No such thing as a failed marriage
We were recently blessed to celebrate my eldest daughter’s marriage to her partner of 16 years which was thwarted by Covid last year, there were restrictions but nonetheless a wonderful day.
Conversely for some couples known to me Covid has forced unavoidable marital issues to land, not helped by the bubbling intensity of lockdowns. Without the usual routines of work, recreational activities and the company of others, the most solid pairings have fractured irretrievably.
I really struggle with the term “failed marriage,” this feels like a broad and inaccurate brush stroke term. The label serves to keep people stuck in unhealthy relationships and instils feelings of shame or inadequacy. Any phrase that suggests failure is damaging to self worth and not helpful when already experiencing emotional pain associated with the loss of a relationship.
Very few people embark on a marriage with a perception of it being a temporary state, the intention is lifelong. Who doesn’t want the happy ever after?
The choice to end a marriage may not be a mutual or shared decision, leaving the other party in shock and disbelief. Negotiating the stages of loss and change is a job in itself, without the suggestion of poor character, failure and blame.
Marriage’s breakdown, circumstances change, people grow and develop, sometimes moving in different directions, never to reconnect. Marriage is a legal contract which sometimes cannot be fulfilled or renegotiated. Some things can be worked through, however, sometimes a line is crossed without a way back or more importantly, a way forward. When all avenues are exhausted, to continue can prove destructive to all concerned.
Having previously worked in the field of domestic violence, supporting people who had been subjected to horrific acts of violence and cruelty, the phrase a failed marriage feels insulting. How can a decision to walk away from a toxic, harmful and potentially life threatening relationship be considered a failure?
We live in a world where thankfully, phrases like, “put up and shut up” or “You’ve made your bed you can lie in it” are a thing of the past. There is understanding about what is acceptable or unacceptable yet we are given conflicting messages. There is impetus to strive for happiness and owing it to ourselves to live our best life which contradicts remaining in a painful, unhappy marriage.
Both mine and David’s marriage is not our first and neither of us refer to previous marriages as failed. We do not feel proud about having previous marriages but feel that a union that produces children cannot be considered a failure. I am blessed to call my first husband’s wife one of my closest, dearest friends. Our blended families are fortunate to have bonus, dads, mums and daughters.
I have previously been known to use humour to deflect from my admission of being in my third marriage. Previously I have made declarations of “liking wedding cake” or “third time’s a charm.” Words are powerful and how they are heard and interpreted can lead to a critical internal dialogue.
I believe strongly in the institution of marriage, I am not a divorce advocate but above all I believe in the power of choice and being deserving of happiness.