Like dominoes I see marriages falling down, some for more obvious and irrevocable circumstances than others. The shock can be incredible when you see friends blindsided, their lives turned upside down, their kids manipulated, and their homes divided. I’m not pretending to be God here and judging everyone, I’m just noticing something that shocks me.

Especially when it happens to a perfect family.

When I say perfect, I mean everything really was perfect. Until one day I received a text. “Where are you?” my friend asked. “I’m out walking the dog,” I said.

She replied, “I’ll come meet you.” Nothing about her gave away the news, but as she walked toward me I said, “You’re not getting divorced are you?” And her beautiful face crinkled in pain as we hugged and she said, “Yes.”

Around the same time this domino fell, another friend was discovering that she married a fraud. And I’m not using that term loosely; I mean “fraud” as in the movies where a person changes his name, has multiple addresses and rips people off over and over again. She discovered all of this after their baby was born. My friend never expected to divorce, but she had no choice.

Then there are the divorces that are almost over before you know about them and looking at their sweet family Facebook photos, you just can’t imagine what happened. There are the divorces where you think, “Yay! You got caught, you cheater,” but even then, the aftermath of suffering for the kids takes away any sense of justice.

In some cases, these divorces can seem like positive experiences for everyone. Thank goodness for Facebook (insert sarcasm) and all the happy photos of new girlfriends and boyfriends and the results of the divorce diet paying off. I see the recent divorcées with every other weekend to themselves, working out, going away for the weekend, and looking quite happy. I often wonder if everyone should go through a mock divorce just to refresh themselves and get some rest.

Perusing the 22-page National Health Statistics Report on Marriages and Divorce Rate Data, I noted that “current estimates of divorce indicate that about half of first marriages end in divorce.” The divorce rate for second marriages is 67 percent and third marriages 73 percent.

Do we all find each other so contemptuous after so many years? Do we truly believe that the grass is greener on the other side? Or is it more likely that if you are broken before you commit your life to someone, you will blame him or her for not mending you?

It takes a lot to leave a marriage, but it also takes a lot to stay.

It takes guts. Responsibility. Character. Honesty. Respect. Work. Empathy. Understanding. Humility. Humor. Forgiveness. Commitment. Willingness. Discipline. Boundaries. Priorities. Marriage takes more than a wedding or a baby.

Tina Turner said it best: “Love is a second-hand emotion.” Love comes from all of the aforementioned qualities. Consider love a cake, you have to have all the ingredients. Maybe that is why we eat cake at weddings—it’s actually quite symbolic.

Here are some vows I wrote for all of us married or engaged or not:

I vow to be better than I was, kinder than I thought I could be, and more forgiving than I want.

I vow to be honest with myself so that I can be honest with you.

I vow to not purposefully and intentionally say or do things that hurt you.

I vow to protect, adore, and respect every part of our life together.

I vow to not expect perfection, as I cannot deliver it.

And I vow to learn from you because there is so much inside you that I love.

Let’s learn from our friends who are going through or have gone through the pain of marriage shattering. Let’s realize that marriage is not a party or a fairytale. It’s an opportunity to learn about yourself and be your best. It’s your choice.

Marriage is not making vows . . . it’s keeping them.

Just 9% of couples who cannot talk comfortably about sex actually have satisfying sex lives. Ugh. But there’s an app that can help! The Lasting app is a science-backed marriage health app designed to be like marriage counseling on your own terms. The app gets to know your relationship and creates a program to help you build and maintain the health of your relationship. 

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The Work of Marriage Matters

Kara Turner

I love people like Buddy the Elf loves Christmas. I would be happiest in an elevator talking to new people all day long, even those resistant to elevator talking. What is on the inside of others is the most fascinating thing in the world to me. I want to dig in there and feel the heartbeat of unique souls.