I don’t think I know a single person who hasn’t been affected—directly or indirectly—by divorce. It’s how 41 percent of marriages end, with one occurring about every 36 seconds and costing an average of $13,000 each. Even if you haven’t been through it yourself, it’s a near certainty that you grew up with children of divorce (about half of them, these days), and given time as an adult you will probably see close friends go through it as well.
But the worst news actually comes after the divorce itself. See, that 41 percent chance jumps to 61 percent for a second marriage, and to 73 percent for a third. It just keeps going up from there. Not only that, but statistics indicate that when you get divorced, your odds of getting cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and a possible premature death go up by a full 20 percent.
For children of divorce, those numbers are even a little higher, indicating an increased inclination towards depression, anxiety, declining grades, drugs and alcohol, and all kinds of negative, self-defeating behaviors. All that typically lasts for at least two decades after the divorce, but for some people, it goes on to infect their entire lives!
So why is it so incredibly destructive? I believe it all comes down to three basic issues: love, anger, and unforgiveness.
Traditional marriage vows promise love, first and foremost. And love is a fundamental part of almost all modern, less traditional vows too. So it was a bit of a shock to me to discover after about a year of marriage that I didn’t even know what love really was. I thought love was sex and intimacy, companionship, division of responsibilities, support when things weren’t going well and celebration when they were. But even though love does include those things, I’ve become convinced that none of those are really the essence of it.
After several weeks of prayer, study, and talking with people more knowledgeable than me, I came to believe that true love is all in—nothing held back, no safety net or plan B, forever.
Now, I should put an asterisk on that—loving someone doesn’t always mean staying with them. If you’re in an abusive relationship, for example, I would be the first to tell you to get out. In that situation, loving someone might mean putting some distance between you for both your sakes and simply wishing the best for them in spite of that, even if it doesn’t include the two of you as a couple.
So how can you tell if this is how you’re really loving someone? I mean, most people who get married don’t think they’ll get divorced. But the giveaway I’ve come to rely on that you have a real, persistent problem, that your love is not truly unconditional, is anger.
See, with the exception of mortal danger or a short-lived “righteous anger” when someone does something truly reprehensible, anger means that your expectation of the future has been frustrated. We tend to form these expectations without realizing the extent of them, or how unrealistic they are—and this is especially problematic in relationships. Wrong expectations have all sorts of unpleasant side-effects on their own, too. And if you want strong, meaningful relationships, you’ve got to be mindful of them.
As for the final issue, unforgiveness… well, there’s some confusion as to what that means. I don’t believe that it is our duty to pretend that something never happened. Even after marriage, actions have consequences, and as I said earlier, you certainly shouldn’t stick around in an abusive situation. That’s just one example.
No, I believe that forgiveness simply means that you unconditionally accept someone as a person, just as they are. Maybe it isn’t in anyone’s best interests to stay married. But I do believe that you need to keep loving them, even if that means you do it from a distance by simply wishing the best for them. The alternative is worse for you than for them.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!