Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Waiting it out in marriage

Unhappily married couples who divorce are no happier in the long run than their counterparts who remain married. said researcher Linda J. Waite of Beliefnet. This is because nearly two thirds of the couples who are unhappy in their marriages, describe their marriage as happy five years later, while unhappy people who divorce are most likely to still be unhappy. This seems to be true with couples who stayed together even when faced with problems as serious as infidelity or drug use. In fact, the more extreme the unhappiness, the more likely the marriage was to turn around. Of those who rated their marriage very unhappy, 8 out of 10 had found success with the same spouse five years later.

So I am forced to look at my 17-year old marriage in the mirror. Our first years were tough from the get-go. We had a baby right away and then my husband was hospitalized for a heart condition. Shuttling between the hospital and my newborn was not easy, add to that a financial crisis that my husband endured (probably this was what got him sick in the first place).

The next years were easier. Hinged on the business success of my husband, we seemed content. We had our third child, we were able to travel. We also adopted our daughter during that stretch.

We migrated to the States 3 years ago and the hardships started all over again. My husband found a back-breaking job that he was not used to and then got laid off from an office job. We did well on year 2 but this year seems quite challenging as we are back to square one and no stable jobs.

Financial difficulty is the thorn of our marriage. This year, we had numerous arguments about money. But actually, it is never about money. It is always about principles, values, discipline, respect, and hard work--and how different my husband and I view these.

I can't deny that there were times, I wondered if we were better off separately. But then, I thought, we would be poor separately, so what's the point? We then decided to work at together and iron out our differences.

During the downs, my spouse is heavy, and I sure feel like he is dragging me down. There were many tempting downs when I thought anywhere would be better than with him. Let's just say he fell short of my expectations. But then, after 17 years, have learned to lower my expectations. And he is open to suggestions--which is great! Through all the ups and downs, we know there will be ups soon.

Beliefnet said that the couples actively worked to solve the problems-for example, they sought counseling. In some they simply waited out the problem-the children grew up, a spouse landed a job-and in some the husband and wife took responsibility for finding happiness in other venues than the marriage. Yet the researchers also point out that most of the couples that describe themselves as unhappy in their marriages thought of those same marriages as happy five years earlier-and likely would again. In other words, most marriages go through prolonged periods of difficulty, but if the partners are committed to commitment as well as to each other, they are likely to come out happy with their relationship as years go by.

Wait it out with your spouse. Unless he is a physical threat to your life, my cousin said that there's really nowhere to go. Should you divorce your spouse, did you know that chances are big that you will attract the same kind of man, thus, have the same problems all over again--this time, with hurt children and stepchildren, ex-in laws, and disapproving new in-laws, with money problems again for sure and alimony to boot!

I know of someone who would have been still married had she waited a bit more for her husband to get on his feet after his Master's Degree. I know of another who, if she knew the hardships of separating from her husband, would have turned a blind eye. Now, she has lost custody of her kids, and her proper share of their properties. I also know many who divorce their spouses, only to marry the same kind of personality again (and again, for some).

I'd rather take my chances with my kids and and not bequeath to my husband the responsibility to be happy and well-off, for those are my responsibilities to myself.

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