Deal Breakers Revisited

For those of you just joining us, I posted earlier this week about deal breakers, things that would cause you to end your marriage.  I got some interesting comments and not a lot of disagreement. Not that I expected much, I feel like a know most of my readers (or at least my commenters) pretty well, and they’re (you’re) a bunch who take their (your) marriages pretty seriously.  There’s not a whole lot more to say but I did promise to weigh in and  I had at least one reader who mentioned that she wanted to hear what I had to say.  So here goes.

As far as abuse: sexual is an automatic later gator; physical is almost impossible to say because that’s so not Shaun, but I agree that those who are physically abusive were almost always raised that way and have serious, self control, anger management issues, and basically, they never just do it once so I’d probably have to go.  Mental abuse is a lot harder to pin down.  As a teenager I dated a guy who was somewhat mentally abusive, so I do actually know something about this and it’s really hard to say, of course I’d love to say that I’d leave but the reality of it is that it starts so slowly and gets into your head so insidiously that I probably wouldn’t, even though I should.

Infidelity (and I include porn as well as all forms of sexual, as well as emotional infidelity in this) is not an automatic deal breaker for me.  Nor is it for most of you which I was delighted to see.  That being said, I can also see that an extreme case maybe wouldn’t be something that I could get over.  (I think I could work through some kissing, I could probably even work through some sex but a prolonged affair, or a severe porn addiction, would a whole other matter.) So it could very well end up breaking me after all.  And of course it all depends on the attitude and commitment level of both parties.

I wouldn’t leave over Sean’s leaving the church, nor joining another one. (In fact, I think I’d prefer him an active member of some religion or other to the alternative.)  That being said I wouldn’t allow his actions in that area to dictate mine.  I know a woman who left the church shortly after her husband did “for family unity” and I think that’s crazy.  Attend church with him if you feel like you must, but to turn your back on promises and covenants that you’ve made simply because your husband wants to drink and you don’t want to make him feel bad (because that’s all that really is) that’s just silly.

Due to a past that’s really none of your business (because it’s not my story to tell) I couldn’t and wouldn’t allow any kind of drinking.  It’s just too close to a very dangerous and very steep slope for me, so I would actually leave over a second drink (I think I would a allow a little leeway after the first, but one more and I’m gone daddy, gone.) but that’s just with Shaun.  If I were married to say, your husband, I’d probably allow it.  And I want to say here that I wouldn’t allow it in my home, but if it came right down to let him have a beer in my living room or divorce him, I’d probably put up with some Budweiser in the fridge.  (I know that this all sounds needlessly strict and probably a little crazy to the few of my readers who aren’t LDS but what can I say?  We’re a crazy bunch.)

There’s not a lot that would make me leave and at the same time, there is.  Really what it all boils down to  (as multiple people mentioned) is a desire and a commitment, on the part of both members of the couple, to make it work.   So while at the outset I’d love to say that I wouldn’t leave over something like, his being unwilling to help around the house, eventually, after we had talked about it enough times and he was really patently unwilling to do anything but go to work and then sit on the couch and play Gears of War, I’d probably leave.

One thing I did think was interesting in the comments was people saying that they would leave but not divorce (I remember that particularly in merrychris’s comment) and I disagree with that.  If I’m gone I’m all the way gone.  That’s not to say that if upon my leaving Sean were to be stunned and shaken enough to see the error of his ways and really truly resolve to improve I wouldn’t even consider coming back, I absolutely would.  But I agree with Annette, leaving is not something that should be undertaken until you’re willing to follow through and stay gone.

But I don’t believe that we were meant to be alone.  There are times when it’s inescapable and someone has to be alone, even has to raise kids alone, but I believe that that is just not the way it’s supposed to be.  So if things had gone bad enough that I had to leave I wouldn’t be keeping one foot in that door, I’m gone and I’m divorcing so that maybe, just maybe, I can find someone else and try it all over again.

All of the preceding being said, I love and whole-heartedly agree with what a bunch of you said about how you don’t really know what you can tolerate and what you can’t until you’re there.  But I do think most of us at least have a starting off point and this is mine.


This has ended up being a lot longer of a post than I anticipated.  And unfortunately, it’s kind of a downer.  Sorry about that.  I do want to make it clear that I’m not bringing it up for any reason in particular.  Sean and I have been together for a blissful (*snort*) ok, well a pretty darn good 11 years now, and I’m being completely honest when I say that I’m still loving it.  In fact, I disagree with that line that I remember getting roughtly 800 times just before I got married, you know the one about how marriage is hard.

Honestly, I don’t think it is.

But that, my friends, is a post for another day.

18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Julie
    Mar 26, 2009 @ 22:19:59

    I’m with you on the drinking thing. It’s such a deal breaker for me. It’s part of who I am

  2. s'mee
    Mar 26, 2009 @ 22:50:41

    One a personal note, we, Thor and I, have three different couples within our families where one spouse cheated.

    Interesting outcomes:

    1st couple: the cheating spouse claimed love for both their spouse and the outsider. Came “clean”, couple stayed together for three years, tried to make it work, eventually divorced and then remarried after being apart for five years. Happily remarried with a huge gynormo prenup. The innocent party in the marriage offered to rear illegitimate child as their own, that did not happen, but they as a couple were hugely involved with the birth mother and remain very close to the child now. This couple went through all the hoops to keep or renew member ship in the church and are active today, and happy together.

    2nd couple: The cheating spouse left which resulted in a divorce after a few months. After three years the couple remarried. However they both left the church never to return. They are “somewhat” happy as long as they lead separate lives in the same house. All three of their (now grown)children have been married and divorce at least once, all single currently, all anti-LDS, all seemingly unhappy, the three grown children all suffer with different forms of mental illness due to drug use/alcohol abuse in their early 20s.

    3rd couple: cheating spouse admitted guilt, other spouse freaked out but quickly turned to their Bishop for council. Couple went through council, forgave each other, stayed active even through excommunication and re-baptism, never divorced, returned to the temple, are -to anyone who does not know their past- the “Ultimate Poster Couple for Happy Marriage”. All of their children are high achievers and naturally happy.

    Get whatever you will from those examples.

  3. Jen
    Mar 26, 2009 @ 23:07:30

    Such interesting stories up there. It’s funny how you have to make this prediction based on who your spouse is – which is why I said I’d take an extended vacay. In other words, I would never threaten to leave unless I was going to, but I might say – I’m giving you your space to get things sorted out, and if you can’t I’m gone.

    Because that’s the kind of thing that would probably work for him. Still, it’s all very interesting – and refreshing to hear so many people committed to sticking it out if at all possible.

  4. Julie
    Mar 27, 2009 @ 00:03:49

    Great thoughts, Alison. I think you’re right that it all depends on the couple/level of commitment/level of regret on the part of all involved.

    I just really truly hope that I’m never faced with any of these situations. I don’t expect to be.

    And I think marriage (the first 5 years, at least) is hard. I’m interested to hear why you feel otherwise.

  5. LisAway
    Mar 27, 2009 @ 04:10:24

    Thanks for sharing, Alison. I agree with most of this. Not sure about drinking, though, as Greg loved to drink before he was baptized and was sort of headed toward alcoholism (his dad’s a sober one).

    Also, about leaving the church and joining another. I used to think that it’s better for a member of the church to date a strong member of another church than someone who doesn’t care about religion. Greg has convinced me otherwise. I won’t go into why.

    I also never go why everyone was always saying how hard marriage is, especially at the beginning. We had our arguments, but I still lived for about 2 years with butterflies in my stomach every time I thought that he was mine. But, yeah, I think marriage SURELY has its hard parts. I want to hear your reflections on that, too.

  6. Kristina
    Mar 27, 2009 @ 05:08:29

    I like you last line. Yesterday was our 5 year anniversary. I do think that marriage takes work, but I wouldn’t say it was HARD either. Talk to me in another 5 years, after we’ve had kids, and maybe I’ll change my mind. 🙂

  7. karen
    Mar 27, 2009 @ 06:15:30

    I do have to say that religion was the demise of my first marriage. Hubby became a “born again Christian”….which was fine at first. I joined the church to try and keep our marriage together but was never that “into it’. Then Hubby took the religion to a whole new level. He denounced anyone (including his children) who were not “with him” and refused to have a relationship with them. When I went to the pastor for counseling, he reprimanded Hubby for his over-exuberance but did nothing else. Finally, when I felt Hubby’s religion had become cultish…..I left. It was a deal-breaker for me because the quality of life for both myself and my children was so bad.

  8. karen
    Mar 27, 2009 @ 06:16:38

    On my last comment I had the wrong email address. Please do not respond to that one. Thanks.

  9. Mother of the Wild Boys
    Mar 27, 2009 @ 06:18:33

    Thanks for posting this Al. I really was curious to hear your point of view. I agree with almost everything you’ve said, which doesn’t surprise me because I usually do. (with enough to disagree about just to make our friendship interesting!)

  10. Annette
    Mar 27, 2009 @ 07:22:17

    You’ve given me lots of food for thought here.

  11. Melanie J
    Mar 27, 2009 @ 18:29:35

    Interesting. I think I’m kinda with you but the whole thing is pretty speculative because my husband lived a pretty clean life before we were married and we didn’t get married until he was 37. He knew he was. There was no wild past and I don’t expect a wild future. Which is perfect.

  12. robyn
    Mar 27, 2009 @ 21:37:32

    Nicely stated Ali. We each have our lines in the sand it seems. I didn’t mention drinking in my last comment. I think because I’ve seen the Babe drunk (pre-membership) I knew it would not be a problem. I worry more about myself in that department. Being a pre-disposed alcoholic (parental units) I stay far away from the idea of drinking. I can easily see a tumble down a dark pit if that were ever the case. So I just won’t go there.

    The problem with seeking advice from others about marital problems is evidenced in the comments. We all have our lines drawn and not influencing someone has got to be paramount in our advising another. I would not want my baggage to be responsible for someone else’s decisions. The younger the person seeking advice the more influence can be disastrous if done wrong.

    Recently I’ve had the chance to hear about a few marriage problems of young women in the church. I am surprised that the themes are the same and how much or little some are ready to talk about them. Some not at all, others willing to share everything. My advice is to always give it time. Especially if either spouse is nearing graduation or completion of a major project for their careers. That always seems to raise stress levels to fever pitch and a little perspective helps smooth things out over time. One young woman said after hearing her peers issues “wow and I thought we had problems, I’m thankful for my husband”. Just a little perspective.

    Wow long comment. Maybe I should write a post.

  13. Janelle
    Mar 28, 2009 @ 19:27:47

    While in college I had a boyfriend who unexpectedly harmed me on purpose. I broke up with him the next day. So physical harm is not ok with me.

    I had several boyfriends who wanted me to lose weight or do something else to my physical appearance. Those guys had to go. (I was a size 2 106 lbs)

    I have met a lot of chauvenistic men and those guys never had a chance to have a deal breaker because they don’t deserve dealing with.

    I think there are a lot of deal breakers out there. The best defense is a good offense.

    Here are some of my strategies:

    I hire my husbands secretaries.
    All computers are in public places.
    We do nearly all socializing together.
    We spiritually connect often during family prayer, FHE and scripture study.
    We don’t let hobbies interfere with the marriage.
    I say and do things to let him know that I love him and rely on him every day.
    We do not let our kids come before our relationship.
    We do not foster independence in the marriage, but interdependece. We are honest about needing each other.

    Marriage is hard work, luckily it just happens to be enjoyable, making it seem less arduous.

  14. merrychris
    Mar 28, 2009 @ 22:16:42

    On the separation thing, I wouldn’t even leave if I didn’t think there was irreparable damage being done by my staying, like physical or catastrophic psychological damage. When I said my marriage was forever, I meant it. If a physical separation is necessary, then I would be willing to do that, but I wouldn’t classify that as “one foot in, one foot out”. There aren’t any feet out, and it isn’t just the feet that are in. It’s everything, all the way.

    Jeanette has me, and all of me, forever, no matter what she does.

  15. marivic
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 18:45:34

    I could not disagree with anything you said. Very well-thought through. I love this post and the first one that started it. After 20+ years my husband still says he can spend every minute of everyday with me and think it’s heaven. Corny but I like it :-). So I think it’s great that we covenanted to be one for time and eternity. I just hope I’ll never be confronted with anything that will be a deal-breaker or endure through what should be a deal breaker because time and eternity is a very, very, very long time.

  16. bythelbs
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 10:54:48

    I like what Janelle said about marriage being hard work, but the enjoyment of it makes it seem less so.

  17. Dollie
    Apr 05, 2009 @ 13:16:19

    cheating is a deal breaker for me a big one my dad had a long time affair with the girl he is with now I absolutely love her but it still made me wonder with how long it went on if my baptism was legit and such…

  18. Dollie
    Apr 05, 2009 @ 13:16:40

    when you cheat you are just cheating on the spouse you are cheating on your kids and your family as a whole. …

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