Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Culture of Divorce

REWIND WEEKEND: As I am off on retreat this weekend, I thought I would rerun some of the marriage posts. We can all use a refresher course on being sweet, after all. (Me included and me especially!)

The Culture of Divorce
"The unchallenged acceptance of divorce has infected our world with hopelessness" from the Retrouvaille vision statement

A friend lamented recently, "Why wasn't I taught how to be a wife when I was growing up?"

I thought on that for a split second and then I opened my mouth and said something along the lines of: well, my mom had tried her best. She wanted to teach me to be independent. She made sure I knew how to balance a checkbook and stay within a budget. She stressed the importance of maintaining good credit, limiting your debts, and paying your bills on time. She also trained me up to maintain a house for myself. I could cook, clean, maintain a decent schedule for myself so I didn't burn out. I resisted all along the way, of course. She insisted on choosing a solid, dependable career as part of my training, and it was in college that I learned to resist anything that resembled "women's work." If it smacked of the domestic chains, I wanted nothing of it. She had her work cut out for her.

When I took a breath and she had half a chance, my friend, obviously a tiny bit irritated with me a bit, said, "Not that stuff. That other stuff."

Come to find out what she really meant was the skills like keeping your mouth shut when you want to let loose, apologizing without rationalizing, allowing space for emotions without letting them run the show. That's a whole different kind of training.

All my married life I've struggled to learn That Other Stuff.

The more I thought about this the more I realized I've been trained to be divorced better than I'd been trained to be married.

Here's some Divorce Preparation Tips I picked up along the way:
  • Get a career and keep your own money in case he dumps you.
  • Keep track of what belongs to whom.
  • Let him know exactly how you feel.
  • Men want to rule women.
  • Men are silly.
  • Men don't feel.
  • There's no difference between men and women--it's all cultural.
  • Because you feel it, it must be true.
  • You're not just arguing with your husband, you are arguing with thousands of years of male domination and female repression.
Most of this "helpfulness" came from those women's magazines that are chock full of articles my husband and I joking refer to as "How to be divorced in 6 years or less!" The real stuff took some real maturity and some real pains to learn.

The Real Stuff like:
  • There's no winning an argument.
  • Actions speak louder than words.
  • Emotions are just emotions.
  • Love and trust are not emotions all the time: sometimes they are conscious decisions you make.
There's No Winning an Argument

You can win debates. You can even even win the lottery, but an argument with your spouse is unwinnable. Winning means there's a loser and when there's a loser, you both lose. It's like scoring a touchdown against your own side. You and he are in this together. You're a team. You may have won the war of words, but you've lost something more important. Keeping score and using conflict to do it is a no-win.

You need to approach conflict as the inevitable result of two people living in close proximity. You're going to have to come to a compromise of some sort. This other person has needs and desires that are at the very least just as important as yours. Try to find a way to accommodate each other. The first step is to listen to him. Try restating his argument for him. "Are you me understand." Let him know you are really listening and really considering his side. That generally takes the heat out of the friction between you, and once that happens you can get down to the business of working things out.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Are you still acting single? Do you have your own space, your own money, your own stuff? Do you make decisions that will affect the two of you without his input just because you can or even because you merely feel like it? Do you resent the demands he makes upon you?

If so, consider how loudly you are communicating two thing: my spouse doesn't make a difference in my life and he is not worth any extra effort on my part. You may not ever say such rude comments out loud, but consider how much wear and tear is done to the relationship when you daily act as if they were your truth.

But He Isn't Perfect!

If you are expecting him to be perfect before you are willing to make any changes yourself, you'll have a very long wait. Neither he, nor you, will ever attain that glorious state. Waiting for him to change first is a perfect excuse. It's your handy dandy get of responsibility free card. When you find yourself thinking he doesn't deserve the best from you, I can pretty much guarantee you probably don't deserve the best from him either.


  1. What a beautiful post! I love that idea of how we have been "training for divorce". Isn't that the truth? I think we also train for divorce when we date so much as teens and twenty-somethings. We're learning how to attadch to someone and then how to let go. Not healthy.

    And I love your points about what makes a good marriage. No one can win an argument, you're right. We have to learn how to care for each other and care for the marriage, which is an entirely different thing!

  2. I really value your Wifely Wednesdays and your other helps for marriage. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Absolutely agree! A huge pet peeve of mine is a group of women I know who have their degrees "Just in case". It's so sad to me that they have a safety net all set up. It wouldn't even occur to me to have a safety net. I suppose if I ever need one I'll see the wisdom in their ways though. (Certainly don't want to eat my words!)

  4. Sheri, I don't want to eat mine either! I can see the value of a degree, certainly. I mean there is all the data suggesting that mom's education level can predict the future education levels of her children.

    And really, I've never put my college education and the work skills I learned there to such a rigorous use than after I started running a home with children. I bet my profs never considered that utitlity! LOL!

  5. I agree with you about never "winning" arguments. My husband has been wonderful at teaching me to always try to settle things rather than "win".