Divorce should take us on a journey, one that leads us, in time, through the Valley of Introspection. Arriving there, we should begin looking at ourselves critically and asking hard questions, ‘How did I come to this?, ‘What am I learning from it all?’ ‘Where can I grow?’ Those who abandon this uncomfortable soul-searching and miss out on the lessons learned invariably bring those same bad habits and behaviors, and by consequence the same bad results, into all future relationships. We can’t fix what we don’t know – or won’t admit – is wrong. Is it any wonder second marriages fail at a higher rate than first marriages?
We’d much rather play the victims. We find it easier and less painful to rationalize, justify, and explain the how, what, and who of our past relationship failures, especially a marriage. We do this for two reasons. First, we are naturally blame-seekers instead of blame-takers. Since that first childhood play date we have worked to master the art of painting others with our sins. Second, being the victim just feels better. We derive an unhealthy satisfaction in the ‘woe is me!’ way of thinking. It’s easier to gain sympathy and validation. Few things kindle our sense of virtue more than our very own pity party. Blame-seeking lets us conveniently avoid our own faults and responsibilities. We have no time to sweep our porch if we’re spending all of it sweeping another’s.
But the most crushing aspect of this self-victimization is that we can’t grow and we can never fully heal. Some of the most sage advice I’ve ever received came, surprisingly, from a former manager. “We only grow when we’re uncomfortable”. I don’t think he fully grasped the weight of that truism and how it fits into every area of our life, not just the office. By ignoring our past relationship failures and particularity the part we played in them we find little incentive to grow since there is nothing that needs changing. Someone else is at fault. They are guilty, not us. We become blinded by our perceived innocence.
Yet choosing to endure that dangerous terrain and trek into the dark emotional winter of the soul, we soon discover that once through to the other side the spring sun shines brightly upon a more wise, confident, and genuine person. We become one who, battered by the cutting winds of self-criticism and biting cold of blame-taking, finds a gentler satisfaction for our strengths and a greater respect for our weaknesses.
As we continue preparing emotionally and spiritually for marriage, the Queen and I discovered just how important this journey could be.
The question came in two parts.
‘What are 5 reasons someone would want to marry you?’
Like most, we found it rather easy to call out the strongest arguments for why we would make each other a great spouse. One of the most sinister of human qualities is thinking ourselves more highly than we really are.
The second part, however, proved far more difficult.
‘ What are 3 reasons someone wouldn’t want to marry you?’
This question is a direct contradiction to the ultimate goal. Shouldn’t we emphasize the positives while down playing those less savory marital qualities? The hope is to get married not offer reasons for second-guessing. But that is the brilliance of the exercise. There is a tendency with many dating and engaged couples to disguise, even hide, certain qualities, that if discovered, would make for uncomfortable conversations at best and cause hesitation in our partner or ourselves at worse. So we naturally minimize or conceal them entirely, be it a drug or porn addiction, financial troubles, or merely a dislike for future in-laws, hoping it never comes up.
The question demands a painfully realistic self-awareness and an acceptance of ourselves that doesn’t come naturally. Shining a light on our professed weaknesses requires humility most don’t find enjoyable.
Yet the larger point is that we can’t truthfully and transparently answer this question if we haven’t traversed the valley and scaled up those craggy emotional peaks on our way out. If we haven’t answered the how, why, and what of our failed relationships and learned something about ourselves as a result, how could we possibly expect a different result? How could I hope for another to accept me as I am if I don’t understand who I am; the good and the bad.
But while avoiding the pain we also escape the confidence such self-reflection inspires. What the Queen and I surprisingly discovered was an openness to share our weaknesses and self doubts. There was no attempt on either’s part to hide or downplay what we believe are shortcomings. We had already taken ownership long before and had come to terms with any shame or guilt. All that remained was an honest acceptance of who we are and a humility and honesty in our frailties.
It wasn’t shocking that the reasons listed were well known by the other. Nothing I said was an epiphany to the Queen. We are learning more about each other. There was no revelation that suddenly caused either of us to stop and reconsider our marriage. Instead, there was a pride and contentment at realizing the one we hope to spend the rest of our life with survived the dark valley and made it out the other side – face towards the sun.
Click here to read the blog series.