Whenever I’m asked for examples of ‘successful marriages’ it’s usually in response to a comment or forum thread breaking down the cost-to-benefits ratio of the travesty that’s become Marriage 2.0. To me, the real irony in these evaluative debates is how often they arise. They come up so often it’s as if these men, in their most rational and prescient minds, are seeking permission from more experienced men to enter into marriage in spite of all the overwhelming downsides to what the institution has become. Even when they’re staring down the gun barrel, guys still want to get married. They want it to work like it’s supposed to.
‘Successful’ and ‘Failed’ Marriages
I’ve made prior posts about my own marriage and how I’ve developed it, but I’m always reluctant to hold myself up as some model for other men to follow because I’m painfully and personally aware of the marriage stories of other men. As good as it sounds, don’t use my marriage as your benchmark.
In fact I think the very idea of a “successful marriage” is a very abused, feel-good Oprah-esque term. ’Successful’ and ‘Failed’ marriages are Matrix-speak. They’re goal oriented terms for a relational condition that’s constantly in flux. You have to stop thinking of a “successful marriage” in terms of years on the clock. There are people married for 50+ years who are absolutely miserable with each other, and there are couples married for 2 or 3 who have a better love and mutual respect for each other than their parents ever realized themselves after 40 years. Perpetuating a life-long state of misery because it became normalized is a much greater ‘failure’ than divorcing a woman who’s poisonous to your well-being, to say nothing of your family’s. Longevity does not equal ‘success’ in marriage.
Whenever I’m asked for examples of ‘successful marriages’, and particularly when asked by guys seeking to turn their Beta-framed marriage around, I always refer to this inspirational post from Dave in Hawaii. This is my go-to model for both the questioning unmarried man and the desperate beta-married man.
The underlying, root problem most men have with regard to women, intimacy, their relationships, etc. is fear. Fear of rejection, fear of isolation, fear of missing out on or fucking up what they’ve been taught should be their legitimate, socially approved desire. So pervasive is this fear that in trying to avoid the consequences of it, it trumps even the fear of death. I personally know Marines who’ve bravely faced real bullets shot at them, who’ll manically avoid any situation they think their wives or girlfriends would even remotely consider leaving them for. Bullets don’t scare them, but the chance of losing a girlfriend’s intimacy paralyzes them with fear. This is the “Yes Dear” fear.
In order to compensate for that fear men will devise all manner of rationales for their relations, but furthest from their mind would ever be ‘experimenting’ or engaging in risk taking situations with their LTR woman. So influential is that fear that they will never attempt changing their own positions no matter how beneficial it would be to both him and his partner. Guys embodying the peak of confidence in other aspects of their lives would still rather “keep the peace” in the face of a bad situation with their wives than risk that loss (of the ONE or otherwise), and be cast back into uncertain conditions where they may actually grow, but again be subject to real rejection.
Dave in Hawaii’s story I linked is an example of a guy who would’ve otherwise divorced his wife and was already in a “nothing left to lose” situation while married, so he overcame the fear and experimented. That led him to a new reframing of his relationship; one where his wife had a renewed respect for him. The possibility existed that she could have taken such offense to his behavior that she would’ve been prompted to leave him, but her leaving was already a foregone conclusion if he hadn’t initiated something new.
There comes a point in a Man’s life where the fear of experimenting with a potentially disastrous outcome is out weighed by the cost involved in not assuming that risk.
Whether it comes (preferably) before he’s committed to a situation (like marriage) or as a result of the conditions created by that commitment, at some point he realizes the truth that he will only get what he has gotten if keeps doing what he has done. This is the internal debate the ‘peacekeeper’ has to confront – is his peacekeeping so debilitating that he wont experiment with risking a new outcome? If you’re still having this internal dialog you haven’t reached that threshold yet.
In July I’ll have been married for 16 years. Mrs. Tomassi and I have always enjoyed a mature, adult, mutual respect and understanding of each other’s identities and how we relate to each other. I’ve been in LTRs where I was constantly walking on eggshells, nervous that any slight might mean the end of what was really a twisted, adolescent level BPD relationship. You cannot live like that forever; you will break it off, or you will commit suicide. For over 16 years I’ve fearlessly ‘checked out’ other women and ask my wife’s joking opinion about them. And yes, she playfully hits me back by saying some random guy is cute, but my confidence to roll with what we’re both aware is part of the Game only serves to amplify her continued attraction for me. That push-pull is an essential part of my wife’s respect for me. Experimentation and a sense of fearlessness is an intentional foundation of my marriage.