When Marriage Fails Us … by Nancy Brophy

Is there a woman among us who has not been affected by a man who’s violated our trust? As romance writers we tend not to write about the ugly side of love. If a man is unfaithful in one of our stories, it is a man our heroine leaves only to be rewarded by finding true love with someone who does everything better than the cheating scum bucket – including sexual performance.

Real life is not always so clear. Do you stay or do you go? How much do you weigh the time invested and the children born? Does forgiveness say more about you than the relationship or the man? Is the lesson taught, the lesson learned?

There are some who believe a cheater will always cheat. So when you forgive him you have convinced him there are no consequences to his actions. The opportunity to forgive will be presented again and again. Another school of thought believes everybody makes mistakes and should be allowed a second or third chance.

Every relationship is different and all are fluid. Power shifts back and forth between the players. Regardless of your status – single, dating, living together or married – each avenue houses both the good and the bad in equal measures. Some days are good, and we like our lives, and other days we want anything but what we’ve chosen.

When George Harrison’s second wife, Olivia was asked how she made the marriage work for over twenty years, she responded, “We didn’t get a divorce.”

I once had a friend who maintained you should never commit to a man with whom you have not have a terrible fight. Because you have to know even in anger that he holds your relationship and you sacred. Today we have more opportunity to marry for love than we’ve ever had in the past. Yet, many of us cling to the fairy tales of our youth. A man (even without a white horse) will save us from ourselves. When that turns out not to be true, we feel cheated.

Someone coined the adage, women give sex to get love, men give love to get sex, and in the 60’s we learned free love was never free. There was always a cost to be paid, mostly on the wear and tear of your soul. Intimacy is supposed to create a safe haven where every one can drop their guard if only for a brief period of time. It is why a man can tell a prostitute the secrets he could never say at home and why a woman is annoyed (or worse) if the man immediately drops into a dead sleep.

The best relationships share several common traits. You must know and like yourself. Another person will not complete you, nor be the wind beneath your wings. At least not every day. Understand what you want. If you’re telling him what you think he wants to hear, your relationship hinges on lies.

Have you chosen a partner based on his resume rather than the man himself? While sex might be a microcosm of the relationship, it is not the barometer. A great physical encounter does not determine the success of the relationship. (Please don’t bring up the times I’ve said it does in books)

Love is tough. Riding off into the sunset may blind you temporarily, but sooner or later your sight returns. Everyone’s story includes pain and underneath it all, we share the same story. If I’ve learned one thing about life and love, it is that time is the sponge that soaks up the hurt. Before you hire a divorce attorney, give the relationship time to cool down. I read somewhere that after being divorced for a couple of years, most people believe they could have made it work, if only they’d tried harder.

Historically women stayed in relationships because they had no choice. Today we have a choice, which makes our decisions more complex. We rarely see all of the ramifications that occur when someone throws a stone into the water.

I write romance because I believe in true love and happily ever after, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t also written a blog about how to murder your husband, which is why I’ve never included a scene in which the hero and heroine ride off into the sunset.

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Posted on April 20, 2012, in General and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Nancy, you bring up so many excellent points that I could write several blogs in response. No worries, I won’t do that. But two of your points are one’s that bring me to comment.

    About cheating husbands. I have known people who have immediately left and those who have chosen to forgive and move on. For those who have been able to forgive, it was the true belief it was only once. But it was NOT at all easy. It takes years (if ever) to get the original trust back. As for me, I have a list of things that would make me walk away. That is one of them and I made it VERY clear to my husband prior to marriage that it was one of the things on my list.

    I have been married before and the divorce did not sour me on love; but it did teach me what is important to me in a long term relationship. That is communication and sharing of our lives–both the life we live when we are not together as well as the one we live together. I think that is the hardest thing to do in our modern world. In the past, roles were defined. The man worked outside of the home and the woman worked in the home, keeping the family together. Some couples shared the trials and successes of those roles with each other. Many did not.

    For me, though my values are the same at my job, as a writer, and as a wife, the “persona” I present in each venue is different and the things that make me passionate in each persona is different AND an important part of who I am. If I don’t share those things about my day job, or about my writing life, then my relationship with my husband is not as fulfilling. I feel that there is a part of the “true me” he doesn’t know or understand. This was a hard lesson for me to learn–one based on my mistaken belief that what I did away from him wasn’t important or didn’t have meaning for him (and thus not for me). When I started sharing those parts of my life, and letting him know how much it meant to me, our relationship made a quantum leap in its evolution. FOR BOTH OF US!!!

    I learned that he wanted to know that part of me and felt cheated because I mostly kept it hidden. And for me, I felt like I was finally revealing the whole person with all my picadillos, my stupid mistakes, and my triumphs (both small and large).

    And isn’t that what our romance novel characters do too? It is when they finally allow their “true” selves to be fully revealed to their love interest that amazing things happen. Frequently, in romance novels it is represented through sex–but I contend that first it must be represented through action, through letting go and trusting the other will still love you–all of you. Then, of course, great sex is bound to follow. 🙂

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  2. You didn’t wonder why your pal thought you may be having a problem, did you? It’s not exactly your usual rant but I do like it. Very thought provoking. 16 years ago, before my husband proposed, I told him that I didn’t believe in divorce but I did believe in being a widow. Through the years, more of them happy than not, I’ve come to the realization that it’s not the big things that will destroy a relationship, big things do deserve second chances and usually happen only once. It’s the little things that can build to St. Helen’s proportions, which is why I always advocate living with someone for at least a year before getting married. After all, if you can’t get past the little things that can annoy the crap out of you until you’re contemplating murder, you probably should think twice about saying “I do.” Wishing everyone a HEA!

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  3. Thank you for your comments. Interestingly enough when I saw a good friend yesterday, she worried that my post indicated a problem in my marriage. So let me say I didn’t write this out of personal issues. I also find it interesting that knowing the three of you personally, of the range of women who normally comment only women with secure marriages are saying anything.

    Although some times my blogs evoke lots of responses in humor and as I read this one to my husband, he asked. “Where’s the humor in this topic?” Maybe i’m just a beat off this week.

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  4. As I read your post I kept thinking about the “Shades of Grey” piece I watched on TV last night — with all this freedom women have to marry for love, why are such weak heroines, who only want a man to “take care of them” (Bella in Twilight, now this “Grey” business), so popular these days? UGH. Great point about having a row with your man, so you know he holds you and your relationship sacred! Sorry I’m not more succinct this morning. Only one cup of coffee.
    Good post!

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  5. Many words of wisdom in this post, Nancy! I love my husband of over 40 years, but we have had a few rough patches. You are right: commitment, compassion and forgiveness play a part in any successful marriage, as do reasonable expectations.

    “Another person will not complete you, nor be the wind beneath your wings. At least not every day.” So true!

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  6. A long lasting marriage is a give and take that is a special dance all of it’s own. At any moment one of the partners can trip over their own feet and say they’ve had enough. The Mr. says the same thing {tongue in cheek} He’s still married because I never divorced him… and he said he loved me on our wedding day – if he’d changed his mind he would have told me, lol.

    I write romance because I think love is the greatest leveler in life. Nothing trumps the perfectness of falling in love with that special guy and waking up next to him every day. After that, what life brings is what life brings.

    I need coffee now. Great post, Nancy!

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