We tend to idolize marriages that last. And because it is so uncommon now, we want to know how they did it. How did they know? We want to know if they were always happy. Did they ever question the relationship? These are good questions. And staying with one person for 30/40 years is a remarkable achievement that should be revered, but it doesn’t make the opposite a failure.
Think of it this way: if you started your career with company ABC, and worked there for five years, and then decided to join company 123 – would you consider your five years with ABC to be a failure? Typically, no.
What if you trained as a long-distance runner for 10 years and then decided that you’d like to focus on rock climbing instead – would you consider your ten years of running a failure? Typically, no.
What about a friendship that lasted all through university and into your early 30s, at which point life choices resulted in the friendship drifting apart – would you consider that friendship a failure? I hope not.
So why do we consider divorce a failure? Why do we feel ashamed that we couldn’t make it work? There is no reason to stay in a relationship that doesn’t work. It’s not been proven to be better for the kids and it’s certainly not better for the partners. Sometimes it’s broken and we can’t fix it. Instead, sometimes, we need to let it go.
I don’t want to take marriage lightly. I think if you make that commitment, you should work towards keeping it. I was married. I worked towards staying married. But it didn’t work, and at first, I felt like a failure. I spent too much time trying to figure out what I could have done better. Asking myself if I tried hard enough. Asking myself if I should have stuck it out. Reminding myself where I went wrong. And generally punishing myself for my failed marriage.
Almost four years later, after many hours of self-reflection and shared perspectives, I view my marriage as a wonderful, challenging time in my life. I know more about myself now than I did before I said I do. It wasn’t perfect, but I wouldn’t change a day of it. And I no longer consider it a failure.
I have mourned the loss of the relationship that I thought we would have. I have forgiven the mistakes we made. No, it didn’t work out. But we tried. And trying will always be a win in my books. I choose to learn from the mistakes we made, cherish the memories we made and celebrate the opportunity to make better choices in the future.