Anyone who knows me well knows I hate divorce. It is the single largest factor in women and children living in poverty, and creates terrible emotional problems for children and families. And then there is a Biblical imperative to stay together if at all possible. Although the 3 “A”s (adultery, alcoholism and abuse) are acceptable reasons for divorce (IMHO), they do not automatically require it, and I am a strong advocate for working through any and all of them if at all possible.
But then there are pros and cons to long-term relationships.
The cons include the obvious – knowing each too well (a lack of “mystery” or boredom,) little irritations growing into big ones over the years, continual fussing over stupid stuff, realizing after the kids leave home that you’ve grown in different directions. Once we get into “old age” you can add to that lack of attraction due to the ravages of time on the body. Although they seem small individually, when piled on top of each other, they can provide compelling reasons for splitting up. Add to that an attraction to someone else (or more than one else!) and the idea of leaving can sound like a really good idea.
In the throes of marital problems, it can sometimes be hard to come up with compelling reasons to stay.
Mr. Tattered and I have had our share of difficulties, as all long term marriages do, but our home was never a total battleground, so that was helpful. If you’ve truly grown to despise each others and the battles spill over into effecting the kid’s sense of safety and well-being, staying together can exact a pretty large toll on the whole family, and staying together might not be a good choice.
Fortunately, we never reached that point, so we powered through our troubles, and have come appreciate the benefits of having been together for so long.
For one, we never had to divide the assets and start all over. That has helped enormously from a financial standpoint.
More importantly, we have reaped the benefit of a lifetime of shared memories – graduations, marriages, the birth of grandchildren. Our children never had to choose which parent to see on all the special occasions of life. The scrapbooks are sources of joy, not reminders of what went wrong.
But recently, I’ve been reminded of the most important reason yet for being glad we stayed together, and that is helping each other through the trials of aging. We’re just not spring chickens any more.
Mr. Tattered recently had surgery that is requiring extra care in his recovery. I was there with him in the hospital for the two nights he was there, sleeping on a futon in his room, able to back up the nurses in seeing to his needs, and acting as his advocate when he was unable to do it for himself. It was good to have an extra set of ears and eyes making sure everything was going as it should. I shudder to think what he would have done had he not had me there with him. The experience would certainly not have been as successful.
Now that we’re home, he has me to lean on, and although he doing a very good job of doing all he can for himself, it would have been much harder if I were not here. How many people have someone other than a long-term spouse who would gladly help with performing all those little tasks you don’t necessarily want anyone else to be a part of?
He’s been concerned about being a burden to me, and it was with tears in my eyes I was able to tell him that I thought this was one of the reasons why our fighting to stay together was so worth it. I’m not finding it to be a chore at all to care for him. I am not annoyed, or irritated or resentful in any way. I find it to be an honor to be able to make his recovery a little less uncomfortable and/or embarrassing. And it is reassuring to me to know that if our positions were reversed he would do the same for me.
So, if you’re in the midst of a trying marriage, and wondering if the work necessary to keep it together is worth it, try to think ahead to old age. Try to imagine yourself alone, or with someone who already has their own baggage from a previous relationship, and see if there isn’t some way of staying with the one “who brung ya.”
The “how in the world to do it” is a whole ‘nuther post, but I’m here to tell you, the rewards for all the years of hard work can be sooooooooo worth it.