Thursday, September 20, 2007

Decree nisi and other depressing activities

In the last month and a half, 4 of my friends have gotten--or entered into actions that will eventually result in--a divorce. I won't be naming names, because this is not a gossip column and I don't have permission from any of my friends to spread the news, but I feel compelled to write my feelings on the subject. I tend to empathize with my close friends, and if I don't respond in some way to how I feel, coming to terms with the situation and finding a resolution will be delayed or debased.

I was raised in a family and a church that looks highly on marriage. Marriage, I was taught, is one of the highest forms of happiness one can achieve. Imagine, finding that one person who makes you want to be the best you, understands and loves you enough to hold your hand when you're down, enjoys with you life's victories when they come, and even tolerates your morning breath. Of course, that's not all marriage is--I'm not naive enough to think marriage is like a country love song--and I will admit I don't know the extent of the commitment that is made when two people enter into "holy matrimony," but I have been taught that it is good and I am now old enough to know believe myself that it is good, and I see it as a sacred union that I hope to be a part of some day.

Now that you have a small precursor to how I feel about marriage, you can understand the agglomeration of feelings I experience when I hear that one of my friends is getting divorced. Multiply that by four. I consider myself a fairly decent friend, and I empathize with my pals when they are going through hard times. I don't know what my roll is in this situation, and each one is different. I don't know how to be the best friend I can in each situation, and don't know if there even is any specific thing I am supposed to do or if I should just be around. Or maybe I'm not supposed to be around.

On top of that, knowing that my friends, who share some of my ideas and beliefs about marriage, are ending theirs makes me a little cynical about such unions. Heck, I even put quotation marks around "holy matrimony" above. I know a divorce doesn't make it less holy, but I can't help but think on how frequent divorce is today, and it scares me a little. It makes me wonder if anyone is immune. The answer is a resounding, "NO," because you can't say it will never happen to you, and there is no failsafe against it. Never go to bed angry. Sometimes you need to sleep on it. A family to prays together stays together. Communication is the key. Have dinner at the kitchen table. All of these are excellent words to live by, but none by itself (or even together?) will be insurance against divorce. But I still believe that marriage is something sacred and good, and that it can still be one of the highest forms of happiness. I think cynicism is a disease (not to be confused with sarcasm... which I still have internal debates about), and optimism is really a much better way to live anyway. People do stay together and things can work out in the end.

So tell me what you think? When things like this happen that directly or indirectly affect my belief system, I have to work them out, talk them out, and bounce my thoughts off people. It helps me make sense of the situation and add the scenario to what I believe and how I will act and react in like situations. It also helps to see what other people believe and how they have dealt with the same situations. So feel free to pontificate with me. It helps, I promise.


Bonny said...

We have similar feelings. I had an aunt recently get mixed up in false doctrine and "other men." This led her to conclude that she was unhappy in her family and marriage (in a nut shell). After what she did I was glad her husband divorced her but it was sad to see the devastation he and his 5 KIDS! faced. I had another friend from high school get married to a girl with 2 kids. They were doing great and suddenly the girl didn't want to do religious things anymore so they ended it. Unfortunate.

In almost every case I believe that all marriages can work with the constant effort of both individuals. The fall out in a marriage has to begin somewhere and usually it starts very small. Like a snowball it with slowly get bigger and bigger and then it will take over. It is important to smash the small snowballs in your marriage when it is just barely forming to prevent most marital problems. So it may be HIS fault or HER fault or someone did something bad or wrong but I almost believe that no matter the circumstance, both parties could have done something to prevent it in the beginning.

In my opinion if people don't want to end up divorced then they should never consider it an option once married. When it isn't an option people behave differently when faced with conflict and confrontation because they don't have a possible divorce to fall back on. Overcoming challenges and working together makes couples stronger and less interested in splitting up anyway.

Haley Greer said...

I will be perfectly honest in saying that I haven't put much thought into the topic; probably because no one terribly close to me has gone through such an ordeal. I (like many) think that divorce can be a horrible thing or a wonderful blessing, depending on the circumstances and the people involved. I definitely feel it is used to freely and frequently, but that such things are a sign of the times. I tend to sort everything into two piles: God's plan or Satan's plan. Anything that requires trial of faith, sacrifice, and hard work can often be grouped in with God's plan; whereas anything that involves immediate gratification, no sacrifice, and comes cheaply or easily can often be grouped with Satan's plan. Of course there are exceptions to each of these categories, but generally that's how things tend to be. Divorce (again, as a general rule) falls into Satan's plan for me. But, I know some people who have made the mistake of marrying too quickly and finding out that their spouse is a monster that has no desire to change, who consider their divorces to be what saved their lives.
Am I afraid to get married? Not afraid. Cautious, yes. I've come to recognize certain traits within people that I won't even allow to weasel their way into my heart because those behaviors, while not much at first, often are precursors to much more serious habits. So I keep a leery eye. Meanwhile, I work on bettering the things about MYSELF that others may have leery eyes about, because that's only fair. I'm just as prone to Satan's plan as anyone, you know?
Woah. I guess I had a lot more to say than I thought... sorry I kind of got off topic.

Heather said...

Hey, speaking from someone who knows at least one of those friends you're talking about...I understand you're concern. I have been consumed with feelings of sadness for my friends who almost seem to have rushed into situations they weren't ready for. However, know that not all marriages end up like that and you should plan to someday have a happy marriage of your own! :)

Kristen said...

The recent divorce news that we all are privy to has really saddened me greatly. I have only been married for two months now, but I can tell you that it is one of the greatest experiences of my life. It is work though - you both have to be willing to do it. I'm so grateful that we took the time to really get to know each other, but also that we are willing to live up to our covenants. One thing I can say - each relationship has its own ups and downs, and each story has two sides. Marriage is worth it, but you have to be willing to work at it constantly realizing that it, like so many other things in life, brings great joy, sorrow, heartache, excitement, and promise.

caron said...

Here is my pontification. I have a really hard time watching people get divorced, especially when I saw them get married, also. It's just tragic. Regardless of who's "fault" it is, that word just brings pain to mind.
But I agree with points made already. If both parties are trying it can work out. It's hardly ever just one person's fault. It may start with one person, but the other's response to the original offense will either make the situation better or worse.
And I would also like to say that the older and unmarried I get the more thankful I am that I have had a chance to get to know myself so much better than when I did when I was 20. I applaud those who did get married young and now have a thriving marriage-- that had to have been hard work. Not that it gets easier the older you are, but getting to know just one person instead of another person and myself sounds a lot more like something I could possibly handle in the future. The distant future.
PS, I really liked Elder Oak's talk about Divorce last conference. He said some very wise things.

garrett said...

Thanks everyone for your comments. I think it's true that both sides really have to be willing to work at it. Sometimes divorce is really the only way anyone will ever be able to go on with life, but I really think that decision is between the parties involved in the union in the first place. In the church, that means you have to include God in the decision as well...

I also agree with Caron that it is harder watching the people you saw get married end their marriage.

It's all a tough situation, but I think everyone has contributed some good words of wisdom and, again, I know that it CAN work out and people CAN work through it.

Tyler and Cassidy said...

I think I am one of the lucky ones. I made my choice very quickly after I met Tyler, and we have had very few days that I wondered if I was ready for what I chose. But, on those days, my recurring thought is that nothing is meant to be easy and there is a very big difference between difficulty and impossibility. I think that for the most part, anyone can be happy with anyone if both are willing to try, and both can be flexible. Its too bad that these things can only come from one side in too many relationships.
Further, I happen to think that we should be so very careful in letting friends, or family, who are in the divorce situation talk to us about it. That is a decision that needs to be reached alone, and the relationship as sacred as that of companionship should not be ended by influence from anyone outside of that relationship except for God.
For the sake of everyone I love, I hope the thought of divorce never touches my mind.

Anyway, I want you to be able to check out our blog - but you have to be invited because my husband says we should be afraid of strangers. So, I need your email. Mine is green_oleander(at)yahoo(dot)com

princesaplumeria said...

I agree with the fact that both parties involved have to want to make it work and be committed to making it work for it to work. If that committment changes on someone's part, it becomes a hard thing for one person to handle alone. I also think that sincere and honest communication before marriage helps a lot too. If someone is hiding something from the other person, that is going to cause problems. I believe in complete and open honesty in a marraige relationship. That person needs to be part of you...and not just some part, but a whole part. It's a scary thing, but I agree that it can also be a wonderful thing if you're willing to open yourself up and work through the hard times.

Jenni Brush said...

Sorry - this is kind of a delayed response.

I think one of the main things is that you truly need to take the time to get to know your potential spouse, and particularly in a romantic relationship, not just as friends. My ex-husband and I were good friends for about a year before we got married, but we basically jumped from friendship to engagement. Without the dating period free from the stress of wedding planning, we weren't able to find out whether we would really be happy together as more than friends. And it turned out that we weren't good for each other at all. We worked at it for four years, but we ended up only bringing out the worst in each other.

The other thing is that you need to know that you're making the right decision. You may not receive a solid confirmation until after the fact, but at least you shouldn't feel that it may be wrong. I had nagging doubts, but I felt somewhat obligated to get married at the time (for various reasons), so I pushed them aside... I don't regret my marriage - I learned many valuable lessons. But I also don't regret my divorce - ending the marriage was the best thing we could have done. My ex has now found someone with whom he is truly happy, and although I haven't found that person yet, I feel free and able to be myself again.

That was a bit personal, but I wanted to tell the story from the other side. Please don't get me wrong - marriage, especially eternal marriage, is a sacred union, and should not be treated lightly. In most instances, marriages can and should be saved by hard work and by holding fast to each other and to the principles of the Gospel. But occasionally, divorce is the best choice for everyone involved, and that can only be judged between those two individuals and the Lord.

garrett said...

Thanks for your thoughts! Jenni, I'm sure that you had a strong internal dilemma about writing that, but I really appreciate it.

I think the only thing that is certain is that every person is different and, therefore, so is each situation. This journey of life has many lessons and experiences for us all to go through, and it is most important to include God along the way. As long as we keep going forward, that's the most important. I hope my original thoughts don't sound like I excuse all divorces as petty and a sign that people aren't willing to work things out. It can really be what saves both people. It doesn't make it less sad and difficult to deal with, though (and all I am is an onlooker!). Time heals all wounds, so they say, but in the moment, I still wonder if it had to happen. For some, the answer is, "Yes." But as you said, the choice has to be made by the two individuals and the Lord.

Tennant Family said...

K, so I know this is WAAAAY after the fact, but I wanted to share that I agree. Divorce is devastating! I've had a few friends go through it recently (some who we have in common) and my parents are dad's on his third marriage (though it DOES seem that this one will stick, which is great because I love his wife!). Heck, even my husband has been through a divorce! I hope never to go through that myself. We've been married almost nine years and, while that's nowhere near a record, I think that for two nineteen year olds getting married, one for the SECOND time at nineteen, it's pretty good!

We ABSOLUTELY stick to the "never go to bed mad" rule. At times that has meant staying up until 4 am when you have to go to work at 5 to work it out, but so be it!

We are not great at family dinners around the kitchen table. Mainly because of crazy schedules, but we do our best.

It's also important to just be a couple sometimes, even after kids. We try to have a date night once a week. Usually dinner and a movie, but sometimes even just going to the grocery store without kids just to have some "grown-up" time.

Of course, this does not make us divorce-proof. Far from it! But it certainly helps!