Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Divorce: It's All About ME!

In the US, divorce is not the unforgivable sin, it is the unrepented sin.  Somehow, people seem to feel that divorce is sanitized by getting an annulment, as if that makes everything squeaky clean and paves the way to marry Honey #2. It doesn't seem to enter people's minds that, having brought children into the world -- whether in a marriage or outside of one -- they are responsible for them, and that responsibility involves putting aside one's own feelings to meet the needs of the children.  Somehow, in their eagerness to assert their rights and proclaim their innocence, the children are trampled underfoot.  The children's world has just been turned upside down, and their parents blithely tell people that "everything is okay with the children; they are doing fine; both of us make a point to tell them we still love them."  It sure doesn't look like that from the perspective of the children.  They now have to be perpetual gypsies, moving back and forth from one house to the other.  (Two houses, two sets of rules, two worlds.  And they're expected to navigate easily between the two.) They've learned that no matter how much someone says he  is committed to his wife or children, no one will publicly question his decision to break up his family, let alone assert that he is selfish and despicable for not keeping his word.  (Of course, it goes without saying that the same goes for "her.") They've learned that they are a lower priority than their parents' agendas:  Mom and Dad are both wrapped up in their legal and canonical wranglings, finding Honey #2, and separating one household into two (who gets the West African death mask we bought in 1994?).

Every parent knows in his heart that divorce is bad for children. (Even psychologists are starting to recognize it.)  It used to be that parents wouldn't divorce "for the sake of the children."  They had a sense of responsibility to their children, and willingly sacrificed their own "fulfillment."  That whole thing about being thrown into the sea wearing a millstone necklace being a better option than stumbling a child was taken seriously.  These days the decision to divorce is often made independent of the consideration of its impact on the children.  (Of course, if physical abuse is involved, that is a proportionately grave reason for a divorce... but not necessarily for entering into another marriage.)

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