Most marriages should end in divorce. We should plan accordingly. It’ll make our lives so much better.
Even when standing at the altar, assume marriage isn’t for eternity. Instead, assume someday you might want out. And not just you. That person standing beside you might want out, too.
In that world, we’ll have happier marriages with honest communication and expectations. We’ll have happier divorces, as well. No failure. No gloom. Just a normal, expected outcome.
Half of all marriages end in divorce
In our modern world, half of all marriages end in divorce. We know that. We know divorced people, and we couldn’t care less. Do we go around shaming people for thinking about divorce? Do we ostracize people who are divorced? Do we worry a divorcing friend is going to Hell?
Still, we have a hard time embracing that “’Til death do us part” is a Santa Claus fantasy for grownups—and often a harmful one.
If we can admit that marriage is rarely forever, we’ll save so many people from stress, anguish, and the guilt-ridden and shame-inducing delusion that divorce is a failure. It’s not. It’s typical.
Remove the pressure
We’re not saying that happy couples should break up. If you find a soulmate for life, congrats. But if you’re an average human and don’t (or can admit you probably won’t) find that forever love, then get rid of the pressure to remain content with just one partner your whole life.
This is not cold or unromantic. We genuinely love our partners when we say, “I do.” Many of us still love them when it’s time for divorce. Just not in the same way.
Or maybe we don’t love them anymore. That’s not an indictable offense. These are normal life changes, not crimes or sins. They’re no reason to turn feelings of guilt and shame into fire aimed at a partner.
On the contrary, the commonality and inevitability of such life changes is reason to keep breakups amicable, fair, and even loving.
No value judgments
This blog is not making a moral or value judgment on the sanctity of marriage, the importance of commitment, or the necessity to continuously work on a relationship.
Rather, it’s aimed at providing a common-sense answer to a common-sense question: Should marriage be expected to continue forever?
Forever is a long time. If you get hitched at, say, 30, and you live to 80, that’s 50 years.
How many relationships—how many anythings—last 50 years? How many business partnerships last 50 years? How many people live in the same house for 50 years? The same city? How many close friends stay close for 50 years?
The need for honesty and compassion
Sure, most people consider marriage more important and sacred than a business partnership. That’s even more reason to view marriage with deep honesty and compassion.
If something is really sacred, why lie to ourselves about it? The truth remains: Even happy, successful marriages with couples who collaborate, forgive, and recommit may not remain content for 50 years.
And that’s OK. Successful or otherwise, marriages should end successfully. Often, they do.
We’ve see examples of famed “conscious uncouplings” like that of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin. We’ve also seen everyday folks who quietly and amicably move on, even with children. Kids today are surrounded by divorce. Their social networks are filled with single parents and children of divorce. It’s normal to them. Of course kids are unhappy if Mom and Dad break up, but if handled properly, they’re not shocked, scandalized, or scarred.
An old ideal
Forever is a nearly unattainable objective born of bygone eras when marriages were business deals brokered for merging families, finances, or bloodlines—or when “’Til death do us part” was a much briefer journey.
Back then, people in their fifties and sixties slowed down and retired from energetic activity, sitting back in rocking chairs waiting for the undertaker.
Happily, those days are gone. We’re going to live to be 80, 90, or 100 with active brains and bodies pretty much to the end, if we’re lucky. We should be free to pursue happiness throughout our long, healthy lives.
That often means allowing ourselves to start over.
A long life should be full of fresh beginnings. Second, third, and fourth chances. It should be unconstrained by antiquated notions of lifetime contracts.
It’s OK to want that. It’s OK to go for it.
Still, even in modernity, we tell ourselves that divorce is a failure or that it needs to be a war.
But why should we judge our lives based on criteria created eons ago by people who thought the sun revolved around the Earth?
Let’s get real
We can hope marriages last forever, but we should know they usually don’t.
We’re messy humans. That’s just who we are. And pretending otherwise can do more harm than good.
In today’s world, “’Til death do us part” may be the dumbest oath ever. Let’s stop saying it.
This post originally appeared on Fatherly. Reposted with permission from the author.