How to Stay Positive about Marriage When Half of Marriages End in Divorce

Photos by nubuck via stock.xchng

(If you haven’t heard it yet, I did a podcast series on fears of marriage. Part I is fears. Part II is benefits.)

A while back, Nate and I were talking about how some people really desire marriage and some people, like ourselves, are really wary about the idea.

The concept is kinda silly if you think about it:

Take one flawed person primarily concerned with his needs and wants.

Add another flawed person primarily concerned with her needs and wants.

Ask them to think of the other person’s needs and not just their own and love the other flawed person unconditionally until one of them dies.


Not exactly the picture of marriage thrown at you every day on like, let’s say, The Bachelor.

Ladies, let’s move past the ficticious, glammed up illusion, also known as the wedding.

I think women tend to be more excited and more focused on the wedding… (one day) than the actual marriage (one lifetime).

Which is also silly.

What’s scary about marriage is this reality:

Most people go into it with the best intentions. and with the goal of keeping the promise “til death do us part.” And yet half of them end.

It’s like they innocently take the jump… but no one knows what really happens afterwards. Here I am, an unmarried woman looking at all the failed marriages around me… and it feels like these people get sucked into this vortex that no outsiders can get access to unless they take the leap themselves…

Is any of this making sense?

So enough of the negative stuff. Onto the positive stuff…

Nate and I were talking about how the great thing is that marriage involves two people with the freedom of choice.

Marriage doesn’t just fall apart without choices made by two individuals.

A failed marriage isn’t something that happens to a couple. It’s something they decide. Not in one grand moment of course.

No one wakes up and says “Hmmm, I think I want a failed marriage today. Yeah, yeah, that’s what I’ll have.”

Rather I think it’s the failure to translate from you and me to us. That kind of “oneness” I think is essential. It forces each person to think about their choices in terms of how those choices affect them as a unit, not individually.

Otherwise, it’s too easy to put your own needs above that of the other person. Maybe I’m way off base, since like I said, I’m not in the vortex, but I believe that a failed marriage is the result of a build up of choices to prioritize the needs of self over the needs of the unit or the other person.

Find me one failed marriage that didn’t end because of this reason (for one or both parties) and I’ll change my theory:)

So the positive note is that because marriage and failed marriages involve choices, every couple has the choice to keep going. You can’t control the other person, but you can do everything in your power to meet that other person’s needs and love them with all you’ve got.

Your marriage doesn’t have to be another statistic…

Because of the power of choice.
Because you can choose to nurture that unit you’ve created.

Because you can say this:

“It’s us now. We can make this anything we want.”

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I love thinking about the intricacies of dating, love and life. I share my tiny lessons in the hope that it helps you as you navigate the dating world.

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  1. Dave

    I think you make a good point Midori but prioritizing isn’t always the reason. Some people are just not meant to spend their lives together. They get caught up in the chemistry, newness and romance, and rush into marriage looking for the dream and realize a few years later that their husband or wife isn’t right for them. It’s not about priorities but rather interests, goals, values, and such. There’s also the issue of people legitimately growing apart. We all change over the course of our lives and it’s not necessarily a conscious choice. One example is a buddy of mine who was my best friend in school, but over the years things have faded and now it seems like we keep in touch out of habit. Nobody’s fault, just the way it goes.

    Made me think though, so good post!

  2. MidoriLei

    Thanks for your input Dave. We can agree to disagree. I don’t believe that people marry the “wrong person.” I believe that by marrying someone you have made them your ” meant to be.” Even if they rush into marriage and get caught up in the chemistry, newness and romance, I don’t think that differing interests, goals, values and such are enough reason to divorce. That’s like saying I can’t be roommates with someone because we don’t share those things. Obviously it’s not exactly the same thing but I’m just speaking of love– that true love is looking for the interests of the other person, regardless of your differences. YOu might not share similar interests, but love makes sacrifices. You engage in the things your partner loves and you engage in the activities they like. You may not share similar goals, but you support each other in your perspective dreams. Values, that’s a tougher one… but I’d like to believe that love is about accepting your partner unconditionally, even when their values differ from yours.

    And people legitimately growing apart? Even if it isn’t a conscious choice, it’s still a issue of prioritizing. Even with all the changes we go through in our lifetime, we can still decide through our daily actions whether or not we want to prioritize the relationships we are in. The example of you and your friend, the friendship faded because both parties didn’t communicate. Basically, you prioritized newer relationships in the place of that one over the course of the years. So to me, it’s still an issue of prorities. Not saying it was wrong for you to let that friendship go to the wayside, but marriage should be different, especially since you’ve committed to love each other til death. With your friendship there were no promises made.

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  4. Dave

    I kinda see your point Midori but I’m still not convinced that it’s about conscious prioritization(is that a word?). I haven’t had a relationship with anyone in my life that’s stayed static, not with my parents, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, girlfriends, you name it. It’s not because of consciously or unconsciously prioritizing them, but rather that every one of us is continuously growing and changing over the course of our lives. If you love someone then you try to grow together but that’s not always the way it works. Even married people spend a lot of time apart, at work or with other kids’ parents, and as they form these new relationships and have new experiences they change. So when you say it’s an issue of prioritizing the married then sure, if you’re absolutely committed to the idea of marriage then you can stay with it. But that’s not necessarily a recipe for a fulfilling marriage or happiness.

  5. MidoriLei

    I guess I do fall under that category; I’m absolutely commited to the idea of marriage as something that creates a union where two people become one. I guess that’s why I don’t take it lightly. I’m more committed to that union than having happiness or a fulfillment through that marriage. I know that’s probably a strange concept. I wouldn’t divorce unless there was adultery or abuse. But I do hope that prioritizing a marriage would contribute to a happy or fulfilling marriage…

  6. Dave

    That’s definitely a little surprising to me, unless there are kids involved, I’m all for sticking it out for their sake. But if it’s just two people who aren’t happy, why the persistence?

  7. MidoriLei

    Well Dave, my Christian background has something to do with it, but also the statistics show something very revealing:

    According to enrichment journal on the divorce rate in America:
    The divorce rate in America for first marriage is 41%
    The divorce rate in America for second marriage is 60%
    The divorce rate in America for third marriage is 73%

    Basically, if I’m looking to make a marriage work, the answer isn’t finding another person. According to the statistics, it only gets harder after the first marriage.

    My boss makes a good point. When we leave a person, we want to find someone who doesn’t have the faults of that person. What we fail to realize is when we move on to someone else, we actually want the new person to have all the good traits of the person we left, minus the bad traits. But we won’t find that in the new person. The new person might not have some of the bad traits but they also won’t have all the good traits either. We’ll never find someone who has it all. So why not just try to make it work with the person you committed yourself to forever?

    Or like she says,

    “I’d rather have the good that I know than what I don’t know because how do I know what I don’t know is going to be good?”

  8. Dave

    Statistics are interesting, but they rarely tell the whole story. The 10% of the population that are serial cheaters, have emotional problems, etc will always skew the stats you posted as will the people who aren’t happy but are staying together for kids, financial reasons, etc. But I’m not really interested in raw numbers, I’m more curious about whether two people without children should stay together if they’re not happy. Is it marriage for marriage’s sake? Having kids?

  9. Dave

    btw, I completely agree with you that the “grass is always greener” mentality is the source of many relationship problems.

  10. MidoriLei

    I just don’t think that people should make a promise “to love forever” and break it. I mean, they could just cohabitate if they aren’t sure they want to do that. Not a fan of that either but at least it doesn’t make light of a covenant under God.

  11. Dave

    Got it, thanks!

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