I recently wrote a blog on Divorced Girl Smiling called “One Big Reason Why Marriages Fail,” which basically discussed how our life circumstances are constantly changing, and that if one person in the relationship becomes happy, while the other becomes unhappy, the marriage could be doomed and people could find themselves getting divorced.
I received this twitter comment from a reader:
While so much of what you say is true, a marriage that ends in divorce doesn’t “fail.” It just ends.
I wrote back:
It depends on the situation. All end but let’s be honest, some fail.
Who determines whether it’s a failure or not? The couple in it or society?
Either or both or neither. Every situation is different.
She came back with:
I respectfully don’t agree. Sorry. Language matters. Remember “Broken home?” Very damaging. “Failed marriage” is too.
This reader really made me think. Should I have titled the blog, “One Big Reason Why Marriages End?”
To tell you the truth, the reason I used the word “fail” in the first place is because I did a search regarding key words that Google users are searching and “Why marriages fail” was way up there, much more so than “Why marriages end.” So, that right there tells me that more people feel that if their marriage ended, it “failed.”
I do agree with my twitter arguer that failure is a really really negative word, and one that can be very damaging.
That said, I’m divorced. Do I look at my marriage as a failure? Hmm…maybe, maybe not. It didn’t succeed, that’s for sure. But did it fail? According to the dictionary, “fail” means unable to do something, not pass an exam, judge a student not good enough, collapse financially, and the one that really hit home: stop functioning or growing. Yes, according to the dictionary, my marriage failed.
I’m actually ok with that. I think my reader took this too personally. Perhaps she was thinking that I was calling divorced people failures? I absolutely was not doing that. That would mean i was calling myself a failure. I was calling certain marriages a failure.
I don’t think that people are failures if their marriage doesn’t work out. I think people are failures if they stop functioning or growing in their life after their marriage ends. People who play the victim for a lifetime, people who are stay bitter and angry for decades, and people who blame others for all of their problems, even after the marriage. That to me is the behavior of someone who is a failure.
Divorced people have the ability to go on to have an amazing life, one that is better for them, happier, more peaceful, and if someone makes choices that shape this kind of life, then they are anything but a failure. They are in fact, a true winner.
What does a guy think on the subject?
Since Divorced Guy Grinning is a website for men, I couldn’t resist checking in with my good friend, “Doug,” a divorced dad of two and a really really smart guy, who loves to write, but chooses to remain anonymous.
I asked “Doug,” “Do marriages fail or do they end?”
Here is Doug’s response:
When I think about whether my marriage of 20 years was a failure I am pulled dramatically into that dualistic thinking … but if I am feeling wise I have to admit that it was neither failure nor success … it was a beautiful opportunity to experience life, have children I adore, get to really know another person (as well as we can), learn to manage adversity, grow as a person and receive endless other gifts.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison
If we want our children to be “successful” we would do well to spend less time celebrating their victories (social scientists tell us such praise causes them to shut down in order to protect their newfound track record as “victors”) and spend more time praising their efforts at trial-and-error (making it okay to fail … even celebrating it … will give them the confidence to chase skills, ideas and dreams). In that sense “failure” is “success” (just as social scientists have hinted that early “success” can lead to “failure” or, at least, life-long fear of it).
A relationship is by definition “the state of being connected” … period. I requires unanimous participation of both parties. When inevitably each party changes harmony can only be maintained by mutual cooperation and shared adjustments … the parties working together (consciously or unconsciously) or the marriage comes apart (or stays together in name only). One party’s determination that the other is responsible for the “failure” doesn’t make it so (it only announces the end of harmony and a new relationship of adversaries) … the sync ceases as a function of both not adjusting. The breaking of the harmony that once existed is not “a failure” in the traditional sense, it is just an ending. Making peace with this dynamic can go a long way toward promoting acceptance of the end of a relationship, finding forgiveness for our exes and restoring peace within ourselves. I know it helped me.
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss
Thank you, Doug! My favorite part of this is “endless other gifts” in his marriage. Hearing that, it’s hard to call ANY marriage a failure, even if technically it’s stopped growing or functioning. Who cares?! Focus on what you GOT out of it, your kids, number one, and “endless other gifts.” Love this.