PERCEPTIONS OF MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE
IF I KNEW THEN......
There are key factors in considering marriage. Chances are, if you are thinking of marriage, you are spending lots of time preparing for the "perfect" wedding. But have you prepared for the "perfect" marriage with the same intensity?
Married and divorced, you may ask what makes me an expert. Well, I'm not an expert but life experience is sometimes the greatest teacher. If I knew then what I know now! Take this journey with me as I share what I've learned and let it assist you in deciding if you are ready for marriage or divorce.
ARE YOU A WHOLE PERSON?
Know who you are. It sounds so cliché, but there is power in knowing who you are.
If you are getting married to end loneliness, you will be surprised to learn you can be even MORE lonely in a marriage.
If you find fulfillment in life without being consumed by the hunt for a spouse, only THEN are you truly ready for marriage. When you can be fulfilled on your own, you can be fulfilled with someone else who is also a whole person. However, if you are looking for someone to complete you, disappointment is coming your way.
When a whole person marries another whole person, together you can conquer the world.
Society's norm is a year's preparation for that sanctimonious ritual and thousands and thousands of dollars. Nothing wrong with having a nice wedding! As long as you spend quality time preparing for the marriage.
- Pre-marital counseling can be beneficial. Don't be impressive. Be real. Be honest.
- Consider whether you are equally yoked both spiritually and financially,
- Dig deep and find out how you would handle problems involving children.
- Is divorce in your vocabulary? If so, you are not ready for marriage.
- Ponder why you want to get married and consider how much influence has come from others. If you are getting married because you want to "right" something or because someone is pressuring you, don't do it.
- If your relationship is purely "passion", it will end with just as much passion.
- If you want a fairy tale wedding for the purpose of having a "dream come true" back up. It has nothing to do with marriage.
Why waste time impressing someone who you very soon will be "real" with. Impressions are temporary. Being real lasts forever.
Finding out if you are equally yoked is one of the most important components of getting ready for marriage. If you can't come together on key issues like spirituality and finances, it definitely is going to interject it's ugly self once the honeymoon is over and you find yourself in parenting dilemmas. Don't take similar backgrounds for granted.
If you think "if it doesn't work out, I can get a divorce" - you are not ready for marriage! If you have not decided for some reason why you can't commit for a lifetime, explore why, and when you can take d.i.v.o.r.c.e. out of your vocabulary, you are more prepared to have a lasting marriage.
No human being can meet all of you needs. You are responsible for your own happiness.
Knowing you are getting married because you found someone you can't live without is an important factor. It seems logical and obvious, but it really isn't as obvious as you may think. If you marry because you want to wake up and make that person's day every day, you are closer to commitment qualifications.
And lastly, save the passion. Be friends first and add the passion later. Marry a friend, not a lover.
I've often likened marriage to a plant. You nurture a plant. You fertilize it and give it nutrients to help it grow. If you forget to water it, eventually the water it does have evaporates and the plant struggles to live. When allowed, weeds can choke out a plant. You have to remove those annoying things so it doesn't harm the foundation. You give it room to soak up the oxygen. You wouldn't want to suffocate it.
But then I found another metaphor. Myles Munroe said in one of his books on marriage and divorce (Single, Married, Separted and Life After Divorce):
"Marriage is like building a house. Marrying without first being single [whole] would be like spending years putting up walls, then putting on a roof, adding doors and windows, and so forth, but find out, finally, that you have forgotten to build a foundation. That marriage is built on sand."
Mr. Munroe also states in the same book: "An omelet is only as good as the eggs that are in it. If there is one rotten egg, it will spoil the whole omelet. How good the other egg is will not make a difference."
Imagine you have a pitcher of water. Over time, if you let the water in the pitcher evaporate without adding more water, soon you will have an empty pitcher.
These metaphors describe marriage to a great degree. A whole person is one that can stand alone or with someone. And if you are whole, why not marry another person of equal fullness?
Although divorce is sometimes inevitable, please know that it is a difficult and often lonely trial. Even your church may turn it's back on you, judge you, and alienate you. Your children may resent you even if the divorce is not your fault. People may talk about you feverishly. You may find yourself spiritually, emotionally, physically and financially bankrupt with added problems and parenting responsibilities all at the same time.
Know you are not alone. You are not the first and you will not be the last to suffer the effects of divorce. Know this for sure though, more than anything, there IS life after divorce.
You may not feel tough, but you cannot quit. Signing the legal dotted line, doesn't mean you "feel" free either. You are only free (emotionally) when you can forgive, giving up the past, and when building your future is your focus. You cannot change the past. No matter what the loss is in your life is, you can only look to your future and rebuild.
CHILDREN AND DIVORCE
I disagree with experts who say the parent who left did not leave the children. YES, YES THEY DID!
Divorce with children in the mix can present problems in children that include feelings of rejection for many reasons.
- Financial changes
- Not seeing one parent for extended periods
- Feeling like they have to choose sides when parents battle it out in front of them
- Perhaps moving and/or changing schools
- Feelings of sadness from the breakup of the family
- Exposure to new people in their household (they are supposed to like)
- Mishandling and manipulation by one parent or the other
Whatever it is, children become wounded and begin a grieving process all their own. There is no list to go by, no manual on how to raise children during divorce. But using common sense and giving extra "hugs" of love, with added patience will be a tremendous stepping stone on the road to recovery.
There is no smooth transition for children of divorce but if parents put aside their selfishness, bite their tongues and listen, the outcome of the ugly ripple effect will be less harmful.
Whenever possible, let the child have a part in some of the decisions.
FORGIVING AND HEALING
Forgiveness is a choice. It is NOT an emotion or feeling. Emotions are not reliable anyway. If we made decisions based upon our emotions (and sometimes we do), we'd be in trouble most all the way around.
Choosing to forgive does not heal the wound immediately. It just begins the healing process.
Just like if you were recovering from a major disease, bouncing back from divorce takes time and is a process but one in which you can set the pace. Give yourself a break, admit the marriage failed but look for solutions to rebuild and do not focus on the problems that caused the end of the marriage. Energy is wasted on the blame game and it isn't productive in any way. There is nothing beneficial about blaming others or feeding your anger, even if it is righteous anger.
Divorce is defecting from commitment. Perhaps you were not the one who chose. You feel like a failure but you must remember, because you failed at something does not make you a failure.
Mingle with others on a balanced level. Don't spend all of your time alone and withdrawn but at the same time, get to know who you are and focus on your future rather than a new relationship.
Rely on your faith and don't be afraid to ask for professional help. Borrow an ear from a trusted close friend or family member. Sometimes friends and family are afraid to comment or offer advice because if you get back together, then it can make things awkward. If that's the case, talk to a pastor or find someone who will listen, really listen. As you talk, it helps you put things in perspective.
Write your goals down. Concentrate on good things. Play uplifting music - not the music from the past.
Divorce doesn't mean something is wrong with you. It means that life dealt you a tough card. How you deal with problems and what your attitude is, THAT is what separates a dark horse from a lighted torch, a champion from a quitter, and winners from losers.
And just like any other battle, whether it's depression, loss of a loved one, a sick child, divorce or any other stressful factor, remember while it might shake you, you aren't shattered. You truly can overcome a broken, bleeding heart. It does mend in time. Just keeping facing forward and don't look back!