for release February 14, 2003
by Melodie Davis
Valentine's Day Message: Try Harder
It has happened to all of us: a married couple you know, who appear very happy, even very much in love, splits up. Of course there are some couples where you are not all that surprised when they split up. You knew they had problems or were very different from each other. But the ones who appear "joined at the hip" really hit us hard.
I'm going to speak very bluntly here, but I don't intend a guilt trip for any couple who has already divorced and moved on. That is water over the dam as far as I'm concerned. That is a different topic with different issues.
I'm speaking here to those of us who are married - and sometimes we're happy and sometimes we're not, or those who may be on the verge of considering divorce. I'm also speaking especially to those who aren't married yet. I'm going to look at why it is important for all of society that couples stay true to their vows to God and each other, and what happens when people break those vows.
When I get word of the impending divorce of a couple who have always appeared to be a very committed couple, (and I don't think I'm alone here), my faith in others and myself is shattered. Particularly if one partner has betrayed the other. It's like "I thought I knew you, but if you could do that, then I guess I didn't know you." If he could do that to her, what is there to believe in? If she could walk out just like that, what does that say about her love for her children? Was it a sham?
These are the kinds of questions that have come to me over the years as word of problems, failures, splits and divorces have come to me. Again, I don't think I'm alone. Divorce is like a rip in the fabric of our community; it weakens the whole. We become weaker and less able to withstand the struggles, trials and temptations in marriage. When a couple divorces, other couples look at them and say, "Well, if they can do it, I guess I can too. Maybe it won't be so bad. I've got lots of company." The divorce rate goes up.
Failures in marriage of course hurt the children, often in regard to their view of marriage and their parents. Many kids in homes where divorcing parents both love the children dearly, look at their parents and say, "If my parents couldn't make it, loving me as they do, what hope is there for me to ever succeed at marriage?" The kids think they're doomed to divorce, or that they might as well not get married and just live together.
That's why I think the "covenant marriage" concept being instituted by some communities is such a strong, helpful concept, where the clergy in an entire city, county or region go together and say, "If people come to me as a clergy person for a wedding, I will not perform it unless they have a set number of counseling sessions with me." The thinking (and practical experience has borne out in many communities) that at least some break ups will either be prevented, or they will occur before the marriage vows are spoken. This helps to create a culture where people stay committed to their marriages, and work problems out. See "Marriage Savers" at <http://www.marriagesavers.org/>
I think one of the things that happens when partners appear to be happy and then suddenly divorce is that they think they no longer love each other. This maybe happens when couples have not had a lot of dating experience, and they think that they have to feel the tingly, heady, erotic kind of "in love" feeling in order to be happy with someone. Now, they may know the honeymoon can't last forever and that every couple has problems, but they may not really believe it is possible to love someone without feeling that kind of giddy stuff. Committed marriage partners love each other even when the "feeling" isn't there.
Let's look at what happens when couples stick together even when the romantic feelings are not there (temporarily, we hope) and who work through very difficult problems - even betrayal. I'm talking, again, about marriages where there isn't verbal and physical abuse, alcohol or drug addiction or other dysfunctional stuff going on. What happens to society as couples tough out their problems and commit over and over again to love each other anyway?
They and their children learn that they are trustworthy, they can be relied on, they are hard workers, they don't quit. My faith in others and in God (to help us through the problems) is restored. I see practical examples of others who are hanging in there, enjoying each other as they age in spite of wrinkles, sags and gray hair. I see love.
Happy Valentine's Day.
For a free copy of a booklet, "Creating a More Loving Marriage," write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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