Relationships fail. What seemed a good idea at one time can later feel like a huge mistake; it’s a fact of life.
In recent months I’ve seen several long-term relationships break up; one an engagement that, in hindsight we say “thank god the wedding never happened” to a match that wasn’t as wonderful as we all thought; the other a 10-year marriage stressed by years of law school and living a state away from each other. In the case of the engagement, I was devastated for them, but after she was blindsided with the break-up, I learned things about the relationship that made me glad it never got to that point. In the case of the marriage, I never really understood their relationship. Even before our friend’s wife went away to law school, they never seemed very close, very in love, and my husband, who stood up in the wedding, said the same. They didn’t seem to have what he and I have. And while it’s a hurtful thing to watch friends go through, in both cases I feel it’s for the better. Like my own first marriage, neither relationship bore any children, so the break-ups, while of course painful, were largely uncomplicated.
Enter another relationship in crisis: married for 7 years, two children, both people wholly unhappy. Husband owns and runs a videogame studio startup that’s gaining success. A textbook workaholic, he’s spent the last 7 years building his reputation in the industry through long, long hours, finishing his master’s degree, and being married to his job.
An anonymous commenter on this blog made the argument that childfree marriages are less happy than ones with children because the divorce rate is slightly higher for childless couples. But I have to wonder, especially seeing what my friends are going through: how many of those marriages with kids are horrifically unhappy, but the parents are staying together “for the kids”? I know that was the case with my parents; my mom would never have even married my father if she didn’t get knocked up with me. And it's absolutely the case for several family members. Of course many are happy, but I think the assumption that marriages that don’t break up are happy marriages is wishful thinking.
I’m sad to see it come to this for all these couples, because I don’t want the people I care about to hurt. But when my friend says things like “I think marrying him was a mistake”, which, by extension means having children with him was a mistake (quite a different thought than wishing your children weren’t born)… that makes me so unbelievably sad.