• David Flowers

D is for Divorce

Despondent man

Photo by austindivorcelawyernow on Flickr

I am currently blogging, along with my daughter, all the way through the alphabet. Check out how the idea started, and get the rules here.

Practically everyone who gets married does so believing marriage is forever. Religious people even bring God into it, citing the scripture that says God hates divorce, as if it is a talisman that will ward off the spirit of divorce and keep them happy and divorce-free. It doesn’t. (Statistics show that the divorce rate among professing Christians is just as high as the divorce rate in the general population.) Everyone marries thinking it will be forever, and then 1/2 of all marriages end in divorce. What are we to make of this?

I think we can think of divorce similar to how we might think about war. There are pacifists in this world — “doves” who believe war never is and never can be justified at all. There are also “hawks” in the world — people who move quickly toward military solutions to problems. But mostly the world is filled with people who live between these extremes; people who acknowledge, at the same time, the horror, the tragedy, the evil, and the occasional inevitability of war.

I think we should see divorce this way. We should acknowledge that it is horrible, tragic, often evil in various ways, and occasionally just completely inevitable. Doing this would help us to see it clearly for what it is and any time we see clearly, we are in a better position to do what is right. Most wars are not justifiable, but are pushed upon the public by politicians who have vested interests in war. Most divorces are not justified either, but are pursued by one or both parties in the marriage who, for various reasons, come to have vested interests in not being together.

So yes, divorce is occasionally inevitable. But not nearly as occasionally as the one-half of marriages that currently end in divorce. I’m stabbing in the dark to do this, but if I had to state a number of divorces that actually need to happen, I’ll bet it’s closer to 6 or 7%. In a small number of cases there is physical violence and often divorce simply needs to happen to protect someone who is in danger. In a small number of cases there is someone who is chronically and severely abusive and will not seek help. Divorce may need to happen here. In a small number of cases, one partner may need to divorce the other in order to remove children from an abusive environment. In a small number of cases couples will simply not be able to repair a severe rift created between them due to adultery, or something tragic like the death of a child. (And of course I do not intend here to make a list of every possible case for justifiable divorce.)

These cases notwithstanding, surely divorce almost never needs to happen for the main reason it happens today, which is simply that one or both partners are not happy. Conditions can be cultivated which lead to happiness, oftentimes even if only one of the two partners is willing to seek help and stick with it. The vast majority of what are called “irreconcilable differences” are in fact not irreconcilable at all. It is a great irony that marriages that do not need to end are ending at very high rates, and marriages that are horrifically crippled and violent and abusive often go on far too long.

That is the double tragedy of divorce. It is tragic when it doesn’t need to happen. And it is tragic when it does.


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