I've been MIA for a few days, busy with editing and such. I still have a long night of retouching and ordering ahead of me, but I thought I'd post a little something.
I've been blue because a good friend of mine is getting a divorce. We've been friends for 8 years, since her oldest was just a baby, and I have watched her marriage over the years. There is no good way to tell your friend that the majority of her problems lie not in the fact that her husband is a lazy jerk, but that she is selfish. So many people view marriage as a vehicle to meet all their needs and make them happy, rather than an opportunity to serve another person and make them happy. My friend is a score-keeper and has a "what have you done for me lately" attitude. That builds and builds over the years until you lose all willingness to forget yourself and consider that your spouse is not getting their needs met.
Surely I am going to offend someone reading this, but I feel like I can say these things as one who has been on the other side. I have been on the verge of divorce before and I have seen firsthand that if you are willing to work and swallow your pride, you can have a good marriage. Eight years ago I thought that there was no way I could be happy being married to Dan and that I'd better get out before we had any kids and I was stuck. I was given some wise counsel not to get a divorce unless I was absolutely certain that I could feel justified in breaking my marriage covenant come judgement day. Looking back now, I realize how foolish, self-centered, and immature I was to think that I had a good reason to get a divorce. Dan didn't meet some of my expectations, but I never even considered that my expectations were unreasonable. I never considered that I had a responsibility to make Dan feel loved regardless of how I was feeling. I thought, "marriage is supposed to make me happy and if it doesn't, then I shouldn't stay married to this person." How narrow minded!
I've been giving a lot of thought to the purpose of marriage and how to maintain a proper perspective about what it's supposed to do for you, or rather what you're supposed to do for it. When God created Eve to be a companion for Adam, I don't think it was simply to give them both a pleasurable existence, although that can certainly be one of the blessings of marriage. Marriage was instituted to give us a purpose in life, to give us something and someone to work for. God didn't send us to this earth just to sit on our cracks and be waited on hand and foot. He sent us here to learn and to grow. And we do that by serving others, not by serving ourselves.
Here's what I have learned. The more you genuinely care about your spouse and are willing to make their comfort and happiness your primary concern, the happier you are. It's a simple concept that many people are just too stubborn to implement. They aren't willing to try to see things from their spouse's point of view. They are so bitter and wrapped up in "I'm not getting my needs met" that they can't empathize with how their spouse may be feeling. The biggest change came in my marriage when I really started to care about how Dan felt more than I cared about how I felt. And you know the beautiful thing about it? As you empathize with your spouse, you get this overwhelming feeling of love for them. My friend was talking about how she and her husband have always been more like roommates and friends rather than lovers, that she was envious of women who were crazy about their husbands and vice-verse. She said that she never felt like her husband really cared about easing her burdens and that made her feel so lonely. But I know that you can go from feeling alone and sure that you can't be happy with someone to having this overwhelming feeling of love and affection, that you would never want to be married to anyone else. It is possible...and it is worth it! You just have to be willing to step outside of yourself and make a choice. Do you want your marital efforts to be equitable, do you want to feel self-justified, do you want everything to be "even?" Or would you rather just be happy? Don't hold back affection, respect, and kindness just because you feel you may be justified. Just forget yourself and do what you promised to do when you took your marriage vows.
The saddest thing about my friend getting a divorce is that her kids will be damaged by it. There is just no way around it. People getting a divorce try to justify it by saying, "the kids will be better off having us separate than having to grow up watching us fight." As if that is a state of being that can't be changed. The kids would be better off if they had less selfish parents. Parents who were willing to make the effort to work through their crap in order to give their kids a safe and stable environment. My parents are divorced. They were unhappy for the majority of the last 10 years of their marriage, from about the time I was 11 years old. I knew they had problems and there was tension, yes. But looking back as an adult, I am so grateful that they stuck it out until all their kids were grown because I didn't have to make special arrangements to see my Dad. He was there anytime I needed him. I didn't have to split my life between two homes, two sets of friends, two conflicting loyalties. I didn't have to miss my other parent during holidays. Was my home life ideal? No, but my parents gave us stability and especially as an adult, it means a lot to me that they were willing to endure loneliness and bitterness in order to make us feel safe. Whenever I have friends bad mouthing their husbands or talking about divorce, I just think, "your kids deserve so much more effort that you are willing to give." Forget about whether you think your spouse deserves your kindness and respect, your kids deserve for you to show that to their father/mother.
So, this is all pretty opinionated, but you already knew that about me! Having said all these things, I have to clarify that I don't resent all people that are divorced. A true fact of life is that you never know what lies in another's heart. You never know what all of their sorrows are. Many people in my family are divorced and I don't wish to cast judgement on them. The past is over and regret is a big waste of time. I'd rather love and appreciate the people they have become despite (and perhaps because of) the trials they have faced. I guess the only reason that I'm posting these thoughts on my blog rather than just writing in my personal journal is that there's a chance these thoughts might help someone. Someone struggling in their marriage and feeling hopeless. Dan and I were talking and he said, "you know, for most people the answer is not to get a divorce. The answer is to change yourself so that you can be happy." I am living proof that it can work.
Love you all!