Today’s post is one that attempts to answer a question many people ask me. Feel free to read it, though it won’t hurt my feelings if you skip it and come back tomorrow. Believe me. I know how touchy a subject it is.
If you do read it though, keep two things in mind. One, I’ve been divorced twice. Two, I’ve been divorced twice.
In other words, I’m writing from the point of view of somebody who probably has a completely different outlook than somebody who just celebrated his golden anniversary with the love of his life.
That being said… I get a lot of emails from readers asking my opinion about whether or not they should get divorced. It’s by far the number one thing people write to me about (the second most frequently asked question is why I got divorced, which I discussed in my post Time vs. the Worthless Heart). While I’m not a counselor and I couldn’t possibly know the broad scope of everybody’s individual circumstances, I think it’s an understandable question. On one side, the nature of my blog and how I present myself makes me out to be a more or less decent guy with a pretty good head on my shoulders. On the other side… I’ve been divorced. Twice. The two seem to conflict a bit.
When I got engaged to Andrea, my first wife, I remember discussions that took place in which we promised each other that no matter how hard things got, no matter what happened, and no matter where life took us, we’d always do whatever it took to stay together. We’d get the help we needed. We were both determined that our marriage to each other would be our only marriage. I was barely 21 years old at the time. She was 19.
When I got engaged to my second wife, I remember discussions that took place in which we promised each other that no matter how hard things got, no matter what happened, and no matter where life took us, we’d always do whatever it took to stay together. We’d get the help we needed. We were both determined that our second marriages (that marriage) would be our last marriage. I was 28 years old at the time. She was 28.
So what the hell happened?
The Time vs the Worthless Heart post delved into the beginnings of those relationships and how the fear of losing love caused rash and unhealthy decisions to be made, thus setting the stage for what would most likely be failure. But, it didn’t really get into why the marriages ended. And at this point, I guess it doesn’t really matter. What’s done is done and there’s no undoing it.
But what about you? Should you get divorced? That’s something I couldn’t possibly know. There are some things you should seriously ponder, though.
First of all, when all is said and done, you should know that I would give anything to rewind time to way before either divorce and fix the brokenness within myself that greatly contributed and perhaps ultimately led to the demise of my marriages. Divorce is not an easy route, it’s not a fun route, and it’s not without serious difficulty and heartache. It is easy to think that divorce will solve all our problems. I promise you, it may solve a few, but it will burden you with many more.
That being said, sometimes it’s a liberating route and sometimes it is a necessary route.
Do you believe that human beings were meant to be happy and find joy in their time on this earth? I do. I believe it with all of my heart.
And so, perhaps the number one question is, can you be happy with your spouse. Notice I did not ask if you are happy. I asked if you can be happy. If you can be happy, then quit thinking about your marriage failing, and instead be excited about making it work. If the only thing standing between you and happiness is forgiveness, letting go of pride, or some other something that you’re holding onto, suck it in and get over it.
If, however, you can’t be happy with your spouse, and I mean literally can’t and know that you never will be happy with your spouse, then maybe divorce is right for you. I don’t believe any person should have to endure an endless hell while on this earth just because others think that chasing the thing they know will make them happier is “not right” or is “immoral”.
With my first spouse, I could not be happy. After seven years together, events occurred which opened up an opportunity for the marriage to end. I took it. With my second spouse, I never got to find out if I could be happy or not. I thought I could. I fought to be happy. So did she. Hell, we went to more than 40 counseling sessions in just over a year to get there. But in the end, I couldn’t be responsible for the happiness of two people. I couldn’t stop her from choosing her own route to happiness. And one day she loaded up her daughter and left to pursue the happiness that she felt existed away from me.
I’m sure that there will be many who declare that any couple can make it work. I’m sure there are those who will say that if you loved someone enough to marry them, you can find that spark again.
I’m also sure that there are a lot of people here today who will stand and look you honestly in the eyes and tell you that it’s simply not true. In some cases yes, it’s true. In most cases, yes it’s true. In all cases, no, it’s not.
But I have kids, you say to yourself. Wouldn’t it be better to stay together for the kids’ sake? Well, maybe and maybe not.
I’ll tell you right now that had I stayed married to Andrea, Noah would not have the father he has now, and he wouldn’t have his good mother. Because I could not be happy with Andrea, no matter how hard I tried, and no matter how much effort we both gave, I found every reason I could to be gone so that I didn’t have to face that unhappiness. I left on business as often as they’d permit me. I started extracurricular businesses and poured all my extra time into them.
When Noah was born, I couldn’t do that anymore. I wouldn’t do that anymore. I had to be there for my son. He was innocent. I couldn’t let our problems leak over to him. And by putting him first, our marriage finally was forced to its demise. We couldn’t pretend anymore. We couldn’t put on a face of fake happiness. As strange as that sounds, it’s what happened.
I couldn’t be there for my son if I couldn’t be around my wife. My wife couldn’t be there for her son if she couldn’t be around me.
We parted ways peacefully. We took it for what it was and as a family decided what was best for all three of us. I have no doubt today that it was the right decision. Noah is more loved, appreciated, and gets more quality time than just about any kid I’ve ever met. He’s well-rounded, happy, and pretty dang obedient and cheerful. Both his mom and step-dad love him as much as I do, and he is living life that will turn him into a well-rounded and solid adult.
With my second wife, our kids were never blessed with such loving decisions made by two rational parents. My wife had wanted to leave at least a dozen times. Every time I was able to stop her, talk her out of it, and away we went to counseling. But then, just one time, I didn’t stop her. I didn’t talk her out of it. And it was over.
Never did I feel more helpless than in the aftermath of that. Never did I feel like less of a man. Never was I so frustrated. Once the end arrived, I had no power and no control over whether or not my step-daughter stayed in my life. Never did I feel loss like I did then.
And while I wish I could have fixed the small things early on, and while I wish the ultimate fate of that marriage was success, I am thankful for the happiness I now have because of it. I’m thankful for the perspective I now have. I’m thankful for the life I now live. And I hope she has a good, happy life. I hope that her decision to leave for her own happiness was the right one for her. I hope and pray that my step-daughter is everything she has the potential to be in this life.
Enough about me. Back to you. What is best for your kids?
Teaching them that staying married is the only thing that matters, even if it means being an eternal doormat is not my idea of good parenting. Teaching your kids that getting divorced for no solid reason is not my idea of good parenting. Taking a good father from your children’s lives because of anger or pride is not my idea of good parenting. Taking a good mother away from your children’s lives because of a mistake is not my idea of good parenting.
Freeing yourself from abuse, and teaching your children that abuse is never okay is my idea of good parenting. Realizing that your complete inability to be happy in your current situation will have nothing but negative consequences for your children and then doing something about it is my idea of good parenting. Letting your children keep a good father in their lives and letting go of your anger and pride is my idea of good parenting. Understanding that people are human and that they make mistakes, and then teaching that to your kids is my idea of good parenting.
Just do yourself a favor. If your marriage is savable, save it. Spend whatever money needs to be spent to get the counseling and therapy you need to make it work. You’ll spend far less than you will getting divorced, even if the bills stack up sky-high. I really do believe most marriages can be saved. I believe my second marriage could have been saved. I’ll just never get to find out. She made her choice. I made my choice.
Just… please. Find a way to be happy no matter which route you take. Don’t spend your life miserable and alone, whether in a marriage or not.
I’ll finish with this. I personally do believe in marriage. I believe in it more than you’ll ever know. If I ever get married again, I pray that it lasts forever. Because, if I’m being honest, divorce sucks.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
PS. I understand that this is a touchy and taboo subject. I understand that many of my followers are members of different religions that preach different doctrines about divorce. Where do you stand? What are your beliefs (and why)? If you’ve been through it, was it a good thing or a bad thing? Could you have fixed it and did you give up prematurely or did it need to end because there was no saving grace left for it?
Also, if you’ve remained married and are happy, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’ve remained married and you are miserable, what are you thinking right now?