My name is Misty and I think I maybe got married last night. Could someone call me back and tell me if I could get an annulment? I'm at Circus Circus?
November 26, 2003 5:41 PM   Subscribe

What's really undermining the sanctity of marriage? Dahlia Lithwick has an interesting piece in Slate commenting on the real threats to marriage in light of Massachusetts Supreme Court's declaration that gay marriage is protected by the Constitution. Lithwick lists:
1. Divorce (~43-50% of all US marriages end in divorce)
2. Frivolous marriages (i.e. it is easier to get married than it is to drive a car, buy a gun, buy alcohol, etc.)
3. Birth control (is marriage "only for procreation"?)
4. The various challenges to our time and attention that take away from quality time with our spouses

Can MeFiers please share with those of us yet to be betrothed your secrets in keeping a marriage successful?
posted by gen (55 comments total)
it is easier to get married than it is to drive a car, buy a gun, buy alcohol, etc.

It's not that it's easier to get married. It's easier to get divorced.
posted by JanetLand at 6:06 PM on November 26, 2003

"We must amend the Constitution if we are to stop a tyrannical judiciary from redefining marriage to the point of extinction," Focus on the Family urged in a statement on Tuesday.

"It was necessary to destroy our personal freedoms in order to save them."
posted by RylandDotNet at 6:14 PM on November 26, 2003

your secrets in keeping a marriage successful?

Seriously? I hadn't really thought of it until I was talking with someone that was a new dad, and he told me something I think applies to both successful marriages and children:

Learn to be less selfish

He said the process of having two kids taught him once and for all that these two lives depended on him and he learned that their needs and attention came first.

I was thinking about the few successful marriages among the people I know well and I think it's all about dropping the selfish mindset of your teens and twenties and working as a team with someone else to get through the world. I think it's the first step to joining a "team" of two, to learn how to weight your attention, money, needs, etc with someone else.

Three words: Communication, communication, communication

Of course the most important part of any relationship is communication. Looking at some of the threads mentioned in MetaTalk recently around misogyny, it's easy to see what can go wrong when people don't communicate. One partner feels left out or cut off or the other partner internalizes all their problems until they explode. The only successful relationships I've had were the ones I could say anything to the other person and kept no secrets from.

Open communication means that duties are shared and if they aren't shared, then both people get to talk about what duties they are comfortable with and not comfortable with. If it's one person working more or one person doing most cooking, neither will resent it or take the other for granted if both are communicating freely and being open about any problems.

I know a lot of people talk about how being married feels so different than dating, and I didn't think so until recently. At first it's definitely the same, but you realize down the line that arguments and problems need to be addressed and solved because breaking up isn't something you can casually do over the phone and start dating other people. There are laws and mortgages and children and so many other complications that the "til death do us part" factors into how disagreements are handled. I noticed that I started taking a longer view on problems. I wasn't focused on solving what is wrong right now because right now I'm feeling pissed about X. That could end up with a quick patch up that doesn't solve the problem. Instead I noticed we would go to the root of problems or continue after the initial misunderstanding was cleared up to make sure the problems were solved in the long run.

Take your time, pick carefully, don't forget the whole "for life" thing

Anyways, I don't know what advice would really help someone besides taking time to find the right mate. You need a real team player that can balance your needs and their own and you have to do the same for them. You're entering into a partnership for the long haul and you have to have a long view of things. This shouldn't be someone you can't stand after 4 hours in the car, it has to last 75 years. You should be with someone you trust 100% and care for and someone you can speak freely with, otherwise things are eventually going to break down, and it has the potential to ruin your life and theirs.

It's not a decision that should be taken lightly, and seeing people constantly bickering or even verbally abusing their spouse when I'm shopping or at a concert, I wish more people took time to choose their mate and took the decision more seriously.
posted by mathowie at 6:14 PM on November 26, 2003

I haven't been married very long, but I think it is tremendously important to have the deepest, most abiding respect for your spouse (and to choose a spouse accordingly). respect must be earned, not given, and when it is present the desire to earn respect in turn is very strong. it becomes much more difficult to just sink into complacency.
posted by Espoo2 at 6:15 PM on November 26, 2003

Don't marry assholes. That seems to be the one people forget.
posted by trondant at 6:25 PM on November 26, 2003

No real earth-shattering secret here, I just like spending time with my wife more than I like spending time with anyone else, even after 18 years of marriage and 21 years of being together.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:27 PM on November 26, 2003

I suggest that you talk not only to those successful with a marriage--are they staying together for the economics, the kids?--but also ask those who did not stay married what seemed the problem. I won't tax you with my story, suffice it to say that I have had two marriages (still married) and 21 years to one and 20 to the other. Go figure.
posted by Postroad at 6:45 PM on November 26, 2003

Interesting comments, but I don't see what marriage and sanctity have in common, unless one is deeply religious and believes that marriage is a sacred thing.
posted by elpapacito at 6:46 PM on November 26, 2003

trondant, you must have read my post a few days ago regarding the general 50% asshole theory.

Regardless, honesty, communication, selfless partnership, and tons-o-humping are the key ya'll.

and mr crash davis: word, word, and more word. my wife is unquestionably my best buddy and there is just generally no place i'd rather be than with her. be that in the context of watching a movie, running in slow motion on the beach, or waiting in line at the dmv. and that's after 10 years.
posted by glenwood at 6:51 PM on November 26, 2003

Interesting comments, but I don't see what marriage and sanctity have in common, unless one is deeply religious and believes that marriage is a sacred thing.

I would have gladly gotten a civil union if one were possible. I didn't do the ceremony in a church and god was never mentioned in the service, so nothing was sacred for us.
posted by mathowie at 7:03 PM on November 26, 2003

People go into marriage with no idea how it will be day-to-day. You're not in love with the person twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. You're not always in love, but you fall in love again constantly. Marriage is just like dating, but it's harder to break up and you get better jewelry.

It would be cooler if something set you apart. Like levitation or a halo. Something. Oh well.
posted by FunkyHelix at 7:07 PM on November 26, 2003

My dad once confided in me that when he and my mother were going through some tough times, rather than focus on what was wrong and take some action, which could have been a divorce, he simply chose not to think about it. The conflicts just went away after a while. So, procrastination is the optimal strategy for a happy marriage.

Seriously, the idea that we have to be happy at every moment and some action has to be taken immediately if we're not may have a lot to do with the divorce rate. Call it procrastination, patience, just sticking it out - it's vastly underrated. (As an aimless, rootless twentysomething, I can tell you from my own experience only that it works for grad school.)
posted by transona5 at 7:09 PM on November 26, 2003

The person you marry has to be your best friend, the one you choose to go to when you're happy, sad, angry, defeated, exuberant, joyful, joyless and talk to them about it. As matt said above, the key is always communication!

Also worth mentioning, although it's most likely obvious, is that sustaining a marriage takes work, and that work should be shared by the two of you. For those tough times, let the love you share tough it out for you, and remember that those are the times when your relationship is tested. Be glad that you're being tested with the one you love.

Of course, what do I know, I've only been married for 5 years.

As to the sanctity issue, I don't get it either.
posted by ashbury at 7:10 PM on November 26, 2003

Going in you need love, communication and for me, an inability to imagine life without my wife. Afterwards, commitment. Which goes along with what others are saying of selfless love. I believe in actions over words. Giving a back rub at the end of a day, understanding "no" even though it's a pissoff, taking over a chore when she is tired or running low. Taking her turn to walk the dogs, running the vacuum while she is away. We split the household chores pretty well as it is .. so it really is "extra". :)

Commitment. Understanding what it is you are building. After having gone through a break up of a long term relationship, I learned the pain is much greater than just the couple's dissolution. The shared history .. the shared friends, the family from both sides that suddenly ain't family anymore.
posted by Mondo at 7:21 PM on November 26, 2003

Easy enough. Almost everyone makes a best friend.
how many have the same best friends for life though?
People change over time, and suddenly your buddy from college no longer seems worthy of the title.
The same can and does happen all the time in permanent relationships. What to do?

The once & former stigma of divorce made this difficult growth process so much easier to endure.
posted by Fupped Duck at 7:29 PM on November 26, 2003

Communication & counseling.

You gotta talk about things and get them resolved. Sucking things up won't last.

Also, it's helpful to find a counselor you both feel comfortable with to meet with when there's a need to deal with a tough issue or get an outside look at the situation. The way you were brought up and the way your parents acted are huge influences. Changing you behavior to not follow theirs is hard.

Lastly, never say hurtful things. They last forever.

For us it's lasted 10 years and looks like we are in it for the long haul.
posted by Argyle at 7:44 PM on November 26, 2003

Wow, so much inspiring stuff above for somebody like me who just joined the club... From the newbie perspective--before you take the plunge, discuss the basics--all of 'em. Suss out where you agree and disagree on money matters, sexual mores, general parenting guidelines, religion or the lack thereof, and anything else that you feel very strongly about. Try to explain to the other person what you need to make you happy, on a regular basis. Write out your owner's manual and hand it over.

And if you're like me and th'boy--we're a couple whose disagreements are rare, fights nearly unheard of--do see if you can't unearth something you're really diametrically opposed about, and find out if you can work through it. Oddly enough, I knew I wanted to marry my guy right after we'd had our first and only yell-fest, and we simultaneously backed off, apologized, and reverted to discussion mode until we'd found our compromise.
posted by clever sheep at 8:41 PM on November 26, 2003

start with good sex and then apply all the insight offered in the previous comments. And bear in mind : children may nix the god sex, but they will be their own reward of a sort.
posted by troutfishing at 8:43 PM on November 26, 2003

Eleven years in, three children, and the biggest lesson for me was the surrender of self.

The more my will is bound to my wife-and-partner's will, the better we do together. The better we all do. If there's something I want to spend time on (watching football game?), and a competing need of the family unit (mowing the lawn?) doing what's best for the family first will make me happiest in the long run.

It ain't obvious, for sure. It took me about eight years to start understanding the concept. Maybe it ain't for everybody, but it was a powerful revelation for me.

More peace and happiness, and not coincidentally, more rockin' sex. Especially with my wife being frequently exhausted with looking after three little ones, being a good husband makes my wife happier, and more mellow. One of the side-effects is the best whoopee of my life.

Oh, and buy a massage book, and a bottle of oil, and practice.
posted by sacre_bleu at 8:46 PM on November 26, 2003

Beer always helps.
posted by spilon at 9:05 PM on November 26, 2003

If you think your marriage is threatened because Adam and Steve also got married, then it's a good bet that you weren't really suited for marriage to begin with.

I honestly don't get what the problem is. Way I see it, I'll get invited to more weddings. Can't see how that's bad. Of course, sometimes it means less bridesmaids to dance with (but others, it means TWICE as many, so I guess it evens out).

I've been dating my girlfriend now for almost 4 years (give or take) and we've been living together for two and a half. Sometimes we fight. Mostly we don't. We're going to get married and I'm thinking she'll be my last girlfriend. I don't think there's a 'secret' or something that works for everyone - but hopefully everybody's lucky enough to find somebody else to help find what works for them
posted by Dipsomaniac at 9:05 PM on November 26, 2003

My partner and I have been together for over 7yrs. (we would get married if allowed.) and the things that work for us are
1. Communication (if you're lousy at it marry someone who will draw you out and make you talk. You'll be so pissed at first but it really works.)
2. Mutual respect (you have to learn that treating others as you would be treated is key.)
3. You both can't be crazy at the same time, you have to take turns.
posted by bas67 at 9:11 PM on November 26, 2003

What mathowie said is pretty much right on the money, combined with what mr_crash_davis added. One exception to mathowie's list though - while you do need to learn to think as part of a couple (or family) rather than as an individual, you also need to, at times, be more selfish. If you don't take time out to pursue your own thing, it is easy to get bitter towards your partner/kids without even realising it. While family comes first, the components of that family are still individuals and need a certain amount of personal time to stay sane or, if you have kids, maintain a reasonable level of insanity.

In the end, though, your partner has to be your best friend or you will never be able to make it in the long term.

You both can't be crazy at the same time, you have to take turns
posted by dg at 9:54 PM on November 26, 2003

Wow. There's a thought I hadn't had before: "I'll get invited to more weddings"... and they'll probably be a lot more fun!

I met my wife a little less than a month and seventeen years ago. I was head-over-heels in love with her a week later. I told her so a week after that. I knew it was forever good this week of November, seventeen years ago.

The trick to seventeen years of exceedingly successful common-law cohabitation? Space. Lots and lots of space.

You've got to have communication, and you've got to have friendship, and everything else that everyone's said... but I haven't seen anyone mention the need for space: room to grow, to explore, to be yourself, to come back together. And I'm not talking kinky, either. Just space to be yourself.

My preferred music when I'm writing falls loosely into that "techno" genre. Fast, superficially tedious, likely breakbeat or syncopated. She doesn't groove to that. Her preferred music is classical. I can only handle that in small doses: like the king said, "There are, after all, only so many notes the human ear can hear in one evening." We both really love the Blues.

So I try not to inflict my music on her. She tries not to haul me off to too many symphony performances. We both make an effort to get to the Blues concerts. We give each other space.

Space also means you each get to experience life apart from each other, not welded at the hip. This gives you more to share when you are together.

And space means that you allow your partner to grow and change over time. This is necessary: that which does not grow is dead. I think a lot of relationship troubles are caused by partners not allowing one another to change over time.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:58 PM on November 26, 2003

Oooh. Jinx on dg!

More words from seventeen years:

Some Important Things About Children:

- children are disease-carrying vermin. Not that I'm resentful for having had three days of 104 fever, a nagging, deep-chested cought, and an active desire for death to overtake me. No, not resentful at all.

- they are also not an appropriate solution to marital troubles. Please, PLEASE, if you are having trouble in your relationship, DO NOT think for one moment that popping out a little nugget o' joy is going to solve the trouble. It won't. Do not inflict your troubles on a child-to-be. It does not deserve that poor treatment.

- if your marriage is proving to work, apparently children can be something good. My suggestion, then, is to pop them out before you hit age twenty-five. They'll be gone from home before you hit fifty, which means you'll still have lots of years of good life left in you!

- on the other hand, you can go the childless route like we have. For starters, your genetics are probably nothing too exciting, so why inflict them on someone else? And think of the money you'll save: you can retire early and travel the world. The world needs more cash-spending tourists and fewer babies, anyway. And you can have a lot more sex, what with not having to worry about waking the babies.

- Childlessness brings social hassles: everyone and their damn dog thinks they should be asking why you don't have children, when you'll have children, don't you think you'll be lonely when you're old, and so on. Smile sweetly and divert the topic. Telling them to fuck a rutabaga will not endear you to them.

A Few Thoughts About Sex:

- It's good. And the longer you're together, the better it can get. My god, yeah.

- It's important to have matching libidos. If those hormones don't get themselves worked out when they want to be worked out, it doesn't matter what kind of great communication and loveyness and respect and other cerebral ideas you have: that ol' reptile brain is going to take over, and it's a plain ol' mean mofo that ain't gonna speak well for ya.

I'd write more, but I'm having another hot flash. Children. Grrrr. They should be swabbed in iodine every freakin' day.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:01 PM on November 26, 2003

' Wow. There's a thought I hadn't had before: "I'll get invited to more weddings"... and they'll probably be a lot more fun!'

Well, I live in the land of gay marriage, pot, and universal health care (Ontario) - hell, just IMAGINE what kind of wedding you can have with those three things being a given.

Canada - land of the free, home of the...uh, are you gonna finish that?

And we like it that way.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 10:24 PM on November 26, 2003

1. Money
2. Drugs
3. Love
4. R. Kelly
posted by the fire you left me at 10:40 PM on November 26, 2003

My girlfriend and I have been together 5 years, and she's keen to get married, and eventually have kids. I'm keen too, basically, except for one of the things FFF mentioned - our libidos are a bit mismatched (in the traditional "boy wants it all the time, girl, not so much" direction).

I'm mostly fine with that - I can take no for an answer, and often the problem is just that the timing's wrong. But it has a much lower priority for her than it does for me. And while I'm accepting in the short term (the sex, when it happens, is pretty bloody awesome), when I look at it in the context of being married forever, I worry that it's the thin end of a wedge that will break us up eventually. Sometimes I feel petty for thinking like that. I dread ending up frustrated and resentful in a marriage without sex - I don't think that's selfish. (Sometimes I'm not sure it isn't.)

We've talked about it (we're good at communication), and are both trying to compromise. And our libidos are bound to change, as time goes by - if I'm lucky, they'll converge.
posted by wilberforce at 10:56 PM on November 26, 2003

I live in BC, dipso. Land of even better pot, more gays, and less-borken healthcare. And better wine, too. Nyahh!

Want a premier? I got one I'd like to send you.

Wilberforce, several thoughts: it may be from habit. You're a man, so you probably wanked ten times a week throughout your adolescence; she probably didn't. It may be from guilt: maybe sex wasn't approved of in her home. It may be from medicine: low libido is a possible side-effect of The Pill.

The answers, then, are: (A) practice until it is habitual; (B) practice until it's so familiar (and so damn good) it's no longer guilt-inducing; (C) practice more, plus go ask the doctor.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:41 PM on November 26, 2003

My secret to a happy marriage is obvious...

Not spending too much time on Metafilter...isn't that right darling? Darling.....?

But seriously...what Crash said...she's still my best mate...above all else...
posted by mattr at 12:56 AM on November 27, 2003

Somewhere between 43 percent and 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. If you believe gay marriage is single-handedly eroding a sacred and ancient institution, you cannot possibly be pro-divorce. That means any legislation passed in recent decades making divorce more readily available—from no-fault statutes to the decline of adultery prosecutions—should also be subject to bans, popular referendum, and constitutional amendment. (my emphasis)

Count me in as one who wants to make divorce less readily available.
posted by SpaceCadet at 1:29 AM on November 27, 2003

Not being with my partner seems as alien to me as not having knees. It just is. That's the only way I can explain it.

The only secret I can think of is to be in love. I mean really "you just know" in love. Then stop being selfish and you should be ok.

Wilberforce : Have those kids, that will sort both your libidos out mate.

SpaceCadet : Why? What affect does other people divorcing have on you? (not being snarky just bemused is all)
posted by fullerine at 1:43 AM on November 27, 2003

SpaceCadet : Why? What affect does other people divorcing have on you? (not being snarky just bemused is all)

My own ex-wife took custody of my son without any "fault" (sanctioned by the family courts). It happens to a lot of other people too, who step into a marriage thinking they will at least have a legal safety net if things go wrong.

As for your "other people's divorces" comment, are you suggesting the law works separately for each individual? (yes it was snarky)

(I'll step away from this thread now - just wanted to make that comment which is relevant to the link posted).
posted by SpaceCadet at 2:12 AM on November 27, 2003

Take notice of the "better or worse" part of the vows and take them seriously.

Oh, and make sure to laugh a lot.
posted by konolia at 4:59 AM on November 27, 2003

3 days, 15 cents.

Doesn't matter if you have sex a couple of times a week or a year, if someone has to spend more than three days coaxing, they get cross.

And if given a dollar, you spend save ten cents and spend 90, your partner's habits should be within about 15 cents of that. And if you spend $1.05, hopefully, your partner saves 5 cents.

That's what my mother told me.

I also like the adage that women think their man will change, and men think their woman won't. But seriously, accepting and helping the other person change is pretty important, because it also involves tending to the similarities that brought you together.
posted by bendybendy at 5:07 AM on November 27, 2003

Lots of great advice here - so I'll add more :

Studies have shown that rates of touching, per hour, among couples are highly predictive of whether a given couple will remain together or whether it is headed towards disintegration.

This needn't be the "jump in your lap and grope at your body" sort of touching. A light touch or caress will do just fine.

French couples - cheese eating surrender monkey sex fiends that they are - touch more than do American couples.

Also - if this has not been mentioned - humans, in both sexual and nonsexual relationships, bond during shared activities. So - if you don't have the shared activity of childrearing, or of sex, or the time spent at least eating meals together if not cooking together also, and if you furthermore don't share much else in common and don't do much of anything together've got problems.

"No real earth-shattering secret here, I just like spending time with my wife more than I like spending time with anyone else" - Why, Mr. Crash Davis, that is a shattering secret, just not one that can be expressed through words.
posted by troutfishing at 5:26 AM on November 27, 2003

"Uh, hi, my name's Ghost... and I've been married three and a half years now..."

"Hi, Ghost."

"Yeah, uh, successful marriage... beats the hell out of me. I just keep plugging away at it. Sometimes I get it right, other times not so much. I've found that if it's her turn to do something, and I do it instead, that's good. It's not the big things that make it work, but the little things that appear deceptively unimportant."

(oh, and about the kids... fff has pretty much nailed it. That's a choice you need to be damned sure of first. Don't go producing them just because you can; they're not a solution to anything, and they make everything much more difficult to accomplish. And you'll never be ready for that responsibility, no matter what you think. They're messy, stinky, sickly, crabby and demanding... usually all at once. You think you give up a lot of yourself in a marriage? Wait until you have a kid. You don't know how good you have it.

But there's not a damned thing you could offer me to give up my son for even one second.)

posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:37 AM on November 27, 2003

Almost everyone makes a best friend.
how many have the same best friends for life though?
People change over time, and suddenly your buddy from college no longer seems worthy of the title.
The same can and does happen all the time in permanent relationships. What to do?

Hmmm . . . . I still have the same 5 or 6 best friends from more than 20 years ago, but two marriages haven't worked out. I suppose that says something about me but I'm not sure what.
posted by JanetLand at 6:06 AM on November 27, 2003

15 years of a relationship, 12 of them spent married, no kids.

As trite as it may sound, the only truly constant thing for us is change. And being open to the changes in each other...of opinion, of attitude, of desires...of future plans, and goals, and places to live...keeps us flux and fluid and functional.

Other people may find us inconsistent, but it obviously works for us.
posted by squasha at 6:20 AM on November 27, 2003

I was considering posting this to SpaceCadet's 'NoMarriage' thread or its MetaTalk offshoot, just because of my reputation as a "thread killer" (I know it's true... look how many comment chains in the history of MeFi ended with 'posted by wendell'). This topic doesn't deserve a lethal injection from me like those did, but I gotta say this:

I am currently experiencing the unraveling of my seventeen-year marriage and nineteen-year relationship with a 'very special woman'. Many a bitter divorcee can claim that his ex- is a "crazy bitch", but I have several doctors, two hospitals and the Social Security Administration to back up that description.

When I first got to know her, I was well aware that she was "emotionally disabled", "a borderline schizophrenic", but she was the most interesting woman I'd ever met and nobody before had been so interested in me. Even when alternate personalities emerged before my eyes, I was able to "make friends" with them and keep them from interfering with the functioning of the "real her". I thought I could give her an emotional security that would lead to emotional healing, and thought I could 'protect' her from the deeply abusive and dysfunctional family that was obviously the source of her deep psychic wounds (even as she was still clinging to them at the age of 28).

When I started to set myself up as her "savior", I set us both up for failure. This was to be no marriage of equals. She crossed her "borderline" into a cycle of paranoia, delusion and other self-destructive behavior, backing away from the abyss several times, but finally diving in farther than I could ever hope to pull her out... as if I had ever really done it myself before. I had already declined into a textbook state of co-dependency (I have a story about 'co-dependency groups' that I must tell one day), and ultimately into a deep depression that nearly consumed me physically - twice (the last time only a few weeks ago).

The creative but annoying persona you know as Wendell had not existed anywhere but the web for more than two years. That aspect of my personality that she had seemed to love at first was ultimately rejected by her. I held onto a non-creative non-career job (for the 'security' and medical benefits) as long as I could, while the growing depression did a number on my job performance and I was mercifully laid off just over a year ago. The last of my "real life" friends have drifted away, totally alienated by my devolving personality, or hers, or both. It may not be too much to say that over the last few months, my blogging and MetaFilter (especially the 'Filter) have kept me at least partially alive. When I went back into the hospital last month (uninsured - shudder), her Social Security benefits had kicked back in, she was judged unable to care for herself and placed in a hospital at the opposite end of town (and L.A. is a big town). I last spoke to her five weeks ago and it was like the woman I married didn't exist anymore.

Thankfully, we never had children; the personality quirks of the dog we've had for 12 years are evidence enough of the harm we would've caused a growing human.

I am not going to blame the entire female gender or the institution of marriage for my personal disaster. How can I even blame the person I was married to? I pursued that relationship for almost two decades as the great, heroic rescuing knight-on-a-white-horse, counter-balanced with such a deep-seeded sexual and emotional insecurity that I really believed that only a crazy person could love me.

I am currently, for the first time, in a state of Recovery. ("Hi, my name is Wendell, and I'm a whateveritisI'mdoing-aholic") I am actually being encouraged to spend most of my time as Wendell in Real Life. If you think that selling that Opus article to was like winning the lottery, it was. Now, I am not going to throw myself at the first female MeFite who flirts at me in Daffy Duck's voice... right away. I am going to organize a Los Angeles Meet-Up/Coming-Out Party sometime in January (remembering that I am broker than broke and through everything I've been through have never taken up drinking...) and I expect to see attendees from other continents.

Thanks for reading this ultimate exercise in Too Much Information. I felt that somebody deserved an explanation - probably me - and this is the most coherently I've assembled my story so far (a productive use of three hours of sleeplessness). And, to attempt to return the de-railed train to its tracks, a classic example of how and why NOT to get married.

I will now resume making fun of companies with silly names and trading fat jokes with quonsar. Happy Thanksgiving, MetaFilter, and thanks for everything.
posted by wendell at 7:05 AM on November 27, 2003 [1 favorite]

I'm posting this just so wendell doesn't think he killed the thread. Especially with such a poignant story.

*raises a cup to wendell*
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:10 AM on November 27, 2003

I've been married for nine years. My wife is my best friend and in many ways my only friend. I wish I knew what was going wrong these days, something is, but I find it hard to put my finger on it. I'll wait it out. We'll see what happens.
posted by DragonBoy at 8:14 AM on November 27, 2003

I wonder if anyone here really thinks getting a divorce is easy. I've heard a couple of comments that getting divorced is easier than getting married.

That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Getting married was filing fee, boom, bam, married. Getting divorced means lawyers, money, time, courts, and the untangling of two lives. It's hard and very awful.

Sometimes divorce is the only answer. I wish that wasn't true. Sometimes all those little things that bother you about each other, just calcify, and keep growing, until neither one of you is able to just let go.
posted by patrickje at 8:18 AM on November 27, 2003

*blink* wow, wendell. all that and berkeley breathed as a penpal. it's not fair how some people get all the good stories to tell ;)

I wonder if anyone here really thinks getting a divorce is easy

it can be quite easy in the administrative sense but even then it's a terrible event. when my first husband and i divorced we refused to lawyer up and instead i found a family law mediator who taught us a few ground rules on how to communicate clearly and not lose our tempers. a few days later we sat on the living room floor and wrote up our own separation agreement. it took a few hours and that was that. a few months later the divorce was final and it only cost us $500. so that part was "easy" - we wanted to be as nice to each other as possible and walk away with our dignity, because we both knew how awful it was going to be without acting like assholes. the hard part was dealing with the sense of loss, the feelings of failure, and trying to unearth our personalities. not to mention dealing with how sad our respective families were. that's some really tough stuff, even if you still like and respect each other it is never truly easy. we've both been very happy since and our new relationships (10 years apiece) are 100% superior in every way.

yah, so my best advice is don't ever act like an asshole to your partner - that'll serve you well, whether your marriage lasts or not.
posted by t r a c y at 9:04 AM on November 27, 2003

(Damn querty keyboard.)

For us, it is thinking about love as something we do, rather than something you have or fall into (or out of). Respect for personal space also helps.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:26 AM on November 27, 2003

five fresh fish:
' I live in BC, dipso. Land of even better pot, more gays, and less-borken healthcare. And better wine, too. Nyahh!'

Oh, yeah? Well, we have...uh, a broken power system. Yeah. Yeah, that's it. And we like it that way.

And no, you can't trade premiers with us. We just got a new one and he's still all shiny. Plus OUR premier has a funnier name than yours does.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 10:10 AM on November 27, 2003

Pah. You might have a broken power system, but we are in the process of breaking ours irrepairably. And we've just sold off our railway. And we're going to fuck ourselves over by getting rid of public automobile insurance. And we made it not only legal, but now force underage children to go to work if their parents are on welfare!

You Ontariarioians think you had the biggest, baddest, assest right-wing premier ever, but ours is gonna lay a whuppin' on your claim to fame. Anything Harris fucked up, we can fuck up better!

Um. We were all talking about lovey-dovey relationships, right? Here's my next contribution: find some activity you're passionate about, and do it together. That's your bonding and growth time. And, er, no: sex doesn't count. Make it an activity you can do in public.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:09 AM on November 27, 2003

It's interesting that some of the advice here contradicts other advice - "talk about everything" v. "wait it out" type thing. Like any human interaction, it all depends on the people involved. Complete honesty & communication is central to me, but other people feel that's just rehashing the understood. I would be freaked out (I think) if someone told me they knew they wanted to be with me forever after a few weeks; others might consider that a perfect scenario.

I don't think divorce is a tragedy. Breaking up can be a terrible experience, but staying with someone you don't love is terrible too, and not getting involved with someone you don't feel 100% sure about would probably preclude most successful relationships from getting off the ground. You can't really know someone until you get to know them, and even if you realize the person isn't your life-mate, once you know them it hurts to separate your lives, your selves, from one another. So to some degree pain is only avoidable by good luck.

Of course, marriage is supposed to be the conclusion you draw together after getting to know one another "well enough" to know (more or less) for sure. But knowledge of someone isn't a finite thing, and people grow, so even then, there's no certainty. I dunno if making marriage or divorce more difficult would help things; seems a bit condescending somehow to imagine that additional waiting periods or paperwork would keep folks from marrying the wrong people (and who's to say it wouldn't have worked in an alternate universe. so hard to say, sometimes.)
posted by mdn at 11:39 AM on November 27, 2003

Cheers and sympathy to wendell, for being a trouper and for being bravely honest on this thread. Hang in there!

Also, I'm a new arrival in L.A. and would come to that MeFite gathering you have now promised to throw.
posted by Asparagirl at 12:32 PM on November 27, 2003

Wendell, you are a dang fine person to have hung on as long as you did. I hope you never ever ever see yourself as a failure, because from my viewpoint you are anything BUT.

I wish you peace and I pray things start being wonderful for you. You have obviously had more than your quota of the other stuff.

As to your wife, remember that even tho she was ill she still had choices to make-staying on meds, working on issues...I am so sorry things turned out the way they did but it seems obvious that it wasn't for lack of trying on your part.
posted by konolia at 6:01 PM on November 27, 2003

Hmm, well, I can't offer tips on how to have a successful relationship, but in the "take your time and pick the right person" category I seem to have gotten the first part right at least. So here are my insights on choosing someone good - or at least weeding out the ones without much potential. Conversational cues are a big tip off. I've stopped seeing people for:

- lack of balance in the conversation between him talking about his stuff and my talking about my stuff;
- insults, rudeness, put downs, even if subtle;
- bullying, controlling, or manipulative conversational style, i.e., someone who tries to pry information out of me when I've already said I don't wish to divulge it, or who tries to make me go out on a certain night when I've, say, told him I don't feel well;
- laying all blame for past failed relationship on exes and/or saying nasty things about ex (this is someone who can't take responsibility for his own actions);
- excessive complaining and excuse-making;
- excessive rehashing of negative life events.

There are many more, I'm sure. One lesson that I've really learned the hard way over the past decade is to stick with the winners in life. I like to be generous, I like to be able to help people, and I've so often wound up in relationships with people who used their personal problems as a license to behave badly to others. It's not that one shouldn't have sympathy for those in need or try to help them, but that kind of relationship is not a partnership with benefits flowing both ways, as every healthy and close relationship among adults should be. One's intimates and partners should be chosen from among one's equals. When looking for a partner, avoid those who are in perpetual crisis.

If you're single and happen to be at a low point in your life it might be a good idea to simply not date until things are going better, because your judgment can be impaired by things like unemployment, illness, grief, or a too recent break up.
posted by orange swan at 7:55 PM on November 27, 2003

Wendell - I'm actually at a (rare) loss for words, but not in a bad way. Good luck with the next step - too bad I live on the East Coast, or I'd drop by to say hello.
posted by troutfishing at 8:42 PM on November 27, 2003

I tell my woman, woman, you gots to obey, and then I shoot her the evil eye, you know, a real sinister squint n' shit and then we is all good again. Keepin' it real, you know, keepin' it real. Ladies be lovin' it. I be a fire hose of marital joy wherever we be goin'.

N' shit.
posted by xmutex at 9:05 PM on November 27, 2003

I just gotta say, wow. I guess I just assumed my own little prejudice and figured y'all were dysfunctional (like me), but there's a lot of wisdom in this thread.

Now I have to go find someone to practice this wisdom on. ;)

Wendell, keep the chin up. When do you plan on this meetup? I may drive out to Cali (from St. Lou) to see my sister in SD.
posted by notsnot at 10:31 PM on November 27, 2003

Wendell, that is some story. I hope that things work out for you one way or another and it seems that you are well on the way to making that happen.

I can only re-iterate what I and others have said already - being best friends is the key. If there is no-one else you would rather spend time with, even when you are not talking to each other (and it will happen at times, no matter how much you love one another), you are well on the way. There is nobody I would rather spend time with than my partner, even if it means sitting on the opposite ends of the couch and not saying a word to each other.
posted by dg at 2:28 PM on November 30, 2003

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