Listen to Al as you read along
Marriage is considered the most important relationship any person is privileged to experience. When marriage works out well, it produces a level of pleasure and contentment that is unequaled by any other relationship in life. When marriage doesn’t work out well and ends in divorce, the opposite is true. Divorce can produce a high level of suffering characterized by guilt, shame, feelings of failure and loneliness. When a marriage fails, most people feel that they have failed in their most important life task. Divorce hurts everyone involved, the spouses, the in-laws, extended family and especially the children. Only the most callous go through divorce without intense suffering. If you have experienced a divorce, your heart has been torn and it is likely that you have repressed some of your painful feelings as a defensive measure to survive it.
In this article, we will discuss some of the reasons people divorce, the negative impact on the couple and especially their children and offer suggestions to help you avoid divorce.
Reasons for Divorce
One of the primary reasons couples divorce is that they are incompatible in their personalities, personal values and priorities. Compatibility is an ease in merging two people together because they are similar. Their similarities allow them to mix well together. Incompatibility is caused by the two being so different that they cannot work well together. The issue of compatibility is best addresses before marriage.
When people marry with extremely different personalities, it is difficult to find common ground where they both feel comfortable. Extroverts feel comfortable in the world of people and enjoy reaching out to groups of people. Introverts live within themselves and are usually more comfortable relating to one persona at a time. When an extreme extrovert and extreme introvert marry, they can expect too many challenges finding activities that they both enjoy. The two can be so different that they feel unable to continue with one another.
We learn our values from the people who raise us and from our experiences as we grow up in childhood. Each family’s values are established by the parents in the family and adopted by the children. When a child reaches adulthood, they will normally have adopted the values of their family. When two people marry they combine the values of their individual families. If the families are very different, have had different experiences, have enjoyed a different economic level and pursued different priorities, the two will face great challenges in combining their values. If the two people in the marriage refuse to compromise and be patient, the marriage will grow apart rather than together.
Personality and personal values generate our priorities. Priorities are those things we decide are most important and where we devote our time, money and energy. When the two people are different then there priorities will be different. They will have different ideas about how to spend their time, money and energies. If they refuse to compromise and create common ground that works for both of them, they will grow apart rather than together. The marriage cannot long survive when a couple with different personalities, personal values and priorities refuses to make the compromises needed to bring them together. The two people will grow apart and either stays together in a lonely marriage or end up divorced.
Failure to Forgive
Every couple will have some degree of difference between them. The more they have in common, the easier it will be for them to agree and find common ground to work together. When differences do come up it causes tension and friction so that tempers can flare. When one or the other refuses to be considerate or compromise, anger builds up and becomes bitterness. Bitterness is deep accumulated anger that builds up over time and can turn into hatred. The answer to bitterness is forgiveness, forgiveness of each other’s flaws and immaturity. Every time there is a reason for anger, if the couple will forgive and find ways to compromise, they can overcome the hurdles of being different and grow together. It is when they put their own desires above the other and refuse to forgive and compromise, that they build walls between them. The walls are defensive structures that protect them from each other’s bitterness and harshness. The walls force the couple apart and they can end up choosing to divorce.
When couples are irreconcilably different and build walls of bitterness, they lose whatever intimacy and affection they had between them. When their intimacy is gone, it makes each of them vulnerable to the attentions of someone else. It is then easy to find yourself craving the attention of someone outside the marriage. If the marriage doesn’t reconcile and the relationship doesn’t improve, the attention of the outside person can turn into an affair. Even if the outside relationship doesn’t become sexual, it can be an emotional affair. The love and affection that belongs to the spouse is directed to another. Many couples have fallen victim to this process, entered into an affair that leads to a painful divorce.
Divorce is seen as a failure and feels like failure to most people. Again, only the most callous can divorce without feeling intense guilt and shame. When couples divorce, they will feel like they have failed and it is common for both of them to brand themselves as failures. They not only realize that they made mistakes but attach the title of “failure” to their person. The resultant emotional debris that comes from divorce can impact them both for life. Even if they remarry, they can believe that they are damaged goods for the rest of their life. They can live with a feeling of regret about their selfishness and failure for years, taking these negative feelings into the next relationship. Divorce hurts both parties involved.
Impact on Children
Children depend on their parents to create an environment of love and security for them. The mental and emotional health of children is dependent on the success of their parent’s marriage. When the marriage fails and they divorce, the children feel like their world has come apart. The home they were depending on for their security was thrown away by selfish parents who were unwilling to make the necessary compromises to stay together. The children feel betrayed, they feel abandoned and most of the time, they feel that the divorce was their fault. Small children are very egocentric, meaning that they see themselves as the reason and cause for everything in their life, both the good and bad. When parents divorce, children will tell themselves that “if only I had” or “if only I had not” reasoning that they caused their parents to divorce.
Divorce damages children in many ways and the statistics reveal the truth of this. Children from divorced families are more likely to divorce themselves, more likely to go to prison, more likely to use recreational drugs and more likely to experience an unwed pregnancy. The damaging impact of divorce on children is difficult to deny though those caught in the momentum of wanting a divorce will often deny the facts. Recently, I counseled a couple who were considering divorce. The wife was the one driving the desire to divorce while the husband was trying to keep the marriage. When I shared the statistics about the impact on children, she simply refused to believe them. “They will be just fine” she said, I came out of a divorce and I am alright. Her desire to leave and enter the new relationship she had found overwhelmed her sense of responsibility to do what was best for her children. If you have children and are considering divorce, the statistics prove that staying together in a difficult marriage is better for kids that divorcing.
Strategies for Avoiding Divorce
It is possible to forgive and reconcile your marriage even if it is in bad shape. If you are in this situation, my first suggestion is to find a marriage counselor before it is too late. Most people that come to marriage counseling come to justify the divorce. “We tried counseling and it didn’t work” they say to pretend that they did everything they could to save the marriage. If you come soon enough and make a serious effort to save your marriage, you can turn it around. I have seen it happen many times and I know that it can be done.
My second suggestion is to focus on forgiveness. Forgiveness is the only way to whittle away at bitterness. With a counselor to help you talk things through, forgiveness can take place. No one enters marriage hoping that it ends in divorce. The hurtful events that lead to divorce are not intended and had reasons why they were said or done. Most arguments have two sides and blame can easily be found on both sides. Honesty and humility are necessary components for forgiveness and can be helpful for avoiding a future situation that could lead to divorce.
Communication is a skill and a necessary part of marriage. Classes that teach good skills about communication can be helpful in avoiding misunderstandings and arguments. Every marriage involves conflict, which can be used to increase intimacy if healthy communication takes place. Learning how to argue to benefit the marriage is important to build a strong, healthy marriage.
Finally, feelings of love or bitterness are choices that we make. With determination and good counsel we can learn how to relate to others in ways that build them up and not tear them down. When a couple decides to honor their vows by staying married, they can find a way to make their marriage work. The decision inspires them to look for reasons to stay and not reasons to leave. Our society has found it convenient to divorce and try again rather than stick it out. The many studies done on marriage and divorce show that staying in a marriage and working out the problems is a better strategy than divorcing and starting over. There are exceptions and if you are a victim of violence or adultery, your decision to divorce could be a good one. Make a careful decision after you have sought the counsel of wise people that you trust.
If you are divorced I know you have experienced a great deal of pain. I hope that you will seek the counsel of a wise person to help you overcome the hurt, anger and guilt you might be feeling. There is hope for you that you can regain your confidence and find love again. If you are now considering divorcing your spouse, please reconsider, especially if you have children. There is almost always a way to recover the love you once knew and learn how to be good for each other. Forgiveness is possible with the Almighty’s help and staying in your marriage is proven to be a better strategy for happiness. The grass is seldom greener even when it looks that way. I pray that you make a good decision.
My final suggestion is one that I use in my own life to keep me on a positive track. I believe in God and trust what God has said in the bible to help me see a positive future. If you have found God for yourself or think it is time for you to make things right with God, there are links in this website that discuss how to go about entering a relationship with God. My prayers are with you.
I personally have found my relationship with God, through the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, to be a great help in dealing my daily challenges. His Word, the bible specifically addresses every challenge in life and provides me with sound counsel, encouragement and comfort.
There is hope for us that we can find our way through the daily challenges of life. The fact that you are still listening to me is evidence that you are moving in the right direction. Please take the time to explore this site and enjoy your journey. My prayers are with you.