I think most anyone would agree that being a single parent is hard. It’s hard on the parents, and really hard on the kids. Especially when you have parents that break up when the kids are young — I get chills even thinking about what it’d be like to try to explain to my little kiddos that mommy and daddy won’t be together anymore. Kids have certain stable data – that the sun will rise & fall, that mac & cheese is the food of the gods, and that there’s always going to be mommy & daddy. As such, I’d rate “keeping a stable and happy marriage” to be basically near the top of my own priority list for being a successful parent.
My wife & I have been together nearly 15 years at this point. I wrote about it back when it was 10 years, and it’s as amazing to me now as it was then. And what’s also amazing is there is absolutely no end in sight. We’ll be together until we drop dead. And even then, who knows. And if I were to list why it is that we’ve had such an excellent marriage? Two things, I’d say:
Choosing marital partners well to begin with, and
A lack of withheld communication
With respect to choosing well – the two of us had quite a bit of communication to begin our relationship on what our goals in life were, what sorts of things we liked, what sorts of things were unacceptable, etc. And we found that we were either on the same page – or could get onto the same page – on everything.
On the second part – that’s what I want to spend a bit more time talking about. In Scientology, there’s quite a bit that’s been written on how groups either form or fall apart. A marriage, really, is just another kind of group. L. Ron Hubbard said this about groups of this sort, something I think quite pertinent to marriage:
“People, then, in forming groups, create a series of agreements of what is right and what is wrong, what is moral and what is immoral, what is survival and what is non-survival. That is what is created. And then this disintegrates by transgressions (violations of agreements or laws). These transgressions—unspoken but nevertheless transgressions—by each group member gradually mount up to a disintegration.” – L. Ron Hubbard
You make certain agreements with your wife or husband, and the marriage depends on you either (a) sticking to them all the time, or (b) communicating about them when you couldn’t stick to them. Key example – finances. In our family, I’ve always been the primary breadwinner for the house, and my wife has been the money manager – as we’re each better suited for such. We have certain agreements in place about what’s OK to spend money on, and what’s not. However – things come up in the course of life, and sometimes those agreements get broken. My wife sees a sale on something and decides to go crazy at Old Navy. I decide I really need to buy something for work which I’m hoping to get reimbursed for. Big-ticket expenses then show up on the credit card, and much upset can occur when we don’t talk about them. “Sorry honey – I shouldn’t have bought that new computer part. I should have waited till the end of the month.” Blam – you talk about it, it ceases to be something that’s endangering the marriage (unless of course you do it habitually – but that’s something else entirely).
But even petty little over-expenditures here and there, unspoken, can start causing stresses on the relationship.
And, of course, big transgressions cause a much larger rift.
And then what happens? It’s predictable, really. The behavior you’ll see with a marital partner who’s stacking up too many of these withholds is the same as someone who’s stacking up too many transgressions at work which he’d rather not talk about.
“People withhold overt acts because they conceive that telling them would be another overt act. It is as though people were trying to absorb and hold out of sight all the evil of the world. This is wrongheaded. By withholding overt acts, these are kept afloat and are themselves, as withholds, entirely the cause of continued evil.
In view of these mechanisms, when the burden became too great, Man was driven into another mechanism—the effort to lessen the size and pressure of the overt. He or she could only do this by attempting to reduce the size and repute of the person against whom the overt was committed. Hence when a man or a woman has done an overt act, there usually follows an effort to reduce the goodness or importance of the target of the overt. Hence the husband who betrays his wife must then state that the wife was no good in some way. Thus the wife who betrayed her husband had to reduce the husband to reduce the overt. In this light, most criticism is justification of having done an overt.” – L. Ron Hubbard
So, whenever I see someone talking badly about their husband or wife behind their back, I always know what’s behind that. That person – not the wife/husband they’re talking about – is the one that’s got something they’re hiding. Could be big, could be small – but there’s always something there.
And that “something there” is something that can slowly or quickly unravel the entire marriage, unless communicated about. And, after 15 years, I’d be utterly lying to you if I said I’d never withheld anything from my wife. But I’ve always come clean – and likewise for her. And, as such, I’ve had plenty of experience with why it is that you just KEEP COMMUNICATING. And because of that, through a lot of stressful points of our lives, through lean years and a dot-com bubble burst that had us living off of top ramen for a bit, through changing careers, becoming parents, and moving over 10 times through the course of our marriage – we’ve both stayed surprisingly in-love with each other.