in: Dating & Relationships

How I Handle the Ugly Odds of Marriage in America

Elli Purtell

It’s no secret the divorce rate in America isn’t exactly… encouraging. Should we shy away from love? Elli Purtell shares her view on the odds of marriage.


I like to analyze relationship studies and advice from professional therapists and matchmakers. I like to contemplate my own marriage and be mindful about the choices we make and how we can improve. I like to write articles about relationships and offer my own advice about how to do things.

A large part of this stems from a genuine interest in the topic, of course. But it recently hit me that it’s much more than that. I read all these studies, seek all this advice, write all these articles partly because I’m scared. Completely and utterly terrified.

I am afraid of my relationship failing.

I am afraid of getting a divorce.

This realization was triggered by an excellent article a friend shared with me recently. The piece discusses how couples getting married make lofty promises without having any idea how hard things can get down the road. They think they have found the key to lasting love, and proclaim it openly. While I started out reading the article in agreement with the author (and a touch of arrogance, I will admit), it suddenly dawned on me that I was guilty of exactly the same thing—trying to find the answer to marital success within my own relationship and prove that our love is the kind that will really last.

Case in point, I wrote a wedding-day message to my husband that discussed all the reasons we were an ideal match. I’ve written articles since our wedding about relationship mistakes to avoid, feeling pretty confident that my husband and I have been doing things the right way.

But it’s easy to make confident and lofty promises when things are fantastic and new(ish) and full of hope, isn’t it?

I have no doubt my naiveté has caused a few eye rolls, especially among longtime married couples or those who’ve gone through a divorce. Though I’ve never been ignorant of the fact that marriage can be extremely challenging, I’ve thought of it only half-consciously—a butterfly briefly touching down on a flower before fluttering off again into the breeze. I’ve been too afraid to fully land on the concept.

And though I initially felt a little disillusioned after reading that article, I soon felt oddly free.

If everyone who makes bold proclamations at the alter is at some point going to face hardships—and possibly even the prospect of divorce—so too is everyone eligible for a wonderful, life-long partnership. Fifty percent of couples divorce, but 50 percent stay together.

None of us has the one sure-fire, can’t-fail solution to a happy marriage…because that’s impossible. We are all just doing the best we can in the relationship we have. That means recognizing our relationship’s beauty and strength and turning that into promises, however lofty they may seem to the outside world.

Is there really anything wrong with that kind of bold intention?

Hope is the very seed of marriage. Without it, we have no chance of growing. Yes, some of us may get temporarily battered down by storms. Some of us may eventually wilt and wither to nothing. Some of us may die and find rebirth in an entirely new seed of hope. But what good is planting a seed in the first place if you don’t have 100 percent faith that it will grow?

I choose to accept the ugly odds of marriage in America because I am in love with my husband and I believe in us. I choose to work hard, consciously nurture our love, and fully accept that things may one day be more thorns than roses. Yet I also choose to continue being optimistic, and to express that optimism without embarrassment. I choose to soak up our happiness and to love without fear. I choose to envision our future in full, radiant, heady bloom.

If that outlook makes me naive, so be it. I don’t want to be anything else.

 

[image: via shutterstock]

About the Author:

Elli Purtell Elli Purtell

Hi! My name is Elli Purtell. I’m a writer and editor living in Chicago. I love sports (most intensely the Green Bay Packers), my book club, white wine, running, South Africa, and writing about relationships and love. I was born and raised in Wisconsin, and although I adore almost everything about the state, I do not like cheese. I know, it’s a sin.

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