I've heard a lot of people swear off marriage after a divorce. Or two. Or more. I've been around that block more times than I care to acknowledge. But if I've learned anything at all, it's this: Marriage is not the problem.
Nope. Marriage is a fine idea when it's done for the right reasons, by the right people, and without a load of emotional baggage messing it up. The problems occur when we still have issues from the past and our choices of partners perpetuate - and demonstrate - those issues. It's like using a recipe for a dish that you don't particularly like but you continue to make it anyway. And every time you make it, no one likes it. But if you want a different result, you have to change the ingredients.
In many relationships, there is a lot of people-pleasing going on, with one or both parties twisting themselves into knots for each other. These might sound like lovely ideas but in reality, there's a point where they're destructive to the individuals and to the relationships. Such behaviour usually stems from feeling unlovable, or from fearing being abandoned or rejected. All of us have a deep need to be loved; it just shows up in different ways from one person to the next - and sometimes we go too far to find that love.
Another problem is that we might have become used to a less-than-ideal view of what love really is. We might grow up with criticism or other unpleasantness, with boundary violations or no boundaries at all, being shown a lack of respect. Whatever the case might be, there are usually dysfunctional elements in our upbringing, especially those of us who have been around a while and had parents who had no idea about psychology and 'feelings' - or teaching us about self-esteem because they didn't have much of it themselves.
So we get a distorted view of love and there are often control issues thrown into the mix because of it. And although a new relationship might seem completely different from all of the unhealthy ones from the past, if you wait long enough you'll usually see the same general issues and themes coming up again and again. It's because you're still hauling the same ingredients out of your own cupboard - which means you will always end up with that same dish that you don't like.
So if it all goes tits up, don't throw out the baby with the bath water. Instead, see what more you can do to clear out that cupboard and put different ingredients in it.
After too many failed marriages, and thinking I'd sorted out my own 'ingredients' every time, finally I figured out that I needed to have a relationship with myself for a while. After a bunch of years on my own now, I know I will never settle for less than the relationship that I envision, the one that is about mutual respect and nurturing, and that is balanced and equal, a relationship in which my strengths are celebrated and I am not crushed or stifled, and one that allows both parties to be who they are meant to be. I will never allow anyone to manipulate or control me again by using ultimatums or emotional blackmail. I will spot it a mile off and run for the hills. I will never be with someone who frightens me, or who sucks the life out of me, or who only gives back when there's something in it for him, or when it's easy.
Nor will I give up absolutely everything I own, trusting that it will be respected, valued - and returned. Love and trust should have nothing to do with money. I learned that lesson in a most terribly painful way. But I'm sure karma - a natural balancing of universal energy - will take care of the people who so easily abused my trust - and my love.
I would rather be alone for the rest of my life than ever be in another of those relationships. I have finally learned to value myself (and what I have to offer) enough to really 'get' that. They always say you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else. But the problem was that although I thought I knew what that meant, I was wrong. I was using an unhealthy model as my guide. It was the only one I had, the one my parents taught me. And it kept producing equally unhealthy results.
I will only ever be with someone who is in alignment with the integrity and other core values that I've set for myself and I will never again de-value myself by being involved with someone who does not appreciate or respect who I am.
It was easy for me to blame marriage as the problem but the truth is, for all the good I did in my relationships, I was still operating with some toxic beliefs about myself that allowed me to choose partners who kept validating those beliefs. I didn't have a hope in hell of being happy.
The bottom line? We are only ever as emotionally healthy as the partners we choose. No matter how much you would like to think you're okay and your partner is the dishonest, cheating, controlling, lying pinhead or whatever else is the problem, all is not right within yourself if you managed to hook up with that scumbag. Guaranteed, there will always be some emotional wound(s) within yourself that allowed you to connect with him or her - and to get stuck in it long enough to be hurt.
It might look different from one person to the next, but the level of dysfunction - or emotional health - will always be equal between you.
Best to clean up your own back yard before worrying about what anyone else is doing. Or before getting into another serious relationship.