Friday, September 4, 2009

The only failed relationship is one you didn't learn anything from

I have a friend who is getting divorced from his wife after 20 years of what seemed to me and others to be bliss. He admits that the marriage was good. And it is ending somewhat amicably: There are still squabbles, but it is clear that the squabbles are minor and will get resolved without courtroom ugliness.

My friend said something that amazed me. He said he doesn't think of the failed marriage as a failure. He considers it a success.

The look on my face when he told me this spelled W, T, F in big bold letters.

He said first of all, the average marriage last less than ten years, so 20 is really quite exceptional. Secondly, he said 20 years, in absolute terms, is quite long. "I know a lot of people my age," John said. (He's in his mid to late 40s.) "I can't name one that has had a 20-year-long relationship with anybody."

My friend pointed out that the mere fact that you can point to a track record of having been able to sustain a day-to-day, live-together, eat-together, share-our-money relationship with someone for a period of 20 years is a testament to your own perseverance and patience, your willingness to dedicate yourself to a partnership with someone else in pursuit of common goals, and many other fine qualities. It basically proves you're capable of sustaining a relationship if it's a good one. We all think we can do that, but the point is, few people have proven they can do it.

So why did John get divorced? He shrugged and said "No one thing. It was a bunch of things. After 20 years, you become your own person and aren't willing or able to change any more. You find that you and your partner are standing on different boats. The boats, in our case, drifted apart."

Sounds like bullshit to me, but you know what? I'm not him. I wasn't there. I don't walk in his shoes and I don't know what he's seen. So I'm not going to slam the guy. Not for at least another 20 years.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like bullshit to me too but then even before twenty years I can be confident that nothing can be impossible. If I can live with my mother, sibling irrespective of the BIG differences, why can't I with my spouse?? (An aside: I am not married and I don't get along very well with my sibling or mother).