Irretrievably Broken Marriage?
Go to my website, donsizemore.org, and check out new video interviews with couples who were on brink of divorce and reconciled!
These are two video interviews with couples who wanted to tell their story of their decision to pursue marriage counseling and reconciliation. They were part of a two year project in the Fayette County Family Court of Judge Tim Philpot in Lexington, KY. Judge Philpot, Dr. Wm. Doherty of the University of Minnesota, and myself, introduced measures to help couples pause on the legal superhighway to divorce. The couples' experience is a powerful testimony for that project and Emotionally Focused Therapy, a marriage counseling approach with proven results.
I recently read John Steinbeck’s East of Eden where a beautiful and powerful exegesis of the Cain and Abel story in Genesis 4 is found. East of Eden is based on this pivotal story in the Old Testament and Steinbeck presents a deep and thoughtful presentation of the human condition, specifically as an archetypal story of the human soul. He presents the murder of Abel as an act of rejection, jealousy, revenge, and guilt. “I think this is the best-known story in the world because it is everybody’s story. I think it is the symbol story of the human soul. I’m feeling my way now—don’t jump on me if I’m not clear. The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears. I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt—and there is the story of mankind. I think that if rejection could be amputated, the human would not be what he is. Maybe there would be fewer crazy people. I am sure in myself there would not be many jails. It is all there—the start, the beginning. One child, refused the love he craves, kicks the cat and hides his secret guilt; and another steals so that money will make him loved; and a third conquers the world—and always the guilt and revenge and more guilt. The human is the only guilty animal…Therefore I think this old and terrible story is important because it is a chart of the soul—the secret, rejected, guilty soul.”
Steinbeck makes the brilliant point that in the story God did not condemn Cain for his unacceptable offering but simply that God preferred or liked Abel’s offering better. What Cain did not see, did not understand was that God was simply asking for a different offering, make another attempt, “If you do what is right will you not be accepted?” This hurt Cain and he felt rejected, and when we get hurt by rejection we almost always get angry and when we get angry we do violence of some kind, whether emotional or physical, and we feel bad for it, guilty for our actions which traps and ensnares us by a guilt that needs atonement, expiation of our guilt. This is a pattern that gets played out again and again in relationships, with couples, between parents and children, with friends and others that we deem important. It is an old story that resonates with truth; rejection is the hell we all fear. So please, love one another.
Get Married and Stay Married
Marriage is one of the best economic decisions you can make. “Less marriage means less income and more poverty,” says Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution, who has linked as much as half of the income inequality in America to changes in family composition: single-parent families (mostly those with a high-school degree or less) are getting poorer while married couples (with educations and dual incomes) are increasingly well-off. (The Economist, June 2011).
It also pays to stay married. There are numerous reports, studies, and statistics that show the devastating affect divorce has on families and children. The devastation is across every facet of life; physical health, financial wealth, emotional and psychological well being. No part of life is unaffected. Here are some examples:
Studies show that women experiencing divorce face roughly a 30 percent decline in the standard of living they enjoyed while married and men show a 10 percent decline. The consistency of this finding caused one researcher to conclude: “However ‘prepared’ for marital disruption women increasingly may be, they are not prepared in ways sufficient to cushion the economic cost.” 1
Life expectancies for divorced men and women are significantly lower than for married people (who have the longest life expectancies). 3
A recent study found those who were unhappy but stay married were more likely to be happy five years later than those who divorced.4
The health consequences of divorce are so severe that a Yale researcher concluded that “being divorced and a nonsmoker is [only] slightly less dangerous than smoking a pack a day and staying married.” 5
After a diagnosis of cancer, married people are most likely to recover, while the divorced are least likely to recover,6 indicating that the emotional trauma of divorce has a long-term impact on the physical health of the body.
Men and women both suffer a decline in mental health following divorce, but researchers have found that women are more greatly affected.7 Some of the mental health indicators affected by divorce include depression, hostility, self-acceptance, personal growth and positive relations with others.
Need I say more? Get married and stay married!