But is it really a problem?
I can think of 3 positive developments that have contributed to the rise in divorces:
1- Women’s empowerment: Women haven’t always had a say in who to marry, let alone choosing to leave their husbands. That a wife can now exercise her right to leave a marriage is a very healthy development.
2- Exercising choice: Admitting that we’ve made a mistake is hard enough. Doing something about it is even harder. A divorce can be an acknowledgement that things aren’t working out, and the couple want to call it quits. People are realizing that they have a choice in how to lead their lives, and what they can do about past decisions.
3- Happiness matters: When couples break up because they’re unhappy, it means they value their happiness. In my book, that makes divorce a good sign.
So is divorce a problem or not?
My answer would be: It’s not even the issue!
Our obsession with the divorce rate is making us overlook the real problem we should be addressing. The rise in the divorce rate is only a symptom, which we can do nothing about, without tackling the problem that’s causing it.
Divorce isn’t the problem.
The real problem is: dysfunctional relationships.
People aren’t taking the divorce route to go somewhere, but to leave something. And that “thing” is a dysfunctional relationship.
Sadly, we’re being encouraged to get married, whether to start a family, settle down, avoid committing sins, etc., without being taught what a relationship involves and how to make marriage a home for happiness and not a prison of problems.
When I was 20 years old – and single – a religious scholar told me that I was already 4 years late to getting married!
Talk of marriage and its importance is very common. But advice on how to treat a spouse, what to expect from a relationship, and how to positively engage with problems are commonly overlooked.
Besides, “happiness” isn’t usually included in the marriage formula. It’s something you abandon during your initiation rites into married life. (That’s why guys throw bachelor parties!)
But happiness does matter, and we need to bring it back into the marriage formula.
One way of doing that is to look at the signs of a dysfunctional relationship – i.e. a relationship where one or both partners don’t see the relationship contributing positively to their life experience – and see how we can avoid the thoughts and behaviors that get in the way of a healthy relationship.
But Think of the Children!
When a parent contemplates a divorce, they’re often asked to think of their children before making a decision.
But as we’ve seen, divorce isn’t the problem. The dysfunctional relationship is. Divorce is just the (unfortunate?) result of a problem that isn’t being effectively addressed.
Children will be better off not living within a dysfunctional relationship, rather than have their parents set a negative example for them to follow when they grow older.
So don’t blame the divorce, and look at what can be done to fix dysfunctional relationships.
I’ll be writing a post on some of the signs of dysfunctional relationships, and would like to know what your thoughts are about this issue.
What have you noticed in your own relationship, or in other people’s relationships, that compromise happiness, rather than foster it?
And what do you believe can be done to improve relationships, so they can contribute positively to people’s lives?
Photo credit: Daquella Manera