If I’d Prayed a Little Harder… : Society’s Take on My Divorce

Once again, social networking is focusing on this country’s marriage crisis. Remember these?

marriage 2

marriage good old days

no divorce again

What about these?

Your ONLY marriage? Why didn’t I think of that?

Toasters, Marriage, and the Good Ol’ Days

Divorce is not an option… you know… until it is.

Those were the products of the last time I was set off by social media’s snide little remarks on divorce. This time, however, my issue isn’t even the blog post I read. I understand that it came from a good place and that it included a beautiful message: marriage is about giving to each other, one hundred percent… with lots of Jesus undertones. Neither of these concepts bother me. I am a practicing Catholic. I dream of the day I can sit next to a man during Mass. If said man even wants to nix the birth control, I am legitimately okay with that.

What I have a problem with, is that every single uplifting marriage/put-an-end-to-divorce article I read includes a statement that goes a little something like this:

The more you love your spouse, the more they’ll love you in return.

That’s paraphrased, because I’m not trying to attack one article. I’m attacking the approach that’s being taken to the issue of divorce in this society, where everyone is forgetting that you cannot change another person, no matter how great your hugs or how fervent your prayers might be. He has free will… and sometimes that makes him a sociopath. That is just fact. Why is it that we can’t support each other without implying that anyone who ended a marriage just didn’t love hard enough or pray hard enough? After all, when someone frets over how willy nilly we’ve become about divorce, they are referring to we willy nilly divorcees. Worse, it always seems these declarations come from people who have been married for all of four months or, in some cases, not at all. Do me a favor. If you have not cleaned up your spouse’s vomit, held him through the death of a parent, watched her shit during childbirth, prayed through a miscarriage, buried a child, scraped together the money for the rent during an unemployment streak, rebuilt trust after cheating, or any of the other heartbreaking and trying things that come with marriage… then can you please take that well-intended advice and shove it up your ass?!?! That is, of course, if there’s any room left with your head all the way up there.

Think of 10 people who are divorced. Go ahead. I’m sure you can. It’s a freaking epidemic. Now, think of how many that you know, without a doubt, left for frivolous reasons. I get that the media is full of 72 day marriages and your aunt’s third cousins just woke up and decided they didn’t feel like being married anymore, but do you have any idea how rare that is? What about how hard that is to prove? Despite what my current Facebook feed might have me believe, there are still some people out there who keep their private affairs, oh, you know… private. It might look like she left because he wasn’t making enough money for her expensive tastes, but you have zero irrefutable evidence that she’s not covering up bruises with that cashmere sweater. As Gail mentioned earlier, no one attributes the rising divorce rates to the increase in mental illness or domestic violence. Everyone just assumes it’s boredom, with no verifiable facts. Regardless of the situation, being trapped in a bad marriage is like looking into an empty refrigerator for the tenth time in a night. It doesn’t matter how hungry you are or how desperately you need sustenance; it’s still empty. That was literal in my case. What was for dinner, in the summer of 2010? Tears. Tears were for dinner. 

empty fridge
My wedding portrait.

Just as it’s no one else’s business if parents spank their child, it’s no person’s business, but Man and Wife, if they decide to untie that knot. In fact, I’d dare say it’s less of anyone else’s concern, in a childless marriage. At least the children being spanked are the concern of society at the point in which their safety becomes an issue. My divorce, though? My divorce did not affect anyone but myself and my ex-husband, who was likely too busy chewing the legs off kittens to care, anyway. I don’t owe society an explanation (though it already exists within this blog). Now that I’ve received absolution from the Church, I don’t owe anyone an explanation. That’s right. By my personal faith, God is cool with the dissolution of my marriage.

fistbump with god

So society can suck it. How dare anyone make me feel like less of a Christian, a woman, a member of society for escaping abuse? You know what, though? I’ve been divorced for nearly three years. It’s been months weeks since I last cuddled my gun and cried about how he broke me. I can mostly handle the judgement without breaking. However, how dare anyone make a presently frightened, lonely, and hurt woman feel like less for wanting to escape abuse? The assumption that she’s lazy and disrespects the union of marriage does her a huge disservice in a time of great need.

I’d like to think that these aforementioned articles and memes are just being read by other couples, happily married for 7 weeks, who are too busy patting themselves on the back to recognize this subtext, but that’s just not true. We are in a technological age, and when we need information, be it the location of the nearest yarn store, whether or not Benjamin Franklin was a president (SHUT-UP, GAIL!), how to fill out a W-4, or if Christ will forsake us for leaving a toxic marriage, we turn to the internet. As someone who once Googled “Catholicism and divorce”, I can attest to the fact that there is a man out there who needs to leave, for the goodness of his soul, reading that he’s at fault for the black eye he blamed on his two-year-old, because he doesn’t love hard enough. He’s not right with the Lord.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying the divorce rate in this country isn’t a problem. There are all sorts of statistics out there on how damaging a divorce is to the children in a marriage. There’s a .357 in my bed declaring how damaging it is to the individual. I do, however, disagree with acting as though a rancid marriage to a soulless bastard can be fixed with an extra Glory Be. I truly do not think that was the intent of the blog I read, today. But, if you looked closely, it’s exactly what the author claimed happened when his wife stuck by his side. He eventually turned things around, because she loved him enough. No. He turned things around, because he was a good person. Rather than focusing on how love can repair someone with free will, how about we focus a little more on choosing someone less toxic in the first place? Rather than posting memes about how you want your first marriage to be your only marriage…

Who freaking doesn’t?!?!?

Ahem…

… or about how the reason your marriage lasted was because you wanted it badly enough

Bite me.

Ahem…

… perhaps it would be more helpful to discuss how you chose a partner who could be your only partner. I’d really like to know the secret to immortality, because you’ll apparently never remarry as a widow. Okay. Seriously. I mean it this time. Instead of making patronizing and vague comments about how you “fixed” your marriage, tell everyone how you found someone who was willing to go through the repair process with you. You see, I actually considered marriage counseling. I really did. I just quickly realized that it wouldn’t work unless he was willing to stop lying, stealing, abusing the dog, and fabricating employment… and he wasn’t going to do that… because I couldn’t control him.

I am not just talking about the way we talk about marriage with adults. I grew up in a very religious town, where they’ve never heard of Separation of Church and State. Sixth through twelfth grade, I sat through at least 15 abstinence seminars. What if, instead of setting goals that are proven to be nearly unattainable for the average American teenager, they’d given us some information on choosing a partner, when we were ready? How about telling us some divorce statistics based on age of first marriage, while some shattered 23-year-old divorcees cried at a podium? I’m not saying it would be a guaranteed success. Teenagers are stubborn. Many will do exactly as they wish, because they are the exception to the rule… but a few may not. Why not educate them?What if society loses the assumption that every marriage can be fixed and replaces it with the idea that we should start dating with marriage in mind, rather than dating with the idea that marriage is a next step, regardless of compatibility? What if it didn’t take 48 hours to get a marriage license? What if we didn’t let children marry at 18? What if we stopped basing our view of lifelong, monogamous love on these ridiculous Nicholas Sparks books; where complete opposites, with different goals, who treat each other poorly, fall in love and spend their lives fighting over meaningless crap, without it chipping away at their relationship? What if we treat the source of the problem, rather than starting in the middle of a sickness and assuming that the cure is the same, regardless of ailment? Perhaps, if someone had given me more guidance in my choice, and I hadn’t wept on my wedding night, I wouldn’t have eventually wept the words “If I’d been a better wife, he’d have been a better husband.” Perhaps, though, I wouldn’t have done so if there weren’t so many people telling me that.

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23 thoughts on “If I’d Prayed a Little Harder… : Society’s Take on My Divorce

  1. I had the same problem when I got divorced. I come from a religious background and divorce is unacceptable. My ex was psychologically abusive and I decided to get rid of him. We went to ‘councilling’ with our pastor and he told us that sex would fix everything. Unfortunately, he was having sex with other people which, somewhat surprisingly, didn’t help our relationship at all. In the end, I decided to do what I wanted (since it’s my life and all that). I was much more discerning the second time around and picked a great guy. I could never have had this level of happiness with my ex-idiot. We have our problems, but we work through them together. Most of all, we have respect. If you don’t have that, what’s the point of being in a relationship? It takes a lot of courage to admit that you’ve made a mistake and people should be more supportive and less smug. Sometimes people think that suffering makes you more righteous.

    Well done to you for having the courage to say ‘enough’.

    • Thank you so much. Fortunately, my devout family saw what me ex was doing and they were all thrilled when I got out. It also means a lot to me that my Church accepted it. It’s a shame, though, that some people are from less supportive backgrounds.

    • Thank you so much! I read “another slam” and was thinking you were going to be upset that I’d “attacked” the poor blogger everyone is trashing, for his post. Lol.

    • I agree with your post and a family member is in a similar situation, making the exact mistakes his parents made. This judgement in our society about divorce, under any circumstances, isn’t helping the people who really DO need to leave.

      • I just wonder at how long people should put up with a crappy marriage and try to make it work. When is enough, enough? The friends that I blogged about aren’t physically abusive to each other and, honestly, I think they stopped being mentally abusive years ago. To quit being mean to each other, they just stopped speaking and being in the house at the same time. That’s not a marriage. It’s a time share. So, why bother? For appearances? Please.

      • I think in that kind of situation, counseling is worth a go, but if neither one of you wants to be there, there’s really no point. Again, if they’d chosen better in the first place, there wouldn’t be a problem. I propose more emphasis on prevention.

    • Thank you! I’m glad to see so many people understanding what I have to say. I was afraid people would take it as an attack on the blogger I referenced.

  2. Why is this an issue. If a friend tells me that statistically one of our marriages will end in divorce, I’ll just elect not to get married in the first place. Solves that problem, right? Good logic here?

    • I’m just saying that we’re focusing on fixing already broken marriages, which are often irreparable, rather than matching the right people in the first place. If we’re going to combat divorce, I think that would be the more effective approach.

  3. Great post. Marriage and relationships are so complex. The reasons we get married in the first place and then the reasons we leave can never be distilled down into a catch phrase – try harder. As many of us here know and as you said, trying harder just isn’t enough when it is only ONE OF YOU that is trying.

    I left my ex for a bible sanctioned reason (among many other reasons) – infidelity – but I still struggled with making that decision. I did try harder, and harder and harder anyway. None of it made a difference because he didn’t. Like someone else said, without trust and respect there is no relationship.

    However I also think that today’s society with its high level of divorce can partly be attributed to the mentality – I’m not happy so I will leave. An acquaintance of mine has just done that – and it is a little harder to understand than something big like infidelity or abuse.

    The fact that so many of us are now divorced and children coming from ‘broken marriages’ nearly outnumber those from still intact marriages seems to have made it a little ‘easier’ and acceptable. But none the less NONE of us starts a marriage thinking it might end. We ALL want that forever love. Just some of us don’t get it through no fault of our own.

    • Exactly. I think changing our mentality would help a lot and maybe even some of the laws surrounding marriage. I know in Mississippi, the legal marriage age is 21. I don’t know how that works out for them, but they’re trying. Waiting a few months for a marriage license (like a passport) wouldn’t hurt either. I don’t think, however, that trying to change established harmful relationships is the answer. Some of those can certainly be fixed, but there’s only so much you can do. It’s great you and I have an easier time of it today, but people can still be so judgmental.

  4. What a great blog. It’s so easy to judge another person. None of us have the right to judge another. After all, we have not walked in that person’s shoes. Jesus was pretty explicit on that count when He said, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” Being human is so hard and none of us get off easy. When you’ve tried your best and it still doesn’t work, then it’s time to get the hell out.

    On the other side of the coin, any marriage that survives with both partners reasonably sane and still loving their partner after twenty years is one that has taken a great deal of work on the part of both people. Even in the best of circumstances, marriage is hard hard work.

    Our society teaches us that there is nothing more wonderful than to find someone and fall in love and get married and live happily ever after. Just look at all the movies. So we date in hopes that this is the one. And when that one doesn’t work out we look for a new one. Once we find this person we get engaged. Lots and lots of planning go into this phase. We’re in love, don’t you know. We get married and we’re still not happy because we are now in a living hell and we can’t get out. Because if we do, we will be a FAILURE.

    Perhaps if our society taught us how to be happy, well-adjusted people, then maybe, just maybe we wouldn’t take a chance on the first person who comes along and says yes. We would not be so needy and desperate. I am not saying this is you but it sure is a lot of us. It took me a hell of a long time to learn this. That I needed to work on myself first before I was ready to work on a marriage.

    I love your blogs. They always show a lot of thought and honesty. Keep it up.

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