I don’t understand this. I’ve seen several friends separate or divorce during my near 20 years of marriage. Within the Christian community, it’s often said that divorce is a sin, which is many people’s interpretation of the Biblical statement, “I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:26), referring in the first Person of God. Because He hates it, many believe it to be a sin. Well, He offers it as an out under special circumstances in Scripture. So, it can’t possibly be a sin – under those circumstances. I’m not here to debate the sin or not-sin aspects it. I’m here to offer perspective and my visceral reaction to the statement made in Malachi (for those of you unfamiliar, that’s the last prophetic writing in the Old Testament of the Bible – no judgment; I just want to get you on the same page as my post here).
I guess, if we were to consider a biblical perspective, we might at why God would hate something (assuming you believe in the God of the Bible). God is a God of unity. Of connection. Of community – unity together. And the statements that precede this are common in a variety of faiths – not just the Judeo and Christian ones. Let’s make a list of the damage that divorce causes (not the causes of divorce):
- the marriage is torn
- the family (including extended) is shattered
- the friendships are lost
- the property is divided
- the hearts of the individuals are broken
The marriage is torn. The truth of the matter is that, even before the judge decrees the marriage to be over (divorce), the grieving and anger have been well on their way. Rarely does a marriage end on a split-second decision, but after the actions of one or both partners has done damage, first in small ways, then in bigger ways. Gottman (the premiere expert at predicting marital success and divorce) refers to the signs of the end of marriage relationships as being: contempt, criticism, stonewalling, and defensiveness. These behaviors typically start long before the marriage officially ends.
The family is shattered. Some couples have large extended families that actually get along. Gatherings include combined extended families – huge communities who have supported the couple in their marriage through both financial and emotional means. The traditional wedding in many faiths and since ancient times was a coming together of two families. Weddings today often have “groom’s side” and “bride’s side” when determining seating on either side of the center aisle in the church. In Western tradition (as opposed to Middle East, African, or Asian/Eastern), couples may often live away from family as they seek out employment and cultural experiences in places different than the towns and cities of their youth. Also, individuals may meet their mates in a 3rd location, different from either of their hometowns. For those who continue to live near family, the impact of the marriage termination seems to be greater by virtue of continued contact with the ex-in-laws. I was fortunate, though still happily married, to have positive relationships with my Mother in Law and Father in Law while they were still alive. And I grieve their loss and support my bride in her grief. Aside from in-laws, children are hurt by divorce, often taking on shame / blame for the parent leaving or not “wanting” to spend time with the children.
The friendships are lost. When a person is single, they hang out with single friends. When they are married, they hang out with married friends. When they’re married with kids, they hang out with other married friends with kids. When they divorce, the friends are divided up no unlike the marital property (more on that later). Friends feel forced to choose side and often place blame for the demise of the marriage on one or both of the former couple. They are affected by the breakup as well. They grieve and hurt and are angry at how they feel. Their kids may not be able to hang out at the home of their childhood friends, and those friends may be splitting time with parents, so their availability is limited. “Sorry, I can’t this weekend; I’m at my mom’s house,” may be a common response to an invitation to play or go to a movie.
The property is divided. While this seems to be the part (along with custody of children) that causes the most anger and pain, for some reason, it also elicits the most vindictive vitriol in communication between the former couple going through this. This is about, for many, revenge. She wants his mother’s good China and engagement ring, only because of the sentimental value he places on these items. He wants the classic convertible that her father left her in his will because of the sentimental value to her – perhaps only to sell it off to spite her. So much pain here, over stuff. This and other financial issues (child support and alimony) are often the part many divorcing couples focus on most. And yet, the least important part of the divorce. The part that actually ends when all the other ripples keep extending.
The hearts of the individuals are broken. The pain still lingers. The focus is on so much hurt and negativity (often through the division of assets/property), that the memories of the good times fades. Let’s face it – there were good times; they are what brought the couple together and held them for as long as they were held. But those started fading long before the finality of the divorce decree. And the broken exes now face even worse odds of a successful relationship in the future, not having the tools and resilience to succeed in their first marriage. It’s like addiction. Addicts see their parents turn to the bottle or the pills as coping skills, so learn to do the same. I work with addicts and see a lot of parallels, primarily in the brokenheartedness.
My reason for posting this is that I’m incredibly grieved by all of this pain. I’m aware that some of these divorces stem from infidelity, physical/emotional/sexual abuse, and other issues that add to the pain and brokenness. But this is how I feel. Several of my friends recently have announced publicly (on social media?) that they are splitting up. I love them still. However, to say that it’s amicable and cite “irreconcilable differences”, and move in “other directions” only to (a week or two later) start reporting dating someone else, or being head over heels or whatever, and then seeing friends upon friends pile on support for the new “love” in our mutual friends’ lives… Ouch. And there are children who are also on social medial who might be confused at how love and marriage works as a result of my friends’ decisions. I have a hard time supporting my friends with what seems like their selfish behaviors. As a Mental Health professional, I see a lot of unhealthy behaviors that are selfish. I try diligently not to judge and use words like “good” and “bad” or “stupid”, but that’s how I feel.
Maybe that’s wrong of me to use those words, but those are the words that come to mind. Divorce hurts. I don’t care much if you’re in love again. #toosoon? Probably. For you. Learn to be alone, for heaven’s sake. And learn to be a better partner before you’re a partner again. In the meantime, I’m unfollowing you, and if we’re good friends, I’m going to have a conversation with you. Because you’ve trusted me to be there for you, and my silence is my failure to do that. I’m sorry for that, but now I’m back.