Why Do We Marry Who We Marry?
In a world full of people who love us, we find the one that isn’t sure and then we marry them... (Me, February 2023).
Sound familiar? Feels familiar.
Over the last 27+ years of working in divorce, I have heard the following stories so many times, that they have just become THE divorce story...
“I knew she was wrong for me and that I didn’t love her, but I didn’t know how to let everyone down. I didn’t want to hurt anyone...”
“I wanted him to love me and I thought if I just loved him enough, he would eventually love me back...”
“We were young, and I thought it would get better over time...”
“It was time. I loved him/her and it was either break up or get married...wish I would have picked break up...”
All of the above leads me to believe that the reason the divorce rate is above 50% is that (at least likely more) at least half of the people getting married know on some level that they aren’t marrying the right person...
There are so many reasons:
Family of Origin issues
Pregnancy (yes people so still get married for that reason!)
Fear of disappointing people you love
In my experience, the number one reason people marry people who they KNOW are not the right person for them is because they are incapable of being honest with themselves...
I got engaged at 22. He was a great guy. He loved me. We had all the ingredients to have a happy life. But I was still in my disease, my alcoholism and its rapaciousness not yet burned into a full fledged conflagration!
And despite our living together, our good communication, our love for each other, the support of our family and friends, I didn’t love him like that. And I suppose I knew it all along. But I WANTED to love him like that. I WANTED him to be the right person. I WANTED to be done with dating. And I supposed on some level I needed him to save me from myself.
But I knew on some fundamental level, that seemed just beyond my grasp, he was not the guy for me. I was planning to talk about our issues on our honeymoon for Pete’s sake!
I was out drinking with a good friend one night, leaving the fiancé at home to take care of things that I was not...the wedding was a few weeks off. I was telling my friend that it would all be ok, that we would just get through the wedding and then we would go away together and it would all be ok.
We sat in his truck, on some dirt country road that led to a swamp, drinking Budweiser, listening to the alligators sound off when he turned to me and said:
“Erin, I think I have come to know you pretty well. And I hear you have this whole plan to make this work. But have you given any thought to how you are going to stand up in front of all those people and say ‘I do’ forever?”
No I had not.
And the seed was planted. He only exemplified what I already knew on some very base level to be my truth. I loved him. I cared for him. And I needed him. But I didn’t want him. He was not my person, and I fucking knew it.
Over the course of the next few weeks I embarked on some rather deplorable acts that ensured the end of this union. I cheated. I confessed with absolutely no regard for his wellbeing. He forgave me! Who does that? He did. And so, I repaid that kindness and reprieve by cheating again. Thereby securing the only thing that I really wanted...freedom.
We called off the wedding two weeks before the date. Money wasted (not mine of course, my poor parents), vendors cancelled, venue unbooked. Time, money and love scrapped all because I failed to acknowledge what I knew all along...I didn’t want to marry him even though I loved him and cared about him. I was not ready to get married.
I do not offer up my experience here as some sort of example, instead more of a warning. This was my experience. I wish that I was the kind of person back then who was in tune with herself and could own that which was painful and true. But I couldn’t. I too soaked in Jack Daniels to really know much of anything. But, even in that state, I did possess the ability to be honest enough with myself to not make the one mistake. I didn’t marry him. I made mistakes aplenty, but not that one. And while I have regretted hurting him, my family and friends, I have never once regretted my decision to call off that wedding. I regret the methodology deployed, but never the result.
So we marry those that do not love us enough, or rightly, or in the way that we need to be loved because we lack honesty with ourselves. We cheat and lie and steal time from others not because we are horrible people but instead because we often are suffering from other afflictions and, in the end, because we cannot or will not be honest with ourselves about ourselves.
Life is complicated. Love even more so. So many variables constantly in motion. But I have found that even in the swirling vortex of alcoholism, I was able to summon up enough honesty to leave ,even though the way I went about it was awful. It is weird, I was capable of being honest about that but not about my drinking, that would take another two years and a lot of fucking pain before that particular issue would be addressed.
There are so many people that love us in this world. And still we tend to marry the people who have 80% of what we need and we tell ourselves that is enough. In my experience, it isn’t. And I have my own failed marriage as evidence that 80% falls way more than 20% short.
Today, I know that I must be honest with myself about all of my feelings no matter how inconvenient or deplorable I may find them. I do not want to have to exercise the shitty conduct of my past to get me out of close calls today. Instead, I deserve, as does everyone I might partner with, my gut level honesty about who I am, how I feel and what I want.
And that, my friends, is how we don’t marry people that don’t love us, or that we don’t love enough and in the right ways. It all starts with us.
Since the rate of divorce remains above 50%, I think that there may be a few of you out there looking to undo something that you now wish you hadn’t done. I can help. I know the path that leads to misery and dis-ease and I know the way out. Please, call. I would be honored to help you.