Monday, March 12, 2012

Divorced from Responsibility

Words of "wisdom" from the Facebook universe:

"Would you board a plane that crashed 50% of the time?  No?  Then why do people get married if marriages fail 50% of the time?"

I know, right?  Because strapping yourself in an airplane -- where you have no control over anything that happens on the flight -- is exactly the same as getting married.  After all, you have absolutely no control over anything that happens in your marriage either. 

Did I get that right?  Well, according to the self-centered philosophies of the day, I did.

Honestly, how did we get to a place where couples refuse to take personal responsibility for the health of their relationships?  It seems like all you hear these days is "my husband wasn't meeting my needs", without even a nod to the fact that the wife wasn't meeting a fraction of her husband's needs.  And suddenly the marriage is being shrugged off as if it were a coat that has been outgrown.  Like Heidi Klum, for example, who recently separated from her husband after seven years of marriage on account of the fact that they have "grown apart".

Now, I don't pretend to understand all the issues that are going on in someone's marriage, but taking the former Mrs. Samuels at her word, I have to say, this is one heck of a lousy excuse.

*Files it away next to "It just happened" and "I just don't love him anymore".*

Here's the thing -- if you fell in love once, you can fall in love again.  If you find yourself in a relationship where you have "grown apart" you have a duty, especially when children are involved, to grow back together again.

Obviously there are times when a marriage isn't salvageable.  But these are the exception, not the rule.  "Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other" -- yes, a responsibility.  A solemn one.  Even when times are hard.  That means no treating your husband like garbage.  No talking badly about him behind his back (or in front of his back, for that matter).  And no berating him for the things he doesn't do instead of appreciating him for the things he does do.

As my wise mother once said, "It is not my job to make my husband perfect.  It is my job to make him happy."  And you can't do that when you are criticizing his every move.

Think about it:  Would you want to come home to you?

Of course there is responsibility on both sides, but getting married is not like hopping on a plane with fingers crossed and hoping luck will allow you to stay in the air.  In marriage you choose your co-pilot, you choose your actions and reactions, and you choose where you are going and whether you will enjoy the journey.  A happy marriage is a choice.

It's time we stop divorcing it from personal responsibility.


MyDonkeySix said...

Amen. It takes two to make or break a marriage. Marriage is not something that happens to you, you, um, kind of have to choose it. And marriage is so much more than just the fancy wedding. People are stupid.

Katie--the amazing one, not your other friend named Katie. She's amazing, too, but not the same Katie as me-- said...

I've thought about this before. How many parents divorce their children? Even their most obnoxious children.
What's the difference? Parents, like you've articulated so many times on your blog, spend every waking moment thinking about their kids. Like you posted recently, you can't even finish a shower without being forced to tend to the needs of your children. The difference between the relationship between parent and child and many relationships between spouses is that the parent sacrifices and serves constantly knowing full well the child won't reciprocate (because of their helplessness as infants and toddlers and again as teenagers). Yet, husbands/wives in general don't fill their days with as much service and sacrifice toward each other. Often, we get caught up thinking that he/she should reciprocate just as equally if he/she truly loves me. We pick up our kids clothes and clean up their messes but we freak out when a spouse leaves socks on the floor or lazily places his bowl in the sink instead of loading it into the dishwasher. We roll our eyes when a child forgets a common courtesy but erupt in anger when a spouse does the same thing.
Although I'm not yet married, I have had many roommates through the years. Fortunately, I learned early on that it takes far less energy to wash the dishes than hold out in anger until my roommate washes the dishes. It also creates a happier, cleaner environment that tends to perpetuate happiness and cleanliness.
The same principle applies to other cooperative efforts beyond household chores. We can serve thinking about what we expect in return. Or we can just serve contributing to the happiness of our homes.
Finally, I add a line from an Ensign article that I read years ago. The wife was angry about some difference in opinion with her husband. She received a very clear impression, "Would I rather be married or would I rather be right?"

Bonnie said...

Great thoughts, Katie! Thanks so much for sharing! I love the thought that parents would never divorce their children, even the most obnoxious ones. You're right - we serve our children because we love them, and we love them because we serve them. It should be the same with our spouses. I think a lot of it comes down to letting little things go and realizing there is no one true, holy way to the load the dishwasher, nor does it make someone a bad person if doing the dishes is not high on their priority list. Just do the dishes yourself, and like you said, let it contribute to a happier environment.

Thanks for commenting. You should speak up more often. :)

kws said...

Bonnie, do you have a list of every self-help marriage/family/kids book you've ever read? Because I want to read them all. Or maybe you could just write one yourself and I can read that. But in the meantime, really, I'd love to know your favorites.