Wednesday, July 6, 2011


I was listening to a radio show that broadcasts out of Atlanta and is now also carried in the Indianapolis area.

The Bert Show

I've been listening for a couple of months now and generally like the show.  They talk- it's a team of people and they discuss personal situations, current events, and so on.  They share their opinions and such.  They have a phone line where people can call in and have their voice disguised in order to seek advice on a personal problem.  Sometimes, those situations are truly odd circumstances.  Sometimes, it's pretty light hearted or embarassing.  Sometimes, it's a really hard situation.

This morning, I got angry.

A woman called in.  She's been married to her husband for 15 years.  They have an 11 year old daughter.  She doesn't love her husband.  She thinks she never loved him.  They only have sex 2 times a year and it's out of her sense of obligation.  She doesn't want to go to counseling because she thinks it won't change anything.

They encouraged her to seek therapy.  I applaud that.

They then went on to convince her that a divorce would actually be a good thing for her daughter.  Because the 11 year old needs to see that mom is strong and confident and seeking happiness.

15 years ago, she married someone she doesn't love.  She waited 4 years to have a child with the man she doesn't love.  And now she wants out and a set of radio show personalities did nothing but confirm that her heart is in the right place.

Will they call her daughter and explain it to her?  Will they step up in court and testify at the custody hearing?  Will they mediate the school activities and family events where they have to figure out who gets to be there? 

It's no secret that this is a subejct I feel passionately about.  I also don't keep it a secret that I've been through a divorce.

There are times when divorce is the right thing to do.  An abusive situation, an addiction situation.  I come from a divorced family and I believe my mom made the right decision in her divorce- he was a deadbeat, a loser, a slacker (and continued to be so and still was when I tracked him down as a young adult). 

But I see so many situations where the adults in the marriage just give up.  Where there is no specific wrong going on, no one is being mistreated, no one is being abused or neglected.

In the situation on the radio show, she even said that her husband knows how she feels and still stands by her, still loves her.  He's a good man, a good father, a good husband.  She just doesn't feel all romantic and smooshy with him- even though she chose to marry him and have a child with him aafter 4 years of marriage.

Instead of automatically encouraging people to divorce because we think that's what it means to support a friend facing divorce... what if we tried to help them salvage their marriage?  What if we stepped up and supported them and also tried to help?  Maybe it' none of my business... but when there are kids involved, they need a voice.

What if one of those radio personalities had reminded this woman that there was some reason why she started dating this guy, why she said yes when he asked her to marry him, why she made vows and said "I do?"  What if someone had reminded her that there is something inside of her that has kept her in this marriage for 15 years?  What if they gave her a plan to really dig in and seek answers inside of herself instead of telling her it's ok to run away?

What if a friend would say to her, "Something attracted you to him all those years ago, something made you say yes.  Something has kept you in the marriage for 15 years.  You can't just htrow it away without giving everything you have to fight for it.  I know you feel tired and run down and unhappy right now.  But if you walk away without truly fighting for it, you'll end up regretting it someday and won't be able to do anything about it.  He knows what you are going through so ask him to be your partner and help you with this.  Commit to 6 months of personal therapy and in those 6 months, concentrate on what it is that has kept you in the marriage.  Don't focus on what you want the end result to be.  Focus on what is inside of you.  Your daughter has had this family as her world for 11 years and to smash it apart now isn't fair to her.  Instead of saying the words "I'd do anything for my daughter," put those words into action.  This is your chance to take a bullet, step in front of the train, do anything for her.  Yes, it will be hard.  But I'm your friend and I'm here for you during the process.  Your husband is here for you during this process.  Don't quit without giving it absolutely everything you have first."

I know I have that kind of friend in Christy and in others.  I know that I can be that friend to people in my life.  I hope you have a friend like that in your life, too. I hope you're willing to be that friend to someone else.



Katherine said...

Divorce is such a tricky situation. But I agree with you. I've seen people give up on marriages for what seemed like no good reason, although obviously I have not been privy to their private lives. It's so much harder when there are children involved. I do think that people should try relationship and personal therapy before going straight to divorce. At least when they look back, they will know that they did everything they could.

Clare said...

Very well said! While I am fortunate to be happily married to a fabulous guy for 13 years and I can't imagine divorce, I have several friends who have gone through it. Yes, a few situations were very necessary because of abuse/addiction, and I was fully supportive of it. However, it is particularly sad and heartbreaking when a couple gives up out of boredom or lack of love. Really? As any married person will tell you, a marriage will ebb and flow and have its ups and downs. You should have to earn your way out of a marriage like that by leaving no stone unturned!

Shell said...

We have very similar views on divorce. I do believe in it in some situations(abusive, destructive situations), but I get so sad when someone just give up b/c they aren't happy or fell out of love. Those are decisions- and something you have to work at.

There have been times when I've gone through some rough stuff with my husband. And I didn't share with friends b/c I knew that the reaction would be "oooh,girlfriend, I'd leave his a*@"

B/c that is the easy reaction. but, the reality is that it's so much harder than that. That there is so much more involved and a decision I made years ago, to honor my marriage vows.

ML said...

Funny, I was listening to... Kim Iverson(?) On 99.5 the other night and they were commenting on marriage/divorce. The thing I took away from the conversation was "When the love runs out, that's when commitment kicks in until the love comes back." They were talking with people who for a period of time in their marriage didn't really like their spouse (the love ran out), but then the commitment kicked in until they could reignite the love... usually it was resparked when the kids left the house. I thought it was an interesting conversation... and rings true. Too many people get married without understanding what the commitment part really means.

Kelly Brock Seats said...

I've been in that woman's place. I was married for 14 years and had 4 children. I had also waited 4 years for my first, only because I wasn't sure that it was right to bring a child into a marriage that just didn't feel right to me. I spent my entire marriage being controlled by a man who wanted a mommy to take care of the house and earn all the money and not work. I've been gone for almost 3 years and I couldn't be happier. I found a man who knows how to treat his wife and I truly know what love is now. My ex, well, he still doesn't want to work and at every opportunity, he still tries to control me. So to this woman, if that's what her heart tells her to do, then it's the right decision and her daughter will adapt.

Amy said...

Yes. Having friends like that, being a friend like that, can make a huge impact.

Shannon said...

Bravo! I support marriage.

Unknown said...

It doesn't sound like she's done anything to fix her marriage. Until she has exhausted all options, then she can not consider divorce. That's how I feel anyway.

Missy said...

Nobody said marriage was easy. My husband and I will be married 7 years this weekend and it is HARD work sometimes. I think people do change through the years but it is our job to work through those changes together. We owe it to each other to work through and help each other grow. I have a few deal breakers; he has come close to one recently but he's working through it.

Dowitch said...

One more comment about divorce involving children that people seem to forget beforehand: In a divorced family, in most states, the children are wards of the state. The parents may retain custody, but the court system has the final say over their care and upbringing until they become adults. Ugh.

amygrew said...

I agree. You should try to work it out in a normal situation like this one.

There are other situations that I would say divorce is the right choice and it may be in this situation too.

At least give it a shot though and see what happens. If all else fails at least she learned some more about herself.

Momza said...

Applause!!!! I have been counselling a young couple who just barely got married 8 months ago--each of them 30 years old--and it's not as easy as they thought it would be so both have tossed out the "I want a divorce" phrase. The thing I keep telling them is that marriage is ALOT of work, and it's not going to get any easier with a different partner. The problems will just be different problems. So, the next wife may get along better with the husband's family, BUT she may ALSO talk to the silverware when noone's looking--if you know what I mean.
To think that marriage is easy, is to be ignorant. It takes just as much effort to be miserable and it does to be happy. Put your energy in the right direction and the results will bless your lives!
And I agree, that divorce is the right answer in cases of abuse, after counselling has been sought and much prayer has been offered, etc. Too many couples look at divorce as unrealistically as they looked at marriage. Love this Liz!

MrsJenB said...

I can see both sides of this. Yes, it's always best to try to work things out when there's no danger to either spouse or the child/children involved. And I can't stand it when people dismiss therapy without giving it a shot.

However, I also think it's easy for those of us outside the situation to pass judgement just because we're the types to stick it out. It's easy to assume that divorce would be the worst case scenario for the child. Who's to say that this woman's lack of affection for her husband and lack of happiness in general isn't wreaking havoc on the child just as easily as divorce would? Kids pick up on everything and it shapes how they see the world.

Yes, my parents stuck it out and are still together. But they did not teach me how to stick it out without making it known how miserable they were. I never learned how to fight fair. I refrain from bringing up negative feelings for fear of a blow-up, even though I know my husband isn't like my father or mother. I can't tell you how many times I prayed for them to get a divorce and even told my mother that they should on more than one occasion. She didn't divorce him because she was afraid to lose her kids. And when I look at them now I feel like they're a sham, even though I know as an adult that all couples go through their problems.

It's very easy to tell another person what they should do with their marriage, but you just don't know what happens behind closed doors.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to echo MrsJenB and say that no one really knows what's happening inside another person's marriage. I'm still finishing up my divorce although we've been apart two years. Now, I would guess that most people would agree that this was a divorce that was necessary. There was emotional and verbal abuse present as well as years of mental health issues that my ex simply would not acknowledge or seek treatment for. It was horrible for my children and for me.

I think too many people get married to someone because they "think they should" or because they think that is what their family and friends expect them to do. They focus on the wedding, not the marriage. They ignore the reality that the things that drove you crazy about that person before you married him are going to drive you twice as crazy after you've been dealing with them for ten years! And maybe they wake up one day and realize they're miserable. Now, if this was my friend, I would of course suggest that she give this marriage of so many years a chance before she heads for the hills. But I would also acknowledge that if her mind is already made up, then the longer she stays, the more miserable she is going to get.

I think as a parent she has an obligation to consider the impact of her actions on her child and how her daughter will learn to view relationships and marriage because of her mom's actions, but as a human being she also has a responsibility to herself to live her life the best way she knows how.

Anne K. said...

Liz, I love this post. You and I see eye to eye on marriage. Divorce is not what God intends for our marriages and relationships. There are very, very few instances where I feel divorce is justified (abuse/untreated addiction), and even in those instances, I have seen therapy, prayer and hard work turn around marriages that everyone thought were beyond repair. So, I'll advise someone in an abusive situation to get out (of course!), but I also know that the Lord is capable of healing beyond our understanding. I think that a lot of people get married leaving themselves an "out" instead of truly meaning the wedding vows and honoring the commitment. That bothers me so much because that is not God's model for love. What if Jesus had said -- oh, you didn't hold up your end of the deal, so I'm not holding up mine? Good grief! So, if we're supposed to love because God first loved us, that love is not conditional. That's not to say there aren't sometimes warm fuzzy feelings, but that's not all that love is. Love is also about loving because God loved us, and loving in a radically unconditional way. It's to say -- nothing you do will change my choice and my commitment to love you. Nothing will make me leave. Marriage is a way to serve GOD, not a way to serve our own feelings, not a way to make ourselves feel good (though many times it does). It's not primarily about those things since those things will ebb and flow. Marriage is about serving God and I believe it should be for life. My first marriage was annulled by the state due to fraud and abuse. When I found my current husband, I entered into the relationship knowing the weight of the commitment and being ready to be responsible for my part in serving God. It is a wonderful journey, full of ups and downs, and I am so grateful to the Lord for sending me the right husband/father to our kids. I am grateful for friends who support our marriage and believe that marriage is for life -- those who don't dog my husband if he makes a mistake, but who recognize his (and my) human nature and encourage us to love radically anyway. I am that friend to others, too, when I need to be.

Cam said...

awesome post. i'm practically speechless.

Lola said...

I was going to leave an apropos comment. But cannot say it better than others. I will only pile on this already written and scheduled for a few weeks away excerpt.
"Once your love as a couple is mature there isn't that hormonal overload and overdrive of ego swooning and gooshy feelings all running through you morphine drip style that the thrill of the chase and catch of new love has. That wears off and goes away to be replaced by things like safety and security and houses in the suburbs with custom drapes on cul-de- sacs crawling with kids. You have to actually CHOOSE to WORK at loving your partner by providing them with the kind of love they need to feel most loved. I learned that reading Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages. That book saved my reconciliation, no lie."

Jason, as himself said...

Very good insights here, both from you and your commenters. And I can see where all of these words are coming from.

Eternal Lizdom said...

I deleted a comment left anonymously by someone calling themselves "Sandy." If you have something to say that can be considered a personal attack or an attempt at being hateful, it will be deleted. If you'd like to leave a comment with an actual e-mail address so people have the opportunity to engage you in discussion, feel free. Otherwise, personal attacks will be deleted.

Comment moderation going back on for a few days- just in case the Hateful Ones are on the prowl again.

Karen M. Peterson said...

As much as I believe my parents' divorce was an unavoidable eventuality, and as much as I know I wouldn't have my little brother and sister if my parents had stayed together, I can't help but think sometimes about how differently my life would have turned out if I'd had the benefit of being raised by both of my parents.

Divorce may often be justified, but it isn't always the right answer.

Mrs4444 said...

You are the kind of friend everyone needs.

Anonymous said...

I have been married for almost 30 years. I can't imagine getting divorced and, until recently would tell people to fight for their marriage. But, I currently have my 24 yo son and, almost 3 yo granddaughter living with us. He and his wife "aren't getting along". There are many reasons, probably the most obvious is they are very young, got married while pregnant and have never had steady jobs or a decent income. She has only known poverty, dysfunctional families, mental illness and divorce. IMO the marriage never should have happened and, I for one, would welcome divorce. I can already see what affect a visitation schedule will have on my grand daughter but still believe it is in her best interest for her parents to divorce. It is going to be difficult.