Thursday, May 14, 2009

Marriage Advice From a Divorcee

You'll find my writing sprinkled throughout the Internet. I have articles on Helium, Hub Pages, and Squidoo. Sometimes I wonder if what I write does much good, and then something amazing happens ... I receive an email or comment. The article below has been posted for sometime on one of those sites. This week someone wrote and told me they were rethinking whether they should go ahead with a divorce that was about to be finalized after reading my frank confession and advice - words producing fruit. Even though this blog is dedicated to singles, I'd like to post the article here, because I wrote it from my own brokenness and from the lessons I learned through my divorce. Should God grant you the gift of remarriage, I wish you a successful and happy marriage next time around.

What marriage advice can a divorce person possibly give? It would seem divorcees would have very little advice to hand out, since we have failed at our own marriages. However, we often learn more about ourselves in retrospect than we do at the present moment.

It takes time to step back from the hurt, pain, and disappointment of a broken marriage. At the beginning of a divorce, there is a lot of blame. But after the dust settles, the tears have dried, the ink on the divorce papers have made their indelible mark, there comes a time when we see more clearly and we understand more fully what part we may have played in the dissolution of our own marriage.

What have I learned from being divorced? It takes two to make a marriage. Not just two people living side by side, but two equally willing people, who are committed to keeping the relationship alive, fresh, living, vital, and ever evolving. When either party becomes complacent in marriage, a slow creeping death ensues. Love and marriage requires diligence to make it successful. It's not something that stays alive on its own. Like a garden, it has to be tended, watered, weeded, fertilized, and watched over.

Successful marriages take commitment, forgiveness, sacrifice, compromise, and above all maturity. We often marry without these qualities in our lives, or we come into a relationship without a clear understanding of the work involved to keep a marriage healthy. Acts of love, respect, honesty, communication, and partnership are extremely important, and it's a juggling act to keep all of these actions in play throughout the seasons of married life. Marriage is an all-out effort, and the most intimate covenant relationship you'll ever enter into with another human being. Our ever changing throw away, give-up society plays havoc on our commitment. We're told if we don't like it, replace it. It's easier to walk away than to stay.

Many people ask the question: Should I get a divorce?

Statistics are alarming. The U.S. Census Bureau reports the following: The average age for a first divorce for males is 30.5 and females 29. The average age for a second divorce for males is 39.3 and females 37. The duration of first marriages that end in divorce is approximately 7 years, and the duration for second marriages is approximately 7 years. (Must be the 7-year itch!) Only 52% of all marriages make it to their 15th wedding anniversary, only 33% make it through to their 25th, and a slim 5% make it to their 50th. People who have divorced at least twice, have a 73% chance that their third marriage will fail too.

What's wrong? Is it because divorce is so easy and commitment is so hard? As humans, we haven't learned the basic skills of intelligent loving relationships that last. It's obvious, because statistics show we bring our mistakes from marriage to marriage, and couples find the pain of staying and working things out greater than the pain they may have to face in a divorce.

The decision to divorce should never be left as the last decision to be made in any marriage relationship. It's obvious as humans we're missing it somewhere after the rings go on our fingers. Our love is transient, convenient, and self enhancing. We have lost the skills to stay married, because we never learned them to begin with before we tied the knot. We married in the height of love and passion, but didn't consider the consequences or cost of what it takes to make love last.

Staying married is a decision we need to make at the beginning of the relationship that we will do absolutely everything in our power to make it work, whether it takes swallowing our pride, getting counseling, reading books, going to seminars, or forgiving daily the offenses that could pile up into ugly mountains. We need to make the effort to keep our marriages alive and not let them stagnate into divorce court. If you're at the breaking point now, it's not too late to reassess your vows and make that decision with your mate, if they are willing.

I'm reminded of a movie entitled Laws of Attraction staring Julianne Moore and Pierce Brosnan that was released in 2004. They were both divorce lawyers who fell in love. One statement that stood out in that movie was the passion people showed in the divorce court. The character played by Pierce Brosnan asked the question, "Where was that passion in saving the marriage?"

Things I Learned From My Divorce
  • Don't try to change each other. You fell in love for a reason with that person. Why change them?
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Don't keep stuff bottled up.
  • Speak the truth in love, not anger.
  • Don't lie to one another....ever.
  • Forgive and forget, forget, forget.
  • Keep romance alive at all costs.
  • Touch, hug, and kiss often.
  • It's not always about the sex.
  • If you're Christians, pray together ALWAYS and about EVERYTHING. If you're not, try it.
  • Be patient with one another.
  • Focus on the good in each of you.
  • Words can heal or kill a relationship. Watch what you say. A harsh hurtful word is like a nail. You might be able to pull it out and say your sorry, but you'll still leave a hole where it's been and scar a heart.
  • If things get hard, go to marriage counseling, read a book, talk to your pastor, attend a seminar. Be proactive to preserve your marriage. Don't be too proud to get help. Pride comes before failure.
  • Rule your money or it will rule you and your marriage.
  • Don't make big decisions alone about anything - make them together.
  • Marriage is like a checkbook. You both need to make deposits into the relationship. If you keep writing checks and taking from one another and never giving, your marriage checkbook becomes overdrawn - the late fees are relationship killers.
  • Remember the things you are thankful for in each other. Tell each other -- tell God.
  • Clean up, dress up, look good, and have a date once in a while.
  • Don't take each other for granted.
In summary, marriage is a gift, take care of it, and don't lose it. It's irreplaceable. Once lost, it may never be replaced or given again. Take it from someone who knows.