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Marriage – the difference it makes

April 10, 2011

Marriage is different from any other relationship you will ever be in.

First, marriage is a legal contract. That means it’s not easy to walk away from. You have to file paperwork. Complicated, expensive paperwork. And then you have to wait, and then file more paperwork. And then, if your paperwork was all correct, you’ll have a new legal document, ending your marriage. What other relationship is so complicated to get out of?

Second, and ultimately more important though, marriage is a commitment.

When I was seeking advice on a relationship forum and presented the way I’m being treated by my husband, 176 different people told me to get out as soon as I could, and never look back. 176 people told me that I deserved better. 176 people reminded me that I am complete, whole and capable of being happy – without him. One person made a comment that she always wondered, in cases like mine, what “divorce is never the answer” people would say in response to my question.

Here’s the thing – I’m one of those “divorce is never the answer” people.*

Shocking, right? This fact is a leading reason why this is so difficult for me. I do not want to give up on my marriage, and I do not want to give up on my husband. I am aware that if he remains unwilling to work at our relationship, or if he continues to see his mistress, I won’t have many options (and to be honest, the desire to work things out would dwindle from its current wavering-but-minimal state to nothing). This separation will have to turn into paperwork and become legal if that is the case.

But if he turns it around? If he gets counseling, if he stops seeing her, if he is willing to genuinely invest himself in us again… I would do my best to take him back and learn to trust him again, as hard as it would be.

I know that that doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. It doesn’t always make sense to me either. But ultimately I go back to the fact that I love him. I don’t love his behavior right now, and I don’t love that he was unfaithful to me (it’s unclear right now as to whether he has stopped seeing her or not). I don’t love that he’s being an idiot. But I do love him, I love the man beneath these actions. The man with whom I fell in love wouldn’t do these things, and I truly believe that he’s still in there, somewhere, confused as hell about what he’s feeling, and as a result, making dumb, selfish choices.

So for now I just have to wait, because he is stuck in limbo too, his own personal hell of indecision.

Will I wait forever? No. But it’s only been ten days. An incredibly long, sleepless, appetite-less ten days, but still, only ten days. There is no rush to file paperwork.

I made a commitment. I will stand by him through worse, through this mental sickness, through hard times, if he is willing to remain committed as well. I don’t take my marriage vows lightly, and I hope that when he comes to his senses, he won’t either.

*There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. In my opinion, every relationship has room for growth, and most have the potential to succeed. But there are cases, for example in instances of abuse or infidelity, that I don’t think are realistic for immediate success. Without one or both parties growing personally, the other (or rather, both of them, in most cases) will only get hurt, on many levels, and the danger of the relationship outweighs the potential, especially in light of how long it would usually take that couple to get to a healthy, functioning place. So while divorce is “never” the answer, separation is sometimes inevitable. I just wish it didn’t have to be.

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