Do You Believe in Divorce?


DivorceHeader

Do you believe in divorce?

That is a question I struggled with for a long time.

Because for me, the answer was no.

I definitely did not believe in divorce.

I believed marriage was a serious commitment, and one that once made, was made for life.  Almost two decades ago I stood in front of a group of family and friends, and spoke my vows:

For better or worse,

In good times and in bad,

Till death do us part

And when I spoke those words, I meant them.

 

Back in 2012, my wife at the time told me she “wasn’t sure if she wanted to be married anymore”, and after that day we really weren’t.  She checked out on me then, though if I’m honest with myself she had checked out on me prior to that – I just didn’t see it.

I thought I was a good husband, and a good father.  And doing it all over again, there really isn’t much I would do differently.  However I recognize now that I was probably a better father then a husband.

There’s no point trying to think back on *what* went wrong.  Realistically, I’ll never truly know.  All I know is, by the time I knew we were in trouble it was already too late.

I had already lost her.

 

2012 to 2016 was a dark period in my life.

My marriage was in shambles, and really the only thing keeping it together (on my end, I won’t pretend to speak for her) was the fact that I didn’t believe in divorce.

I saw divorce as giving up.

I saw it as breaking my commitment, and that commitment meant the world to me.

I saw divorce as a failure, and having a broken marriage made me feel like “I” had failed.

 

I believed (and still believe) that how you are when times are good tells you almost nothing about yourself or your relationship.  You don’t truly learn what you are made out of until you are challenged, until you struggle.

To me, how you respond to adversity and how you deal with those struggles shows who you truly are – both individually and as a couple.  I did not want give up, and I did not want to quit.  Not when the stakes were so high, and the future of my family depended on it.

 

So instead of giving up, I tried to look at things as an opportunity – an opportunity to identify whatever had gone wrong and make it better.  An opportunity to improve things, and have the life we believed we could have.

I put my heart and soul into trying to make things better, for everyone.  I learned as much as I could about relationships and what makes them succeed and fail.  I learned about people, about motivations.  And as I learned, I built this blog; as a way of trying to solidify ideas for myself plus share things that I wish I had known earlier (in the hopes that I could help, or at least give hope, to at least someone out there).

Nothing I did or learned helped my home situation, and ultimately the decision was made to end the marriage.

The early years were pretty good, and I will always be thankful that my children were born in what I look back on as a time of happiness.  When we ran into challenges however, we didn’t rise to the occasion.  Our marriage ran its course, and was no longer good for either of us.

Those four plus years were difficult, but I would like to think it was a period of significant growth for me personally.  Growth that will hopefully be beneficial to me as I move forward.

 

Looking back, one of the things I ask myself is why?

Why was I so against divorce?

Why did I see it as a failure, or giving up?

 

In retrospect, I realize I was looking at it wrong.

The question should never have been do I believe in divorce.  Rather, the question should have been what do I believe marriage should look like?

Saying I didn’t believe in divorce was operating from a position of fear, and that’s never a healthy place to be.

 

When I was able to re-frame the question for myself, I realized that I wasn’t actually afraid of divorce.

What I REALLY wanted was a strong marriage.

To me, a strong marriage was a marriage where two people were working together as partners.  Where they set goals together, and supported each other as individuals while also not losing sight of the importance of being a couple.  Where there was a focus on the relationship, and each person felt valued and heard by the other person.  And where a couple is comfortable discussing anything, and actively works to improve upon the things that either partner feels needs improvement.

I didn’t have that anymore.

And although I spent considerable time and effort trying to understand what had gone wrong and what we could potentially do to “make things better”, nothing changed, and I had no reason to believe it ever would.

 

I don’t want to get into who was right and who was wrong, because truly, that doesn’t matter.

Our ideas on what we wanted out of life and marriage no longer fit.

WE no longer fit.

As a result, the best thing either of could do was accept that we were not good together anymore, and let the other person go.

 

I married at 25.

I always thought of myself as someone who was fairly mature for my age, but looking back I was still just a kid.  I didn’t know very much about life, about people, or even about myself.

One of the dangers of getting married when you are young is, you are both still in the process of becoming the people you will one day be.  I guess this happens at every age, but it seems especially pronounced when you marry fairly young (as you are going through so many changes).

It’s a beautiful thing when two people are able to grow together, supporting each other as they build their life.

Increasingly though, I think that’s a very difficult thing to do.

And over time if a couple doesn’t put in the day to day work of prioritizing and nurturing the relationship, it’s very easy to one day wake up and realize that they aren’t really sure who the other person is anymore.

When that happens, a couple has a decision to make.  They either use this as an opportunity to re-learn each other and see if they still want a life together.  Or they accept that their journey together has ended, and it’s now time for each of them to continue their journey’s separately.

I think that decision should never be made out of fear of divorce, or of what life will look like when they are “alone”.  Rather it should be made based on that question of what they want out of life, and if they believe they can achieve that together.

If they can’t achieve that together, divorce is not a failure.  It’s simply an acknowledgement that the relationship they once shared has run its course.

 

Divorce should never be an easy decision, and it’s not something to do lightly.  It IS a serious commitment, and I think people *should* try to work things out if possible.

Sometimes they can’t though, and that’s alright.

 

So no, I still don’t believe in divorce.

But I DO believe in marriage where two people are building a life together.  Where they are invested in the relationship, and are able to wake up and choose each other, each and every day (or at least most of them, hah).

If you don’t have that, then divorce isn’t something to fear.  Sometimes, it’s actually an act of kindness, and the best chance at a healthy future.

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25 thoughts on “Do You Believe in Divorce?

  1. I really enjoyed this read.
    The thing is, people change. There are absolutely no guarantees in life. Whether or not we believe in divorce has no effect on the fact that it happens… a lot. I would never say it’s a good thing. I think a lot of people give up too easily and think marriage isn’t work. It’s a shit ton of work. However, there are also a lot of marriages that can’t be fixed and will produce nothing but two unhappy people. There are thousands of reasons why and the end is the same… it isn’t going to work. That’s where I think, as you said, divorce is kindness. We’re NOT going to change divorce. One of the reasons divorce rates are high and remaining that way is because it’s no longer taboo to say hey, our marriage has run its course. I don’t really think that’s a bad thing. I think the bad things come when we don’t react appropriately to something that has run its course. the ability to live, fail, learn from failure and then get up and try again…. it’s a beautiful thing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beautifully said Natasha!

      I’ll admit, my experience makes me a bit scared of the thought of marriage again. As you said, people change. I could meet someone and things could be great for a long time. And then, maybe not so much.

      My big lesson learned though it, that should *never* be a surprise to someone. You should be working on and nurturing your relationship each and every day. It’s when good ol hedonic adaptation takes over, and we stop putting in the effort on a regular basis because “we already have the relationship and we don’t need to anymore” that problems are more likely to set in. I’m very aware of that now, so hopefully any future relationship will have a better chance.

      And if it still “fails” when both people are doing the right things? Then that’s alright, it just ran it’s course.

      Like

  2. Interesting question. It’s not that I don’t “believe” in divorce, it’s just that I have a super-high view of marriage and its importance within society and that was a huge motivator to continue on in what appeared to be an utterly failed marriage – because I believe that there is something bigger at stake than my personal happiness. But I am by no means a “divorce-shamer” – divorce, IMO is meant to be a MERCY for those who have married unwisely. For those couples who are causing each other to be miserable, and ugly and prone to hurting one another, well then divorce and remove yourself. Acknowledge that what you have is NOT a marriage in any meaningful sense of the word and as a mercy to each other it may be wisest do simply dissolve it. Stop the never-ending hurt and perhaps find healing from it. I don’t see it as a failure so much as I see it as accepting reality for what it actually is. Sometimes ending the marriage is the most loving thing a couple can do for one another in the end. It’s still devastating, but at least it brings an end to the daily suffering you’re putting each other through.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Anita,

      It’s great to hear from you!

      I love this line:

      “Acknowledge that what you have is NOT a marriage in any meaningful sense of the word and as a mercy to each other it may be wisest do simply dissolve it.”

      And I think that’s really what I meant when I said I reframed the question to myself, and instead of being afraid of divorce I asked myself what I wanted my marriage to look like. When I did that, I realized that (as you put it) what I had was not a marriage in any meaningful sense of the word.

      We were still “married”, from the standpoint of a legal and contractual document. However the way we interacted was more like roommates who co-parented in some capacity. It wasn’t what I wanted out of life, that’s for sure.

      It raises and interesting question though – what does marriage mean to you? And I think that’s a very important question for couples to ask both themselves and each other before they go down that road. Because sometimes, people have radically different views on what marriage should be. So one person can be completely content in a “marriage” that is making another miserable.

      I’ve talked to some people who view marriage as largely a utilitarian thing. Two people combining things because it makes life a bit easier in terms of finances and the like. Some are content living completely independent lives. Others need more closeness.

      I think there are so many important questions couples need to ask each other *before* going down the road of marriage, but I think we rarely have those conversations. We think hey, we care for/love each other, everything else will work itself out. Ummm, no. That’s a piece of the puzzle for sure, but there’s so much more that matters in my mind.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good to chat with you Drew 🙂

        My view of what marriage “is” has evolved over the years. Marriage, to me, is the vehicle by which we learn to love others better. Like you, I very much see love as an action word, and marriage the crucible in which our love is refined.

        I can’t deny that my Christian worldview very much informs my view of love and marriage. I believe that in marriage, there’s so much more at stake than merely one couples personal happiness. The love lessons that we learn in marriage – how to love sacrificially, put another’s best interests ahead of our own and seek the highest good for our partner – are precisely the qualities that this world needs more of!

        Of all our human relationships, there’s only one under which we are contractually obligated to remain together for life for the purpose of loving (action word) one another. It’s the only contract that can be broken because “you didn’t love me enough” and have it stick in court. (Try suing your telecom provider for that reason and see how far it gets ya!). But failing to love each other as a husband or wife should is precisely why divorces are granted. I mean, it’s all written up in legalese, but that’s basically what it comes down to emotionally.

        I can never ever see divorce as a “good” thing – a mercy, yes – but it is ultimately the dissolution of the promise to love until the end, and that is a very sobering thing.

        In any given situation, I tend to form my opinion based on the underlying moral principles involved first, and the specifics of the situation second. But, as they say, the devil is always in the details, so while I can unequivically state “divorce bad” as a general principle, I sadly acknowledge that there are times when it is necessary, when it is in fact the most loving thing the couple can do for each other under the circumstances. In my mind, that’s not a failure, that’s simply accepting “what is”.

        Liked by 2 people

      • My views have definitely shifted as well. And it really comes down to me refining what marriage, and love means to me.

        There are a few fundamental beliefs that I have, which make me “me”. One of them is, my life is not my own. I’ve written a post on it, and talk about it in my site overview page. But really, I don’t live on an island. My choices affect others, and I think it is ignorant and selfish of me to not take that into consideration when I make choices. I really try to live my life in the way I feel is right, and I recognize that what is right for me may not be right for someone else. But for me, what is “right” includes considering the impacts of my choices on those that I love.

        I don’t pretend to be all self sacrificing and say I live for others, and I don’t think that’s a healthy way to live. I do however believe there is a balance between “we” and “me”. I think it’s important to try and find an approach that is respectful to both. Where we accept that we have need/wants, and that those needs/wants are important. However we don’t put our own needs/wants ahead of those we care about.

        Mutually respectful relationships I guess is what I’m looking for. And I don’t just mean this in marriage, but also in how I deal with my kids, my parents, my friends.

        You mention that you can never see divorce as a good thing, and I agree. My marriage devolved into a toxic mess that wasn’t good for anyone. As a result, my divorce will bring a sense of relief, as it provides closure on a chapter of my life that didn’t go the way I once expected. I don’t have any sadness about it really – the way the last few years went it became clear it was the best path forward for everyone involved. At the same time, there is still a bit of loss/disappointment at a life that feels like it should have gone quite differently.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. ..’And if it still “fails” when both people are doing the right things? Then that’s alright, it just ran it’s course’.

    Another great post Drew. However I’m not sure about the above sentence in your reply to Natasha. I wonder what proportion of marriages ‘fail’ despite both people doing the right thing? It must be very very small. Invariably one party in the marriage may be reasonably happily bumbling along in their hedonic adaptation while the other party may be bored/depressed/resentful but is either unwilling or unable to express their concerns.

    In almost every divorce is there not one party who ends up being deeply hurt because they didn’t see what was coming and don’t want to get divorced?

    If marriage can fail even when both people are doing the right thing there seems little point in getting married in the first place?

    Just my cynical 2c.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Jon,

      I’ll admit, I have a number of potentially conflicting ideas on this. So I’m not entirely sure what I think…

      What I went through was pretty awful. I don’t want to cast blame or anything, but by the time I knew my ex was unhappy – it was too late. She was done, and nothing I could do was ever going to change that. She had to want to turn things around, and she didn’t. I have a post coming up about this, but to me either:

      a) I was a complete and total idiot who was out of tune with her and oblivious to her needs (in order for us to get to that point without me noticing)
      b) she either kept everything in and didn’t tell me, assuming I would “figure things out” based on her body language or something – in which case this would indicate a huge communication gap and potentially passive aggressive behaviour on her part.
      c) probably a bit of both of the above.

      In the end I didn’t see what was coming, and for a few years I was that party who didn’t want to get divorced. Eventually I came to terms with the fact that I couldn’t change anything. Relationships require two people, pulling together for a common cause. We didn’t have that, and there was no reason to believe we ever would.

      So I not only came to make my peace with it, but I came to realize it was the best thing for everyone.

      My main frustration is, after I made my peace with it I told her if she didn’t want things, that was fine – let us go so we could each move on. But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t. What we were had become toxic, it didn’t work. So our options were try to make it better, or get out. I was interested in trying either, but I couldn’t get her to meet me on either point. She didn’t want to work on things, but she also didn’t want to leave. And to me that wasn’t right.

      As for a marriage failing even when both people are doing the right thing, I do think that can happen. The reality is, people change. Major life events can occur (sickness, death of a loved one, etc) that can make a person re-evaluate who and where they are, and decide they don’t want things anymore. That can always happen.

      Then again, I could have been hit by a car and killed on the way to work this morning. But I wasn’t.

      There’s always a chance of things going wrong, and maybe recognition of that is a good thing. Maybe it can help us be more active in loving each other, and in fighting against hedonic adaptation, and making each other a priority.

      I do hope to find myself in a relationship where I would look at marriage again. I do still believe it would be great to meet someone that where you are committed to each other and looking at “growing old” together, sharing hopes and dreams, and supporting each other as individuals and as a couple along the way.

      However I now recognize it’s a bit more precarious than I had once thought. And getting there requires actively working on things, and waking up and choosing each other each and every day. Not letting work get in the way. Not letting the kids get in the way. But ensuring the relationship is strong.

      If I find that, it could still fail – but I hope not 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I really feel that two people can go through the motions of marriage, doing the “right” things, and still end up divorced. People change, quite a bit actually, and even when you do things “right” you can’t force yourself to feel a certain way.
        You can put all the work into something and do what you think is needed but what happens when two people just aren’t in love anymore? I think that’s probably a very common occurrence which yes, leads people to do awful things to their partner. I want to make sure I’m clear it’s NOT a good excuse, but I’d say most people who are unhappy try and find outlets to make them happy. Some people cheat, some people drink, some people take up collecting rare coins…..it’s all a distraction.
        Maybe there isn’t a good reason to get married as you mentioned above. I still believe in marriage though. I don’t think most people are meant to walk through life alone. It just sometimes takes more time to get it right. I love that blogs like this exist because that in itself gives me hope that people are actually still trying to get it right.

        Liked by 2 people

      • People do change, in some ways at least. I think our core values likely stay the same, but some things that seemed important to us at one age may change as we get older. Plus I think it just takes us a while to figure out who we really are.

        That’s why I *hope* the odds are better when you meet someone a bit later in life. Ideally you now KNOW who you are and what you want out of life. And although there will always be changes (there better be, if not you aren’t growing), the odds of you growing apart are decreased.

        Regarding feelings and not being in love anymore, I know this is a topic that really resonates with a lot of people. And my own views on it may be a bit naive (and unpopular)…

        I don’t think people “fall out of love”. And I think the “feeling” side of love is only one component of love, and one that western culture places too much emphasis on. I think we’re sold on romantic love, and although I’m all for romance and think we could all use a bit more of it, I think pop culture creates unrealistic expectations of what love can be.

        I really believe that people often check out of relationships that are actually quite good, but they believe the relationship “should be something more”, and they are chasing an unrealistic ideal.

        Don’t misunderstand, I don’t mean to set the bar low and say people should be happy with “just anything”.

        But romance, and love doesn’t just happen. I think it needs to be nurtured, and kept alive. And I think that’s the responsibility of both people in the relationship. I’ve written this before, but to me my feelings of love for someone else start with me. A huge part of it is how I look at them, how I think of them, how I appreciate them and how I value them. So if my feelings start to change, that says more about me than it does about them.

        I have come to believe that “feelings of love” fading is often because people don’t take ownership and responsibility for thier own feelings. They treat love as something that’s passive, and something that should just happen. Or they treat it as the responsibility of thier partner to keep them feeling in love, and don’t look at their own part.

        Hedonic adaptation sets in, and we stop seeing the good and the value in our partner, because over time it’s become our norm. instead we see the negatives, and the things to be critical about, and we focus on that. And surprise surprise, our feelings for that person start to fade. Because we overvalue feeling, and what it means to love, it makes us question – do I still love this person? Then we get the classic “I love my partner, but I’m not IN love with them anymore”.

        I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about love, and what feelings are part of it. When we talk feeling I think we are often talking the highs, and the extreme feelings. We are talking passion, desire, lust. All the relationship science shows these fade over time, because they are partially based on discovery and the unknown. As you learn the other person there is less of that. So the nature of love has to change in order to last. But people miss those early days, and believe something is wrong.

        Especially when they can meet someone else and start to have those feelings again. It becomes “proof” that something was wrong. While in reality, the new things is just that – new. Everything becomes old eventually. So to me it’s up to us to recognize that, while also doing our part to nurture our relationships and keep them alive.

        As I said, these ideas may not be popular – but to me they make a lot of sense.

        I hope that being more conscious of this will help me find that “forever” moving forward.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Drew,
        As “unpopular” as your opinion of live seems, I do agree with it. It seems like romantic love is inherently selfish. There are all these feel-good feelings at first, that leads to expectation that the other person is supposed to do something for the other.
        You mention this, when you talk about people becoming critical of each other. It seems like the thought is “If you loved me you would do X.”… that could be read as ” I don’t feel “love” anymore, and I need to be reassured that you do love me by you doing X.”
        That’s not necessarily a bad thing- being purposeful in how you show your partner they are still important is a part of “the work” in relationships. But, I think the criticism creeps in when the feelings fade because people need to know they, and the relationship, still matter. ..

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I think it’s reasonable and healthy to include the what-if’s . Perhaps both parties try and it still doesn’t work because of some disastrous what-if, …but I think that is rare.
    I think what happens is people don’t think about working on the marriage/union/partnership until it is in jeopardy. At that point there is already damage that needs to be repaired, plus learning how to help and not harm each other in the future. Sometimes that is too much work and frustration with little to no motivation to see through.
    I may be highly idealistic, but I believe if two parties are actively loving each other and making the relationship a priority there isn’t going to be “growing apart”.
    I think that is where and why friendship is so important in marriage. People may grow at different rates, and at different times, but if we can look at our partners as #1) individuals and #2) a friend, there can be space and encouragement to grow.
    The growing partner can share what they are experiencing, which makes the person who is being shared with still in a position of intimacy ect.
    But I’m talking about real personal growth- not just changing your mind or needing something more to titillate you.
    I think before you can make a commitment to be married to someone, one needs to be content with their life as is, because it seems to me that the rifts happen when one is seeking something more out of life. ..and while I am very definitely for living life to the fullest, and living out your purpose, what I see more often than not is people not grasping those things, but are trying to get some joy out of life through just some new excitement.
    My point being, that I don’t think two people engaged in relationship have to grow apart.
    It seems more often than not is that one or both are basically not happy with themselves or their own lives, and yes I do believe that very often until that is sorted out there will be broken relationships.
    So, the work involved is both with ourselves and with each other. (And far too many people dont ever engage in serious thought about either, sadly).

    Like

    • Hey Lindsey,

      You’ve hit MANY of my relationship beliefs square on.

      I truly believe relationships (and the health of them) starts with you. You say “It seems more often than not is that one or both are basically not happy with themselves or their own lives, and yes I do believe that very often until that is sorted out there will be broken relationships”, and I think that’s spot on. Someone needs to be in a healthy spot as an individual *before* they can be in a healthy relationship. Otherwise their personal baggage will continue to affect the relationship in a negative way.

      I think going into a relationship from a position of need or loneliness is unhealthy. Doesn’t mean it can’t work, but it will put extra pressures on things.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think Travis puts it nicely when he talks about coming to a point where he was almost bored with himself, and that life was a lacking without another. I am para-phrasing what he said a long while ago, so it may not be spot on accurate, but I think I am close.
        I think THAT kind of need, where you see the blessings and benefit another life can bring into your life is the right kind of need.
        It’s not an emptiness that needs to be filled, but a recognition that life unto yourself can be improved on by a life with (and unto) another. ..
        I always think of the movies I would never pick up if it weren’t for a friends suggestion. I like the movies I like just fine, and would not even know what I was missing from a movie that I wouldn’t normally choose, had it not been for a friends suggestion.
        That may be a weird analogy, but that is the best I can do.
        One person sees life their own way, but that view expands with the influence and input from another.
        I am growing and enjoying my life just fine the way it is. If I were with a partner I would be influenced by different things and would grow in different ways. I would feel different things, have different things to overcome, etc. etc.
        But, I think that is where needing others is a benefit ,and a gift in many ways.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey Lindsey! How’s everything? I’ve not kept up with some of the blogs I read but am doing a better job now(probably due to my self imposed Facebook detox) so I fear commenting on Drew’s blog is this weeks form of a social life! Apologize to you guys in advance for that:)
    Hope all is well!

    Liked by 2 people

    • No need to apologize, Natasha! These guys were my social life for greater than a year, and actually has allowed me to broaden my horizons in many ways, including socially. I wouldn’t be doing the things I am doing with my life if it weren’t for Drew and others from the other blog.
      That’s a bit off the original topic, I know- but it’s very true.
      But, yeah- anywhere you feel like you can talk about things that are real for you and have others listen, and add to or refine your thoughts can only benefit – either just personally or in relationship to others.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah it’s a great outlet! Love reading from the male perspective as well.
        In addition to reading more I’m forming addictions to shows on Netflix. I don’t know how they weather is in your part of the country(I’m assuming you’re colder that us here, Drew) but my kids have had snow day after snow day. Ohio has been hitting negative temps consistently so all we have to do is stay inside. The bonus to that is I’ve been trying to declutter and since my kids are inside a lot they keep breaking things which makes it easier to throw things away? I’m reaching I know;)

        Liked by 1 person

      • And..forgive me for going on, but I dont think that is an uncommon thing for women…I think we are taught that to get male attention we need to be sexy, because that is what men value about women. That has to change. And, I think it is beginning to change. But for now, I cant help but see that there are still alot of dynamics that make women objects, not people, ..and that leaves everybody a little lonely.

        Like

    • P.S.- Everything is really great! I graduated from Grad. school. I got out of a miserable situation I was living in. Not a bad marriage, but it felt similar. I was living in a town that had really nothing for me and just waited year after year expecting things to change. I moved, and now am doing improv in a really vibrant theatre community. I have joked I am working on my 3rd career. I actually have a few sketch comedy ideas that I’d like to see come to life, and it is totally possible with the community I am being introduced to. I have big dreams of my stuff being on Hulu- Lol! :). Who knows??? We’ll see..but it’ll be fun just being in the process of it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s great! You never know what can happen. About five years ago I set out to learn photography and now it’s a great source of income for me! It’s wonderful to be passionate about what you do.
        Anyway, nice to chat with everyone! I’ll stop hijackjng Drew’s post with nonsense now:)

        Like

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