Is Divorce Bad? Response to "No Divorce Please" in the Hubpages Family Forum
I love it when I find a topic on the forums that resonates with a conversation from my day, although it's not uncommon for anything divorce related to spark my interest. I am an assistant organizer for a local divorce/separated support group, and some of my closest friends are members of that group. Divorce is a fairly common topic in my daily life.
While the original poster presents a commonly shared opinion, I started reading with my feathers slightly ruffled, simply in response to the implied "divorce is bad" theme. I have been divorced for 12 years. My ex-husband was present at my second wedding and joked with one of our guests that we were "very successfully divorced." We have co-parented a pretty terrific daughter, now almost 17 years old. So while I certainly see plenty of awful divorce situations in my group, I don't think it's because "divorce is bad."
Rhiannon_2009 posted, "Granted, it is much better for children to have a mother and father who stay together, and who love each other." I would rephrase this slightly to say, "It is sometimes better to have a mother and father who stay together, IF the parents love each other." In fact, in many situations, it is probably much better for the children if their parents do not stay married. This is the part that was directly related to my conversation with a friend, and I will come back to this point before this hub is complete.
aka-dj posted, "One thing that I have observed over the years is, that if one party quits, (for whatever reason), it is all (but) over...Again, my observations have shown, that in a majority (though not all) cases, selfishness was the root problem."
I don't completely agree. One party might "quit" but then come back around if the other party doesn't give up. My second marriage was "all but over" just three years ago. My husband definitely "quit". For at least half of 2006, he stated, unequivocally, that we were over, but I hung in there. We reconciled, and today our relationship is no longer one-sided.
But yes, it is usually "selfishness", at least to the extent that the spouse giving up is in a time and place where they are no longer considering their partner's needs. This is not to say they are ultimately selfish people. We all have selfish periods in our life - and sometimes we need them! I believe part of being married is knowing when and how long to support your spouse in their selfish periods.
pgrundy points out: "Marriage is disintegrating in the U.S. because women can get jobs. When they can't get jobs anymore (which may be soon in this economy) they will be unable to leave and their husbands will once again be free to beat them into submission or humiliate them at the dinner table or anything else they feel like doing."
I have no doubt that whether or not women work outside the home has complicated matters of marriage and divorce. And I hate the thought of anyone trapped in marriage due to finances. Already there is talk of today's economic crisis as the reason some couples are not getting divorced. Sometimes it buys time for reconciliation, sometimes it is a death sentence. If either my husband or I could have afforded separation several years ago, we might not be together today! But I hope we do not loose the progress we've made in empowering women, especially, to divorce.
Rhiannon_2009 states, "I didn't enter into the institution of marriage casually. There was never a thought, "If this doesn't work out, I can just get a divorce."
Oh, me, neither! (At least not the first time, wink, wink!) When I was 20 years old, I married a man who wanted to be a minister (my first husband). Divorce was a rare and shameful event in my family at that time, and even more unimaginable as a "preacher's wife." I never would have believed that I would leave a "man of God". But I did. And it was one of the best (though most difficult) decisions I ever made.
Rhiannon continues: "I did not feel that we had a 'broken home.' Divorce gets a bad name. Sometimes it is a new beginning. It was definitely the beginning of emotional healing for all of us."
Amen! I personally think Riannon sums up the healthy perspective we should all try to have about divorce, whether we like it or not. I've observed that even those who are left behind and absolutely do not want a divorce start to recover and move forward in their lives when they finally embrace this perspective.
RelSol1 describes the problem this way: "More people should spend time learning what truly makes them happy. Most people can't define this, so how can they ever find the person that will make them happy. Most can't even say what they don't want from a partner. Understand your wants and seek the person that fulfills your happiness!"
I certainly agree this is true, to an extent. We are not really encouraged to dream in our culture. We have all these little voices in our minds reminding us of our limitations. We are taught to compromise, to settle. In various explorations of personal growth over the last few years, I've found answering the "What would make you happy?" questions really difficult. When I fantasize about winning the lottery, for example, I find myself checking off all the things I would do for others and have a hard time giving myself permission to relax on a tropical beach somewhere.
But as Rhiannon explains, "The fact is, no one is responsible for your happiness but yourself. A husband or wife is not there to fulfill your fantasy or make your dreams come true. Your partner is there to share in the journey. How you feel on any given day has a lot to do with your attitude and your expectations. Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be."
I just keep agreeing with Riannon all the way through the discussion! This is exactly why I finally gave myself permission to leave my first husband - I felt like he expected me to make him happy, and I just couldn't seem to do it, no matter how hard I tried. I believe I had to get out of his way so he could learn to make himself happy. But something else Riannon posted reminded me of another misconception that sort of drives me bonkers. Riannon said, "One person can't do it alone, and you cannot change or control anyone but yourself."
As I've already indicated, I went through a long period of feeling like I was "doing it alone" in my second marriage. When it comes to saving a marriage, one person *can* do it, sometimes. It takes a lot of patience, focus on self-improvement, and simply waiting it out. But the idea that it takes "two" to make a marriage work, I think, is false. Though the theory is expressed by other, perhaps more reputable, "experts", I think it was Dr. Phil I first heard explain that marriage is hardly ever a 50/50 effort. Sometimes it works out 60/40, or 75/25; and sometimes it requires 100% from one partner or the other. It might take one spouse, at any given time, to forgive and wait. At some point, you might have forgiven and waited too long - ideally the give and take will alternate. But when one spouse is at wit's end, the other *can* have an influence--not by changing the other person, of course, but by changing the way you react to and interact with the other person.
devestated cautions, "I guess the one thing that I want you to realize is that you need to be very careful and really think about what advise you give to someone that is asking for your input. Don't look at just the one situation because there are more circumstances surrounding it. There are two people involved, not just the one."
In my volunteer work with the divorce/separated support group, I think I've come close to seeing "it all". And devestated is correct - there are three sides to every story - his, hers and the truth. There are no one-size-fits-all answers in the marriage/divorce arena, I'm afraid.
As for whether divorce is bad, well, it can be painful. It usually is. But so are most of life's experiences that teach us valuable lessons.
Back to the conversation with a friend of mine that kept coming to my mind as I read through this discussion thread. We were talking specifically about fathers and their roles in their kids' lives. She was voicing a bit of frustration that her ex never showed much interest in her son's life. The son wanted to play soccer, not football; he was never interested in hunting with Dad; Dad never got interested in son's school work. I was lamenting that my husband seemed almost too casual with his son. I'm just wondering when he will start saying, 'Hey, how 'bout them boobs?" or something equally offensive. But in his mind, is he just teaching his boy to be a man? And in the last generation or so, didn't this role get terribly blurred?
Used to, a man's time with his son was on the farm, or in the woods hunting, or in the yard throwing a football--away from Mom. All of a sudden, with "partner parenting," Mom was there supervising (and criticizing) everything Dad did with the boy. With more moms working, especially, "family time" meant everyone spending time together, evenings and weekends, and a lot less one-on-one time. In Leave-it-to-Beaver land, Moms provided care-taking while Dads worked, then Dads played with the kids while Mom finally got a break. We evolved to see the negative aspects of this stereotypical division of parenting roles, but maybe we dismissed the benefits of that separation too quickly.
Even when divorce is not as amicable as it could be, at least fathers who receive visitation schedules have uninterrupted time alone with their children. I feel a bit in limbo on kids' weekends at my house, because I try to stay out of the way when my husbands' children are with him. But I don't really mind. He does not tell farting jokes to me - but it seems he needs to share them with his son.
Similarly, mom's get a much needed break when the kids are at dad's for the weekend - a break that many married mom's never receive!
I'm certainly not saying that everyone should run out and get divorced so moms and dads can parent separately. I just think this discussion with my friend illustrates again that very little is black and white. It is not enough to say, "divorce is bad," any more than it is to say "divorce is good." Divorce just IS. And we might as well make the best of it.
madmac asked "Why must it always be about God, religion and damnation?"
I probably thought I had an answer when I copied and pasted that question, but once I started drafting my responses, I could not remember what it was. I've actually skimmed over or ignored most of the religious perspectives that emerged in this thread. I was raised Protestant and my first husband became a Baptist minister. I came to the conclusion a long time ago that religion does little to help me, personally, sort out life's most complicated questions. I'm happy for those who find peace in their faith, but it seems to me when issues like divorce or abortion are approached as simply right or wrong, growth and healing are much slower to emerge, and instead conflict persists.
JYOTI KOTHARI pops back in with, "It is better to stay together in most cases. It is economical and a spouse get emotional support from another in distress."
As I indicated above, I believe it is the opposite. Spouses absolutely do not get emotional support from each other when their marriage sucks! And there can be numerous benefits to "shared parenting". LelahKimball's reply to Jyoti sums it up, mentioning a study that indicated "kids whose parents divorced are much, much happier (a greater divide than divorce & intact happy marriage) and well adjusted than kids whose parents are unhappily married." Lelah concludes, "Moral: Divorce is better than a bad marriage."
Amen! I'm sure additional posts to the original thread will contribute more worthwhile points, but it seems the 2 pages so far have rounded off to a nice conclusion! Again, I just love finding a thread so relevant to my thoughts and life, and thank you to all of the posters who inspired this hub!
[Author's note: I hope I haven't stepped on any toes or broken any rules by basing this hub on a message board thread...if I have offended, feel free to let me know either in the comment section or by email through hubpages - and if you want me to delete your name or quote from my hub, just tell me and I will edit.]
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