Marriage and divorce are both common experiences. According to the American Psychological Association, in Western cultures, more than 90 percent of people marry by age 50. This is healthy and desirable both mentally and physically when the relationship is healthy. But 40-50% of marriages in the US end in divorce with the rates being even higher for subsequent marriages.
But let’s be clear…none of us got married with the intention of getting divorced. Suffice it to say, we can all say, “I never thought I’d be here.”
I see this comment a lot on online dating profiles in the online dating realm. Other comments I see often include “just trying to make it through,” “I love my family more than anything.” “my kids are my whole world,” and “I like to laugh, have fun, and I’m looking for someone with a sense of humor.”
The first two quotes establish the rocky and difficult nature of the path divorce shoves us onto; a path we didn’t plan for, a path full of pain, and loss of life expectations, a path of destruction. The third and fourth quotes emphatically state loyalties and responsibility as we cling to the loves of our lives, our children, trying o keep them steady on the path adult decisions have forced upon them and keep our own hearts from hemorrhaging any further with loss of time, connection with blood of our blood and bone of our bone; our babies. And the last quote speaks to a need to rebuild, to find hope, to laugh again and to laugh with someone. This podcast episode will look more deeply at these three areas.
Sometimes divorce is selfishness, messy betrayals, and a path through hell. Some divorces are more amicable, but it is still the destruction of a partnership that at one time held hope and dreams. Sometimes divorce is because we are too lazy to get unselfish and grow, but sometimes walking away has nothing to do with weakness and everything to do with strength.
For any of you who know my story – you know that my divorces are the basis for the entire Love Your Story podcast. My story is told in 3 video segments on the Love Your Story website, but in a nutshell, my feelings of failure and the shame that accompanied that did not create a story I loved or was at peace with. I had to reframe my story of failure by focusing on the things I learned and the things those lessons prepared me for. I focused on my growth and the fact that I did the best I could at the time and so did the others involved. My new focus was on acceptance, and allowing, and moving forward with faith and hope in better things.
Today I have a panel of five adults who have gone through a divorce. Three men and two women. I will be the mediator of the panel and will ask the questions. Each one of these people has had very different experiences, but today we are here to hear what they learned and what they would do over again and what they wouldn’t. Let me introduce the panel members:
Doug L. is from Colorado. He was married for 24 years and has been divorced for about a year and a half. He says he got divorced because his wife told him they were getting divorced – there’s also a little diverging religion and a roving eye on her part, but we’ll keep the details minimal. He says he likes walks on the beach, sunsets and kittens. Turn-offs are vegetarians and neighbors who let their dogs poop on his front lawn, and hairy backs (not sure if that is on men or women.)
Jae B. was originally from Colorado, spent his first marriage years in Texas, and a few years ago moved to Utah to be close to his children. He has been married twice. He had 3 children with his first wife, who he was married to for 13 years. His second marriage was mix of 7 kids and lasted 2 years.
Kathy S has been married and divorced twice. She has 3 children – 1 with her first husband and 2 with her second. She says her first marriage failed because neither us them were really mature enough to see past their own wants and needs, and the second because her husband chose a different path.
Robb B was married for 15 years and has been single for 6 years. He has 3 children and attributes his divorce to neglect, his wife finding a new boyfriend, a lack of communicating of needs and stress.
Rebekah B was married to her first husband for almost 16 years. She says her marriage failed because they didn’t have similar life goals or a vision for the future. She had a brief second marriage that lasted 2 weeks – she ended it when she found out he wasn’t honest with her.
So let’s jump in with the questions. I’ll ask each 3 of the participants to answer each question: (Tune into the audio program to hear their answers)
What did you learn from marriage and divorce?
What would you do differently?
What would you do all over again?
What advice would you give people who are considering divorce?
What has been the hardest part of divorce?
What helped you most during the darkest times?
The American Psychological Association has a few tips on marriage and divorce, and as we end this episode I’ll share their ideas:
Separation and divorce are emotionally difficult, but it IS possible to have healthy breakups. Don’t buy into the story that you need to be the biggest possible ass because you’re hurt. Rise above your lower self regardless of the actions of the ex-partner.
Tips for keeping your current romantic relationship healthy include: talking openly, keeping it interesting and seeking help if needed. They point out that every relationship has ups and downs, but some factors are more likely than others to create bumps in a relationship. Finances and parenting decisions often create recurring conflicts, for example. One sign of a problem is having repeated versions of the same fight over and over. In such cases, psychologists can help couples improve communication and find healthy ways to move beyond the conflict.
Research on what makes a marriage work shows that people in a good marriage have completed these psychological “tasks”:
Separate emotionally from the family you grew up in; not to the point of estrangement, but enough so that your identity is separate from that of your parents and siblings.
Build togetherness based on a shared intimacy and identity, while at the same time set boundaries to protect each partner’s autonomy.
Establish a rich and pleasurable sexual relationship and protect it from the intrusions of the workplace and family obligations.
For couples with children, embrace the daunting roles of parenthood and absorb the impact of a baby’s entrance into the marriage. Learn to continue the work of protecting the privacy of you and your spouse as a couple.
Confront and master the inevitable crises of life.
Maintain the strength of the marital bond in the face of adversity. The marriage should be a safe haven in which partners are able to express their differences, anger, and conflict.
Use humor and laughter to keep things in perspective and to avoid boredom and isolation.
Nurture and comfort each other, satisfying each partner’s needs for dependency and offering continuing encouragement and support.
Keep alive the early romantic, idealized images of falling in love, while facing the sober realities of the changes wrought by time.
Thanks to Judith S. Wallerstein, PhD, co-author of the book “The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts” for these stats and suggestions.
With that I will say adieu. Thanks for being here for open discussions about life and how to create your best life story on purpose. Share this episode with someone you know who might need it or enjoy it. Share the love, people. Remember loveyourstorypodcast.com for access to all the 120+ episodes and to the tools and online courses for reframing old stories that are holding you back or jumping into the 21 LIFE Connection Challenges for actively creating more connection, self-care, and possibility in your life moving forward. See you next week.