The Unfair Secret Trick to Staying Married

I have a friend who’s in the midst of a separation from her husband. I don’t know the whole story, and I don’t know where things will go, but it doesn’t sound good. It soundsterrible, in fact, a nightmarish situation made even worse by the fact that they have young children together.

There was a time when I would hear about someone’s divorce and I’d feel sorry for what they were going through, yet completely secure in the fact that I would never be facing a similar situation. It was a little like reading about a parachute accident: That’s awful! Thank god I don’t jump out of planes.

I don’t really feel that way anymore. Lately, I’ve started feeling more and more like a marriage that doesn’t end in divorce is as much about luck as is it about perseverance.

It’s not that I think my marriage is in trouble — if anything, it seems like we’re stronger than ever. We’ve weathered so many storms, pushed each other down and picked each other up so many times, seen each other through good times and awful times, it’s as though we’ve formed scar tissue that works in tandem with our love and friendship to bind us together.

(Is that horribly unromantic and maybe also a little disgusting? The idea of being united by unsightly keloid nodules? It’s possible I chose a bad metaphor, here.)

Still, the older I get, the more and more more couples around me are falling apart. Forty to fifty percent of marriages will end in divorce, they say, and that seems to be running close to my anecdotal experience. I know it’s far more than a numbers game, but it’s almost how it feels: like we’re all on some great spinning blackjack wheel. Red or black, go or stay, sorry, you lose.

That’s not to say that I don’t think we have any control over our destiny. We do, of course: we say our vows, and we have the choice to abide by them or not. But it can take so much to walk a road together for years and years, through all the changes and divergences that take place. I’ve often thought about the complicated series of events — of the sheer luck! — that led me into my marriage and to where I am now. And how there’s always this equally complex, unknown future ahead of us.

Maybe a marriage is sometimes about not experiencing things. Maybe it’s about those moments that lead to big changes – the butterfly’s wings that don’t flap, the storm that never takes place. The job that was never lost, the child who never got sick, the house that never went into foreclosure, the happy hour beer that never happened with that attractive coworker at a particularly vulnerable time.

Maybe the trick is that it’s about luck. Maybe it’s about being strong enough, dedicated enough, flexible enough … but most of all, lucky enough to make it.

I don’t know, really. All I do know is that these days, the news of a friend’s divorce is the whistle of blade passing overhead. It makes me sympathetic for what they’re going through, and it makes me want to gather my family tight and bare my teeth against the idea of losing what I love so much. There but for the grace of God, I’d say, if I believed in a god who controlled such things.

We will be together forever, is what I believe. But I bet that’s what almost everyone believes.


Do you ever worry about divorce?

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