“Practicing Divorce”

Last weekend, during a business trip to Miami, I met a 23-year-old Marine who is engaged to marry the girl of his dreams. As my husband and I stood around chatting about love and relationships with him, this college student passed on some words of wisdom that would have impressed me coming from someone twice his age — but from someone even younger than I am, I was floored by the simple yet significant insight.

He’d chosen not to date anyone in high school, he told us. That’s because he knew whoever he and his potential girlfriends were at that age, they would be completely different people by the time they were ready to settle down — and he was pretty sure “completely different” would translate to “completely incompatible.” So, while many people would have encouraged him to learn how to navigate romantic relationships, he decided to avoid inevitable breakups instead.

“I knew all I’d be doing was practicing divorce,” he said.

As a firm believer in dating people only when you see a potential for lifelong togetherness, I not only understood where he was coming from, but developed a new appreciation for our shared philosophy thanks to his choice of words.

While learning how to compromise and work together in a relationship is definitely good for your future marriage, the breakup that follows isn’t: it sets a precedent that relationships, like any other form of entertainment, must come to an end. And I’m willing to bet that, if you’re reading a wedding blog, you’re not interested in thinking about the end of relationships — specifically marriages. If you’re a bride, it’s your worst nightmare . . . if the possibility has crossed your mind at all.

My takeaway lesson wasn’t that young people shouldn’t date or that anyone who goes through several failed relationships is also doomed to eventual divorce. It’s that there’s more at stake than hurt feelings when you go into a relationship that you think won’t last. You’re starting a pattern you won’t want to continue once you’re married — but once walking away from a relationship is your standard behavior, it’s going to seem like a much more viable possibility when your marriage hits a rough patch.

So if you’re single and reading this, take the advice a wise soon-to-be-wed passed on to me: be choosy about what you practice.

~ Laura

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