Some good hard truths about marriage, why it is good, what it means, and why it should be taken seriously.
I've been holding on to this post for a while now (well over 2 years). I've added and edited this post so many times before publishing it and, if I'm really honest with myself, I don't think I'll ever be done because of all of the things that I want to share. But it has been long enough and I don't think I'll ever have this post be 100% perfect. So it is time to share it in the current state.
I do have a disclaimer: I am most likely going to get into some trouble with this post because apparenty the topic of marriage is a controversial subject in this day and age. I think it is wise to talk about controversial topics because, as humans, we have the unique opportunity to learn from each other. If something is incorrect, if we don't talk about things then how do we grow? How do we learn? I think you get the point.
Also this will be a long post so just skip it if you don't want to read. Finally, I probably won't be commenting or reading any of the comments so please don't expect a response from me here.
I don't watch too many movies anymore as I'm very aware now of what types of worldviews and philosophies are being promoted in them. Not sure why this is but I heavily analyze things in movies now. Maybe this is just me getting older...
A little while ago I decided to watched the movie "The Founder". It is a biopic of Ray Kroc and the McDonald's brothers and sort of told the story about the rise of the McDonald's restaurant empire and how it came to be. It was really good! I think this is definitely one of Michael Keaton's best performances by far. It is really interesting to see a take on how things might have happened with regards to business dealings and actual events that happened behind the scenes in how the McDonald's Corp came to be.
Without spoiling anything about the plot of the movie, there were a few parts of it that sort of tap into Ray Kroc's marriage and divorce. The actors and actresses do an outstanding job of making you 'feel' the emotions of the scenes and what is going on in the story. This is why I think movies have an effect me more than they used to...
One of the things that I know about myself is that I care deeply about relationships. I have the gift of discernment which means I am able to quite easily place myself into other people's shoes, to feel what they are feeling so to speak. So when there are scenes in movies or TV that deal with divorce or cheating, I don't do well with it and have a very hard time getting past the 'feelings' of the scene. I get upset because it goes against the core of my being.
Now, please don't think that I remain in this state! Yes I do get past the feeling, or feelings. I don't stay depressed. Sometimes, as an outcome of the film, I find myself reflecting on my own attitude, my own beliefs, or my own actions, and my own behaviors. I start to think about what I am doing in my life. I think about my family and question myself about how I am maintaining my relationships with my wife and kids and ask myself if I am doing anything wrong or anything against what I have made promises on.
I'll just come out and say it...
Divorce is not a good thing.
I hope you really read what I am trying to say.
Divorce itself, the act, is not a good thing.
It is not a good thing. Not at all.
I feel that I should be extremely clear on what I am trying to say, so I will. I do not believe that divorce is a good thing. There is no way that you can convince me that divorce is an act that is positive or good for someone.
This does not mean that I am saying a person that has chosen to divorce their spouse or have been forced to go through the divorce experience is a bad or evil person. I am not an idiot. Divorce happens for a variety of reasons and it does happen between some people. And yes, the reasons why divorce can happen may be justified or even sometimes necessary.
So again, I am not saying that divorced people are evil, nor do I treat them that way. All that I am saying my worldview does not support the act of divorce as a good thing.
Why do I believe this?
My reasons as to why I believe that divorce is a bad thing is multi-dimensional as well as complicated. I've been through some very tough times, as have many of my own close family members and friends. I will do my best to attempt to answer why.
One reason is because I am a 'relationship guy'. I care deeply about relationships in general. This is the way my brain is wired and it affects how I interact with people in my life and how I operate in general. I believe in building positive relationships with as many people as I can, building my network of people, helping others succeed, connecting with others on a real and honest level. I use keywords here for a reason: building, connecting, success, commitment, excellence, and the list goes on. Please don't misunderstand when I say this. I am NOT a perfect person at all. I do make mistakes just like everyone else. I am human. I do suffer from regret from time to time as well. On with the story...
We all know what divorce is. Divorce is the severing of relationships. Note that I say "relationships". It is plural. Divorce means "to sever", "to dissassociate". It is an act of separation by force or fiat. The purpose of divorce, in the marriage context, is to destroy that marriage relationship. It doesn't only sever the two people that are married. It also seperates friendships and families that may have been grown close over the years. Friends typically have to choose a side. Children also have to go through this process of having to bifurcate their father and mother relationships and treat them differently or act differently towards each. Insecurities appear. Divorce is a distructive act with lasting ripple effects across time.
I will go even farther to say this --- All divorces occur due to selfishness.
Every one of them.
For those that have cheated on their spouses, it is because you made the decision that your own selfishness matters more. For those that verbally or physically abuse your spouses and/or children, you somehow selfishly convince yourself that it is OK to do such an act even though you know it was wrong. Selfishness is deception. Deception is real. Divorce is always caused by some type of selfishness from at least one person in the marriage relationship which is pathological in nature.
Did you know that even with the high divorce rate and it's commonality in today's day and age that divorce is still regarded as a 'negative' thing? I'll say again that yes I do believe it is a very bad thing. With the destruction that divorce causes how can anyone possibly think it is a good thing?
With that being said, for those that are married or dating couples or those that want to marry, I think it is important that we really think about what we are doing in our relationships and really take in the gravity of the situation.
Here are a few key things that I hope you think about. Read them all slowly. Read them out loud if you can:
- Marriage is a promise, it is a choice, it is a decision.
- Marriage is for life.
- Marriage is fun! (Yes, it really is!)
- Marriage is a gift!
Marriage is designed to make us more self-less and less selfish over time.
I hope you really think about this last one. Over time it becomes less about "me" and more about "us". Marriage, if done correctly, is designed to make us less selfish and more selfless. It is all about 'service', giving, gratefulness...
I've come up with a list of words that, I think, help to describe what marriage is all about. Seriously think about these words and what they mean to you:
Imagine that each word here is written down on a survey about marriage. And next to each word is a check box, then this survey is given to your spouse and they are asked to check every word they feel that you do have. And when they submitted this survey, they were HONEST.
** How many check marks would you have? **
I think that for some of you this really hits home.
It does for me. I am not perfect whatsoever. Not even close.
I start thinking about some of my own actions lately and some of the things that I've said that there is no way my wife would have placed a check mark for! I know this, and it makes me want to be a better man and not do it again. I care deeply for my wife and children and I don't want to make mistakes.
As a married man I would hope that my wife would check every box on that survey not because I simply want to pass the survey with flying colors, but because that is the person that my wife ACTUALLY views in me!
I have a message for most (not all) married people so I'm going to be very blunt here ---
**** We have all been doing a really crappy job at being married. ****
This is not an argument, I'm making a statement.
How many people do you know that have experienced divorce firsthand? This could be anyone at your workplace, school, or community. It could be a family member, friend, or acquaintence.
Seriously. Married people have not been doing a good job of being married.
Also, married people have NOT been showing the world how a successful marriage should look like, or how a successful marriage should operate.
This is a fact. The statistics don't lie:
- In America, there is one divorce approximately every 36 seconds*. That's nearly 2,400 divorces per day, 16,800 divorces per week and 876,000 divorces a year.
- The average length of a marriage that ends in divorce is eight years.
- People wait an average of three years after a divorce to remarry (if they remarry at all).
- The average age for couples going through their first divorce is 30 years old.
- 46.9% percent of non-custodial mothers totally default on support (dads getting child support payments), while only 26.9% of non-custodial fathers totally default on support (moms getting child support payments).
- 43% of all children growing up in America in the 2010's are being raised without their fathers.
- 75% of children with divorced parents live with their mother.
- 28% of children living with a divorced parent live in a household with an income below the poverty line.
- Half of all American children will witness the breakup of a parent, or grandparent's marriage. Of these children close to half will also see the breakup of a parent or grandparent's second marriage.
When a child has the life experience of being a first-hand witness of their parent's divorce do you know what language is actually being said to them?
"This is how marriage works. This is normal."
Actions speak louder than words.
In fact, all actions are a spoken language. All actions.
When a person shows up to work on time, every single day, it tells that leadership team that that employee wants to be there and is committed to the job.
It tells the leadership team that the employee is responsible.
It may even tell the leadership team that the employee enjoys their work.
When a friend give you a call and asks you for your help, and you show up to help them as asked at the time they were expecting you to arrive, it tells them that you truly care for them. It tells them that you want to be their friend, and for you to be their friend in kind.
When I come home from a long day of work, and my children scream "Daddy's home!" then they run up to me and give me great big bear hugs, it tells me that my children trust me. It tells me that they are happy that I am home! It tells me that I just might be doing a good job being a good dad to them!
You don't need to speak in order to tell someone something.
Actions always speak louder than the spoken word.
When two people stand in front of a crowd, profess their love to each other, and make a promise to commit to each other in all things, to promise to be there for each other in the good times and the bad times, to promise to be there for each other no matter what until the end of their lives, promise to be faithful to each other, it is telling everyone listening that "I am taking responsibility for this relationship and I will not break this promise no matter what. This is mine and I will never let it go. I will do whatever it takes to keep that promise." This is what is actually being said when two people get married.
By our actions we are showing the world, and we are showing our children, what marriage is all about.
When a couple divorces we are saying "divorce is normal". In fact we are teaching and telling the world that marriage doesn't even matter anymore. We are saying that marriage is an old idea that has no merit in this modern day and marriage doesn't matter.
Everyone has heard that saying, "promises are made to be broken" which is a bald face lie. It is a lie! All promises matter.
Well with divorce we are saying that "marriages are meant to be ended".
When we divorce, we are teaching our children that this is 'normal', we tell the world that divorce is 'ok' and that divorce is standard human behavior.
Some of us have gone through the process of our parents divorcing. And some of us might be going through it right now.
But do you know what?
Divorce really screws us up.
It screws up our kids.
My own parents divorced after about 23 years of marriage. I was 22 years old when it happened and I had just started dating my wife when it was announced that my parents were splitting up.
When they started the divorce process, do you know what happened?
Insecurity about all aspects of LIFE began to take hold in my mind. Questions like this came up all the time:
- What is going to happen to me?
- What is going to happen to my parents?
- Is this what will happen with me when I get married?
- Is this what will happen to my siblings when they get married?
- Should I even bother getting married at all?
- What does it even mean to get married anyways?
Yeah, this actually happened to me. There are some times when this same insecurity comes up in my mind and I have to really work it out. I know this happens to all children regardless of age in a divorce.
Here is another thing that happened to me...
I don't normally talk about this but I will here since I'm on topic ---
I don't ever talk to my father or my mother about marriage and I never ask them for any type of marriage advice.
Because trust and credibility are good friends. When you lose one you typically lose the other at the same time.
When you lose someone's trust or credibility, it takes a very long time to gain it back (if at all). Now, this is only true and unique with my own parents. I'm not saying that I don't trust my parents at all, and I'm not trying to chastise them! Both are happily re-married and both probably have very good advice to give.
I'm only trying to make a point. You wouldn't get medical advice from someone that had their medical license revoked and you wouldn't take financial advice from someone that went to prison for fraud. What I'm saying is that it is very difficult to ask my parents for marriage advice should I need it.
Does this bother you? I hope it does, because this stuff matters.
The point I'm trying to make is that while it still happens, and while it still may be a necessary step for certain situations, divorce in itself is not a good "thing".
So for those that are married, or want to get married, really think about how you are 'doing' marriage.
Do everything you can to set up your own marriage for success.
Make it count.
Make it a priority in your life.
Think about these questions:
- Do I appreciate my spouse?
- Do I show them my appreciation?
- What are some of the things that I can do for my spouse that make them feel loved by me? (Ask them this question, their answer might surprise you!)
- Am I lying to them about anything?
- What is at least one thing that I am grateful for in my spouse?
There are many more questions that apply here. But just remember that marriage is not about "me" or "you". It is about "us". And it is important that all married people adpot responsibility for our actions and correct our own ways.
And yes, I am completely aware that marriage is a two-way street. It requires involvement from both people in the relationship. Therefore each person must want to work on the relationship and work together toward a common goal. Remember that only you can control yourself, your actions or your thoughts. Always continue working on yourself.
It is important that we make the correct decisions in our personal and professional lives. This means that we actually do need to know what is 'right' and what is 'wrong'.
We do need a kick in the rear every once in a while, and steer ourselves back on the right track.
Take your relationships seriously. Because believe it or not, they actually matter not only to you but to your peers and your children.
Make every day in your marriage count.
Don't stop dating. Make dating your spouse a priority. No excuses allowed. Using "I can't find a babysitter" is an excuse.
Be a better person today than you were yesterday.
Apply and follow good, positive, principles in your life.
Set realistic and honest goals and seriously think about them every day.
Set goals at work.
Set goals in your marriage and talk about them with your spouse.
Organize your life so that you and your spouse reach those goals together.
Adpot the concepts of "teamwork" and "alignment" in your marriage.
Believe in your spouse.
Treat yourself like you are someone worth taking care of.
Serve your spouse. Love them as you love yourself.
Know what your spouse finds attractive, and let your spouse know what you find attractive about them.
Never stop learning who your spouse is. Know their love languages.
Take responsibility for your actions and be highly aware of them.
For those that have children, teach them. Remember that they are always watching you. You are their most important teacher in their life.
Love, honor, and build trust in your spouse and your children.
Know what it means to be grateful, and actually be grateful.
Stop participating in social media. Social media is not the real world. Be done with it.
Don't read the news every day.
Get off your phone.
Drive your car.
Fly your plane.
Open your eyes.
Life your life to the fullest.
- Joey D