Until death do us part? Redefining what makes a marriage successful

wedding celebration

It’s that time of year…Summer time = Wedding season. In my circle it also means anniversary season.  Starting in June, my social media news feed is filled declarations of love, commitment & gratitude from one spouse to the other, thanking him/her for 10…17…29 years of wedded bliss. These postings are usually accompanied by a photo of the happy couple on their wedding day. I love seeing these pictures of my friends looking so young, beautiful and madly in love. In many instances, I also enjoy remembering their special day – the touching ceremony, moving speeches and the crazy party afterwards (OK, so I don’t always remember the party).

Now I know that many of these marriages have endured their share of ups and downs, but I admire those couples who were able to work through the challenges to form a bond that is strong and enduring. I sincerely hope that they will continue to love and grow together. I may be the Divorce Doula but in most cases, I still believe in the institution of marriage. And I’ll admit it: there are some days I miss it. I can honestly say that I have made peace with the end of my marriage but there are also days when it’s hard to shake the feeling that I have failed. I failed at happily ever after. I failed to keep my family together. I failed to make love stay.

This feeling has kept me company on many dark nights of the soul. So many mistakes, so many regrets. But then I remember that marriage is not a test that one can pass or fail.  I remind myself of  what I did right: I had 15 years wonderful years with an amazing man. We supported & encouraged each other professionally & emotionally. We traveled, shared irreplaceable experiences, mourned great losses and created two extraordinary human beings.

But we weren’t meant to be together forever. Separately, it took us several years to accept this but maybe it’s time we looked at the traditional model of  “til death do us part” as my cool big buddy Emma Johnson of Wealthysinglemommy.com has done with her 10 year marriage contract  The institution of marriage has evolved over time (Remember when women were chattel? No same sex marriage?) & Emma believes its time for another revolution: where two people define their goals for the marriage up front (like a pre-nup but not just about the finances) & in year 9 commit to having an honest discussion about whether they want to “renew” the contract for another 10 years, make adjustments or decide to part.

Radical? Maybe. But consider that most of us had significant relationships before we got married & being serial monogamists we will likely have future long term relationships after divorce.  Maybe that is the key to a successful marriage AND a successful divorce: not feeling like a failure but rather accepting that the relationship has run its course & to part with dignity & respect. And not being afraid to love again.

For now, I remain a pragmatic romantic & open to the possibility of love in the second act (despite what on-line dating is doing to erode that hope). Who knows? I could be posting my own anniversary photos on Facebook one day.



About Pamela

I’m a Vancouver-based divorced mother of two awesome boys embarking on a respectful, amicable and often humorous co-parenting adventure with their father. By day, I'm a publicist for good causes + companies at ElevatedPR.com

11 Responses to Until death do us part? Redefining what makes a marriage successful

  1. mommy oustide August 7, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

    I have to say I kind of like the idea of a marriage contract. I do think, however, that if you are going to do that 10 years is far too long. Who has a ten year contract for anything? I think you then run the risk of just pushing things down and waiting for that 10 year mark to finally bring it up, or bolt.

    • Pamela August 7, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

      I was thinking that 10 years is too long too Shayna. What’s the right time? Five years? Two?

  2. Kristi August 7, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

    I think a contract for another 10 years is perfect for my hubs and me. One that requires a sickness & health clause that we missed the first time around in our vows.

    • Pamela August 7, 2013 at 11:41 pm #

      Ha! If I were to get married again, I don’t know if I would add the sickness part, Krisi. Because, you know, Man Sickness is worse than death.

  3. Sarah at Journeys of The Zoo August 8, 2013 at 1:40 am #

    I like the “not feeling like a failure” part. I hope that I’ll never have to test it out.

    Besos, Sarah

    • Pamela August 8, 2013 at 3:08 am #

      It’s actually a very empowering feeling Sarah.

  4. Magnolia August 9, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    Humans are such complex creatures. Marriage is a religious construct that has a history in survival and proliferation. It isn’t like these days if our man is eaten by a dinosaur that we and the little ones starve. Partnership is key in this, Ours is the generation redefining partnerships, and marriage, but not love. The one thing is love, and that comes and goes. No failure, just change.

  5. EffinJay August 14, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    This resonated for me Pam — thank you so much for sharing your heart, experience and ideas.. I am still navigating my way to the place where the father of my children and the man I was married to for 15 years, and I can successfully co-parent. You give me hope and comfort in knowing one day we will hopefully both be able to remember what we did right. xo

  6. Ilene September 6, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    I love what you say about remembering what we did right. I am a year out of my marriage and too often, still think of the moments of failure and am susceptible to the occasional ‘what if.” There are no what if’s really. Just “what now?” And I’m getting to that. Excellent post.

    • Pamela September 6, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

      Thank you, Ilene! All the best to you in the afterwife :-)

  7. Chrisor September 9, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    I find your take on this interesting. I think having a 10 year contract is akin to having a prenuptial agreement. You’d be going into the marriage knowing you’d have “an easy out” down the line. Not that 10 years is easy. 7 years seems to be when most marriages crumble. Both parties need to be fully committed to “forever” and that not everyone is when they say the vows. Marriage is hard and sticking around when the times are rough, making sacrifices, etc. is not for everyone. I don’t like reading that you feel you “failed”. One person can’t keep a marriage going. It has to be both. That being said, I think however people want to define marriage to make it work is ok as long as both people agree. I hope you find love again and marriage if you so choose! :-)

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