Mrs. Blue and I have had our moments over the years, as have all married couples. With the decline of income over the years and the addition of Little Girl Blue along with Son of Blue, pressures have been higher than ever and, I dare say, we’ve had more big arguments in the past four years than we did in the prior seven we were married and the two during which we dated.
There have been times I was certain my marriage was over. In truth, those feelings have never lasted very long. Both myself and Mrs. Blue love each other and despite the occasional animosity that happens in life, we are devoted to each other and committed to our marriage and family. That isn’t to say that things couldn’t break at some point, but we’ve fought for our relationship, and staying together has always been the choice.
This kind of thing is on my mind a lot in recent months, not so much because of any particular pressures in my own marriage, but in those of people whom I know online (no, not personal, real-life friends, but people I do feel a kinship for online). A while back, it was SocietyVs, author of the Losing My Religion blog, whose wife had cheated on him and left him for a time. The separation didn’t last terribly long, and last I heard, they were still working hard on the relationship and SocietyVs, far from wanting payback for marital infidelity, had used this as a chance to see where he’s gone wrong emotionally and otherwise in the relationship.
On the less positive end of the spectrum, one of my top three or four favorite bloggers of all time, Chez at Deus Ex Malcontent, seems to be at the end of his marriage, after recently bringing a child into the world. He’s posted very honestly, even brutally at times some might say, about the situation. Through it, he has been careful not to lay blame at his wife’s feet but also to make clear that separation or divorce aren’t his choices. They pulled their marriage back from the brink a couple years ago, I understand, but it doesn’t look good this time around.
It’s been long enough that I’ve forgotten most of the responses to SoceityVs when he was posting about his marital travails, so I don’t recall if people were giving him some of the party lines of either you must stay together and fight for your marriage or you must break up now because otherwise you will both hate each other eventually. I seem to recall most comments were in the supportive range and more neutral and useful in their advice.
So, too, comments for Chez have trended toward balance and logic, but there are those who have said things like:
- You must stay together for the good of the child
- You must break up or you will make life hell for the child
- It always takes TWO people to ruin a marriage
- So, which of you gave us first!
And so on. While not the most common of comments, some of those on the fringed ends of the spectrum infuriate me with their black-and-white approach.
All of that is a very long-winded introduction to what I think will be relatively brief marriage advice from me here to anyone whose marriage is on the rocks or seems to be.
You must be willing to fight.
But you must choose your battles carefully.
And you must be fighting a good fight.
Now, the tricky part is knowing which battles to pick and understanding whether you’re really fighting the good fight. To me, I think it is important that in deciding these things, one must take their own interests out of the equation if at all possible.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t look out for yourself, your sanity and your own interests. Such things are important, but they don’t always involve a “fight.”
What I am talking about is when you make choices like:
- Will I fight to keep this marriage together?
- Will I fight for custody of the child or children?
Those are the two biggest fights I can think of. There may be others, but those are the most primal, I think, and neither of them can be made properly if you are considering your own wants and needs.
So, to the first bullet point, which might generally be called fighting for something: Staying together only makes sense if the two of you truly both need and want each other. You must be useful to each other and supportive of each other, whether that support is active and overt or more subsoncsious and subtle. If you aren’t both bringing something invaluable and irreplaceable to the other, why be married? Why be together at all? And this is why you must start by considering what the other person needs before you factor in your needs.
The second bullet point is more of the theme fighting over something, and it, too, requires you to divorce yourself from you own desires. Especially in the case of children, are you fighting for them because they are best off with you, or because you simply want to hurt the other spouse? Scoring points with children is a godawful thing to do, and I personally like the idea of God striking people with a bolt of lightning for using kids as weapons in a relationship. When my parents divorced, they refused to put me in the middle of things, and I will always be grateful to them for that.
I think that those people who stay married “for the sake of the children” are not that different than people who fight for custody in a divorce, just the flip side of the same coin really, and special attention should be paid to whether it really is best for that child that the parents be together. It might be, but it also might be the worst choice you could make. So again, think of the children first before thinking of yourself, or yourselves as a marital unit.
Yes, marriages and custody and the like are often worth fighting for. But sometimes, the war is already lost by the time you realize you’re engaged in yet another battle. Sometimes, there is nothing left to fight for, or fight over, and you need to make sure you aren’t still in a conflict that you are no longer likely able to win.