I was talking to an acquaintance this week who is considering divorce. My heart breaks for her. I know that she has to feel that her situation is desperate in order to consider this. I also know that society tells us that divorce is a solution to many of our marital problems. It is not. It does nothing to solve the problem and quit a bit to harm us.
The purpose of this article is not to make those who have gotten a divorce feel bad about themselves. It is also not to encourage people to overlook truly abusive situations. But today somewhere between 70-85% of divorces end low-conflict marriages. Dr. Paul Amato calls these “good enough” marriages. They are “good marriages just not ecstatic marriages.” These divorces are the most damaging to children.
Some resent the considering the effects of divorce on children. Others choose to believe that their children will be better off. Both of these approaches are misguided. Mountains of research show that divorce negatively affects children. There is no getting away from that. What affects your children will affect you. If you cause unnecessary harm to your child, it will affect your soul. Their health, educational, and mental health troubles will affect you. Doing the right thing is always in your own best interest. The right thing is the thing that is good for everyone involved.
Perhaps divorce was not your choice. Perhaps your spouse left you. Breaking his commitment will have a negative effect on him. If you have children, it is important to understand what divorce does to them so you can help them. Because two people really do become one flesh and together they are the image of God, the divorce causes children an “ontological wound.” It shakes their moral foundations and causes them to question their identity. Jesus can heal this wound and the institution of Church can restore some stability to their lives.
But the point is that divorce does not solve anything. You still have to see your ex-spouse (if you have children together). You will still have to work out issues because of your children. You will be teaching your children that when hard things arise, running away is an acceptable form of problem resolution. Sadly many of the conflicts that undermine a marriage have to do with fears and baggage brought into that marriage. They don’t go away when the papers are signed. That explains why so many people keep dating or marrying the same person. They keep having the same problems and repeating the same patterns.
It is so much easier to fix those fears and deal with your baggage rather than get divorced. For example when I had been married for about 2 years, my husband gave away my microwave to some mutual friends without discussing it with me. My father had given us the microwave. My husband did not like microwaves and still will not eat microwaved food. We got into a big fight over it. My husband left the house to go for a walk.
My father is on his 3rd wife and I lost count of my mother’s boyfriends. So I had plenty of baggage and fears. I interpreted my husband giving away my microwave as tyrannical, patriarchal, and mean spirited. Was he trying to give away all of my nice things (as newlyweds we had precious few)? I was very afraid that I had married a scary person. I was very upset and wondered if I should cut my losses. When talking this out with the Lord to figure out how best to deal with the situation, God was able to reveal my fears to me. I did not know Adam well enough to laugh at my fears. I did not yet completely trust him. But I trusted God. I knew that God would defend me so I asked him to. He asked me what was more important, Adam or my microwave? That question put the entire thing into perspective. It wasn’t a big deal. Of course Adam was more important.
Minutes after I had made this decision, Adam returned with my microwave in hand. As a new husband, he was not used to talking things out before acting yet. His decision held no malice or controlling motives. He just has a generous heart and doesn’t always consider the implications before acting. Now after 22 years of marriage, I can laugh at my fears and love my husband’s impulsive generosity. That conflict had its roots in my own fears related to my father. It had nothing to do with my husband. Leaving would not have changed me. Staying changed us both and our relationship.
Who was Jesus from a “bare-bones” historical perspective? Do You Really Know… addresses how to read the four New Testament gospels in a way that does justice to all four, recognizing their differences while respecting their complementarity. The author concludes that the Bible reader should enjoy the gospels together rather than fixating on one particular Gospel and that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of the historic Christian faith. Mike is also teaming up with Locust & Honey to produce another forthcoming audio book on the Shroud of Turin and the stigmata, entitled The Mystery of the Sacred Stigmata.
 Andrew Root, Children of Divorce: The Loss of Family as the Loss of Being (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010).