Saturday, February 09, 2008

No Marriage Is Divorce-Proof (and a Man is Not the Key to Happiness)

Anonymous directed this charming comment to my post of the other day:

"This is a bunch of hocus-pocus from someone who has not a clue as to what it is like to be over-35 and looking.

Hope Terry never has to find out. *No* marriage is divorce-proof, I am afraid. A lot of women are a bimbo away from divorce, especially if their husbands are decent looking and make a good income."


Well, I don't agree about the hocus-pocus part or the over 35-thing. I may get into that another time. However, I definitely agree with the observation that my marriage is not divorce-proof.

If I've given anybody the impression that Peter and I twirl around the place all day like Cinderella and Prince Charming, I've given you a bum steer.

Look, we're happy. We like each other. We love each other. We make an effort to to treat the other as we'd want the other to be treated. We pay attention to each other.

Not all the time, but most of the time.

Anybody who ever produced children know that they make demands. They're distracting. It's too easy to lose a marriage to children, or to let the marriage become all about the children. On occasion, we've teetered mightily close to that cliff.

Fortunately, one of us usually pulls the other back before we fall over.

After our first child was born, my mother insisted that date nights were critical for married people with children. But that's not very helpful if you're strapped to a man who wants to sit on the couch drinking Bud all night, or if he's picking up women on business trips. You need a partner who's willing. How many people are married to people who aren't willing?

And that's why making a list is important when you set out to meet that partner. Know what qualities will make you happy. A man may look fierce in a suit and make a million dollars, but if he makes his living selling questionable mortgages to people with limited English, he's probably not a good candidate.

If you know what you want, you improve your chances of getting it. But it doesn't matter if you attract the right partner if you suffer from low self-esteem. A man is not the key to happiness. Self-esteem is the key to happiness. Because even if you have the right guy, if you don't like yourself, it's eventually going to shipwreck your relationship.

But, back to my non-divorce-proof marriage: Is it possible that my husband will replace me one day with some bimbo? We went out for dinner last night, and we had a conversation about this reader's comment. He says no, but people wake up with chemical imbalances every day of the week. It could happen.

He noted the possibility that I could ditch him for a "himbo," too.

"Some women think all men are evil," I said.

"Some men are evil," he said. "A lot of women are evil, too."

Which is the truth (don't get me started on women who target a man in a particular tax bracket to pay for a lifestyle to compete with their sister's or college roommate's).

Did this conversation divorce-proof our marriage? No, because no marriage is divorce-proof.

And I'm not sure I'd ever want it to be.

As a good friend, who is going through a divorce as I write (and whose husband didn't leave her for a bimbo), noted, "Knowing that there's a possibility that a marriage could end makes it more valuable. It's like life. Some people don't want to think about death, but if you think about the fact that you're going to die someday, you're going to make your time count. The same goes for a marriage."

She's getting divorced because her husband didn't make the time count. And she likes herself far too much to allow herself to be taken for granted.

I'll tell you this much: If my husband ever does decide to take off, I'll tell him not to let the door hit him on his way out. I don't want to be with anyone who does not want to be with me. That's where the self-esteem thing kicks in.

And if we divorce, you will definitely be among the first to know.

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