I was reading an article written by a recently divorced woman named Jennifer Cullen. It was a list of things she wished people would have told her about divorce – not that she thought the insight would have changed her decision to get divorced, but it would have helped her understand what to expect and prepare for.
The feedback comments she received were heated and obviously struck a cord with a lot of people. It wasn’t the content of the article per se that people were responding to; they were reacting strongly to the subject of divorce in general because even when divorce is the best option, it is still not easy for anyone involved.
Divorce is hard (and expensive). You’ve been warned, so don’t say, ‘I wish someone would have told me how hard it was going to be before we separated’.
There are numerous reasons why people get divorced. Some reasons may seem more justified such as one of the spouses is cheating, carrying out criminal activity in the home, alcoholic, or abusive. Some reasons are as simple as we just don’t love each other anymore.
Some people feel very strongly that when you make a commitment ‘until death do you part’ or some equivalent, that vow should be taken seriously and literally. Other people feel strongly that we only live once and life is too short to spend it being unhappy.
Everybody is different and it’s not fair for an outsider to judge who should have tried harder to make their marriage work and who was right to walk away when they did. Keep in mind that a lot of people are divorced who didn’t want to be. Their spouse ended the marriage and put them in a situation that they never wanted. Judging them for the situation they are in only makes everything harder.
Regardless what your personal beliefs on divorce are, we can probably agree that those who are going through a divorce will be in for a difficult transition. It will be a challenging adjustment for everyone involved, including the person who initiated the separation. Freedom from an unhappy existence comes at a price.
For example, a woman who has broken free from her verbally abusive husband may feel liberated and confident, but it doesn’t mean everything about being independent is rainbows and butterflies. The same applies for a man who leaves a loveless marriage after twenty years of trying every type of counselling available. He may feel grateful to be finally free to find true love, but starting life over has its challenges too.
When children are involved it is even more painful for everyone. Divorce may have been the best, or the only, option given the circumstances of the marriage, but justified or not, children will still be hurt by it.
Of course, there are many well-adjusted children of divorce who have been able to blossom with the love of both parents and possibly two fantastic step-parents. There are also many happy and thriving children of single parents. But in my experience, even the stable, successful children who intellectually understand that the divorce of their parents was necessary and resulted in a better environment for them to grow up in, have a tiny part of their emotional inner child that still wishes their parents didn’t have to get divorced.
Even if we all knew how to communicate respectfully and skilfully to resolve conflict, if we were all emotionally mature enough to contribute to a marriage in an equal and unconditionally accepting way, and if we were all perfectly compatible for our entire lifetime, I’m sure there would still be divorces. Why? Because we don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future and know that someone is going to become, as an example, a raging alcoholic when they are fifty years old.
Bonus warning: marriage is a lot of work. It is not all good times and you will be challenged to grow, be flexible, and to compromise. If you have any doubts about the person you are thinking about marrying, listen to your instincts. If there are any red flags, don’t brush them off. If there are already problems with respect, communication, and division of responsibility, it’s best to walk away early or work them out in counselling prior to making a commitment to marry someone or to have children with them.