marriage's meaning has changed

Marriage is hard

My heart feels a little heavy just now. I'm thinking of a friend–call him Andy (not his real name)–and the heartbreak he's enduring because his wife wants a divorce. This I learned about only a few days after learning that another friend, Bonnie (not her real name), has left her husband Stu (not his real name), taken out a restraining order against him, and filed for divorce. Stu also is heartbroken.

Marriage is hard, isn't it? For two people to meld their lives, to learn the back-and-forth, the give-and-take, of a shared life. It's hard in the best of circumstances. But in a culture that devalues marriage, it's infinitely harder.

marriage is hard
Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

In this 21st century, it seems marriage literally means something different than it once did. Even setting aside the legal redefinition to include same-sex unions. It once was a covenant, a binding contract, a lifetime promise–in sickness and health, for richer for poorer, until death parts us.

But no more. Now it's a temporary arrangement based on feelings. Movies and TV, even books, have created this vision of romance that people think their relationships should live up to, and Hollywood has taught us that if we “fall out of love” or “grow apart,” we can, should, must move on.

But romance novels (and Hollywood rom-coms) typically stop at the “I do.” They seldom, if ever, show the routine day-to-day or how we can continue to love when the heat of passion cools. Movies teach us that attraction is irresistible and sex is the first way we show love. And if the passion wanes, something is wrong.

Marriages end on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. But what that term really means is neither person is willing to change. Two people, each expecting the other to bend to his or her will. And when neither will give, they reach a stalemate. And in anger or frustration or resignation, they quit, they give up, they pack it in and walk away.1

So sad. And sadder still when one person wants to keep trying and the other refuses. As is the case with my friend Andy and his wife, and with our dear friends Bonnie and Stu.

Marriage is hard. No doubt about that. I'm just so sad for them all.


  1. I'm by no means intending to disregard or minimize the situations where a marriage ends due to physical abuse, infidelity, addiction, or other serious issues. My thoughts in this post only pertain to the many, many marriages that end for far less serious reasons.

Declaration of Independence

My thoughts this week are with my son, Benjamin, and his new wife, Jennifer, both of whom are spending this Independence Day holiday at US Army boot camp, and with my older son, Matthew, who is spending the holiday far from his wife, Kahi, and their two little boys as he does his duty in the United States Navy. To them, and to all those who are separated from those they love while they serve the cause of freedom in our United States military, I offer my sincere and humble gratitude.



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I know the Declaration of Independence, quoted in its entirety below, is long and the language is archaic, but I hope that sometime this week, as we celebrate the birth of the United States of America, you will take a few minutes to read the document that expresses the reasons this nation was born:

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

dreamstime_m_31485226We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.– Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
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Facebook is Not Enough

In our always-connected, always-online, media-rich 21st century world, sometimes it seems that we're all more isolated than ever. When we count up our hundreds of Facebook “friends” and thousands of Twitter “followers,”  we can forget that weeks, even months, go by without any meaningful connection with real, live people.

The thought that's been on my mind for the past week, the thought I want to share with you today, is this: Today (every day) you will cross paths with someone who is lonely. Watch for her.
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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
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Speak Up While You Can

Señalización de lugar de votación en Californi...

Photo credit: Wikipedia


Tomorrow (Tuesday, November 6, 2012) is election day in the United States. We will elect a president and a whole host of other federal and state governmental officials. In our democratic republic, the people who win the elections are sent to do the work of governing, representing those of us who cannot go.

If you are thinking of not voting because it's inconvenient or confusing or because you think your vote doesn't matter, please read Seth Godin's blog post about voting. Here's a short excerpt.

“The goal of political marketers isn't to get you to vote. Their goal is to get more votes than the other guy. So they obsess about pleasing those that vote. Everyone else is invisible. Steakhouses do nothing to please vegetarians who don't visit them, and politicians and their handlers don't care at all about non-voters. The magic of voting is that by opting in to the system, you magically begin to count. A lot.
Refusing to vote because you object to negative campaign ads or because you think one person's vote doesn't matter or because you're not crazy about any political party does not make a statement about the failures of the system. It makes no statement at all.
The rest of Seth's post is short, but important. It won't take you long to read it. So please do.

Then go exercise your right to make your voice heard. I say this not only to those who would vote the way I did, but to all citizens of this republic.


Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
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How Memoir Writing Can Change Your Thoughts About Yourself – Guest Post by Dawn Novotny

I'm delighted to welcome today's guest blogger, Dawn Novotny, as she shares her thoughts about the impact writing a memoir can have on your self-image. See below for more information about Dawn and her memoir, a fascinating (and at times heart-wrenching) tale of abuse, regret, and redemption, from her troubled childhood through her marriage to Marilyn Monroe's stepson.


As I was working on my memoir, Ragdoll Redeemed, I discovered that writing a memoir changed my psyche first and my heart second—and I believe it can have this positive result for everyone.

First, your mind has to dig around like you’re scavenging through an old treasure chest. Some of the “treasures” are pretty, some are ugly and worn, some are very badly tattered and some are even stinking from being concealed for so long.

But if you rummage long enough, writing a memoir is healing. While not meant to be therapy, the process of writing or revealing one's story can be quite therapeutic. Writing slows down the telling of one's story like watching a movie in slow motion.

For example, I was in a writing group with a friend that I had been close to over thirty years. I thought that she knew everything there was to know about me. Over the years, having told her all of my “stories”, I worried that the re-telling would bore her, but as we continued in the writing group she would remark, “Wow, Dawn, I didn't know that incident was so heartbreaking for you. You always seemed so strong when talking about those situations.”

I was taken aback that she didn't know how much I had been hurt back then. Yet, looking back, I could see how glibly I used to convey my stories. I would truncate my feelings, but other times, I abbreviated my words so I would not have to feel the depth of my sorrow. How could she have known?

Through writing and sharing my memoir, I came to understand that my previous accounts were like showing the previews of a major motion picture without connecting the story lines. Writing slows down the narrative beyond just the bold captions. Through writing, one has to add and expand on the colors and the textures, and supply details that create a coherent, integrative life story. This slowing down process changes how you think and how you see yourself in the context of what happened.

Untold stories can imprison memories, creating a lack of coherence and an ongoing sense of not being seen or heard. Writing a memoir — telling our stories creates a sense of integrative coherence and connection.

After all, we are talking about our life. It is our life and our unique story. If we don't honor that exclusive story, the story that can only be produced by our remembrances, then who else will? Who else will honor you?

When we write our memoir, we journey to our heart, which changes us in unexpected ways—how we think, feel, and react to the past. We grow and expand with each memory that we pluck from the treasure chest regardless of its condition.

The pieces we find in our memory chest are part and parcels of the who that we have become. If we are lucky enough to be supported through our memoir journey by a writing group, we will be held, nurtured and witnessed in unimaginable ways. Start your memoir journey now, and reap the riches of self-discovery.

Dawn Novotny.jpgDAWN DELISA NOVOTNY, MSW, LCSW, MTS, CDP, CP, is a clinician, teacher, author, spiritual director, and national workshop leader with a private practice in Sequim, Washington. Novotny holds a master’s degree in clinical social work. She completed a post-graduate program in Spiritual Direction sponsored by the Jubilee Community for Justice and Peace and the Vancouver School of Theology. She was an adjunct professor at Seattle University and past instructor at Peninsula Community College. She is a nationally certified psycho-dramatist and completed the advanced Internal Family Systems training in 2004.
Have you considered writing a memoir? The stories and lessons of your life matter — certainly to you, but perhaps also to others who can learn from your experiences. There are tons of resources available to help you with the process of memoir-writing. If you're interested, email me and I'll share some suggestions. In the meantime, consider picking up Dawn's Memoir, Ragdoll Redeemed, available at bookstores and at Here's the back-cover description of the book; click on the cover image to buy at Amazon:
In 1963, Dawn Novotny was seventeen. She thought God had finally come through for her. Out of nowhere appeared her dashing Prince Charming. Married within three months, she was sure this was redemption for her rag doll beginnings. Though she had lived in the shadow of illegitimacy, poverty, and physical and sexual abuse, she was sure she would prove worthy to her groom. After all, she had remained a virgin. How was she to know that he expected her to be an aggressive sexpot, or “whore,” as he put it, modeled after the persona of his famous stepmother, Marilyn Monroe? Thus began Dawn's ill-fated effort to compete with the sexual image of Marilyn. Divorced after two years, she though of herself as “used goods.” Ironically, she reacted by becoming exactly what Joey had wanted her to be–an alcoholic and a sex object, not only in men's eyes but in her own.

Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
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