On Being Married and/or Being Happy

https://www.flickr.com/photos/wordridden/You would think I would have learned by now. That wading into any discussion about marriage and divorce will usually result in a spike in my blood pressure and my left eye twitching. And yet, yet again, I did it.

The question this time was on age at marriage. The questioner was looking for stories of young brides and grooms, and how that worked out for them.  As you can imagine, this is split pretty evenly down the middle – people who married young, responding that they are still married and people who married young, responding that they are not. (The cynic in me sometimes looks at all the “Still going strong!” people and quietly mutters “For now.” That cynic is a real bitch. She needs to simmer down.)

Of course, I’m of the latter. I was married ten days before my 22nd birthday, and celebrated my 30th birthday single. This is a good thing, I often find myself assuring people, who want to pet me and extend condolences. Divorce gave both my ex and I the space to be better humans.

However, back to the case in point. In these discussions, every time, there will come along someone who says that marriages don’t fail because of X factor, they fail because people just aren’t committed enough to the institution of marriage.  (And let’s set aside for now that marriages fail because of a myriad of factors, all unique to the couple in question.)

Today, I realized something.

I wasn’t.

I wasn’t as committed to my marriage, as I was to myself. 

My marriage had, for a long time, been the be all and end all in my life, to my detriment. And when I started the shift, towards committing to myself, my happiness, and my wellbeing, I realized that my marriage was a piece of the puzzle that just didn’t fit anymore.

And I realized something else – that being committed to ourselves first would probably lead us to far more happy, successful marriages. I was completely enamoured with the idea that my marriage was going to make me happy. That love was going to make me happy. That all I really needed in this life was someone to love me, and everything would be fine. And on the flip slide, that my love would make my husband happy. That our marriage would be our path to happiness.

And I was wrong. So very, very wrong.

Because happiness comes from within. We can’t actually make anyone else happy. They have to do it themselves. They have to make the choice for happiness. And if you’re unhappy, no amount of someone else around trying to force it on you is going to work. When your marriage is where all your focus lies, what is left of you? And if it’s not going well, does that mean nothing is going well? Or does it mean just that bit isn’t going well for now? Certainly if you’ve chosen to commit 100% of yourself to your marriage and only your marriage, those natural bumps in the road will feel more like mountains and cliffs. Because what else is there, if you’ve put your relationship first?

My heart breaks when I meet people who are desperately unhappy, but who have decided that being married is more important than happiness. I wonder what would happen to them if they decided to commit, wholly, and first, to their wellbeing, their happiness and themselves. What person would they then bring to their marriage? She would probably be more open and willing to be vulnerable. She would probably smile more. She would probably be ready to tackle the things in the marriage that weren’t working with renewed vigour. And yes sometimes, she might even find the inner strength to realize that her marriage is not working for her any more and that it’s time to go.

There’s a lot to be said for knowing when it’s time to go. You shouldn’t have to choose between marriage or happiness. You should get to have both, but if you can’t have both, choosing happiness works every time. And this doesn’t mean that in choosing to commit to yourself first, you do it to the exclusion of all those around you. You just remember that in order for you to be the best you possible, you have to choose the things that lead to your happiness, rather than foregoing yours for theirs.

I’m the last person to be giving our marriage advice, having only managed to make mine last for six and a half years, though in those six and a half years, we really did try. This instead is just my own personal advice. I’ll repeat it over and over again:

Choose yourself. Choose happiness. The rest will fall into place exactly as it should be. I promise.

Photo by Jessica Spengler via Creative Commons

Stephanie Ostermann

I’m the sort of girl who you meet for coffee and end up pouring your entire heart out to. The friend you come to when you need someone to call it straight. No bullshit. No extras. Just truth.

I’m a communicator. That’s a PC way of saying I like to talk, but I also spend a lot of my time listening, and over the years, I’ve developed a sense for subtext – how one or two words can change your entire message, what people are really trying to say and how to weave the varied layers of your story into one cohesive brand message that your clients fall in love with.

When I'm not acting as editor in chief for Vivid & Brave, you can find me geeking out over words here.

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