If I ever did it a third time...
Shortly after people find out I’ve been married and divorced twice, they end up asking me the same question. Maybe they’re testing my resiliency. Maybe they’re just curious if I’m a glutton for punishment. They ask whether or not I would ever get married again.
I always find it amusing. Asking a woman who's not even dating if she would get married again is like asking someone if they would buy a $3 million house. Well, yeah. I mean, I’m sure I would but it would have a lot to do with that particular house and if I had $3 million.
I don’t have $3 million or a boyfriend, so houses and husbands are not something I spend a lot of my time considering.
I know several people who absolutely swear off marriage after a failed attempt (or two). They just know it’s not an institution they will ever re-enter. I am not one to self limit my life by drawing hard lines in the sand over a hypothetical situation.
That said, I have realized that there is one condition that would need to be met in order for me to ever marry again.
Simply, I would not marry someone that would not be willing and open to participating in at least six months of couples counseling before getting married.
That’s it. That’s the list.
By couples counseling, I don’t mean the marriage classes that just about every church is willing to do with you before you get married. That’s not therapy. That’s learning what life will be like as a married couple instead of two single people. Been there. Done that. Got the old wedding rings sitting in a drawer.
What I mean is sitting down together with an impartial person that doesn’t have a dog in the fight and unpacking our shit from our individual baggage with them and going through it together so that we can make sense of how all of it fits back into one suitcase.
Why? Because the two of us are going to have to carry that one suitcase around together for the rest of our lives. Being able to do that means lightening the collective load.
It also means knowing each other’s limits and when to signal that the other may have to carry the suitcase for a while because someone else needs a break. In neither of my marriages did these conversations happen before we got married. When we had to have them when we were married, they didn’t happen then either.
Counseling is not something we should only do when something is wrong and when times are rough. In both of my marriages, by the time we considered counseling, it was too late. It was already over.
It’s odd that we have no problem going into mediation after a marriage is over but we don’t necessarily feel the need to sit with someone before the marriage begins.
We need to do it when things feel good, too. We need check-ins and reinforcement that we’re still on the right path.
Counseling allows for a safe space where questions that need to be asked get answers. Knowing what we’re getting into before committing to it for a lifetime, to me, is the secret to having a successful marriage. More than that, knowing how to handle what we’ve gotten into is critical.
We all screw up relationships in little ways that turn into big ways. We don’t always see it coming. That’s because communication in relationships isn’t easy. We fear rejection. We fear hurting someone’s feelings. A trained professional is going to be able to bring that conversation to the forefront so we learn to talk through things.
If someone is willing to spend a good deal of time with me, in a small dimly lit room that may or may not smell like essential oils, and get down to the nitty-gritty of what we both want and need for the rest of our lives, I will happily sign my name on a piece of paper and declare the race over. If not, well, that’s my big deal breaker.