If you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of marriage. I’m like the person who finds a reason to root for their favorite team, even if their team isn’t doing so well.
But many of the people who come to my office thinking about divorce can’t find a reason to root for the team. They can’t find a reason to stay together.
It’s difficult to find a reason to stay married when your feeling the accumulation of hurt, neglect, anger, betrayal, and general ill will. But I encourage couples to look hard to find a reason to stay together. That’s not to say that I want people to stay in bad marriages. My faith tells me that God is no more happy with a bad marriage then He is with a divorce. But too often, People believe they only have two choices: stay in a bad marriage or get divorced. So they quit looking for another option.
But there is a viable third option…improve the marriage. Now before you start pleading your case, let me say that I know this is not always possible. I know it takes two to make a marriage good, and in cases of on-going betrayal, abuse, and emotional harm, improving the marriage may not be possible.
Still, believing that improving the marriage can be possible will encourage you to keep looking for a reason to stay together.
Let me offer some reasons you can latch onto when its hard to find a reason to stay together. (Disclaimer – this is not intended for those who are currently experiencing abuse and domestic violence. If that is you, you need to remove yourself from the situation until it is truly rectified.)
- RESEARCH – An article entitled “Does Divorce Make People Happy?” boils down findings from a study on unhappy marriages. The authors of the article state, “the study found no evidence that unhappily married adults who divorced were typically any happier than unhappily married people who stayed married.” Then the authors state, “Even more dramatically, the researchers found that “two-thirds of unhappily married spouses who stayed married reported that their marriages were happy five years later.” I encourage you to click on the link above and check it the article.
- ODDS – Although the numbers vary, depending on who’s issuing them, the stats say that the divorce rate tends to be higher for those who have divorced and remarried. The National Stepfamily Resource Center states that 42% of all marriages are a remarriage for one or both people. They go on to say that 60% of those who re-marry will re-divorce. Those are not good odds.
- CHILDREN – I do not think that staying together for the kids is ultimately the best reason for staying together, but it’s certainly one of the reasons and it is a good reason. In an article for mom.me entitled “The Effect of Divorced Parents on a Child’s Future Relationships”, author Shannon Philpott quotes author and California-based psychotherapist Christina Steinorth’s book, “Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships.” According to this article, Steinorth indicates that daughters of divorced parents have a 60% higher divorce rate in marriage than children of non-divorced parents, and sons have a 35% higher divorce rate. In another article entitled “5 Side Effects of Divorce on Chirldren,” the author list the following as the top 5 side effects on children of Divorced Parents: Anxiety, Pessimism, Trust Issues, Social Issues, and Performance. I’m sure you can find people who would argue this, and I’m not saying that kids that go through their parents’ divorce can never have whole and happy lives. They can. But no one would argue that it’s much harder for them and they will always be left with something they have to work against.
- LEGACY – Knowing that your decisions are leaving a legacy can help you try to find a reason to stay together. A marriage that goes the distance leaves a legacy, not just for your children but for many others who need to see that. Again, I know that sometimes that’s not possible, but even if you cannot prevent a divorce, thinking about the kind of legacy you want to leave can move you to better handle the separation and divorce.
These are some reasons to latch onto when you need some motivation to stay together. Use these as motivation to try anything and everything you can to stay together…short of putting yourself in harms way and subjecting yourself to abuse. Then, even if the marriage ends, you don’t have to second-guess yourself by asking, “Was there anything else I could have done?”
This is not meant to induce guilt on those who have been through divorce. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do. As I said before, it takes two people to make a good marriage. This post is just an encouragement to do everything you can to avoid the irreversible pain of divorce. As comedian Louis C.K. says, “Marriage may be temporary, but divorce is forever.”
I would be interested in your response to this post. Maybe you have other reasons to add. Maybe you don’t agree with something I said. Whatever it might be, leave a comment and let me know.
Copyright © 2014 Bret Legg