In today’s modern American society, it’s rare that someone actually meets their true love on their first date ever. Most people date many individuals before they find a person whom they want to marry. It’s also rare for people to wait until marriage to have sex: Ninety-five percent of Americans shed their virginity before saying "I do." In addition, approximately 75% of women have cohabitated with a man before marriage. The majority of couples are engaging in serious relationships without a legal marriage bond whereas previous generations of Americans did not do so. Technically, the majority of people aren’t getting it right the first time: They are simply not making a legal bond until they feel extra comfortable that they have found their forever person.
For thousands of years, the Catholic Church and most Christian churches have frowned upon divorce. While it has been under the guise of a religious dictate from God, I actually believe this was a control and stability based decision. Most churches continue to publically denounce divorce while the majority of the members of the same churches divorce and remarry, sometimes more than once. The churches uphold the mythological belief that we should find one “forever” person and marry that person for the rest of our lives.
However, I don’t know that “doing it right the first time” is actually what the goal of marriage should be. I believe that marriage is a sacred union, but I also believe that it is temporary: Our marriage vows end with death (though many Mormons do not agree with that), and we are free to remarry once widowed even in the most conservative of the mainstream churches. While we are alive, I believe that marriages should exist to help individuals grow. That might mean having children with a partner so that we can experience parental growth and the challenges that come with taking care of other beings who are utterly dependent upon us. It might mean learning how to live with someone who has different beliefs, actions, hobbies, or habits than us. It may mean spiritual growth as we challenge each other to find the Divine in our marriages. Whatever it means to each couple, I believe that they have been brought together to learn some life lessons that they could not learn without the other. When those lessons have been learned, then it is time for the couple to move on to new relationships where they can continue their growth.
Thus, I don’t believe that “getting it right the first time” should be the primary goal of marriage. Instead, I think we should be choosing the right partner to help us grow and change through the next stage of our lives. If we are able to stay well-matched with our partner as our lives take us through many joys and challenges, then by all means, “‘til death do us part” makes a great deal of sense. However for the large percentage of people who find that their individual growth takes them in a different direction than their spouses, divorce should be an acceptable and supported practice in our society. Divorce should not be viewed as failure, but rather a change or even a graduation. Two people who were once well-matched have learned the lessons they need to learn from each other and are now ready to go in different directions. While divorce will still be emotionally difficult as most major endings in our lives are, there’s no reason it needs to be made shameful. Rather, our goal should be finding the right person for this point in our lives and accepting that some day we may move in a different direction from that partner, whether it is because of divorce or death. If we enter into relationships that help our souls grow, then each one will be "doing it right" even if it is not our first relationship or marriage ever.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC