From counselors, stars, psychologists and lawyers to ministers, rabbis, priests and clergy of all religions; from marriage counselors to teachers at every level of education, everyone wishes they had the key to helping folks avoid divorce. Churchgoers often claim that their ilk are more likely to stay married, but those states that have the highest rates of church attendance also have very high divorce rates. If a business could bottle and sell the secret of staying married, it would be one of the most successful enterprises of all time. The fact is, however, that the reasons people get married and divorced are so complicated that to date there are no “quick fixes” or “bottled secrets” for saving a marriage.
Why Avoid Divorce?
One may ask, in the face of all facts about marriage and divorce, why do we care so much? What is it about divorce that causes everyone so much concern?
Reasons to Avoid Divorce
- Avoid pain: The vast majority of people who have experienced a divorce, even those who initiated the legal case, report that their divorces caused them great anguish and emotional pain.
- For the sake of the children: Many parents, having heard statistics about the negative consequences of broken homes, want to stay in the marriage in order to avoid hurting the children.
- Religious beliefs: Most religions do not look favorably upon divorce; some even penalize members who divorce without the church’s permission.
- Commitment to promises made: Many people report that they actually meant what they said in their marriage vows, and are committed to the promises they made. Despite the fact that they are having marriage troubles, they are willing to hang in there.
Note: Interestingly at least one longitudinal study that followed “unhappy” couples over a number of years, found that those who reported themselves as “very unhappy” in their marriages at the beginning of the study, but stayed in the marriage, reported considerable improvement in their relationship several years later.
So, the questions remain: What does a married person wishing to stay married do to avoid divorce? What does an unmarried person contemplating marriage do to ensure the relationship will not end up on the rocks?
Some “Alternative” Suggestions
As noted above, mainstream sources have yet to provide many viable suggestions for those seeking advice on how to avoid divorce. Perhaps the following “alternative” proposals will be helpful:
- Remember what many recovering alcoholics admit: Repeating the same behavior over and over, thinking we will get different results, is the definition of insanity. In other words, stop and examine your behavior in relation to your partner. Are you repeating patterns learned in childhood, hoping over and over again that things will change? If so, spend some time reflecting on your own actions, and see what in your own thinking and behavior needs to change.
- In the same vein, contemplate the words of Albert Einstein who is quoted as saying, “The significant problems we face can not be solved at the same level of thinking which created them.” We must think outside the box, get a broader perspective, and walk a mile in the other person’s shoes in order to resolve issues that arise in the course of a relationship.
- A Course in Miracles, a book originally written in the 1960’s that has since been disseminated across the globe and translated into many languages, says, “Everything (words or actions) is either an expression of love or a call for love.” Whenever possible, try to interpret your partner’s action in light of this suggestion. What may seem like anger may actually be fear and a call for love to overcome the fear. Ask yourself, Can I provide the love my partner needs to overcome her/his fear? What may seem like condemnation may actually be a backwards way of expressing love. Remember the little boys on the playground who tormented the little girls they liked the most?
- “Reach for a better feeling thought” is the constant reminder of speakers who travel the country providing advice and mentorship based on the philosophy that our thoughts create our realities.
- A Christian saint by the name of Augustine is often quoted, “Love and do what you will.” This would sound like a prescription for hedonism, but for the first word, “Love.” This philosophy has been backed up by medical and psychological studies that show that love is a basic human need. Remember the infant monkeys who were fed and given all their physical necessities but wasted away without some sort of loving attention. “Failure to thrive” syndrome in babies also demonstrates that human beings cannot exist without some evidence of love in their lives.
Whether already married and concerned about divorce, or contemplating marriage knowing that many marriages end in divorce, it may be helpful to consider some “alternative” suggestions. Most involve the idea that humans seek and aspire to loving relationships and wither away without evidence of love. This realization may be the first step in a journey towards staying married.
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