Cited as one of the major causes of divorce is ignorance about marriage. In no other arena (except parenting) is anyone rushed or encouraged to enter without full disclosure of the responsibilities, dangers and benefits. Why then do couples rush to the altar?
What did you expect?
Newlyweds who do not make it to the fifth anniversary are the most disillusioned of all divorcees. They have a laundry list of expectations which were not met. When asked where they got the information to make the expectations, the answers were almost identical:
I wanted something better than what my parents had.”
Listed amongst the some of the things expected were the following:
- Unconditional support of ideas, ventures and pursuit of happiness
- Freedom from disagreement
- Automatic fulfillment
- No judgment
On the surface, a few of these are ideals of marriage. As with all else, the devil is in the details.
Vote for me!
Unconditional love and unconditional support are two entirely different things. Loving Mate without requirement is the cornerstone of marriage. Marriage without love is a business arrangement.
Unconditional support is an elephant of another color. What the divorcees admitted they sought were:
- Financial backing for business ventures: “It was my idea. Why not support it?” In the face of professional financial and business advice, support is not unconditional.
- Political support: “I feel strongly about this. My spouse should, too.” Differing opinions on the political spectrum can be overcome by compromise or the agreement to disagree.
- Leisure activities: “Golf is amazing. Why do I have to do it alone?” Unless you met Mate on the course/court/field, your sport may not be a palatable cup of tea.
- Ambition: “All I wanted was to be the committee chair. Why is that so wrong?” It may not be, unless it takes time away from your family.
- Projects: “I know my book would sell. Is it so tough to say yes?” If you cannot write a decent love letter, maybe.
These are just a few examples of the blind support Mates sought in marriage. They failed to realize marriage does not erase the obstacles presented in life. It does not remove risks. It does not forgive the activities which detract attention from its success.
Self-defeating, ill-advised and reckless behavior should not be endorsed by anyone, especially Mate. If mate is not endorsing you, ask why. Do not listen to the answer as an injured party. Instead, listen to the advice the way you would from your best friend, who you trust to tell you before you do something completely stupid. Is Mate your best friend?
You and Mate are not the same person. To think you would agree on every matter is uninformed. Marriage does not remove differences in perspective or opinion. One of the things which can lead to marriage is a pervasive agreement on myriad topics. While commonality is expected and encouraged, in the differences grow understanding, tolerance and patience.
It is unreasonable to expect Mate to agree with every idea, ideal, flavor, style and desire. Mate has a completely different set of experiences than you. With tact and grace, approach those differences as a learning experience for yourself and as a couple. Mates complement one another, but are not the duplicates of the same person, ideals or beliefs.
What do you mean you did not do it?
Take out the trash, clean the bathroom, wash the dog, load the dishwasher…All of the mundane things in every household has been cited as a point of contention. You expect Mate to know certain things need to be done…and you expect Mate to do them.
Did you discuss with Mate it needed to be done? Did Mate agree to do it? Did Mate fail to do it? Yes to all three questions? Your expectation was, indeed, not met.
If you answered No, Mate did not fail to meet your expectations. You failed to set an expectation. Some couples claim to have a bond likened to mental telepathy. Even in those couples, it is not the best vehicle for communication. You have no right to be disappointed something was not completed according to your idea of what should happen until you share the expectation with Mate.
I am going by myself.
This concept is different from both the unconditional support and loneliness issues. The lack of companionship here is the setting of an unreasonable expectation to be joined at the hip.
During the courtship, most couples feel as though they could not possibly spend enough time with each other. The longing during separations punctuates this claim. Some newlyweds assume marriage will license them to all of Mate’s available time spent away from the job. Therein lies the problem.
Every marriage needs time the spouses spend together, away from others. Every Mate needs time to spend alone, with ancestral and extended family and with friends. Mates who spend every waking moment together run a greater risk of burning each other out and up. Proportionally, the more time you spend with anyone, the sooner you will discover the conflicts between your opinions and beliefs.
The Mate who needs the time alone is not always the Leaver. One who feels the need to spend 24 hours per day together has set an unreasonable expectation on Mate’s time. Being a unit does not mean the Mates should not act independently.
Don’t judge me!
Every action is judged. Call it feasibility, responsibility or common sense. Everything you do is judged on its merits. Marriage is no different. When actions are questionable, Mate should not be obligated to endorse bad behavior strictly based on a marriage license.
When Mate disagrees with an action, it does need to be addressed with respect. Rather than saying You are so stupid, Mate should approach the action with something along the lines of I do not think that may have been the best choice.
Mate is not (more accurately…should not be) judging you as a person when questioning the reasoning behind decisions, especially those made without consultation.
- No, not all actions need Mate’s pre-approval.
- No, not all actions should be submitted for Mate’s permission.
- No, not all decisions are Mate’s to make.
However, all actions and decisions ultimately have consequences which impact the marriage. If you will not be consulting Mate prior to action, consider carefully the ramifications on your marriage and Mate. Some decisions bear consequences which are unforgivable.
What are some of the simple solutions which can nullify these reasons for divorce? Have you encountered unreasonable expectations? Were they your own or did Mate expect something unreasonable?
© Red Dwyer 2012
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