Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Ravages of Divorce

Yesterday, I spent the day with parents and two daughters on a pleasant outing to Lancaster County, PA.  We passed a development in Chester County where a newly-divorced cousin is living with her three kids. I asked my mom how she was doing and she said the ex-husband had just lost his job and informed his ex-wife he is in no position to help her financially.  The divorce was a contentious one.  The wife decided she wanted to be single again, despite the fact that her children were all under the age of 12, and the husband wasn't given much of a say in the matter.  In the span of time it takes to say "I want a divorce", his life lay in ruins and his kids became pawns.

Now, both parents are engaged in a game of "trash the ex-spouse" with the intention of setting the children up against each other.  It's an all too common scenario these days and in fact, may have been a factor in the tragic murder-suicide that took place last weekend in Bucks County, PA.

Today after Mass, Rebecca and I decided to get a sandwich at a deli near our church.  As were walking home, she ran into a school chum who moved away in the second grade. I asked the young lady how her parents were and she matter of factly told me that her mom lives down South and she is living with her dad.  I remember this family as being a close-knit loving unit and it was sad to think it had become dissolved.

When violence is prevalent, or infidelity, I can see how divorce might be the only way out of a bad marriage.  But in too many other instances, like the cousin I mentioned above, it seems like selfishness is the major motivating factor and little regard is given to how this will affect the kids, who are bounced from one house to another and spend their holidays split between two factions.  I don't know that I could have subjected my children to this simply because I don't like living with the man I once chose to be my husband.

Marriage is a sacrament that not everyone can  take part in.  We make vows to our intended spouse as well as to the Lord but when a wife wants a newer, richer model or the husband wants a calendar pin-up, how easily that is forgotten and how quickly those vows are discarded.  Is it any wonder the rest of society started to follow suit as divorce became more and more prevalent?  Infatuation is mistaken for love and no one bats an eyelash.

The love between a man and a woman isn't too unlike the love Christ has for His Church and expects in return.  Sometimes, you can't buy a warm fuzzy and faith is spent blindly groping.  Sometimes, it seems like there is more suffering than joy and perseverance takes on a whole new meaning.  Things happen that don't make much sense, but you don't bail because you have made a commitment.  Love is a lot more than sharing a bottle of wine on the beach during sunset or lighting the candles at dinner.  It's the decision to stay when the candles go unnoticed or the wine goes unappreciated.   It's knowing that there are more lives at stake than your own and accepting that what's best for you isn't what's best for your children.  It's bearing wrongs patiently without trashing your spouse to your children.  It is putting the needs of others above those of your own.

How quick we are to forget this, especially me.


  1. You brought back memories of my ex-brother-in-law deciding he no longer wanted to be married to my sister. And they had two daughters under ten at the time. The older girl is now almost eighteen and has refused to speak to her father since he left. It's a mess and it has hurt my sister. I know exactly what you mean Joyce. Selfishness is root of all evil, not money.

  2. "...and accepting that what's best for YOU isn't what's best for your children."


    I have been privy to so many conversations (teacher's lounge, Bunco night, etc.) where if I hear one more time..."well, if mama ain't happy than nobody is"...I might scream.

    I have (if only rarely) spoken up and mentioned that what might be best for mama, might actually be detrimental for kiddos. Seems to fall on deaf ears.

    I recently read a blog post, interestingly from a Baptist preacher, saying that while it pained him to say it, (hmmm...) he thought that many protestant denominations needed to take a page from the Catholic handbook on marriage and divorce. That "generally speaking", Catholics have lower divorce rates than other religious groups as a result of our strong convictions on the matter. And I agree. While I do think that my generation (40s and younger) have fallen away from this line of thinking, as a devout Catholic, I absolutely adhere to the belief that I entered into a covenant between my husband and God that is unbreakable.

    And it's not easy.

    Being married to me. ;)

    Or being married to the fireman.

    But I know that while the grass might look greener across the fence, I need to pray harder and tend more to my own garden of the Sacrament of Marriage.

    If all of us would just attend to our own gardens...

    Blessings to you!

  3. Divorce is an ugly thing, particularly for the kids. I've always found it a bit unsettling that I don't have any memories of my parents being together because they got divorced so early on in my life. It's bad enough that the idea of them being together is strange enough to make me feel uneasy. The incredibly callous and common way it is done nowadays is disgusting.

  4. Thanks Val. I think I should have added at the end of that post "There, but for the grace of God, go I". There were a few times when I seriously considered throwing in the towel but the Holy Spirit guided me to do otherwise, like offer a kind word or gesture when one was least expected. Amazing what that can do.

    Daniel, I can't tell you how many women I have encountered that raised children alone from infancy without a father because their husbands either didn't want the child in the first place or, they found another woman they'd rather have than their wife. Very sad. Please don't think I'm implying that was the case with your parents. It's none of my business, I know, I'm just pointing out how sad it is that the sacrament of marriage was instituted for the purpose of carrying on creation. And those little creations are often the last thing a man or woman think about when they decide to divorce.

    As the family goes, so goes society.

  5. Don't worry, I didn't think you were implying any such thing about my parents. Their problem was that both of them simply do not get along and loathe each other. They were never able to settle their differences, and so the marriage broke apart.

    I do agree with what you say about the children being disregarded. What I passionately hate is the manipulation that some parents put their children through to try to use them against the ex-spouse. My struggle to maintain neutrality between my two parents growing up was one of the more unpleasant parts of my childhood. Children are not pawns.


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