do us part” that died along with the respect. I still loved him but had lost all respect. I personally think a marriage can last without love but when respect is lost, it is dead! So we divorced. I’m not sure if I wish it had been different, probably not, I am happily married now. This time we were both mature when we met and I highly doubt we will grow apart. But, hey, there are no guarantees in this imperfect world!

flutherother's avatar

Marriage is a commitment and you shouldn’t enter into it planning to fail. If you love someone the idea of divorcing shouldn’t even enter your head. It is a possibility, but one that lies beyond the horizon. But as you travel through life that distant horizon can get closer and closer.

downtide's avatar

Nothing is forever. And nothing is worse than two people who hate each other, staying together “for the sake of the children” when those same children are exposed to nothing but their parents hating and constantly yelling at each other. Kids are better off in a calm single-parent situation than one like that.

marinelife's avatar

Marriage is meant to be for the long haul.

People, being people, often don’t want to work on a marriage. Marriage, like anything, takes work. It doesn’t “just happen”.

If there are problems in a marriage, then the couple needs to work on it. Perhaps with a therapist.

If, after working on it for some period of time, the problems cannot be reconciled, then divorce may be the answer.

But, done right, working on a marriage can lead to greater intimacy.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

It means committing to build a life together, to have a family, to see each other’s dreams through for the future. You shouldn’t think about divorce and I don’t think people marry with that in mind but I’m glad the option is there.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Marriage is a social contract between people concerning primarily their sexual and romantic lives (not necessarily monogamous), but usually also some economic and support issues as well (e.g. “through good times and bad”). They’re not necessarily for-life contracts, but that’s pretty common.

filmfann's avatar

Those words “For better or for worse” really do mean something.
I am not saying to stay married regardless of how unhappy you are, I am saying people treat marriage too lightly.
It is supposed to be for the rest of your lives.

Coloma's avatar


Brilliant and so true! Yep, I did the same…gah, what our fucked up belief systems do to us.
I always say that learning is EASY, it is the UN-learning that takes work.
I have been divorced for 8.5 years from a 22 yr. marriage that should have gine belly up around year 8, tops! haha
Man, if I had put the same effort solely into myself as I did to limp that lame marital horse along until it was in such a state of crippledom that the only humane option was to call the rendering plant for a swift dispatch…jesus..I’d have 5 best sellers, about 7 advanced degrees and at least a few million in the bank.

Now I use my affirmative action and enthusiasm in areas that actually make a difference in the quality of my life. haha

Schroedes13's avatar

I believe that marriage is a promise to be there for your other half for the rest of your life. I also believe in an extremely long dating process. I would never marry someone who I hadn’t dated for a least 4–5 years. I think that many marriages today are being damaged by the fact that some couples are getting married far too soon. They are left wondering why the person they married isn’t the person they were dating. The problem was that they hadn’t dated them long enough to truly come to know the other. That is just my opinion, it may be jaded and skewed, but it’s all I have.

linguaphile's avatar

@Coloma I am SO going to take that whole phrase “if I had…. bank.” and put it in my journal. It makes me laugh every time I read it!

@Schroedes13 I did everything “right” before I got married. Long courtship, waited until I was 28, were friends first, my family and friends liked him, so I thought I chose wisely. There ain’t no guarantees.

Schroedes13's avatar

@linguaphile I never meant to show judgment on you. Sorry if it seemed that way.

linguaphile's avatar

@Schroedes13 No, no, I didn’t take it that way at all, just wanted to offer a different POV… :)

Schroedes13's avatar

@linguaphile Ok, just wanted to make sure. That’s my opinion is all.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

While we are offering different POVs, though I agree with what @Schroedes13 said, I was only dating my husband for 2 months before we were engaged, and that was 7 years ago. The whole scenario was way out of character for me. I don’t think there is a simple formula to make every marriage work…. but the guidelines can be helpful.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Sweet holy moly, a marriage is made to last forever. Sadly many do not, not because marriage is flawed, it fails do to pilot error.

Why do some marriages grow stronger and stronger where they celebrate 20, 30, 50yrs of bliss and other fall apart after barely 18 months? A marriage is like anything else, if you do not tend to it, it will wither and die or get choked out by weeds. A marriage has to be maintained just like a car, lawn, horse, etc. The key to how well that maintenance was conducted, comes down to how well the couple can communicate. If you have people who just ”grow apart” is because when their marriage garden started to die or get run over with weeds, they didn’t care, and allowed it to degrade.

The lack of communication is the catalyst to abuse, cheating, bickering, fighting, etc. The construct of marriage is great if you have people who are dedicated to follow its fairly simple principals. When people can’t, and many cannot, the marriage goes down like the Titanic, slow, but is for sure sinks.

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