News Flash: Spouses Change. Now What?
A few weeks ago, I read a post online that had gone viral called, “My Wife is Not the Same Woman I Married,” by blogger Matt Walsh. As with other posts of his which I have read, this one started with him getting angry at something a stranger in a grocery store said to him, which makes total sense because I love picking fights with people I don’t know next to the candy section of the checkout line.
It’s apparent to me that the way to become a viral blogger is to start by looking for material by starting fights at Target and Walgreen’s.
I read the post, because I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. In it, he writes about his contempt for Americans who romanticize divorce and especially those who use the argument that people change. Yes, he agrees. People change and it is our responsibility to adapt to these changes if we have made a commitment in marriage.
“Divorcing someone because they change? You might as well divorce them because they breathe,” he says.
I thought about this post for a while and wondered how I felt about it. On the one hand, I agree that some people may sometimes give up too easily on marriage. I agree that sometimes when marriage gets too hard, it’s easier to imagine life outside of the confines another person may put on your lifestyle or your perceived happiness. I agree that sometimes people not only grow, but that they grow in very different directions which make marriage and stability of the lives they model for their kids increasingly impossible.
I agree. Because I understand changing so much where divorce may seem like the only option. I understand because not very long ago, John and I were standing in that exact place.
Today marks our 9th wedding anniversary and I am glad to say that we decided to move out of that place and course correct.
The thing that turned me off about the post was the black and white nature of his argument. In his mind, you either roll with change or you don’t. You either support change in your partner or you don’t. You either become a serial divorcer or you stay the course and accept and adapt to your spouse.
My issue with this is that I don’t think that marriage is so neatly wrapped in absolutes. I don’t think that all change in a partner can be accepted. I don’t think that all habits of a spouse in a marriage are healthy for the other partner and potentially the children of that union. I don’t think everything can always be counseled away till the ragged edges are smoothed down to a point where the partners in the marriage can flourish.
I think about my friends who have divorced abusive spouses who smothered, violated, and controlled their partners in ways that left them demoralized. I am beyond proud that they found their courage to step out of those marriages. I applaud them for getting a divorce.
I think about my friends are spoken down to in their marriage by spouses who don’t and may never appreciate them. I think about their children, who now speak to their parent in the same way they have seen modeled by the other parent. And I wonder if divorce is not the right choice for them.
There were times in our marriage where John and I fought at each other more than we spoke to each other. We were so angry at each other that we didn’t always mute what we said in front of our children, who could have easily been the collateral damage of our anger had we not changed things. At some point, we made a concerted decision to change all of that. But we were both willing and committed to making those changes together.
But what if either John or I could not make that commitment? What if we continued to spiral down the path that we had been heading? Is that something we would want our own children to live with? Is it truly healthier for children to be weighted down by anger between parents, suffocated by the idea that it’s important to maintain a singe household? We both want our children to live in a home where their parents treat each other with respect and love and model that for them.
But what if there came a point where John and I could no longer give each other that love and respect?
Well, then. I don’t know if we would be sitting here today celebrating nine years of marriage.
There is very little that I take for granted about marriage. There is very little that I take for granted about my husband. But I am less than perfect and there are days where I falter on these points a little, as does he, but we recalibrate. I will continue to be as supportive as I can as he grows and I hope that he does the same for me.
What I can count on is that he will be the man I need to give me the support I need. He is my rock. He is my best friend. He is the laughter I need on the days when I can hardly produce a smile. He is my person. My team.
I never take for granted that he is the man that he is. I am fortunate that I made a decision to marry him nine years ago and that he is the man that he is.
But what if I married a different man? What is I made a mistake at the age of 29? Because lord knows I knew everything at that ripe old age. What if I could not foresee the kind of changes that would work their way into my future and the lives of my children?
It’s true. The people we marry change. We change. And we can ride that current of change as long as it’s healthy for our families. But when you can no longer recognize your spouse, and when the change is no longer bearable, is it a mark against your character to want to find happiness alone?
Are we so defined by our partner that we can’t sever the ties when those ties start to become destructive?
I don’t think so. I truly don’t.
So I congratulate Mr. Walsh on another post making its way virulently around the internet. But I have to say that I greatly disagree with it’s message and the shaming of individuals who choose to find their bliss outside of an unhappy marriage.