Great Expectations: Musings of a Soon-to-be Wife

Seven weeks and I will be Mrs. Wifey. Seven weeks until the €œfirst day of the rest of my life. Hmm exciting? Incredibly. But why are my nerves running more than anything?

Let me take you to my recent bridal shower, where one of the games was to have everyone fill out a questionnaire about my favorite movie, shoe size, etc. to see who knew me the most. The last question asked, œWhat is the bride’s biggest fear? Some cousins and aunts put the typical snake or spider response, but the sideways glances from my best friends let me know they had it right. Divorce. Way to kill a bridal party with that word. At least we moved on quickly to giggle again about what, exactly, was my favorite sex position. I couldn’t give a straight answer to that question with my mom and future mother-in-law shaking their heads at me and saying jokingly to the other ladies, œWell nothing, because she hasn’t had sex before marriage!

So why is divorce my biggest fear? Well for starters, 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce, according to, which is something I’m sure EVERYONE has heard. Half! That’s like walking into a Chemistry test and the teacher saying œhalf of you will fail no matter how much you studied. Well to be fair, the divorce percentage is distributed across different age groups, according to the same website. For instance, 38.8% of men and 36.6% of women are 20 to 24-years-old when they get a divorce. Further, 22.3% of men and 16.4% of women are ages 25 to 29 when they divorce. Although the numbers gradually decrease with age, divorce at any age is never a fun thing.

What is it about age that decreases the number so dramatically? For me I thought that the older I was when I married the less stupid I would be in making the big decision. They say with age comes wisdom and one can only hope that acquired wisdom applies to deciding on the person you marry. Thankfully, I tell myself, when I marry I will fall within the 25 to 29 age group; but is being in a higher age group all I need to put my mind at ease?

Even with my age being in a less divorced age group, if my family history has anything to say for my pending marriage I’m doomed. Said succinctly, my parents were divorced, both remarried, both divorced again, Dad on his third marriage and then sister divorced. With all that family history, how can I not fear that my turn will be next? Are such family occurrences contagious or genetic? I would like to not think so, but again my nerves keep going.

What keeps marriages together? My future father-in-law has a theory for what has kept his 25 years of marriage together. He says 90 percent of the time him and my future mother-in-law agree on things. Nine percent of the time, they disagree but the other person doesn’t really care so it’s not a big deal. It’s the last one percent of things that they are both passionate about and disagree that causes arguments. But, he says, œwe talk it through like adults and things turn out fine. Apparently it’s worked for them for 25 years so I’ll listen.

But is there one thing that keeps marriages together? (Anyone who finds the definitive answer to that will be a millionaire). What I find unfair is that our society shoves the expectation of a happy, monogamous, heterosexual marriage into our faces and yet doesn’t really give us any good suggestions for how to stay together œtil death do us part. It’s like yelling good luck to an amateur football player as you give him a shove into the professional football game. I can picture the total destruction now. Maybe he will sit out on the sidelines a few times until he gets the courage to try again. Hopefully, he gets some helpful tips from the coach or other players in the game to help his chances. But at any point, the amateur may throw in the towel and walk out no matter how much of his heart is in the game.

My heart is all into it. I want it to be and I know it is. But what happens when, say, jealousy surfaces in either of us or one or both of us becomes really attracted to another person? Again, society instills in us that the person I am married to is mine and I am his “ only one choice and no sharing. Is that really fair? All of us in partnerships are like kids in a candy store with Mom saying, œnow, you can only pick one when all the single people can pop any yummy candy in their mouth. But, but, Mooooom! I want all of them! Nope, society says just one. The one I’ve picked is M&Ms but what about the Reeses I know I still like? And I’m sure there are a ton more types of candy I haven’t even tried that I might love. Am I really only allowed to have only M&Ms for the rest of my life, never to try another? I say Scuba Steve damn you! <Shake fist at society>.

I’m going to make it work, as long as we grow together, love each other, communicate, and negotiate. And, as much as I fear divorce, I’m not going to be stupid and not see signs that really mean my relationship is no longer healthy enough to cure. For instance, I see many people think they should stay together for the kids. Yes, this adds another motivation to keep it together, but in my opinion there is a time when enough is enough. Your kids see when you are unhappy in the relationship. They see the non-kissing, they hear the fights (even if you think you are being œquiet after the kids go to bed), and that anger permeates the house. You aren’t hiding anything and while you both are unhappy, the kids are unhappy. There is a time when the excuse of œfor the sake of the kids doesn’t help and the parents should split up so that anger is no longer filling the house to the brim.

Besides, divorces don’t have to be ugly. A friend of mine’s parent’s divorced way back when and they still live together, with each other’s partners. Now I’m not saying everyone can do that but is it too much to ask to be civil to the person you once loved?

For now, the biggest thing I can say to myself is to make sure I think. To think and make conscious decisions about what I do. Don’t get caught in the wave of societal expectations but rather think about why I want to get married, smile at the fact that I know I do, and then know that I want to be married because I want to be, not because society expects me to be. And, although I can’t deny the possibility that my fear may come true and either of us may want to throw in the towel, I am ready to jump into the game and fight, with my growing wisdom, for the love I know can last a lifetime.

Dr. Chelsea Holland

Chelsea Holland, DHS is a sex educator and counselor based in Colorado. She is also a blogger at SEXuality Education from Dr. Chelsea. She helps individuals, partners, and groups regardless of their sexual orientation, sexual interests, ability, and age with concerns and questions around their sexuality and relationships. Further, she uses her open-minded, sex-positive, and nonjudgmental approach to help individuals become aware and accepting of who they are, to learn to be authentic in society about who they are, and to gain the skills that will help them develop and maintain positive relationships that are accepting of the individual's authenticity.

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