Monday, March 24, 2014

Divorce is not an Option?

Lately I've seen a lot of feminist blogs discussing the much-uttered phrase "Divorce is not an option." They say that this phrase can trap people in abusive relationships because there is no avenue for a person to flee dangerous situations, and also that it can place undue stress on a marriage to "make it" even if one or both individuals have given up.

That is not what this phase means. It's not something pointed at other peoples marriages like a judgement--I'm not saying, oh, well, yours didn't make it. It also does not mean that divorce should never be used--because sometimes divorce is the only option. I would say that divorce is utilized to much in today society, but that's a topic for a different post.

When Brian and I married, we tried to discuss as much as possible how we were going to handle disputes. We also wanted to make it clear that we were going into this marriage with the full intention of staying together for life. We talked about boundaries, emotions, and triggers, and made sure we both knew that things might drastically change when we moved in together. In short, both of us wanted to make sure we could adapt habitually to each other.

One of the things we discussed was divorce. The divorce rate for the united states 3.6 per 1,000 population with the marriage rate being 6.8 per 1,000 total population (stats from CDC for US marriages and divorces in 2011) This is really high. Because I desperately want my marriage to last, Brian and I decided to set some rules regarding divorce and adopt the divorce is not an option mantra.

The first agreement we made was to agree that this only made sense in a relationship that was not abusive. Physical and mental abuse should not be tolerated in any situation. Honestly, if my husband started abusing me, I would seek counseling and/or separation, depending on the degree of abuse and how safe/unsafe I felt, before pursuing divorce.

I am happy to report that there is no physical or mental abuse in my relationship with Brian. Sure, we have disagreements, and we both have faults, and life can be full of moments where we try to selfishly assert our will or desires on each other, but we generally try to approach each issue with as much love and respect as possible. I've never had a time where Brian didn't adopt a humble spirit with me when discussing a problem. I can tell, even when we are in a heated discussion, that my husband cares about me and that he wants to understand where I am coming from. I hope he can say the same for me.

That main point aside, this is what the term Divorce is not an Option means to Brian and I--this is the list we made up before we married, to help us stay true and honor our goal of staying married for life.
  • Never bring up the word divorce unless you really mean it. (Aka, don't use this word as a way to coerce or threaten your way into getting what you want or making someone feel bad)
  • Nothing should be so annoying as to leave the person you love over (Aka, irreconcilable differences) Honestly, I try not to annoy my spouse on purpose, but it does happen. When it does happen, we talk about it. Communication is important--and so is remembering what your spouse tells you. Remembering is my hard part. As is picking your battles--is this really worth talking about, or should I just put on my big girl pants and do it myself?
  • Put God first. This is a christian thing. If we are both actively seeking Christ, trying to learn and grow in the bible, God can council our spirits and help us change before our spouse even notices a problem. It also gives us a common ground to fall back on. 
Those are the three ideas that Brian and I tried to base our marriage on from the start. I remind myself of them all the time! When Brian and I are having a disagreement, I try to remember that this is the man I love. I care about him, and because of this I shouldn't try to "get my way" but instead should be trying to better understand him, communicate with him, and above all else glorify God.

My marriage is no where near perfect, but it's growing--and I'm enjoying watching it grow. We've both changed so much. I've learned to give, and so has my husband. It's so beautiful to see my husband sacrifice for me--and I love to see this in myself as well. We don't sacrifice because we have to, or because if we don't the other person will throw a violent fit. We sacrifice because we love each other and we are committed to this thing called "marriage". And for us, that means divorce is not an option.

What about you? Does the term "Divorce is not an Option" sound like something you would adopt?   


Rachel G said...

I believe there are cases where divorce can be the only or best option--but it's never something happy. Marriage and divorce is often treated too lightly--and no, divorce is not the answer to petty annoyances, it's not to be used as a manipulative tactic, or to be brought up in cases of disagreements. We're in this thing for the rest of our lives, and we each have to do all we can to maintain marriage and hopefully to make it a blessing to the both of us!

Sarah J said...

I definitely agree with your definition of "Divorce is not an option." Like you and your husband, Chris and I worked a great deal on our conflict resolution before we were married and it's something we continue to work on. Sometimes, we realize we need outside help (I am totally in support of premarital and marital counseling--HUGE help there!).
I see where the feminists are coming from--we so often apply absolutes to phrases and ideas that I can see why they're upset with it, but, like you said, people divorce for so many reasons, some trivial and some HUGE. I do think that there comes a time when a marriage becomes so broken, that even with prayer and counseling, there's a point where it can't be saved. We're all on our own journey, I do think that our culture, especially in the media, makes divorce seem so minor and simple. It's not. Even when the divorce is a GOOD thing, it's a tearing of a couple, of a family, of in-laws, of finances, of lifestyle, of relationships, EVERYTHING changes. Can it be a good change? Yes. But it's still incredibly expensive and difficult. No one seems to discuss that aspect: that you are tearing apart and starting over, that it's hard work.
Thanks for the interesting read!

Angel said...

I'm glad you have strong ideas and convictions about divorce. We need more people like you and Brian.

PopChampagne said...

this is such a sweet port. and I agree with you! I always say that divorce is not an option to me, but more so that I will try my very best to make it work if I commit to marrying the person. Situations change and we can't forsee the future, and whatever happens happen, but at least I would know that I've tried all I can if my marriage was to fail.

Jane Eyre said...

Carolynn!! You write such wonderful things...I'm a terrible friend :P I need to read you blogs more, because they are wonderful and your insights are so relevant and real. :) PS: Why am I seeing ridiculous pics of me in the side bar? haha jk. I'm ok with it. I totally agree with your post though. "Mr. Rochester" and I agreed on the same thing. Divorce was not an option. My parents had that view too: they agreed to never bring up that word, because it wasn't optional. Also, I think if you agree that divorce is not an option you're more willing to fight to make things work. As one of your friends added, counseling is healthy! That gives me peace knowing that my husband and I agreed before getting married that if things got rough, we would go to Christian marital counseling to work out the bugs. Marriage is worth fighting for in a society that says, "this has problems, let's toss it and try again with something new." Beauty comes from perseverance in the midst of hardship, and the love we show to one another is God's love, and that means forgiveness, understanding, and second or third chances. :)

Shoshanah G said...

I don't know that my husband and I have had a specific conversation where we agreed divorce isn't an option, but even so I really don't see it as one. I can't even imagine being in a relationship where you threaten divorce. It seems to be that if it's the type of thing you'll willing to threaten in a fight, there's probably a lot more issues that you need to work on together.