The Rules

I know there is a book with the same name. Something about all these silly rules women are supposed to follow in order to snag a man. At least I think that’s the gist of it. I’ve never read it.

I’m 51 at this point. There are a lot of things I believed to be true. Get grades in school so you can get into college. Graduate from college before you get married. College graduates make more money than high school graduates. You’ll never marry the guy you dated in high school and you shouldn’t because it will never last. You need to date around to see what you like. Getting married because someone is pregnant is not going to end well. You’re married until you’re no longer married. You should never date someone who is separated or recently divorced. You need time to heal after a breakup or divorce.  All kinds of things which, throughout the years, I’ve come to find are a bunch of b.s. in many cases.

I went to school with a couple who met in high school. She was a freshman and he was a junior. They dated throughout all of high school and all of college. They are still married to this day. Are they happily married? Well, I don’t socialize with them enough to know whether or not that’s true, but they seem to be. They’re certainly not divorced. They’ve been together for more than 30 years at this point. I guess it’s really closer to 40 years at this point.

My niece and her husband are another example. Met as sophomores in high school. She’s never dated anyone else. Granted, they just got married after nine years of dating so it’s a little early to say they’re a success story, but I don’t think they’re going to end up divorced any time soon, if ever.

My brother and his wife met in high school. They’ve been married over twenty years. Their marriage has lasted longer than mine.

Several of my daughter’s teammates back in Utah are now married. They are all roughly the same age as her. Two of them married at 19 and one married at age 20. One has a baby already and I fully expect to be hearing an announcement from another one soon.

To me this is crazy. I look at my daughter and see how happy she is with her friends, her new boyfriend, her sorority. She has big plans. She begins her nursing clinicals this fall and she plans to work for two years after graduating and then go back and become a nurse practitioner. When I think of my daughter married at this age… I can’t even begin to imagine.

Yet, it happens, and many times it’s successful. One of my childhood friends got married right around age 20. She and her husband have 3 children and 3 grandchildren. They seem very happy together.

I have no reason to believe that any of those three girls will end up divorced either in the near future or someday down the line. All three come from intact homes. My guess is that all three sets of parents also married fairly early. It’s simply a different culture in many ways.

I grew up with the expectation that I would go to college and graduate before I would ever think of settling down. That’s what I’ve tried to instill in my own kids. But honestly? Look at me. I did everything right and I’m still living with my mom at age 51 after my divorce. And statistically? We weren’t a high risk couple- both college educated, no financial difficulties, married more than 10 years. Still happened.

So why do we cling to these rules so tightly? Is there just a comfort there? Do we think that if we do everything “right” then nothing bad will happen?

I look back on my entire life and I think to myself, “Why did I ever follow along? All of this was for nothing. There is no set of guidelines that will make everything okay.” I got good grades in school. They weren’t excellent but I was a solid A/B student and graduated with honors. I went to college and I graduated. Even a year or two out I found myself thinking, “Well this is a load of crap!” I couldn’t find a job and was working as a waitress, barely making ends meet. Meanwhile, the people that had gone on to get jobs at factories were bringing in a heck of a lot more than I was. That’s still the way it was.

My mother was talking the other day about both of my nieces and comparing the life Florence Nightingale has with her new husband, the college educated basketball player, to the one Queen Bee might have if she ends up married to her current live-in boyfriend. Florence Nightingale and her husband bought a big, beautiful house right before they got married. They travel. Money will not be an issue for them. Meanwhile, Queen B’s boyfriend did not go to college. He has a job through the state, though, I believe. He bought a house on his own at age 21 or 22. It’s a small house from what I understand but it’s his. Plus, they did just take a cruise to the Bahamas for her birthday back in February.

I pointed out to my mother my childhood friend. She didn’t finish college. She did eventually go back to school to get a job in the health field. Her husband didn’t go to college. And yet they have a nice house with an above ground pool in the back. They vacation together. They spend a lot of summer days on the lake in their boat. They don’t have a bad life.

And while my brother and sister-in-law struggled in their early years he’s now making six figures working in a factory. Yes, he makes that money through overtime, sometimes working seven days a week for months at a time, but he makes six figures. His wife works a part-time job, probably making more per hour than I do, and since she works at a hospital if she goes in for an extra shift she gets short notice pay where she is definitely making more money than I am. They’re able to take nice vacations several times a year. They have plenty of money to spend on the things they value. Plus, she has a brother who has more money than common sense; he wants to buy them a house so he has somewhere to come back to if he decides he wants to catch a Notre Dame football game. From where I stand, the two of them with no college degrees between them, are doing a hell of a lot better than me with my college education. I live with my mom, for crying out loud, and if I ever did buy a house it probably wouldn’t be much.

My other brother doesn’t have a college degree either but he owns his own business and he’s a fulltime firefighter. Lots of vacations for him and his wife, as well. I know their mortgage is small and he’s handy so he’s added on to that house over the years. Yet another example where the person with no college education is doing much better than the person with.

Marriages that begin when someone is pregnant are doomed to fail, right? Not necessarily. Again, I know a person. He was the best friend of an ex-boyfriend. He married his girlfriend when he got her pregnant. He was maybe 21, 22. I remember the one and only time I ever met and talked to her. She said something about him never seeing his son again if he left her. She said it so nonchalantly, like it was the most normal thing in the world. I remember thinking, “Oh, this is not going to last.” Well, they ended up having four kids together and now have a granddaughter who is just as cute as a bug. They’ve been together over 30 years and they seem very happy together.

Even the mobster married his wife when she found out she was pregnant. As he tells the story he was actually thinking of ending things with her when she told him the news. But once he found out she was pregnant he married her and never looked back. He would tell you that the first half of his marriage was fantastic and that she had been a great wife. Until the drinking and the cheating began. But had those things never happened I have no reason to believe they would have ever ended up divorced. He adored her.

Yes, I realize those are only two stories and one of them ended in divorce. The point is it does happen, yet we’re so set on doing the “right” thing that sometimes we miss out.

I suppose the moral of this story is this. I don’t put much stock into all those rules. I’ve known far too many people who have broken them and who have ended up a hell of a lot better off than me, the consummate rule follower.

3 thoughts on “The Rules

  1. You have definitely captured the truth that there are no rules.

    My advice to younger women is to be financially independent and stay that way. I have seen many friends put up with bullshit because they felt trapped financially.

    My own divorce was fairly simple as I have worked as an engineer for 20 some years and am financially secure. Although I worked less hours when my kids were young, I never stopped working. And my kids are now old enough that I don’t need child care.

    Of course, things change constantly. But it’s worth seriously considering this.



  2. I think what I, at 51, have learned, is that you have no idea who’s happy. The couple I really admired just got divorced because the wife found out he’d been seeing prostitutes the entire marriage. A lot. Every week. For 25 years. So much $$$ gone. Taxes unpaid for a decade. He took care of everything and was lying. She and I are try8ng to figure out when he did it because they were always together as a couple. All the time. And once the divorce started, his whole life of secrets started to spill out. No one knew. Even my husband who traveled on business with him can’t believe it. He thought he just didn’t require a lot of sleep. That’s where the drugs came in. Honestly, people thought we were the happy happy couple from 1995 until 2013. Even I did. But he had demons and insecurities that blew everything up. Before that, I felt so fortunate and blessed and drama free. Hah. It was all bubbling right below the surface. Willful ignorance? Probably. Possibly. Blinders because I was so invested in my marriage? Maybe.

    I honestly don’t think that many couples are super happy, and the ones who advertise it on social media have the most to lose in terms of image. I’m just a jaded skeptic now, but I believe there are no soulmates and a lot of people are struggling deep down in their relationships. I certainly stuffed it down, and I didn’t even know I was doing it. Having it all get exposed ripped away any sense I had that my image mattered. Who I am inside and how I treat people matters. Being seen as a great couple doesn’t matter. 51 is interesting, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you had asked me the day before I found out my ex was having an affair if we were happy I would have said yes.
      We were always together, had tons of fun, enjoyed life. I liked him and, if you can believe others, he liked me.

      I am glad I always managed the money because at least there were no hidden debts,etc.

      It’s shocking and unbearably disturbing to find out someone is a liar. My view of life was shaken, but I have slowly returned to my usually generally trusting self.

      But my eyes are open.


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