Divorce and the Great Happiness Hoax
Today Penelope Trunk published a controversial blog post titled “Divorce is immature and selfish. Don’t do it.”
Her primary argument is that if you have children, in almost all situations you need to figure out how to stick it out. Divorce is absolutely terrible for children, and it’s often solvable. It’s immature, and it’s selfish.
Her argument about divorce fits perfectly into my happiness hoax theory. The Happiness Hoax is the idea that the entire world is trying to sell happiness, which only perpetuates the idea that happiness is something that some people have and other people don’t.
This is an enormous load of shit.
It’s an equally enormous load of shit that some people have perfect marriages and ending yours so that you can “find the love you deserve” is an adult decision.
#1 – It is easier to be a victim than it is to take responsibility for your own happiness.
Everyone loves to be a victim. Everyone loves to bitch. It’s easier to be tired than to be energized, to be poor than to be rich, to be fat than to be thin. People are also brilliant at rationalizing, and it’s amazing the excuses we can come up with to allow ourselves to stay in these places.
“The trick is not how much pain you feel–but how much joy you feel. Any idiot can feel pain. Life is full of excuses to feel pain, excuses not to live, excuses, excuses, excuses.” – Erica Jong
#2 – Happiness is a conscious choice that takes an enormous amount of work
Aside from clinical depression, where there is an imbalance of chemicals in the brain (something I experience every month with PMDD, so I understand), happiness is something that you can decide to have.
How? You replace frustration with gratitude. You choose to be motivated by abundance and possibility instead of fear. You choose to see the beauty in your life and circumstances rather than focus on the gaps, the holes, and the inconveniences. You start seeing your problems for exactly what they are – first world problems. Realities. The universe isn’t conspiring against you, and if you get off your ass and work hard and make good decisions then good things will start to happen. I promise.
I already said the alternative is easier, so making these choices will take physical effort and consistent determination. If you don’t want to work, then don’t expect to be happy.
#3 – Marriage isn’t dating. It’s a lifelong commitment, and you need to be an adult about it.
First of all, people make horrible decisions about who to marry.
Before marriage, you need to be sure you’re making a good decision. In my opinion, you need to live together (yes, I know about the cohabitation effect, but I still argue for it). You need to sleep together. You need to experience things together. You need to know each other inside and out, emotionally and intellectually, sexually and non-sexually, good days and bad days. You need to talk about things. You need to talk about the things that are embarrassing and uncomfortable to talk about – like whether or not you believe in spanking children, or how much money you envision a successful future having in it. Is your dream home $100,000 or $1,000,000? Will you be angry if you can’t be a stay at home mom? How much does sex matter to you?
There was a great moment in Dan Savage’s advice column, Savage Love, where a guy wrote in about the whole sex after marriage issue. He was a man that considered himself semi-adventurous sexually, but he married a woman who claimed she didn’t want to do certain things (i.e. most sexual things) until there was a ring on her finger, and now that there was she had lost interest in sex almost altogether. He felt duped. She got her ring. Sex wasn’t happening.
Here, according to Dan (a brilliant, brilliant man), were the guy’s options:
“Stay married, stay faithful, and stew in your own frustration and resentment until you die; stay married, cheat with cause, and hope you don’t get caught; inform your spouse that you’re not going to ask her to do things she’s not comfortable with but you’re also not going to ask for her permission to do those things with other women, and be cast as the villain when she files for divorce; or initiate the divorce yourself, find a new partner, and make sure your new partner both enjoys sex and enjoys the kinds of sex you do before you marry her. (Hint: if she likes sex, and likes the stuff you like, she’ll want to do that stuff whether you’re married to her or not.)”
I recognize that my ideas on pre-marital relationships aren’t condoned by the Bible and the 50′s. Do you know what else isn’t condoned by the Bible or the 50′s? Divorce. So, when divorce is on the table, then so does figuring out what you’re getting into beforehand. Unlike Jesus’s time, we have the internet. We have access to every ex, to tons of weird-ass fetish porn, a thousand dating options at any given time, and life expectancies that are three times as long. Till death do us part is suddenly a much bigger decision. In this world, I think you sure as hell better test drive that car before you buy it.
So, the number one thing about being an adult about marriage is that realizing marriage isn’t going to change anything. The person you’re marrying is the person you’re with, and if you think a band around the finger is suddenly going to make them a freak in the sheets you’re bound to be disappointed. This is what dating is for. I do not understand people who get married and then want a divorce because their spouse is “lazy” or their spouse in “inattentive.” Where were you during the dating process? That is the time to be a critic. That’s the time to jump ship because you’re unsatisfied. Once you go through the bells and whistles of a wedding, it’s time to start a family. It’s time to stop being a child, fueled by selfishness and instant gratification, and bone up the realities of making something work.
#4 – There’s no such thing as buying happiness, and there’s no one in this world who is going to be your perfect spouse
I have witnessed a really, really happy marriage. My parents are the happiest couple I’ve ever seen, and they have been my whole life. They eat lunch together. They work together. They are best friends. They laugh hysterically and go on dates all the time. I think they love having me and my brother out of the house. They miss us, but they love getting to just be them again. As dorky as this sounds, I’ve always been a big family person and I used to feel left out because the two of them were so close and I wanted to be in on it. They couldn’t love me more, but they’re partners and that’s the way it’s always been.
Are they perfect? Far from it. News flash: They work their butts off to stay in love. They are just as proactive about “dating” as they are about being married. They’re as conscious about their time together, and make as much of an effort to stay connected, as Chase and I – who have been together for 10 months and don’t even live together. Yeah, we’re in that first year, so of course we work hard to learn each other and be close and kind… but after 30 years? Who does that after 30 years? My parents. They bite their tongues instead of talking down to each other. They apologize when one of them snaps. They get lunch together and have special ringtones and check in with one another. They support each other’s hobbies and both keep themselves up physically so that they can be proud of each other.
The Psychology Today article, Are You With the Right Mate, shared this anecdote:
“(A man) attended an anniversary party for friends who had been together 25 years. When someone commented on the longevity of the relationship, the husband replied: “Every morning I wake up, splash cold water on my face, and say out loud, ‘Well, you’re no prize either.’” While you’re busy being disillusioned with your partner, you’ll do better with a substantial dose of humility.”
#5 – Get over yourself. Find what’s wonderful in your life and get high on it. Love the one you’re with – because if you’re lucky enough to find someone that loves you, you sure as hell better cherish every moment of it.
I work my ass off to be happy. I work my ass of to love and be lovable. I work my ass off to be proactive in my relationship so that I, and we, become a team. I work my ass off to learn who I am and what I need so that when I get married it won’t be a mistake. I know that now is the time for mistakes and learning the ropes – not after I say “I do.”
I set boundaries with myself.
I work my ass off to not be fat and still enjoy great food. I work my ass off to build a career that I adore because I choose to make the most of my one life here. These are my choices. And guess what? I’m happy. That’s not bragging, that’s a fact. You couldn’t get me to leave my job, move away from my family, or cheat on my boyfriend for a million dollars. I work my ass off and it pays off, because I’ve found happiness. That, to me, is something I work for and can boast as much as any medal. It’s not bragging, it’s a feat. Your choices are your own. But if you choose to be happy, I’m here for you every step of the way.