Attacks Against the Family: Divorce

Next in my series on alleged violent attacks against the family is divorce and remarriage. This has been a hard one to wait for because I really wanted to touch on this in previous post. Divorce often leads to single parent families, after all. Some say cohabitation increases the odds of divorce, but all lot of people commented on that post saying it was a good idea to live with a lover before marriage. At the end of the day, divorce is never really a good thing, but is it a thing to be condemned?

ChaoterTK - divorce separates families, but is it so bad that we should condemn all divorced couples?

I once listened to a radio host who was saying there’s no such thing as a bad divorce. Being trapped in an unhappy or abusive marriage is sad. The ability to escape that is not. To say divorce doesn’t affect families negatively would be wrong. Many of my friends have divorced parents and, while they seem pretty well off, you can still see where it effected them. Some divorces are worse than others and are always made more tragic when children are involved.

There’s no way to sugar coat this. Divorce can and does destroy families, but I have to wonder if divorce is really at fault.

The Ideal of a Happily Married Family

My father often looks back on the “good old days.” He’ll look at old black and white photos and think of how right the world was then. I look at those pictures and see women with little to know choice or voice in their lives. I see religious and racial minorities left without equal rights. No, that is not a world that I want.

But it was a world where people got married and stayed married, right? Morals were stronger and the world less violent.

Maybe that’s what the church wants us to think, but I disagree. Statistically, the world is less violent than it has ever been (although what violence does exist is thrown in our face far more often than it used to be). Just think of all the laws we had to make for large groups of people to be treated equally. Can you imagine having a husband who beats and/or rapes you and having those actions be legal?

We live in a different world now, and it’s far from perfect. Still, getting rid of divorce will only cause people more pain and suffering. Maybe divorce does tear families apart, but in many cases life would have been worse for all parties without divorce. Life is hard and never perfect. A person shouldn’t feel condemned or be made to feel it is their fault when life doesn’t work out the way they imagined it.

Divorce: The Easy Way Out

I’m sure this is the idea most Christians think of when they condemn divorce. It follows the same logic of women who seek abortions as an easy way out or form of birth control. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who could have worked harder to make their relationship work. There are people who got divorced for petty or greedy reasons. However, I’d argue those people are in the great minority.

No one dreams of getting divorced one day. No one gets married thinking it’s not going to work out.

Marriage takes two, so if only one person wants to try and the other wants an easy escape, the marriage is bound to fail anyway. Simply being divorced doesn’t mean you are at fault for what happened. It doesn’t make you any better or worse than the next person. It makes you human.

The Keys to Avoiding Divorce

I think the Catholic church has lost the ability to foster healthy families. They have created a cookie cutter into which no one fits. If you ask me, if any religion truly cared about divorce, they’d search for actual ways to prevent it. As it is, some of the most religious states in the U.S. also have the highest divorce rates. Some studies theorize this is because people in these areas also tend to have less education and marry younger (two things that are not shameful or reasons not to marry. It’s just that statistically, those two groups tend to have higher divorce rates). Given these stats, perhaps the frowns churchgoers give to divorced people would be better aimed towards people from those two risk categories who marry.

Nah, that’s be crazy. It’s way easier to hate people who have already done wrong then to hate people who are at a higher risk of doing wrong. Of course, we could just not hate and make things a lot easier.

I may have mentioned this before, but my biggest problem with most religions is that they restrict questions. We just assume it’s wrong to live together before marriage because that’s a rule. We never stop to think that maybe, in this world that is so different from the world that existed 2015 years ago, maybe that actually leads to less divorce. What if many of the things the church tells people actually leads to more divorce?

And I’m not saying it does; I’m saying these questions deserved to be asked. It’s not enough to condemn divorce and it’s not to say “well, if you only trusted in God more, your relationship would have worked out.” If religious people, if any people, are pissed off about divorce, how about working to find what characteristics of relationships reduce the divorce rate. How about promoting those and leaving the people whose life didn’t work out the way they wanted alone.

We can’t be perfect and I don’t think that we should be obligated to feel guilty because of our imperfections.

Has your family been affected by divorce? Do you think people who get divorced are usually seeking an easy way out, or do you feel they tried? What suggestions would you give couples to lower the risk of divorce?

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18 thoughts on “Attacks Against the Family: Divorce”

  1. Yes, my family has been affected by divorce. My parents divorced after my freshman year of college, and it is a unique situation because it was truly better for everyone. They never fought or anything; they just were not in love with each other. and as two of my favorite people in the world, they absolutely deserve to find happiness. It was not the easy way out. Even when I left for college and they were empty-nesters and exposed to the reality of their relationship, they still tried marriage counseling. They wanted to make it work for our family, but it was clear that they would not be happy if they stayed married. Now they have found people they love and want to spent the rest of their lives with, and I am genuinely happy for them. We can still go on family vacations and spend time together, so I am very fortunate.

    I am not sure I have advice for couples to lower the risk of divorce. Honestly, it amazes me that people are able to stay together their whole lives when people change as much as they do. I suppose I would say to love people through the changes and have an open mind to change with them. Also, I would say to be sure you have a solid relationship before marrying. Perhaps pursue couple’s counseling to get “check-ups.” (Hey – the two of us talked about that! But I really think it’s a good idea). 🙂

    1. I think marriage is always a chance – a chance worth taking, but a chance nonetheless. My grandparents were still happily married and very much in love in their 90s. I think it’s a beautiful thing to aspire to. Life is hard, though. People change. I think some relationships may end because people don’t pay attention to the changes in their partner and strive to fall in love with that slightly different person all over again. But, I have nothing to back that idea up.

      I actually LOVE the idea of counseling checkups. That’s actually something I plan on doing. The way I see it, the only outcomes is that it will make our good relationship even better or it will save our relationship from unnecessary strife. As it stands, I plan to have a counseling session before we’re married and every 2 – 5 years after, depending on how often we feel we need to go. I think 5 years is as long as I would go, though. We go to the doctor for check-ups on our body, why not also check up on the relationship?

  2. Great post, as always! I was the first person in my family to divorce, and “Oh, the horror of it!” according to some of my relatives. I was too young when I married my first husband, emotionally distraught because my mother had just died, and I was pregnant (yet another notch in the belt of horror held by my family).
    After my divorce, I waited a long time before I dated and when I did, I was very particular. My main concern was my children and their well-being. I finally remarried eight years after my divorce. When he proposed, I still waited a year after that before walking down the aisle. I married my second husband because I truly love him. He is the kindest person I know, and my children love him, too. Without him, they wouldn’t have had a proper example of how husbands and wives are supposed to treat one another. They’re adults now, and have both ended up with men who are kind, sober, respectful and just all around good men, like my husband.
    My own mom married at 18 and passed away, still married to my dad, at 48. Their marriage was horrible. My father was a jealous, controlling man who was very abusive, yet they would have never considered divorce. The conventional family that I grew up in was not a family, and once my mother died, we all sort of went our separate ways. In spite of the pain that comes with it, divorce can be a good thing.

    1. I agree. In some ways, the divorce is not what’s sad. Escaping a damaging, harmful environment should be a good thing. Living in a loveless and/or abusive marriage is the negative.

  3. My attitude towards divorce is summarised in the adage “It’s better to be from a broken home than in a broken home.” If a marriage or relationship has broken down beyond repair then there is no point in continuing in misery together when you could be happier separately. After that, it is about being civil, amicable and being willing to compromise. When children are involved, their best interests need to be paramount.

    I do not have direct experience of divorce but my Dad was a divorced single parent with four kids when he met and married my Mum and I have brothers who have gone through divorce. No one I know of goes into a relationship thinking it is going to end in divorce and divorce is not an easy option. I am glad, however, that it is an option. Too many people were trapped before divorce being accessible and socially acceptable. That removal of taboo (even though some stigma remained) is why divorce rates peaked. Suddenly people could liberate themselves from oppressive situations.

    In terms of trying to prevent divorce, my only thinking (as someone who’s not been there) is that there has to be more investment in the preparation for marriage. Perhaps many couples who divorce should never have married each other. That’s one of the benefits of living together first. People need to know that they can weather the downs as well as the ups, that they can tolerate the bad habits, the petty annoyances, that they can keep that initial spark of attraction and sexual chemistry going for the decades ahead. I almost feel like marriage counselling needs to happen prior to making the commitment and not just when things are going wrong.

    But I am neither divorced nor the child of divorced parents so what would I know?

    1. I like what you say here. I think, technically, religions would agree but they have become so obsessed with appearance. It’s such a turnoff. Divorce, while never something people look forward to, is a good thing because it allows people to escape unhealthy situations. One thing I do like about the Catholic church is that they pair couples to be wed with a long married couple in good standing with the church. This couple then counsels the to-be-married couple on married life. My parents did this for multiple couples. I really like the idea of counseling before marriage, when possible, but I’d prefer something more professional and less religiously biased.

  4. Forget the “easy” way out – for me divorce was the ONLY way out! I’ve written about this elsewhere but with a husband who abused the power dynamic of the traditional marriage to be abusive and serially, unrepentantly unfaithful, with no consideration for how much he was hurting me – yeah, divorce was the ONLY way out. And the more I worked on my healing from all that crap, the more I realized that I stayed WAY too long. Why? Because marriage is sacred and divorce is bad.

    It’s been my observation that the people who take the whole “marriage is sacred and divorce is bad” thing to heart are the people that don’t really need to hear that in the first place. Like me. And anyone else in an abusive situation that forces themselves to put up with it just a LITTLE longer because maybe this time he’ll change.

    Anyway, as far as lowering the risk of divorce, I do have a couple thoughts. But first, a caveat: keeping a marriage going requires the free will and continual commitment of TWO people. You CANNOT do it alone. What’s really scary about marriage is that if one person decides to jump ship, there is literally nothing you can do about it except accept the inevitable. But for the sake of discussion let’s assume you have two people who are committed to keeping marriage going:

    1) Be flexible with your expectations. Things will change, be it from kids, changing jobs, moving, or just simply aging and growing as a person. You may have a great dynamic that works for you now, but be open to negotiating a new one as you both change. Just make sure your relationship is at the top of your mutual priorities.

    2) Be giving AND ask for what you need. At the same time, if necessary. You are going to go through times where one of you is having a rough time, then the other one is having a rough time, and the person who’s not having a rough time just needs to pick up the slack and not complain. Now, over time this should roughly even out and if it’s not you need to have a talk.

    3) Cede control. This one was hard for me, but I’m enough of an armchair economist to know that division of labor is a good thing. So when I remarried and my husband became in charge of the house, I let him take control of the house. That means I really don’t know my way around my kitchen anymore, but that’s okay because that’s his area. Conversely, my husband lets me have control over managing the finances.

    Those are probably my three big tips for marriage.

    1. I think all your points are really good. People grow and change and it takes commitment from two people to make it work. If ever one gives up or stops trying, that’s when problems arise.

      Historically, the institution hasn’t been the greatest thing, especially for women. I still like the idea of making a vow of commitment and the symbolism of uniting families, but I’m also grateful that the institution cannot legally grant any man absolute control over me.

  5. Religious ideals absolutely cause more divorce than they prevent. My mother’s marriage to my father only happened because she was pregnant with me and had to get married so her family and her church wouldn’t look down on her.

    They split up when I was three, eighteen years ago. It was never meant to be, after all. And they split up for a good reason, too. They were fighting constantly, and my father was very controlling. He would scream at my mother for wearing makeup because that obviously meant that she was trying to attract other men. He’d do the same if she brushed her teeth. My mother put up with that for a long time, but then his negligence lead to me almost dying and being left with permanent scars from third-degree burns. My mom could handle living a life she hated, but she couldn’t handle her kids doing the same. So they divorced.

    And you know what? My dad is a way better man now. I still butt heads with him, and don’t see him often, but really, after a year or two of being without my mom, he got his act together. My mom is with someone better for her now. My family is far stronger than it ever could have been without divorce. I have eleven siblings, split between two houses. Eleven! And none of us hate each other, either.

    1. Sounds like some very good things emerged out of a bad situation. It’s too bad your mom had to put up with that, though. I see a lot of relationships where I think everything would work out just fine if the couple waited just a little be longer to marry. Sometimes people just need a little more time to find themselves and, when they don’t get that time, it’s disastrous for the relationship.

      I wonder, if we just got rid of this idea that sex before marriage is so terrible, if divorce would go down. But, of course, they church would probably claim men would use women then. I hear those arguments in debates against abortion in Texas. Men will walk all over you if you give them this easy way out. Um… is that the only way to get a guy to stay? To get pregnant? How is that any more moral than the alternative. And how offensive to men that they are thought of as animals who must be controlled by the bonds of marriage? It’s all a load of crazy. Just leave people be and let them live the life they want.

  6. “The people who think marriage will legitimize lovemaking are the same people who think divorce will legitimize anger.”–Merritt Malloy. Not in every case, but too often, people get married because they think it’s the only right way to manage love and attraction, and then when they aren’t getting along, they get divorced and think that makes it okay to hate each other and fail to work things out. Yes, there are abusers who are so unwilling to work things out that their partners have to leave to be safe, but many other people could do better if they tried–and I don’t mean that all of them need to continue a cohabiting, monogamous pair-bond with economic and legal ties, but that they could work out what each of them needs and agree on how to have it. Some people do go through legal divorce with that kind of attitude–I’m thinking of friends of mine who divorced and ended their sexual relationship but are still good friends and easily able to negotiate flexible custody of their kids–but usually the rigid ideals of marriage get people into an all-or-nothing mindset so that when they decide to split up, they feel justified in being really angry, greedy, and spiteful.

    Have you read The Way We Never Were by Stephanie Coontz? (Read my review here.) One of her many excellent points is that the increase in divorce in the U.S. is linked to the increase in life expectancy, keeping the length of the average American marriage about the same! Ah, the good old days, when people who were unhappy being married could just wait for the spouse to die of diphtheria or something….

    1. Haha, yes those good old days. There they are, again. I’ve read that marriage has changed with the hierarchy of needs. Once upon a time it had to do with food, protection and reproduction. Then all that was fine and it became about status and social standing. Now, people getting married for a sense of self-fulfillment and growing into a better person. Doing that is much harder than simply making sure you’re alive.

      The problem I think the church too often ignores is that methods to reduce divorce may go against what they assume is right for people. What if what God actually wants is for people to cohabitate, have sex and establish a strong connection before making the commitment of marriage? One interpretation of the Bible is as good as the next person’s. But, they refuse to ask the question, refuse to wonder if maybe the world has changed enough that some of their rules need to be modified. That view on relationships is what makes people think they have to get married to manage their attraction.

  7. Soon to be divorced, I can relate to lot of things written in this post and the comments.

    In my opinion, noone can really give you advise about marriage or divorce. Every relation is unique, has its own strengths and weaknessess , just like people.

    There’s only one thing I would say that being divorced is certainly not a bad thing. Sometimes, its better than the marriage itself.
    I would say,
    — Give your best.
    — The decision MUST be yours(not influenced by social pressures/relatives/or based on some other marriage/relationship success/failure), to be in marriage or not to be.

    If you think , it’s not going to work, come out of it. It’s not the end of life.
    It’s better to be single and OK than to be in a broken , miserable relationship and keep on seeking happiness.

    It takes time but you’ll always heal! and you never know what better is waiting for you!

    1. I totally agree. I have no idea what it must be like to go through divorce, but I do know that people shouldn’t be made to feel guilty because they sought to be happy. I feel like some people just want others to be eternally guilty that they picked the wrong person or something. It’s ridiculous. Marriage is always a chance. Sometimes, that chance dosen’t work out. It shouldn’t be a reason to judge.

  8. I agree that people don’t plan to get a divorce and in some situations, it is inevitable. If there are ongoing incidents of physical, emotional and/or financial abuse, it is crucial to consider safety and security in the future. A divorce is usually the only way to put an end to the abuse and have a chance for a better life.

    1. Yep. We’re not perfect, us humans, but that doesn’t mean we should be condemned to live in an unhappy marriage. Frankly, I’m thankful to live during a period of time where I can get a divorce if I need to.

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