Thoughts of divorce? There are few things in life that are more painful than the feeling of falling out of love. It is overwhelming. From the time you wake up in the morning, that’s all you can think about. Nothing else really matters. All your waking hours, your thoughts and feelings, your entire life is consumed with how you and your spouse have fallen out of love. You feel bewildered. You wonder what went wrong? What happened to the good times of yesteryear and the dreams you had for the future?
Falling Out of Love?
Imagine for a moment, that your courtship and marriage have been captured on videotape. If you rewound to the beginning, what would you see? That magic moment, when the two of you first met, and fell in love? The special times you shared, a picnic, a walk in the park, or on the beach? The powerful attraction when sparks began to fly, and you just couldn’t seem to get enough of each other? As you got to know one another, you were drawn to each other because you felt so accepted, appreciated and loved. You could talk about anything. Being together was exciting and fun, and you wanted to be together all the time. Then, it wasn’t long until you began making plans for a future together. You had found the person of your dreams, and marriage offered the chance to fulfill all your secret yearnings and wishes. On your wedding day, you were filled with expectation as you exchanged your vows; pledging your love for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.
Then came the ecstasy of your honeymoon, when you celebrated your love with passion, and pleasure. On that day you felt complete and fulfilled. Divorce was the farthest thing from your mind. But no sooner than the honeymoon was over, things began to change. Along came kids, a mortgage, bills and careers, and with each came increasing demands on your resources and time. As the years passed by, the dreams you started out with have been hampered by harsh realities, if not shattered by disillusionment. Tensions have mounted and stress is taking its toll. Unresolved issues and painful events of the past have eroded the relationship to a point of despair. Tenderness and intimacy have all but disappeared. The marriage you’re seeing isn’t what you had expected. Once, there were high hopes for a blissful union and a happy home, but despite the way things appear now, that’s beginning to seem impossible. The person whom you couldn’t wait to spend the rest of your life with, now seems distracted, unwilling and uninterested. With unmet needs, and incessant demands, manipulation, resentment, bitterness and dissatisfaction have set in. Now you mostly relate to each other with anger and conflict, or else avoidance and withdrawal. It seems like the two of you can’t talk about anything without losing your tempers, or getting your feelings hurt.
The person you married has changed. And yet, this is the person you loved so deeply on your wedding day, the one you sincerely meant to stick with through the joys and hardships of life. It’s as though some powerful current has taken hold of you both, leading you down a path of negative thinking. You feel overcome with destructive feelings, and painful actions and reactions, that lead to isolation and loneliness. Disappointed, discouraged, and confused, you feel like your love has died, and you feel like giving up. Divorce seems like a viable option. Does any of this sound familiar? If you’ve chosen to read this article, there is a reason, a good reason. Perhaps you are in a marriage that’s in trouble. Maybe this scenario does sound uncomfortably similar to yours. Or, maybe you got here by a different route. However you arrived, the pain and disappointment at times seems unbearable. You may feel as though you’ve tried everything, and there just seems to be nothing left for you to do, and so you are considering divorce. As you consider your future you want to know the truth about divorce.
I can understand where you’re coming from. My Junior year in college, I married my high school sweetheart, after dating for six years. Within five years after we married, we appeared to be more like roommates: living separate lives. We had tried everything humanly possible to straighten things out between us. We both professed to be Christians, and we’re absolutely against the idea of divorce, but we had never learned, and consequently did not know how to function in the most important human relationship on earth. We attended church on Sundays. We believed in the Bible, yet we were on a path racing toward marital ruin. It just seemed the more she tried to appeal to my sensitivity the more insensitive I became; and the more I tried reasoning with her, the more unreasonable she became. When our problems first began, I thought, “This is just a stage we’re going through.” But then I realized that I was just fooling myself. My marriage was getting progressively worse, not better. In spite of all the difficulties, there were times when I would reminisce about the past, and nostalgically recall the good times that we shared. But there came a point when the constant war at home served as a painful reminder that much of what we had together appeared to be lost forever. To make matters worse, all our battles had not gone unnoticed by our two children. Bedtime had become fraught with tears, questions about divorce, unusual night time fears, and anger.
Desperate for answers…
Again, and again I reflected on what went wrong. Though things were never perfect, I knew early on that the heavy demands of attending graduate school, while trying to get established in my career, had taken a severe toll on us. The births of our two daughters, only eleven months apart marked another turning point. Initially, we were ecstatic about our new babies, but our mutual joy was short-lived. My wife became totally immersed in motherhood, as I spent increasing amounts of time at the library and the office. At first, she frequently expressed her hurt and resentment about my long absences, but since it was “all for the family,” I justified it. After a long period of my unresponsiveness, she eventually stopped trying. We lived separate lives with few shared activities. Our verbal exchanges were limited to, “Pass the salt.” Every year, we fought with increasing frequency, becoming more numb and disillusioned. I remember one time when we were separated, seeing a movie about a couple whose marriage was falling apart. In that movie, I saw my own marriage like a reflection in a mirror. It even seemed that the camera crew secretly moved in and candidly filmed the story of our lives.
By the time I had reached my mid thirties, I had achieved every goal that I’d ever set for myself. I owned a successful business, and had pretty much everything I ever wanted. Despite all my successes, I had not achieved the satisfaction and happiness I had longed for, and certainly not a happy marriage and family. I felt a nagging sense of emptiness. I had done everything I thought would bring me the happiness I wanted, but still something was missing. When I was trying to fill my emptiness, I made many mistakes as a person, a husband, and a father. By the age of thirty-nine my life was a shambles. Selfishness, alcohol, drugs, and materialism took its toll on my marriage. After seventeen years of this kind of living, my wife walked out. My marriage was over, and came to an end. That story is all too familiar, and during the past thirteen years that I have worked with couples with marital problems, I have heard many stories like mine. The scenes and the actors change, the specifics vary, but the dynamics are strikingly similar.
When a marriage is neglected the relationship deteriorates, problem-solving efforts prove ineffective, and divorce seems the only solution. On the brink of divorce, in a desperate, “eleventh hour” attempt to save my marriage, I read self-help books and sought the help of pastors and marriage counselors, all to no avail. Two different marriage counselors told me that if I was unhappy in my marriage, I should just get out. Divorce was actually encouraged. That was all the encouragement I needed to hear. After all, I told myself, life is short and we all have the right to be happy. I opted out, and got a divorce. Through a lengthy process, I soon learned the truth about divorce. What I discovered is when it’s all over and you weigh the costs and the “benefits,” of a tearing a family apart is that the benefits of dissolving a marriage through divorce pale in comparison to the overwhelming pain of dissolving a marriage. Over the past 21 years of working with couples and families after divorce. I have witnessed the suffering, disillusionment and lingering pain that are the by-products of a breaking up a home. Throughout the years I have seen firsthand what tragic devastation divorce leaves in its wake. On the surface, the idea, the idea of divorce; of getting away from the pain sounds appealing, but instead it really can actually make your pain and problems even worse. In many ways divorce is like exchanging one set of problems for another, which are many times far worse.