Two recent and annoying trends in teenage vernacular came to mind this week. First, the term “pwned,” which sounds like “owned” and actually means the same thing, when in reference to defeating an opponent handily and easily – “I pwned him on the basketball court!” Unsurprisingly, the term came about from a spelling mistake in an online multiplayer gaming session. The second, and perhaps more regrettable slang offering, is the use of the word “fail” for anything that does not go as expected or planned, with “epic fail” being the proper epithet in particularly bad cases. For example, a YouTube video making the rounds recently was a “proposal fail” which, as you might surmise, shows a man being rejected after a jumbotron proposal at a sporting event. Search “______ fail” (the blank being any verb) on YouTube, or visit failblog.org for an endless parade of video clips that may initially appeal to your schadenfreudian side, but quickly becomes sad, and more than a little unsettling.
This trend of declaring something a “_______ fail” bothers me because the value of the action is determined by the outcome. The “fail” designation summarily nullifies anything short of complete and total success, as determined by onlookers, which is why it vexes me that some say I had a failed marriage. Was mine a marriage fail? To the contrary. By all meaningful and relevant accounts, the relationship Anya and I had (and continue to have) has been the most successful and rewarding experience of my life. To reconcile these contrasting points of view, we must more clearly define what makes a marriage win, and what makes a marriage fail.
To the general public, a failed marriage is one that ended before either partner passed away. This common definition is based entirely on appearances which, as I alluded to in my previous post, is a damaging and reckless practice. By this account, every living couple is in a “successful” marriage regardless of any abuse, or any other toxic dysfunction. It’s plain to see, then, that simply enduring, persevering, and then dying before the “relationship” does is no success at all.
At bottom, the hallmark characteristics of a successful relationship are not primarily seen at all, they are first felt – things like respect, trust, humility, support, and love. As the relationship matures, these elements become manifest; how each partner treats the other, how they communicate, and most importantly, how they solve conflict and overcome difficulty. By these standards, my marriage was a resounding success, and Anya and I are both better people today because of it. We faced more difficulty and tackled more conflicts than onlookers will ever know, and to say our marriage failed in that environment is an ignorant and simplistic assessment.
Some of you may be wondering, “If the relationship was so healthy and beneficial, why have you two ended it?” That is a fair question, but let this be my final word on the matter, for I do not aim to satisfy or convince everyone anyway. In short, the characteristics we cultivated in our marriage – a foremost love and respect for each other, a willingness to listen and admit error, and an overarching concern for the other’s wellbeing – along with a honest recognition of our differences and limitations, drew us simultaneously to the same conclusion. The result is such that while the title and boundaries of our relationship have changed, the respect, trust, humility, support, and love that have always marked our relationship remains today.
And that will always be a success to me.