Field Notes for My Next Marriage (What To Remember Before Getting Married)

Field Notes for My Next Marriage (What To Remember Before Getting Married)

Let me be clear, I’m not married. I’m not actually sure marriage is a priority for me in the next several years. I’m not ruling it out, but I’m also not looking for a marriage to complete me. See, many of us have already done that. My first marriage, at 27, is what I call my starter marriage. All beauty and creative inspirations mixed with college graduation, better get started with your real life. My second marriage was for kids. Yes, she is beautiful and was a high school friend, and we both wanted children. In that department, we did splendidly. In the relationship part we never really found our footing in the trust and unconditional love that is required for sustainability.

What would I like to recall and share as a field guide for how I think about my next marriage. Of course, the best answer is: “We will stay married happily ever after.” AND, end fantasy scene. It’s the only way I’m going into marriage again, with the understanding that we are committed for life, but you know how things work out sometimes: an unexpected crisis hits, the sexual chemistry goes south and never returns, the resentments get pushed under the carpet so many times until it is impossible to find a repair for the relationship. So, eyes wide open, here are my notes for anyone heading in the direction of the courthouse or the chapel, myself included.

Field Notes for My Next Marriage (What To Remember Before Getting Married)

  1. Marry for joy and compatibility.
  2. Sex is a drug
  3. Love is an on-going effort.
  4. Sexual chemistry is part instinct, part enthusiasm, and part openness.
  5. Money can be problematic, especially if there’s an imbalance at the beginning
  6. Kids change everything and trump any “relationship” issues you have with your partner
  7. Co-parenting begins in marriage and continues (in joy and in anger) as long as you or your ex-spouse are alive

Marry for joy and compatibility

I have often written about seeking a joyful partner. I even coined the idea, Joy Tribe, when describing myself and who I’m looking to align myself with. Joy is first and foremost the most attractive quality in a person. A joyful person can laugh at hard situations and say, “If we can laugh about it later, we can laugh about it now.” A joyful person will always give you the benefit of the doubt. A joyful person knows how to let go of expectations and plans and leap freely and fearlessly into a hair-brained scheme, just for the joy of it. With joy comes compatibility. Sure, I’m a handful of emotions, activities, motivations, and even skeletons, but I approach most of life with a joyful repose. “Let’s figure out how to do this with joy.”

Sex is a drug

In the early phases of courtship and relationship building, I have frequently been blinded by the emotional and sexual part of falling in love. If we slip too quickly into bed, we will be making decisions and calculations about the other person with an altered brain. The chemistry of my own body changes dramatically when I’m in a compelling and inspired sexual relationship. It is as if, all of the electrons in the cells of my body have suddenly started resonating to the same note. I get a warm hum of energy and joy in my physical body when I’m having full-filling sex with a connected partner. AND, the downside to this is, I am also in a wildly altered state when this occurs. Decisions about relationships, awareness of obvious red flags, signs of incompatibility can be overwritten by the passion of a good lover. NOTE: great lovers may not make the best relationships. It’s what happens when the white-hot passion begins to cool, and my body settles into it’s less agitated and aggressive state, that I might come to notice things that don’t quite match up with my goals and ideals.

Love is an on-going effort

We marry for love and believe that the inspirational love vibes will continue as long as we work at it. We think, if we are good partners, good providers, and good lovers, we will succeed in marriage. It’s not that easy. Both partners have to continually re-up their commitment and desire to be in the marriage. When one partner begins “exploring options” the marriage is in deep trouble. You are either looking for love an fulfillment in your marriage or you are looking elsewhere. That’s when love wains, boredom and ennui sets in, and couples begin to look outside the relationship for affirmations, encouragements, and affections.

Sexual chemistry

Sex is important. And, you are only going to spend a small amount of your lives together making love. Make sure the sexual potency doesn’t blind you to some of the relationship issues. A hot sexual relationship is not necessarily the best indicator of relationship skills or strong commitment to fidelity. Don’t let good sex cloud your judgment in the early phases of a relationship. Keep your eyes open for indications about their negotiation skills and flexibility when things don’t work out as planned.

Money can be problematic

We’ve all got to earn a living. The “day job” however might look very different for you and your partner. As we enter middle age it is hopeful that we’ve begun to get our money issues worked out. When someone is in constant money trouble, steer clear, there is probably some other underlying issue that’s causing their distress. As we move along as adults we make choices about careers, about savings and retirement, about spending. And by middle age, it is hoped we’ve reached some inner peace with how the world of money works. If money is an issue for them individually, it’s probably not going to get better when you begin combining bills and bank accounts.

Kids trump any “relationship” issues 

Once your kids arrive, the relationship between you and your spouse can take the back seat. For a while, this is necessary and good. Young children require constant attention and nurture. Finding time within the early parenting years to cuddle, caress, and make love, is an interesting challenge. But do find the energy to make the effort. If you let sex die while your kids a little you’re going to have a harder time restarting the fires of desire when they begin leaving for school. Kids are the priority but don’t forget the needs and requests of the other adult in the house. You can stay connected while you parent young children, but you both have to make a point of keeping adult time as part of your schedule.

Co-parenting continues forever

And as kids come and stay forever, your relationship might not last. The “relationship” however does last forever. I’m asked from time to time, “When are you going to get over your divorce?” I wonder at the person’s understanding of parenting when they ask that question. My answer, “When I die, I suppose. But it’s not my divorce I’m into it’s my kids.” My ex-wife plays a very small part of my daily life, and that’s the way it needs to be. By eliminating drama from my life, I also had to eliminate most interactions with the mother of my children. It’s okay. We’re civil. But we’re not friends, as I had hoped we would be.

I am not planning on getting divorced again. Any decision to marry will come with a refined approach to loving, adapting, and handling our own individual dramas outside the relationship. What I want in a relationship is another person who has the same commitment I do towards doing whatever it takes to keep the home fires alive. Now that my kids are older, I have the luxury of looking for another partner who has also grown out of the primary parenting stage. Now, as we look to our lives beyond being parents, it is more important for me to listen to their dreams for themselves. What aspirations does my potential partner carry with them? Can I support and love their ambitions alongside my own?

I do intend to marry again. I love the idea. I love being married. And while the first two didn’t work out as planned, I have new information and a stronger resolve to be a lifelong partner in the same way I expect my next lover to be.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

back to Dating After Divorce

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