My bride is okay, but I think I could have done better …

November 20, 2011

in Links to good stuff, Marriage Killer, The "D" word

Cow eating grass through fence © Marek Zenca | Dreamstime.com

Have you ever felt you could have “done better”? Maybe you don’t think it exactly like that, but you see another woman who does something your bride does not do, or does not do as well, or you remember how someone you dated did something, and for a moment you feel a bit of doubt or regret. I suppose to some extent that is the old “grass is greener on the other side of the fence” thing, but it’s made far worse by the huge variety of choice we have in who to marry.

For most of human history, the vast majority of people married someone they had known most of their life. The choices were limited; a couple dozen to a hundred individuals of the right age who were not close relatives. Of those, only a couple would feel like they might be a good fit. The result was people married someone feeling they had made an excellent choice given the options, and that limited second thoughts.

Today, most of us have met many hundreds, if not thousands, of potential spouse choices by the time we married. If that’s not enough, there are dating/matchmaking services that will match you with the best of their tens or hundreds of thousands of possible mates. How then can you feel you made the “best” possible choice? She is certainly in the top 10%, maybe even in the top 1%, but is she the very best possible? In the TED video I suggested yesterday (The paradox of choice) Barry Schwartz explained that more choices leads to less satisfaction with the choice one makes. We get fixated on making the perfect choice, and then have “buyer’s remorse” when we wonder if we got it right.

The other part of this is that we now feel we can try another. Regardless of how you feel about divorce, most of us live in a society that makes divorce easy and relatively free of stigma. Your family, close friends, and church might not approve, but if worse came to worst you could divorce, move, and start over: a second chance to get it right! I’m in no way advocating that, but it is the reality of our lives, and I suspect those struggling in their marriages think such things from time to time.

There are several ways of looking at this issue:

God’s sovereign will: Some say God puts us with someone and that makes it the best possible match. This means that regardless of how you feel, you have the best spouse for you.

Free will: Other say we have free will, and we can make a mess of things. This means it’s unlikely we have chosen the very best possible wife.

Seeking His will: Still others, me included, say we have the free will to make a mess of things, but we also have the free will to seek His will for our lives. If we heard and followed well, we might have the best spouse – but there will always be some doubt.

If you believe the first, then it’s settled – you have the best, and you just need to walk it out. For the rest, the scary reality is you might not have the one woman who would have been the very best wife we could have. However, that was then, and both you and this mystery woman have changed so that you are no longer the perfect match – so let that go. Beyond that, we know from the Bible that it is God’s will for us to remain married if possible. Yes I think there are a very few situations where divorce is allowed (allowed, not required – there is a difference), but even when it is allowed it should be the last ditch, nothing works and I just can’t live this way choice. The vast majority of folks who divorce today are not even close to that!

I think the horrible divorce rate is due in large part to the huge number of choices we see, the vast number of other people to whom we could be married. People start looking at what could have been, or what could be, and that results in growing dissatisfaction with what they have. It starts to seem that starting over would be easier. It feels like the problems are mostly on her part, so if you could start with another woman you would have it so much better.

Please know that all of these are lies! The rate of divorce for second marriages is even worse than for first marriages. Statistically, the more times you try, the less likely you are to get it right. Statistically, you have a better chance of a good marriage with the woman who is now your wife than with any other woman in the world.

My advice is to accept that for better or worse this is the marriage you have. Rather than imaging how it would be better with another, focus on what you can do to make this marriage better. Rather than hedging your bets or holding back, go all in; give your marriage everything you have, work at it like your very life depends on it! It’s amazing what happens when a husband decides to give his marriage all his time and attention – try it and see.

A final note: If you are thinking of divorcing with someone in mind to be your next wife, you are very certainly in the wrong place. THAT IS NOT GOD! If you are thinking of divorce, you need to be open to the possibility of never remarrying. You most certainly need to be free of any thoughts of dating. Divorce hurts people, and there is a necessary grieving process to go through. Rebound relationships are almost always ugly. Moreover, divorce changes people in various ways. If you divorce, you will not be the same person after the divorce that you are now, and that means the “best” possible spouse for you is not the same as it was before.

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Links to blog posts that stood out to me this last week:

 

Black and Married with Kids

Do You Treat Your Marriage Like A Real Job?: Do you give your wife as much respect as you give your co-workers?


Hot, Holy and Humorous

Rainy Days and Ugly Days Always Get Me Down: Two reasons to click this one: 1) to better understand your wife’s body image struggles, and 2) to see a really ugly little dog.


”husband”, a user’s guide”

We’re Being Replaced?: “Don’t become an app!”


Intimacy in Marriage

Sex at the In-Laws? Is this a Good Idea?: A great article, and a good conversation starter if you need to discuss this with your bride.


Marriage Gems

Fun Date Night Ideas for Married Couples: I doubt anyone will like all of these, but the variety is great to get you thinking about better dates.


Marriage Life

The Grass is NEVER Greener: Speaking of that green grass …
Shoot the “Yeahbuts”: This is a MUST READ!


One Flesh Marriage

Sex is the Glue: Great post – especially coming from a lady.
Sex on the Brain: Brad shares why sex is glue, and how to make it better.


Refresh |MarriageToday

The Power of Listening: If you are an “Uh-huh” guy, you NEED to read this.


The Romantic Vineyard

Mark Your Calendar: I share this for Debi’s bit at the top. Read about a wise man who knows his wife, and how to meet her needs.
WHY Is It Important To Study Your Spouse?: A perfect follow up to the above.
Staying Current: Are you current with your bride?


Safe at home

A Different Kind of Christmas For Your Family: A great idea, and a great way to show kids what Christmas is supposed to be all about.


Stupendous Marriage

What do you control at the Holidays?: Don’t waste effort on things you can not control!
Irreconcilable Differences is a Silly Excuse for Divorce: Very true!
This is Who God Says I Am…And You Too: As Stu says, “…it is really important to know WHO we are in our marriage.”
What I learned from a Piano Recital : Challenge your fears!
Stupendous Marriage Show 021: Husbands with Low Sex Drive and Reaping what you Sow: The wining hand show!

21 comments
The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

@Tony - In the OT, if a person committed adultery, they were to be stoned. The surviving spouse was free to remarry without having to have done anything. Today we don't stone adultery, so the wronged spouse much divorce if they don't choose to try to make it work. Biblically the adultery ended the marriage covenant, and divorce is just a civil action to bring the legal reality into line with the spiritual reality. Beyond that, there are those, both male and female, who are happy to have their cake and eat it too - cheat, or ignore even the most basic things a spouse should do, and still get the "benefits" off being married. Such a person is "no longer being willing to remain married", and again, divorce is a recognition of that. There is no double standard here Tony, I say the same thing to women when they are my audience. Look at TMB, we hit both sides the same. But as I have said repeatedly, my audience here is men. If a man's wife wants to divorce him, telling that guy she is wrong is no help - it will do nothing to save the marriage. Telling your spouse it's a sin to divorce does not help, and it usually just sets them more on the path to divorce. When I talk to those who may be facing a divorce by their spouse, I talk about what they can do to prevent that. That means understanding why their spouse wants to leave, and looking for ways to change things. I suppose in a way it is blaming the spouse, but it’s also giving them some chance to stop the divorce. Again, no double standard – if a woman writes saying her husband wants a divorce, I try to find out why he wants the divorce, and what she can do to change that. #2 Relationship is not simply a matter of how men and women do it. The part of the brain involved in relationships is larger in women, just as the part of the brain involved in spatial relations is larger in men (both as a whole, there are rare exceptions). Women are better at reading emotions, at empathy, and at hearing the real issues buried in things. Women do these things better naturally, and they tend to get a lot more training and practice. Think of it this way, a man and woman with no sexual experience get married and hop into bed. The man will almost certainly enjoy sex, including having orgasm, from the start, while the woman will have to learn how to fully enjoy it, and how to climax. In the same way the woman will find connection and relationship easy and natural, while the man will have to work at it. Bottom line, God made men and women different, and this is one of those differences. For a man to expect a woman to “do relationship” like he does would be like a newlywed wife expecting her husband to do sex as she does – complete with no climax. #3 – Now you are just putting words in my mouth – words you know full well I have never said. You keep saying the adultery statistics are a lie, but you don’t back that up with anything other than you opinion. For the record: adultery is wrong, no matter who does it, or who they do it with. Adultery ends the marriage, and frees the other spouse to divorce and remarry. I don’t think that “allowance” is an indication God wants there to be a divorce, but Jesus was clear about the option being there. #4 I have no idea what you mean by no out if one is not married. I certainly have not suggested such an out. I don’t think I have ever said anything about the other man or woman being married or not, so I don’t know what you are talking about here. As to your 66% stat – it’s accurate, but there is more to it. The rate was 60% female in the country prior to no-fault divorces, so that means a lot of women were able to prove adultery, abuse or abandonment. As for now, one study puts about 20% of divorce because of male adultery, and only 7% because of female adultery. It also puts 17% off to domestic violence, which is almost all men against women. Addictions are another 6%, with men being at least 75% of that. So, if you eliminate all adultery, addiction and violence causes from the stats, you find that the remaining divorces are right are 50/50 (actually slightly more by men). So, if we assume I am unlikely to say anything that will change abuse, addiction or adultery (a sad but safe bet) then by hitting “men only” I am hitting half the problem in terms of who files. But wait, there’s more! I saw an interesting article, which suggested that some people who want a divorce try to get their spouse to file. It said that men are better able to do this because they are physically stronger, tend to have more control over money, and are emotionally better able to protect themselves from the turmoil of the marriage. It was further suggested that women are far more likely to file for divorce because they feel their kids are being harmed (physically, emotionally or sexually) and that women are more likely to file thinking it gives them a better chance of getting full custody than if he files. The bottom line is this – while women do file more often, if we look at why divorces happen we find that men are more guilty more often. If you want me to deal with the gender who has the better ability to end more divorces, if you want me to hit those who have the greatest power of choice, than that would be the men, no doubt about it. However, that is not how I am motivated – I am more about doing what I feel God had called me to do, with those I feel He has given me. I will continue to pray for others to do the same, and for some of those to be called to hit the places I am not.

Sheila Gregoire
Sheila Gregoire

Tony, I have a marriage blog for women, and maybe this is what you're looking for.. Perhaps I didn't come out with fists flying as much as you would want, but remember who my audience is. I'm trying to convince women, not yell at them. There is a difference. I agree with you that many women divorce unnecessarily and wrongly, but I also know many women who have filed because their husbands have left, but they refuse to do the paperwork, and the women need stability with the kids. So it isn't as straightforward as statistics make it seem. And for the record, I find both TGW and TGH speak up for marriage well! As for this post, I'd say that for a marriage to work, we need to realize it's not about marrying the right person as much as it is about becoming the right person! Sheila from To Love, Honor and Vacuum!

Tony
Tony

@TGW, thanks for weighing in. There are many talking about divorce, but how many are telling women that they need to knock it off, in language that would actually reach them? After all, isn't that what the church is telling men, knock it off? You say women are relational. OK, and so are men. It may be expressed differently, but ultimately BOTH men and women are relational. For the record, I didn't nag you, I said I searched your blog for an instance where you said women divorce two to three times as often as do men and women need to stop doing that, and I didn't find it. I'm sorry if you find the results of my search to be nagging.

Tony
Tony

I guess I'm asking how this helps the other 75% of divorced guys. You know, the ones who did NOT choose to divorce, but were given one anyway. I do agree with one thing, if I end up divorced again, apparently that indicates that I'm not husband material and I'll take that as a sign of such. Not just those who choose divorce should consider that, but those who are divorced against their will may never be good enough to be a Godly husband to some woman. No matter how hard he tries, prays, goes to therapy, seeks mentors or whatever. He may just not be good enough, and should resign himself that God is telling him that he isn't husband material.

Wilbur
Wilbur

Good stuff. I like what you had to say. You alluded to what is so often the case. My next wife will be . . . and she will make me happy. Yes, and you are still the same old you which did not do so well at being a husband the last time. I wonder of those 25% looking to get out of their current marriage and then remarry how many are confessing there fault in the divorce?

IAAMM
IAAMM

While I applaud your personal conviction, the truth of the matter is: people function at their own level of enlightenment. Circumstances of each marriage obviously differs and the TWO people involved should decide what's best for them without external mandates. Ill judgement on whether someone chooses divorce versus staying married is not righteous, is it?

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

@Tony - As I have said several times, my audience is primarily men. So I speak to men. Besides, if I am addressing 25% of divorces, that is huge, and in my mind well worth my time and effort.

Tony
Tony

So if you get guys to stop leaving, that might address 1/4 to 1/3rd of the divorces. It's not guys leaving that is the cause of the vast majority of divorces. It will be great if they wouldn't do this, but it's a minority of the entire sample space of divorces. So the question I have is why preach this to the guys when it's not guys who are ending most marriages?

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