Nobody should ever have to go through the pain of divorce.
It hurts like hell. It’s like one of your limbs is being pulled off, without anesthesia. The pain goes on and on, because, I guess, its root is so deep. Having loved, lived with and slept with someone alters one’s emotional balance with that person forever.
That being said, I ached as I watched Jon and Kate last night talk about their family and now, their imminent break up. While I didn’t like Kate much – she was a tad pushy for me – I ached because she is getting ready to do the single mother thing, and it is no fun. I found myself kind of resenting Jon because he said he was “excited” about this new phase of his life. I guess so; he will not have the every day contact with the 8 children, and will have more freedom to do what he wants.
But this divorce thing bothers me. It bothers me that it is so easy to get married and so much harder to get divorced, comparatively. People enter marriage with not the slightest idea of what the ‘worse’ is in the phrasie “for better or worse,” but clearly, they are not remotely interested in weathering the storms which always come in marriage.
Indeed, I have heard young people say, when I’ve asked them why they want to get married, that if things don’t work out, they’ll just “get divorced.” That seems to be a half witted attitude to take into a marriage, a stop gap, if you will, or an easy out. The definition of things not working out gets diluted when people see divorce as the answer when their infatuation, lust or both, wear off.
The truth of the matter is that marriage is work. Sometimes we have to work to like the spouses we say we love, and sometimes, that is not easy. Of course, everyone who is married knows that. The problem is that too many of us opt out of the work and move on, leaving families in shambles and hearts tattered, while we flit off to the next experiment.
I think we have a problen, in that we lift up marriage as the ideal of all relationships, but we don’t really teach what marriage is. In fact, when young people “get married,” what they are excited about is “the wedding” and all the pomp and circumstance that goes with weddings. They don’t have a clue about “the marriage.” Marriage is seldom ideal, but it is especially not ideal when two people have slept together plenty, but have not taken the time to really get to know each other as individuals. A good bed partner is not necessarily a good spouse.
So, what to do? From where I sit, I can only try to really teach what marriage is, not the romantic stuff we want it to be but the brutally hard work it actually is. I can try to teach communication skills, and rules for handling conflict. I can try to get the would-be marrieds to know each other as deeply as possible, so they can identify their fundamental differences and learn how to navigate them. I can get them to learn each other’s expectations and to see if they’re able to meet those expectations, and I can get them to learn each others’ love languages…
And I can try to explain to them that divorce is the worst pain ever, for them and for any children they bring into the world.
I heard just recently that the divorce rate in America is at 50 percent. Fifty percent of all people who get married do not make it. That is a devastating statistic and a devastating reality, which means that there are a lot of angry, devastated people walking around looking to get into another marriage. How come that doesn’t sit well with me?
I am almost at the point where I want to say “no more marriage,” at least not until you’re old enough to be able to be selfless enough, patient enough, wise enough and secure enough to handle what marriage requires. Hmmm. That would put the average age of marriage “up there,” making it harder for some people to have children. But I keep thinking that fewer children with parents in happy, well-adjusted marriages has to be better with more children in marriages where there is no love, or children who live through the pain of their parents’ divorce.
Kate and Jon’s children will internalize complex feelings from this break up, just like my children did. Kate will have to swallow tears and anger as she works not to let her children see her pain, not realizing that her pain will come out in other ways. It has to. Jon will fight feeling like nobody understands him and that he is missing a lot of his childrens’ growing up.
They will get through it, but their lives will be forever changed, all of them. Life ain’t been no crystal stair, as poet Langston Huges wrote, and this family will taste the bitterness of that thought. I know. I’ve been there.
And that’s just a candid observation.
And that’s just a candid observation.