May 13, 2011

Till unhappiness do us part

The following is my opinion, ignore it if you'd like.  Or feel free to firebomb the snot out of this post with heated comments of disagreeance.  Doesn't matter much to me, attack.

An article on CNN today dives into baby boomer divorce statistics, a conversation triggered by the separation of the Terminator and Shriver.  The article steamed me a bit, especially these words:

"Women initiated two-thirds of the divorces in Montenegro's study. Baby boomer women realize how different they are from their mothers and how much longer they are going to live and that they can support themselves. They felt more free to look after their own happiness."

Yuck.

Marriage is obviously difficult.  Mine failed.  

I've noticed a disturbing shift from commitment being the rock that binds couples together to personal happiness being the fickle glue that lightly holds.

Pastors would be wise to tell couples in premarital counseling:  "Years of unhappiness may be part of the package.  Are you willing to endure that?"

Commitment is staying true despite being unhappy.  This is a difficult thing to do.  And the unhappiness may be the result of very real and serious problems pouring from the other person.   

He or she has an addiction to pornography, gambling, shopping or drugs.  
He's a perpetual liar, she hides secrets.
He insults and doesn't appreciate all that you do.   
She refuses to attend church, he won't pull his weight with house chores.  
He's jerk and doesn't listen.  
The list continues.  

In my marriage, I did the heavy lifting on cooking, cleaning, mowing, shoveling, bills, groceries and more.  It made me very unhappy.  Yet I at no point considered wanting out and filing for divorce.  I did not associate my level of happiness with the strength of the bond of marriage.  I was married and committed to that, regardless of how I felt.  When she was unfaithful, it was her choice to move out, implode the marriage and file for divorce. 

There are obviously situations where a spouse must leave to protect the safety and integrity of the family.  But I fear far too many couples chuck the towel after several years of sniffing the choking fumes of dullness or strife.  It is often a marriage until unhappiness do us part.  Some decide their own personal happiness is more important than keeping the family knitted together, and they'll do what it takes to restore their joy.  

If divorce deflates stress and makes a person happy, then it must be right.  Right?  That seems to be a common theme, but likely not what God intended.

Dr. James Dobson ran a study on divorced couples to see if there was a pattern to the breakups.  The interesting twist was the interviews were with the cheating spouses.  The study wanted to dig into why they were unfaithful.  Of all the reasons you commonly hear for divorce, including financial battles, addictions, limp bedroom calisthenics and not scraping underpants off the floor, most of these were not at the root of the split.    

Care to guess what the top pick was?  The reason is the same for both men and women.

The answer: listening, attention and compliments from a friend.  Nearly every affair begins by a friend listening as the other confides.  And simple compliments and attention piled on top are often enough to get things blooming.  Pretty benign.  So subtle, in fact, that many aren't aware when a fatal bond has started to take root.

I believe every couple should put up a hedge of protection around their marriage.  Be friendly, but also careful not to confide closely with a friend on the other side of the gender fence.  There are many conversations that should only be shared with a spouse. 

Sadly, I'm burned to the point where marriage frightens me.  I pray that I'll somehow push through, but after 7 years of separation and 3 years of divorce, my heart is still stone.  

The beam of hope is marriage between a bride and groom mirrors the relationship between the Church and Christ.  That is significant, and tells me what great potential it has.

-Beard

2 comments:

  1. I really love this post. I'm a child of divorce and I can definitely identify with the happiness being the deciding factor rather than commitment. I'm here from YHL (beautiful kitchen, we did ours over with lots of Ikea..love the slate!)- I can't wait to send my husband over here- what a great blog you've got.

    Best,
    Emma

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  2. I'm on the heels of Emma, also from YHL and loved your kitchen. I also loved this post, although I'm not a churchgoer (but with a firm belief in God and sharing many of your values). I've been married twice -- first as a teen, then in my mid-40s to a man I later found was a pathological liar. I stayed with him because, two years into our marriage, I learned he was terminally ill, and there was no way I could desert a dying man. I took care of him at great personal cost, but have no regrets -- in fact, I feel like it's one of the few things I WON'T have to account for when I stand before God. It made me a better person, even though it was the most difficult task I've ever undertaken and I thought for sure it would kill me before he died. And I learned this from my mother, who stayed in an often-unhappy marriage (63 years in August), cared for her elderly mother when her seven siblings refused, and is now conservator for my dad, who has lost most of his mind to Alzheimers. He was not a good husband and often spoke harshly to and of her, but when his mind started failing and the guardian process started, he told two separate lawyers representing his interests that the only person he trusted to care for him was his wife, my mother. My adult daughter and I could step in only if she was disabled or dead.

    At any rate, I'm now 50, a happy widow, and have no interest in dating. Two marriages were my limit. My passion now is rescuing small dogs and renovating my fixer-upper house. Wishing you and Pigtails all the best.

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Thanks for the note, check back for my response!