Saturday, September 12, 2009

Perspective: A Few Thoughts on Marriage and Divorce

I found the following writing cleaning out some old files. I wrote it in 2003. Thought I would share its perspective with you. As a broad stroke, it is hardly a complete conversation on the topic. However, I think it might be a perspective worth discussing, and a starting point for a conversation.

I wonder what you will think. Please feel free to let me know personally or in the comments below. I am pretty certain anyone who reads this is likely to have a reaction.

What's yours?


I could go and research the history of morality, but as it is a big topic and discussion, I am going to simply suggest that morality is an appearance of “right and wrong” in action. The question, though, that comes next for me is, “whose right?”

The dictionary actually uses the word “conforming” when describing what is considered moral behavior. In an extreme, you might consider that people could conform to a murderous society, and in that society, murder could be considered moral. Granted that is an extreme example, but the idea is to consider a term that many have been taking for granted for a long time, and for things to look different, sometimes I think we need to look at extreme, unlikely examples.

It would seem to me that if there are enough people who believe that something is “bad” then it can become “bad”. Think for a moment about the divorce rate in the United States alone. In the 60s and 70s divorce was practically unheard of. Yes, it probably did happen, but not with the frequency that it does today. Marriages lasted a lot longer back then too.

Now this is not to say that the marriages were of any better quality than they are today, or that the couples love each other any less these days than they did back then. I can’t even begin to speak to the “facts” of the state of marriage then and now, but what I can speak to is that there has been a change in environment.

Divorce is a part of our culture in a way that it never has been. Is that wrong? Is that voice in your head yours, or someone else’s?

Let us suppose that you, like my grandparents, were married over 50 years - unhappily.

(My grandmother went to leave my grandfather on a number of occasions, but it never lasted. In the end, she couldn’t see very well. He couldn’t hear very well. I believe in the power of the mind to create things in the body, and have always found it interesting that she couldn’t look at her life, and he didn’t want to hear his (no doubt he didn’t want to hear her and she didn’t want to see the things that came from his drinking problems). They stayed together. Should they have? Likely there are those who would say yes. After all they took a marriage vow, “for better or for worse.”)

The vows you took say nothing of changing your mind. Let me ask you human to human – in the years that you have been living, have you changed your mind – once? twice? a few times? more times than you can count? That last one is me.

There are those of you who might say, well, this is different than most things. Well, let me ask you – have you ever been forced to keep your choice? How did you feel? I guess it would depend on the circumstances surrounding it, but likely you weren’t a very happy camper. It could even be that the next time it came to make another choice you were very cautious, or maybe even abstained, after all, you didn’t want to make the wrong one, and then have to live with it.

Now, before you go off thinking that I am not in favor of marriage (too late?) let me say that that could not be farther from the truth. But I am in favor of it coming from a different place than most.

For some, with marriage, comes the thought that they will never again have a choice. They have made their choice, and that’s that. So then, I theorize that, those who believe that they never again will have a choice set out to prove that they indeed do have a choice – to the detriment of the relationship that falls within the name of “marriage.” “I have to prove that I have a choice outside of you, so that I can choose you.”

It sounds kind of strange, doesn’t it? Maybe even a little warped. But human beings are even if just a little, warped. Things that seem illogical somewhere along the way make sense somehow to someone. I am sure you have done things that seem to defy logic, and yet, there you are doing it.

So here we are, in a society that says that marriage is not only sacred, but important to the fabric of our lives, and there it is unraveling at rates that no one could have predicted years ago. Is it possible that the very dynamic that was created to sustain it is in some way responsible for the ugliness of the separations and, even worse, for the ugly relationships that remain intact, despite reasons to split?

I was in a relationship that lasted six years. It was a tumultuous six years. The relationship was over long before it was over, but we kept trying to “make it work,” or so it seemed. It was like a marriage, even though we never got that piece of paper. In some ways I was glad that we never married, as I believe we would have likely wound up divorced. If anything, I could see how that piece of paper may have had me trying more and more as things grew worse and worse.

It never got better. I just kept looking for ways to see how I could get it to work. Finally, I just saw that it wasn’t going to work. We were not meant to continue to have a relationship. Finally, it was over. But it took every last gasp it had before it let me go from its death rattle.

If something doesn't work for you, is being bound by the morality worth it? Instead of looking at what might seem to be "right" morally, it might be helpful to consider acknowledging marriage for what it could seem to come down to - a choice, a piece of paper, and a legislative intervention.

No comments: