I can remember specifically back to when I was 13 and my father towed home a rickety old 1950’s model Dodge truck. It was beige with torn interior and rust peeling off the body. He was driving a pale yellow Impala at the time and had spent his whole life wanting, coveting really a truck. Instead of buying something new, a friend of a friend had given this one to him. His goal was to fix it up, get the engine humming and sail down the highway of forgotten youth amidst its refurbished seats. Interesting and challenging – considering he never did more than change the oil or a tire in all my years of knowing him. The truck sat first for a year in front of our house in the cul-de-sac where I lived until after constant pleas from my mother, he reluctantly moved it to a hidden patch of grass at the side of our home. It sat there completely hidden from the neighbors view for 7 more years seemingly forgotten but festering a deep wound more debilitating than the rust itself. Eventually I was the one who called a junk yard to come and haul it off having long since been forgotten by my father although as I watched it being pulled away I had a nagging sensation that Dodge trucks and the like were why marriages fail.
I knew when my dad brought it home that my mother would hate it and it seemed that he was in a passive way asserting his position in a relationship that had been struggling for years. It was a swift action of bravery on his part as my mother was always viably the controlling partner via irrational and hysterical emotions. Since he didn’t feel safe using his words he began to subconsciously use his actions. Although research and psychologists will give grand lists of contributing factors to why marriages fail including but not limited to finances, lack of intimacy, lack of respect, incompatible growth, child rearing and thousands of other reasons they all boil down to two things; lack of communication and unrealistic expectations.
The unrealistic expectations always come first. We tend to think when we get married that we no longer have to try, that we have already won the prize. The chase is over and complacency sets in. Partners usually begin to realize that marriage does not live up to the expectations that are implied in the world. One or both partners become resentful, hurt or disappointed, not with each other really; but with the fact that their fairy tale did not pan out the way it was pictured in books. Rather than make realistic adjustments to our perception, blame sets in and communication at that point is effectively stymied. Marriage then becomes a win-lose battle and partners begin to find little things and inanimate things to fight, argue or disagree about skirting the fundamental and real reasons that we are so sad. The partnership begins to dissipate and we take on an attitude of competition, although subtle that pierces the spiritual connection two people have when they are in love as effectively as a pin prick to a water balloon. Like the balloon, we begin to leak and spread ourselves around in many directions and the skin that holds us together loses it shape, becomes unrecognizable and caves. The marriage has now failed-although it can take many more years to realize it. This is why marriages fail!
Now is when things like the Dodge truck enter the picture and they begin to cause such chaotic emotions because they are dishonest representations of our feelings. Instead of implementing toddler speak’ meaning starting conversations with I want, I need, I wish, I can, I will, and I love you- married couples begin to elaborately speak, discuss, debate and fight about everything but the truth. The truth is that although marriages typically go through a let down period both partners are responsible for their feelings. They are also responsible for plainly and concisely telling their partner about their feelings. Marriage does not turn men and women into psychics and no one has such deep insight into our mind and soul as to know really what we are thinking. Marriage is also not about bringing two into one. Even though it is a collaboration of people, it is not a melting pot where like fine cheese we blend effortlessly. Partners need to respect each other for their differences and clashes of opinions – which there will be many. When big issues like how to spend money or how to raise the kids hits people who are totally in love, we are easily thrown into shock that our partner doesn’t wholly agree with us. Forcing agreement is condescending. Holding our feelings inward is unfair to our spouse and not being able to plainly speak our minds in a relationship is detrimental to our self esteem. When suffering is experienced in any of these areas a marriage can be headed for trouble.
The only way to be fair, respectful and successful in a marriage is to approach it always with a keen sense of openness and a willingness to move with the ebb and flow that is married life while steadfastly maintaining a secure and dignified sense of self. If you look through your familial history you are bound to be able to find a physical symbol that represents an emotion or lack. For my father, it was the Dodge truck. It would not surprise me if the reason for divorce recorded on my parents divorce certificate said ‘brown Dodge Truck.’ All along I already knew that their troubles really had nothing to do with that truck parked in the yard.
When my dad would go out to work on it and piddle with the transmission or fenders I can remember my mother saying ‘damn truck’ as she resented anything being put in front of her needs. It strikes me now that I am an adult, that had one of them participated in a conversation that was void of pride and ego yet full of love and security- possibly somewhere along the lines the marriage would have been saved. Perhaps they could have ridden through their retirement years among the upholstered seats of that Dodge reminiscing about the days when the kids were young and they were happy. I honestly don’t know, but what I can say for sure is that the minute my husband brings something broken and time consuming into our lives I will quietly and quickly confess my love and open up my heart and ears to hear the truth. Why marriages fail is largely in part of the fact that many of us along the way forget to use our real voice from the spot of abundance that our spouse fills in our heart.