I’d Rather Have Coffee.

cup of tea

Sometimes, marriage is not your cup of tea. Or to be far more specific, marriage to Mate is not your cup of tea. Three big contributors to the souring of the leaves make staying married a chore at best and impossible at the worst.

Blood in, Blood out

Some marriages are not about two mates… they are about whole clans. If you are not keen on sleeping in (or living in) a dog pile, marriage gets really old really fast.

Accepted as a nearly impassable truism: You are going to have a mother-in-law. Yes, there are notable exceptions, but even when the MIL is not part of the deal, her understudy is quick to snatch the script.

When you have other people interfering in your marriage, there is poison on the honey stick. Marriage is enough work with only Mate to contend with, but when you add a troupe of others to the mix, it becomes a marathon in concrete shoes.

Mate respects family (and if not, it is a red flag). When family comes to call, Mate should defer to you rather than (mother, brother, cousin). Mate’s union to you replaced the union to the family in terms of immediacy. You are now Mate’s next of kin, not them. When Mate fails to honor this, turmoil is soon to follow.


Give it. Earn it.


Marriage without respect is worthless. Self-respect is a requirement to committing to marriage, but spousal respect is a requirement to the longevity of marriage. When Mate is taking sides and not yours, stop the train.

In order to show respect, you and Mate must stand up to (parents, family, friends) on topics such as:

  • Judgment on past actions
  • Meddling
  • Intentional disruption
  • Different ideology or beliefs
  • Age difference
  • Race, ethnicity or nationality

Standing up applies to both of you. You are a unit. If someone is disrespecting you, stand up for yourself. If someone is disrespecting Mate, stand up for Mate. In both cases, you should be standing together. (Holding hands is optional, but a bonus.)

Your Last Chance

choice a or b

Pick only one.

Do not be afraid to play the ultimatum card.

I chose Mate because my happiness is what is important to us both. If you cannot be happy for me and Mate and appreciate how terrific Mate makes me feel, then you do not have my best interest at heart. I am willing to forgo our relationship in favor of spending my life with Mate, who is not only interested in, but also committed to, my happiness.”

Your marriage is worth defending against others who are not a party to it. Be brave and tell those who interfere This is none of your business.


Divorce filings cite incompatibility as irreconcilable differences. The papers should more appropriately read lack of forethought and effort. No one can say all differences can be settled. On the other hand, many of them can.

Before differences can be deemed irreconcilable, mates must attempt to reconcile them. You cannot honestly say they are bigger than your commitment to marriage until you decide how important your opinion is and how important marriage is.

Did you know?

Does Mate have an opinion which is a complete shock to you? Why? Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Telling you what you should have done before you walked down the aisle is a day late and a dollar short, but it can show you how to bridge the gap or cut the rope.

Is this the canyon between you?

  • children/discipline
  • career aspirations
  • retirement
  • housework
  • finances/money
  • charity
  • sex
  • alcohol/drugs
  • marital assets
  • pornography

Even though this list is not exhaustive, it does contain the most common incompatibility claims. Divorce does not have to be the only solution. Can you and Mate sit down and talk about it? Can both you and Mate compromise? Are they really irreconcilable?

My Way or The Highway

One of the differences which is not nearly as easily worked out is a discrepancy in a belief system. Often, these cannot be easily work out the way differences of opinion can.

Before you can scrap the marriage, you have to know what you believe. Surely, you can agree on things like science. (The Earth is round. Gravity is a law.) Intangibles are not so easy. Systems are even tougher.

A belief system is a group of related beliefs upon which behavior is based. It is more than a simple belief in one (ideal, definition, fact), but a multifaceted web of beliefs.

  • Definitions of marriage, fidelity, commitment
  • Existence and treatment of/by a higher power
  • Religion
  • Humanitarianism

Each of you brought a belief system to the table. It was molded over time by your family, friends, life experiences and mistakes. It is unreasonable to ask Mate to change an underlying belief system overnight merely to stay (or get) married.

In the Blue Corner…

blue boxing gloves

In the blue corner…

Enter healthy argument. Argument gets a bad name from people who scream. In fact, argument is a a coherent series of statements leading from a premise to a conclusion. (Compliments of Merriam Webster.) Necessarily, this means mapping out your beliefs so they are plausible, not only to you but also to Mate.

This does not mean you have to scientifically prove your beliefs beyond all doubt, but you do need to bring Mate to a place where a leap of faith is not a ramp and a motorcycle on the west face of the Grand Canyon. (Hint: “Because my mother said so,” is not a valid argument. See “mother-in-law” above.)


Not all differences are worth battling to a knockout. Many are not worth one round. See if you can compromise before you begin the discussion. Beginning an argument with I am willing to grant you X… shows you value Mate enough to have thought about what the counter argument is and are willing to meet somewhere in the middle.

After 15 rounds, if you still have not arrived at a livable acre of middle ground, divorce may be the option you take. Marriage is work. It should be a battle of us against them, not you against Mate.

Abuse is not a difference: It is a crime. If you are in an abusive relationship, seek help from law enforcement, family, friends, clergy and/or the medical community.

Have you and Mate resolved some of the common differences? How do you conduct a healthy argument? Do you or Mate need lessons in healthy arguing?

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© Red Dwyer 2012
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