‘You Can Be Right, or You Can Be Married’: Lessons for Marriage, Learned from Divorce

We think about divorce in terms of “failed” marriages, but author and filmmaker Dana Adam Shapiro’s new book is a reminder that often our best shot at finding lasting love comes from the personal growth that occurs in the aftermath of a painful break-up. Over about four years, Shapiro, whose documentary bv Murderball was nominated for an Academy Award, traveled across the country interviewing hundreds of people who had survived a tough divorce and published many of their stories in the collection ‘You Can Be Right (Or You Can Be Married).’

Related: Dana Adams Shapiro’s Filmography on Yahoo! Movies

When Shapiro, now 38, hit his mid-30s, he witnessed many of his friends’ marriages start to fall apart and wondered why. At the same time, he hadn’t been able to sustain a relationship over the long haul. “I’ve been a serial monogamist for over 20 years,” Shapiro tells Shine. “I’ve had five three-year relationships and one year-long relationship, but I’ve never been able to make the honeymoon phase last until the actual honeymoon. So this really began as a self-help project in the purest sense.”

WATCH: Strange Divorce Laws

He says he began asking questions, but “you can’t ask those types of personal questions of your friends-so I decided to write a book. I figured I’d learn a lot more from failure than from success.” Shapiro calls his experience “three-and-a-half years of radical, voyeuristic therapy” and says he’s come away with the tools to be a better husband one day. When he asked people to really take a look at themselves and their part in the disintegration of their relationships, and not to just assign blame, the same lessons came up again and again:

1. Show your true self

“Accelerate the inevitable. Be yourself as quickly as possible because it’s all going to come out eventually. There’s no valor in putting on a brave face, it’s a mask like any other. Have the courage to be vulnerable.”

2. Be honest

“Telling the truth is so much easier—every lie requires a lifetime of maintenance.”

3. Be alert

“Don’t paint the red flags white. Complacency leads to avoidance, avoidance to withdrawal, withdrawal to resentment, resentment to adultery, and adultery to divorce.”

4. Fight Fair

“Getting along is easy; you need to learn how to fight fairly and productively.”

5. Make an effort

“Unconditional love is for children and pets. In romantic relationships, you have to earn it-and re-earn it-all the time. And that’s a good thing.”

6. Talk about sex

“Discuss the dirty. Know each other’s sexual boundaries. Explore the fantasies, whatever they are, because if you don’t they’re just going to get played out somewhere else.

7. Sweat the small stuff

“Death by 1000 paper cuts is far more common than getting stabbed in the back. At some fundamental level we are what annoys us, so if something is bugging you, say it. Nicely.”

8. Stay true to yourself

“Compromise is essential, of course, but it’s just as dangerous to compromise too much. You can’t fundamentally change who you are to please somebody else and nobody can do that for you. It’s best to love with abandon, sure, but you can’t abandon yourself in the process.”

Some of the interviews in Shapiro’s book can be hard to read in their brutal candor. Marriages wrecked over cheating, deception, and abuse. He found that, “our capacity to deceive was truly shocking. People are terrific liars,” he says. Ultimately, though, the message is one of redemption. “On the other hand, our capacity to forgive—and to remain hopeful about love—was even more shocking. It was truly inspiring.”

What do you think are the keys to a happy, long marriage? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

This entry was posted in Romantic Relationships, Uncategorized, Divorce, Life Coaching, Self-Improvement, Social Issues. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to ‘You Can Be Right, or You Can Be Married’: Lessons for Marriage, Learned from Divorce

  1. christi says:

    Accept your imperfection. You will do something at some point that is very disappointing to both of you. Acknowledge,accept and forgive yourself, or you will waste a lot of time and energy looking to blame your partner.

  2. CindyH46 says:

    Well I’m divorced, but what I have learned would be…Be more understanding of your partner/spouse. Try to put myself in their shoes an be more compassionate instead of flying off the handle. I think if 2 people put the others feelings before their own they will go along way.

  3. jean says:

    My experience is that you truly have to like being yourself and being by yourself( not being afraid to be alone) to enjoy being with someone else..Both parties need to treat each other with respect.. This works best for me.

  4. foundouttoolate says:

    1. you teach people how to treat you so if you accept abuse, they will keep abusing.
    2. children are never the reason to stay in an abusive relationship, no matter how good of a father they are. good fathers don’t abuse a child’s mother.
    3. the length of marriage is no indication that it is or has been a good marriage.
    4. it is very hard to leave when it is the only thing you have ever known.
    5. saying you are a Christian and acting like Christ are totally different things.

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