This was the word. The word that made my skin crawl, my stomach lurch, and helped tear my heart and mind in two.
My marriage had failed. We had failed. I had failed.
Failed to be a good enough wife, a strong enough couple. Failed to do whatever was necessary to make our marriage survive.
Of the many words about the end of a marriage, this smarted the most.
The connotations of failure are blame, guilt and an absolute sense of somehow being ‘not enough’. If you miss a GCSE ‘C’ grade by one mark, it’s deemed a failure; it doesn’t matter that it’s the best mark you’ve ever got and that you spent hours upon hours revising. It’s a fail.
The definition above states that to fail is to be unsuccessful. ‘Neglect, disappoint, weaker, let down’…is it any surprise that to hear your marriage has failed is unbearable? And it is interesting that it is often not the divorced who talk about their failed marriage. If you listen to them, they will talk about their marriage ending or breaking down, or their ‘first’ marriage – regardless of whether they’re married again or not! ‘Failed’ does nothing to describe the effort and heartache that accompanied the marriage end. Failed assumes you did not meet the expectation; married unto death; and in that sense ‘failed’ is true. It did not meet the golden standard for marriage.
But whose marriage is perfect? I defy any of us to feel that marriage never disappoints, or that our spouse hasn’t or didn’t at one time let us down. Truthfully, we will have all neglected our other half; maybe unintentionally, but sadly too often true.
You are not a failure. Divorced, happily married, single: you are not a failure. You are human. The bible tells us that we all fall short of the Glory of God. I fall short daily. I fell short in my marriage. If I get married again I imagine, despite my very best efforts, I will fall short once more.
Did my marriage fail? I guess it did…but you can choose the words you want to use about your situation. For a long time, explaining that we were separated felt like knocking a nail in the coffin, until eventually I used it as a physical description of the situation. Now – it doesn’t phase me to explain that’s what happened.
But words have great power; if the implication is that because my marriage failed, I failed, I’m going to choose a different word. It ended; I tried to keep it going. It broke down; I tried to repair it.
My marriage may have failed, but I did not. I am more than the sum total of one life event. I am the working at it, the crying, the praying, the commitment, and the end of that particular road; I am not a failure. You are not a failure.