Don't marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think you can't live without. ~James C. Dobson
I just got back from a trip to New Mexico to visit my brother and his family. My brother, I'm happy to say, is really a good guy. He married young. Had two sons with his first wife. Was divorced, then a few years later, married again and has been happily married now for almost 13 years. The operative word there being happily.
I don’t get down to New Mexico to visit very often, but when I do, I’m always so happy and relieved to see my Big Bro with his second wife, JM. I think this is because he was so very unhappy in his first marriage - I think it almost broke him. Although with the childhood we had, I think he may have already been a little broken – we both were. But since he married JM, he’s gone through a change. I don’t know if it is a change that everybody would notice, but I see it as profound. Big Bro was never what you would call an extrovert, but each time I see him (every three or four years) he is easier and more open with people and seems generally more content with himself. Not that everything has been just peachy-dandy with Big Bro and JM. They have certainly had challenges with raising the boys from marriage #1 and with not just one but two Army tours in the Middle East for Big Bro, having to close his self-run business while serving those tours and then trying to build it again once he’s back. And then to top it off, some serious health challenges with their new baby girl. So it hasn’t all be easy for them, but it has, I think, been easy between them. JM has been so good for my brother and I think he is good for her. They admire each other and enjoy each other and rely on each other and in the end they are stronger because of each other – no matter the challenges they face. Marriage changes you I think. Both my brother’s marriages changed him. In his first marriage, he was on his way to becoming the worst version of himself. His second marriage is helping him to find his best self and whenever I see that in him, it almost makes me want to cry…in a good way.
This would be a longer blog than you’d ever want to read if I were to talk in detail about myself and my marriages. I’ve had two; one long that ended in divorce and one short that ended with the death of my husband. Both marriages changed me of course and I think I feel the lack of that now. Marriage gives you someone else to rub up against, and I don’t mean that in a sexual way…at least not in this particular blog. What I mean is that being married means there’s someone in your life that forces you to evaluate your behavior sometimes on a daily basis. In a good marriage, your rough edges are smoothed by that daily buffeting and, like my brother, you make changes for the better. It’s much easier to fall into selfish and self-centered behavior when you don’t have that daily reminder to look outside your own needs. There’s also something to be said about being yoked with someone else to pull your life along…or lives along if you are lucky enough to have a partner that will pull with you.
I know there’s a lot of people that lament the high divorce rate and argue that marriage shouldn’t be so disposable – that people should stick with it and fix it. Even though I am one of those lamentable statistics, I agree with that. I agree that marriage takes work, but I would argue that sometimes there isn’t enough viable material to work with. I see evidence around me every day of what a blessing marriage can be in people’s lives. It’s exactly those examples of happily married friends and family that made staying in an unhappy marriage so difficult. I’ve never asked my ex-husband directly, but it seems to me that he is happier now with his wife #2. More importantly (to me at least) I think my boys see that he is happier as well and at the end of the day, I want them to be fully aware of what a happy marriage looks like – even if it’s not my own.
I don’t know if I’ll ever have the kind of marriage that my brother has. There are times when I still hope so. But I do know that I’m not willing to settle for a marriage that is less than what it could be…and what it should be.