Wow: talk about a hot button! Obviously this is not a political story — or is it?
Let’s face facts: YOU probably don’t know anyone who has not been personally impacted by divorce: in their marriage, their parents’, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, close friends, business associates — and the list goes on and on.
This is NOT in any way to demean any who have/are/will be impacted by divorce, but merely to get every person looking in to understand how/why divorce not only happens, but happens so often….AND to think about how to if not stop it, slow it down, and eliminate as much of it as possible.
December 22, 1969, was the beginning of my divorce horror. I was 16 on that day when my Dad left Mom and me — literally “left” us — and moved away. The devastation was massive and far-reaching. My Dad pastored a small church in south Louisiana. So not only did his decision wreak havoc on us, but on the church itself and every member.
My questions were many and the usual: Did he not love Mom and/or me? Did I/we do anything wrong to drive him away? Was there someone else he loved more? What was going to happen to me/us? How were we going to make it financially without him? And that list goes on and on. When you factor in the different questions that were certainly asked by others impacted by his sudden departure, the pile of unanswered questions became mountainous. And — like in almost every divorce — the answers were wild and varied. And the REAL answers remained hidden.
Before actually leaving a spouse and/or family, few realize the multitude of issues and immediate and permanent life-changes that are initiated. Beginning with that Christmas in 1969, EVERY Christmas season since has been at best traumatic for me. And I’m about to participate in my 65th Christmas! And that’s just the start. EVERY circumstance, relationship, experience, decision, holiday, wedding, funeral, graduation, illness, etc. are altered forever for every person impacted by a divorce.
My Dad passed away last year at 91. “I wonder if he had it to do all over again, would he still leave Mom and me?” That question further illustrates another horror of divorce: we’ll never know the answer to that question! He lived 48 years after leaving with that question hanging over his head. It had to be brutal for him.
Of course there are the very obvious reasons for some divorces: physical abuse, mental abuse, or child abuses of any kind. But it’s those divorces that occur in a vacuum of grey that are the concerning ones — the ones that can/should on the most part be avoided. That “grey” area is the target of this conversation.
The reasons plucked from this grey chasm for pursuing, allowing, and/or initiating divorce are so vast in number they could fill the Grand Canyon. They include incompatibility, adultery, financial waste and/or domination, anger, disrespect, “growing apart,” or simply “not getting along.” Rather than endeavor to deal with each individual reason used for justification for choosing divorce that fall into this grey area, let’s deal with the structural and fundamental failures of marriages that lead to divorce.
- In The Beginning Dating, getting to know someone, then falling in love is a really wonderful experience. When those from my generation experienced this process, the World in which we functioned regarding communication with each other (especially with children about such things) was vastly different from that process today. Partly because of electronics, smart phones, and the internet, partly because of all the other distractions this generation of young people have in their lives that are unique, and partly because the helter-skelter lifestyle in which most Americans live is not conducive for constant and thorough communication, (even within families) young people today do not have nearly enough two-way input with those with whom they love. Without that understanding of everything about each other, it is much easier to make permanent life relationship commitments “thinking” that other person is someone they really are not. The results of that are often fatal for that marriage. Remember that addage “You never know someone until you live with them?”
- Lack of Truthfulness Members of this generation on the most part hate confrontations. The easy way to avoid back-and-forth with a spouse is to simply deny something that really is true or to ignore it. How often has this happened in communication with your spouse: “Honey, what’s wrong?” The almost constant response: “Oh, nothing,” when we know that answer is untruthful. The actual lie that’s implied or spoken is NOT the real problem — just a symptom. The reasons for feelings that spring-up from whatever is wrong are the real problems. As long as they are hidden and not dealt with, divorce is very often the inevitability.
The Big Kahuna
Let’s face facts: if both parties to a marriage are willing, almost any issue can be dealt with and when dealt with, few can become fatal. But that is a really big “if.”
That brings us to the most important key to the prevention of almost every divorce — even the nasty ones. There is a way to beat the pain and trauma of almost every contributing factor in today’s divorces. It requires a lot of work, a lot of really good honest and consistent communication. And it requires major commitment from both parties.
The Big Kahuna that is present in almost every marriage today (and maybe in many other countries) is this: most couples enter a marriage with this thought in the backs of their minds, “IF this doesn’t work out, if he/she cheats on me, is dishonest to me, lies to me, hurts me, or if I simply find out I really don’t love her/him the way I thought I did, I can always get a divorce.”
With that as the default position in the minds of either or both who enter a marriage, it is almost inevitable that when that couple faces some of the horrendous trials, temptations, heartaches, and worldly challenges of today, the temptation will almost always be to take the “easy way out,” and simply walk away. The problem is, however, adopting that mindset and acting on it at some point in a marriage is NOT the “easy way out,” especially when there are children in the picture. No one ever walks away unscathed.
It is also inevitable in such a situation that somewhere in their future, one or both of those people will realize “if I had only worked a little harder, talked to him/her a little more, been a little more honest, taken responsibility for more of my mistakes, and made them proud of my loving commitment to them in our marriage, we could have made it.” When that happens, the guilt and condemnation of that marriage failure takes hold of their minds and hearts and makes life unnecessarily MORE difficult, MORE painful, and much harder to successfully move on.
There is no doubt that divorce in America in many cases will continue. They are all unfortunate, almost always heartbreaking, and divorce victims are usually doomed to lives of regret. Wouldn’t it be much more effective and much simpler if both in communication with each other prior to tying the knot make it clear that “I’m in this to the end. No matter what comes up I commit to always bring my concerns to you, discuss them openly, and work with every fiber of my being to find solutions with you to get through those successfully together, which will only serve to make our relationship stronger.”
If my Mom and Dad had that conversation, you can bet that at 64, I would NOT have the regrets of the failure of their marriage still always in the hidden recesses of my mind.
If you are a victim of divorce in any way, do not for a moment feel that as a result you are flawed, ruined, or without any relationship hope. Reality is exactly opposite! You are now better prepared to not only KNOW how to move forward in a future permanent relationship, but to personally make the “forever” commitment for real, and help your soul-mate to understand and then live in the same commitment. You now know how to keep from ending up alone again and can lead that person down that same path along with you.
Not only am I the product of a broken home, my wife was a divorcee when we met. Because of the scars of my family divorce trauma of 1969, SHE had to deal with MY pain and suffering. Because of her divorce from her 2-year marriage failure, I had to deal with HER pain and suffering. Please know that in our marriage of 43 years, those mutual pains from separate and different divorces have always been two 900-pound gorillas in our home. When the emotions, pain, anger and loss from those two divorces get loud and spill over the edges of our minds, it is always tempting to let them feed the narrative between us. And can that verbal narrative get loud and testy! But it takes communication, understanding, forgiveness, and acceptance to be able to get through without quitting.
Ours has been a rarity to say the least. The odds were really high against it lasting. Many times even after 43 years there are moments when the easy way out seems to be the best way forward. Why has neither of us walked away?
I hate divorce….I refuse to accept it for me or my family….we don’t quit.
The “tough stuff” in saying that is that it requires some really hard work and commitment and forgiveness and acceptance that under those circumstances is often difficult to offer up — but it’s necessary.
I hate divorce so much I told my wife before we married, “We will NEVER allow divorce in our family. We will communicate in honesty and love. And when bad things come our way, we will work together to find resolution that will save our marriage — no matter what the cost. WE WILL STICK IT OUT!
And we have.
My brother wrote a song years ago titled “Anything Worth Having is Worth Hurting For.”
Do you feel that way about your marriage? Are you willing to hurt enough to do whatever it takes to make it through?
If so, you ARE my hero!
If not, prayerfully find a way to reassess your relationship. And don’t give up…..don’t you EVER give up!