Tuesday, October 20, 2009
When couples meet with me to plan their weddings, I always ask, "Why are you marrying one another now?" I love to spend time getting acquainted with the couples, and this question takes them a bit by surprise but leads me right into their deepest feelings for one another. I also talk with them about their religious beliefs, their parents' marriages, their former relationships, their financial situation, and lots more.I would not refuse to marry a couple unless I heard evidence of abuse or addiction. But I want to become familiar enough to say something to them that I hope they will remember: You are going to face difficult times, and you will go through times when you can't even imagine staying married. That's when you need to get help, reach out, talk with someone, and hang in there. I tell them with passion that divorce should be the last resort, especially when children are involved. Divorce ruins kids' lives; it steals their childhood and their innocence and it takes away, at least for a time, the parents they have known and loved.
Over the 20 years since my divorce I have ruminated upon this often. For me there really was no other option. When the issue is alcoholism, physical or verbal abuse, or infidelity, it can be an insurmountable challenge to stay together unless both partners are ready to work very diligently. In my own first marriage, I was the one who asked for the divorce and it took me years to do so. I knew my sons would suffer. But twenty years later, my ex-husband is still an unrecovering alcoholic. I know I made the only choice I could. But it still brings me great sadness, for it hurt my children so much.
I don't know whether there was anything Father Shaughnessy, the Anglican priest who married my ex and me, could have said to us when he interviewed us that would have made me reconsider. I was very young, just 20 years old, and I did not understand the progressive disease of alcoholism at all....I don't really think about that anyway, because I can not imagine life without my sons.
But I never plan or perform a marriage without thinking a lot about divorce. My prayer: May we humans learn the ways of patience, of perseverance,and of care for one another, so that a day will come when fewer partnerships end in divorce and fewer children, as few as possible, will have to suffer the pain, the grief, and the deep loneliness that never goes away. Amen.