The Life-Changing Magic of Acting Like a Grown-Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Acting Like a Grown-Up December 30, 2021

There are many good things in your life that you may have to walk away from.  Your marriage is not one of them.

There are many taboos, and trends, and social pressures that may be chaining you down, and that you may find great freedom and fulfillment in rejecting.  Staying faithful to your wedding vows is not one of them.

There are many good uses for literary prose.  Glamorizing the destruction of a family is not one of them.

Don’t fall for the trap.

It’s normal in midlife to examine what you’ve accomplished this far and to ask serious questions about how you ought to proceed from here.  It is normal to find that your current occupation isn’t quite what you’d hoped, and to ask whether some changes are in order.  It is normal to discover some years in that your spouse is just this ordinary person with faults, and weaknesses, and attributes that are boring, or not-that-attractive, or which, if you had it to do all over again, maybe you wouldn’t choose.

You don’t have it to do all over again.

You have this marriage.  You vowed faithfulness to this person.  You are now the protagonist in one of those romance novels involving the boorish male lead and the impetuous bride, forced into an arranged marriage by people who perhaps meant well, but frankly they’ve stuck you with someone you’d never have picked for yourself — except alas, that you did.  The person who arranged your present marriage is the much-younger you.  He or she meant well.  He or she had good reasons for thinking you’d be happy with this person.  And your job, hero or heroine, is to embark on a torrid midlife romance in which you discover all the ways that this no-longer-chosen spouse is indeed the love of your life after all.

Meanwhile, divest yourself of the fantasy that your tiresome marriage is somehow anything, at all, special or different than the life of everyone else out there.  The happily-married people? They are happily-married to ordinary, weak, fault-prone, body-odorous, flabby, wrinkly, not-that-rich, not-that-successful, not-that-anything normal spouses.

Maybe there’s a couple couples out there who’ve never had a fight in their life? I’m doubtful of those claims. It’s normal for happily married people to experience conflict and disappointment.  It is normal for middle-aged persons to examine their lives and find areas where changes are in order.  It is normal to have to work through these discoveries with your spouse, and find ways to support one another through sometimes-difficult changes.

Destroying your marriage and wrecking your children’s lives is not the solution.

***

Maybe, though, you are in an abusive relationship.

In that case: Get out.  Definitely get out for now, and probably you’ll have to get out for the long term.  Do whatever it takes to protect yourself and your children from your abusive spouse.

There is nothing romantic about being abused. There is nothing heroic about allowing your children to be abused nor to witness your being abused.  Get out.  GET OUT.

***

But if your marriage is just kinda boring? Your spouse is a little clueless, but never intentionally hurtful? You can honestly say that things are fine, they’re just boring?

Or maybe things aren’t fine, but you aren’t being abused (if you’re not sure about that, get yourself to safety and then consult a professional for confirmation on how to proceed) and with some serious changes things could be fine?

Then work on your marriage.  Work on your life.  You can increase intimacy and trust and companionship in your marriage while also exploring new interests and fulfilling unmet needs.

***

If you’re Christian of any flavor, I highly recommend the classic work Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend, which is crystal clear on the difference between abusive relationships (GET OUT) and run-of-the-mill unhappiness.  The paperback is cheap enough you can get yourself and your spouse each your own copy.

(I think it could be just fine for many non-Christians, too, but I’ve read some reviews by readers who were clearly not looking for a Biblically-centered work, and that’s what this is. I think for the price you could just take a sharpie and black out the theology-parts and still have perfectly sound advice for how to build emotionally-healthy relationships, but also you could just look for a different, secular or your-faith-centered book that covers the same material.)

I recommend this book for non-married people, too.  It’s about relationships generally, so it’s helpful for dealing with friends, colleagues, employers, doctors, neighbors, sales reps, roommates . . . anyone at all in your life, and also your pets.  Especially your pets.

–> If your only two modes of operating right now are “this is fine” and “burn it all down” then you seriously, seriously need this book.

***

There’s nothing edgy or glamorous about destroying or abandoning a pretty-good marriage.  It doesn’t matter how sexy the protagonists are nor how thrilling the script or the prose: Wrecking people’s lives and betraying your own spouse and children is not romantic.  It’s bad for you.  Don’t do it, and don’t fawn over the poor souls who have mistaken immaturity for bravery.

It’s a terrible way to live. All you’ll discover in the end is that if you can’t be happy with faithfulness and kindness, you really just don’t know how to be happy.

Moscow Metro Volokolamskaya : Beautiful marble-tiled subway station, with modern white-plastered arches above.  A train is passing by on the track on the the right.

Photo: Moscow Metro Volokolamskaya, A.Savin, WikiCommons, Free Art license.

There’s nothing new about the temptation to adultery and divorce.  Related columns of possible interest:


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