Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Fight for your marriage and your kids: A word to mom and dad

You may be reading this blog not because you are a child of divorce, but because you are a parent who is considering divorce, in the throes of a divorce, or already divorced.
If you are considering divorce, I hope with all my heart that you will do whatever you possibly can to salvage your marriage. Except in cases where you or your children are in physical danger from your spouse, studies show that children do better in unhappy homes than in split homes. If you’ve learned nothing else from reading this blog, you should know by now the devastating consequences of divorce on children. Yes, God can heal their hearts, but how much better if you do not bring that kind of pain into their lives.

There are times as a parent when you have to bring pain into your child’s life. Immunization shots, medical treatments, discipline, cutting off a harmful friendship—these are not easy things, but as a parent sometimes you have to do things like this for your child’s good. Ask any parent whose child has scary, painful, necessary medical procedures—especially when that child is too young to understand what is happening—just how hard it is and how much love it takes to grit your teeth and watch your baby suffer. But that’s unavoidable pain, pain that ultimately brings about a greater good in the child’s life. No parent in their right mind would knowingly and willingly inflict pain on their child needlessly…right?

If you started reading this blog hoping to find some justification for a less than absolutely necessary decision to leave your marriage, hoping that somehow your children will be okay if you just manage it all right, you need to face up to the fact that it just isn’t so. The truth is, if you are unhappy in your marriage, you need to weigh your unhappiness with your children’s well-being. As a single person (as of the writing of this book), I cannot begin to imagine the depth of loneliness and heartache that attend an unhappy marriage. But I have tried to give you a glimpse of the loneliness and heartache that attend being a child of divorce. You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t love your children, so I can only hope that you will choose your love for them over your own current state of happiness or lack thereof. Fighting for your marriage won’t be easy and you may not succeed. If you do not succeed, at least give yourself and your children the satisfaction of knowing that you tried every possible route for as long as you possibly could.

While I have never been married, I know a lot of people who are, including some who have been married for many decades. They tell me, not surprisingly, that there are ups and downs in their marriages; times when they feel like newlyweds again, and times when they’d rather not occupy the same room for longer than a few seconds, and many times that fall somewhere in between. They tell me that it takes a lot of sheer grit and determination and real commitment to make it through the low points, the days when it feels easier to walk away than to try to work it out or patch it up, easier to start over with someone else than to try to start over with the same person maybe for the second or fifth or twentieth time. They tell me that sometimes the only thing that keeps them from walking away is that they promised to not ever let divorce be an option on the table.

I think there’s something to that. I’ve had lots of roommates through the years and one thing about roommates is that you never really have a great deal of incentive to work out the kinks in the relationship. I mean, if there’s something that really bugs you, well, just wait a few months or years until the lease is up or the roommate gets married or gets a new job somewhere else, and suddenly the problem is solved. But marry for life and you’re talking about a whole different situation. Now you have a vested interest in working out the problems that arise—not ignoring them, or sweeping them under the rug, or merely putting up with them—because now you know, you’re going to have to live with this person for the rest of your life. You either find a way to make it work or resign yourself to a life of misery.

And maybe you really can’t work it out. It happens. We’re not going to blame you if you give it your best shot and it still falls apart. All we’re asking is that you give it your best shot. Really try. Then you can look yourself in the eye, and look your kids in the eye, and feel glad that you didn’t inflict pain needlessly.

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