a ‘Failed’ Marriage?

Although people use the phrase “failed marriage,” what they really mean is that the former spouses are failures. Society sees people who divorce as quitters. People who didn’t try or work hard enough. People who don’t understand what commitment and “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” means. People who put their own happiness and needs above those of their children (although not everyone who divorces has kids!).

But I struggle to wrap my head around that. Does it mean that a woman who leaves her hubby because he beats the crap out of her physically and emotionally has a failed marriage? Does it mean that a man whose wife up and leaves him for her lover, a choice he doesn’t even get to have a say in, has a failed marriage? Does that mean a wife or husband whose spouse refuses to go to counseling together — or do anything — to better their relationship has a failed marriage if it ends?

If every divorce is a “failed” marriage then by that same reasoning, a loveless, sexless, contemptuous and alcoholic marriage that lasts until one spouse kicks over would be a “successful” marriage (we won’t even mention how that would most likely screw up their kids for a long, long time). In actuality, it is only a successful commitment, and why would we place commitment above loving, honoring and cherishing?

Being able to stick it out forever at great cost to one’s emotional and physical well-being is hardly “success.”

Perhaps no one believes that more than William Pinsof, clinical psychologist and president of the Family Institute at Northwestern University who writes in “The Death of ‘Till Death Do Us Part: The Transformation of Pair-Bonding in the 20th Century”:

For the first time in human history, divorce has replaced death as the most common endpoint of marriage. This unprecedented shift in patterns of human coupling and uncoupling requires a new paradigm, that is, a more humane approach for social policy, family law, and marital therapy.

via Vicki Larson: Why We Shouldn’t See Divorce As a ‘Failed’ Marriage.


3 thoughts on “a ‘Failed’ Marriage?

  1. Some good points… my poor aunty stayed in a dreadful marriage because she had a son who needed 24-hour care… her marriage was a failure even though they stayed together.

    • I stayed in my second marriage for 15 years because of the kids; at least that’s what I told myself. The last 2 years I lived in a separate room on the first floor in constant angst, trying desperately to maintain and not doing a very good job of it. I know from experience that you should not stay in a marriage that is slowly consuming you. I also know that you get signs and intuition that things are dissolving way before it actually happens, but that the proposition of “failing” can lead you to hang on longer than is healthy for everyone concerned. As disappointing or even painful as divorce can be, hanging on past the ending point will only make it worse.

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