Yesterday was Valentines Day. Never a favorite holiday of mine. Partly because I believe it is a made-up Hallmark Holiday but mostly because it is the day after my birthday, which means everyone in the world gets to recieve flowers and candy and goes out to eat. My birthday feels like it is tacked on to everyone else’s special-ness. Must be the same for Christmas babies. Growing up, my parents always gave me something for Valentines Day that I know was held aside from my birthday booty, just so they could give me something. Never was this more evident than the year I got an unbrella for a Valentines Day gift. Really? An Umbrella? I guess their love for me was evident in that they didn’t want me to get wet and catch a cold.
Valentines Day–the day of chocolates and jacked up priced roses and Prix Fix Dinners, when couples around the world show their love for one another. As I am a deep-down-soul-crushing romantic, Valentines Day should make me happy. But it just makes me sad. It makes me sad because everywhere I look I see un-happy couples. Most married couples I know are terribly dissatisfied with their marriages. Many have left, most want to get out but don’t know how to, and some are resigned to stay in loveless partnerships. What is going on? Is it what happens when we hit our 40’s? The kids are grown and now after 20 some odd years you look across the breakfast table at your partner and…yuck, who ARE you. You are not the same person I married. I am not the same person you married. WHY are we still sitting here?
This scene is nothing new. It has played out over the years in every household at some point. I remember the night my mother told me that I would have to choose between her and my father as she kicked him out. She always threatened to go but they always stayed together. They stayed for appearances sake and fear of the stigma of divorce. After my father died my mother talked of their marriage like it was ideal…but we all knew better. Would they both have been happier if they had parted ways early on? Would any couple be better off?
I honestly think that humans are not meant to be together as long as the bible, or the pope,or whoever it was that made up the rule that we are supposed to mate for life. I believe that marriage should be treated like a business or a sports contract. I believe that every 7 years both parties should come to the table with grievances. If there are irreconcilable differences, or someone just wants to go, then that’s it. The contract is dissolved. Split the house, figure out the schedules, remain friends. Since everyone else would be on this 7 year plan then there would be plenty of “free agents” around. No stigma attached to the word “Divorcee” or dishonor involved from a “failed” marriage. No one hanging on to “spite” the other. Nope. We just decided not to renew our contract.
Since both parties know that there is a time limit on this “contract” it becomes less likely that one party will take the other for granted as the years go by. You’d better make damned sure you treat him/her right since he/she has the option of signing on with someone else. You may listen more intently, you may put the toilet seat down, you may fill the Brita when it becomes bone dry. You may do these things because you do love this person and the thought of them leaving you makes you awfully sad. So you work a little harder at keeping them around. You pay attention so you don’t wake up one day after 25 years of marriage to a note on your pillow saying that she has found someone else more sensitive. Even though you could be that sensitive, you forgot, because it seemed like you had plenty of time to be that great guy…but time ran out. With the 7 year plan, you always know that you can’t let things go too long.
Some might say that we have become a throw away society. That no one is willing to work at their marriages. I agree. I agree that time should be spent on fixing what has been broken or rekindling what may have become lost over the years of diapering, and paying mortgages, but when that doesn’t work, when people are not in love anymore I say, move on. Find someone you do love; feel the butterflies again,be happy, let your partner go to be happy. Love is everywhere and it is real. It is not in a box of chocolates, or a card that was bought at the Paper Store on your way home from work, or in a $200 dollar dinner–it is in our hearts and we deserve to be happy. You deserve to be happy.
Fran – If I were to participate in the “7 Year Plan” I would be on my 4th husband by now, if you include my first in the equation, and having been married to my present one for 15 years. I am in the frame of mind to agree with you and would expect you to begin the dating service for the Town of Reading – better yet, I may just jump over to the “other side” and put myself out of my misery dealing with the toilet seat always being up!! Thanks for writing it is alway enjoyable!