Thursday, July 29, 2010

An unpopular notion: Unhappily married ever after.

Oh this is going to be unpopular. I wonder if I should even put this out there. It might immediately turn some people off, especially before they learn about me. If you don't know me, and you are reading this, just put it on the back burner. It might be better if you don't read this until after you get to know who I am. If you do end up reading it, and are appalled, please put your immediate instinct on the back burner. Keep an eye on me. Doubt me. But please don't just write me off as a lunatic.

Wow! Did I entice you or what? The topic is about divorce so don't get too excited. It's not about an uber-controversial subject like same sex marriage or abortion. It's "just" about divorce. But I am advocating an extreme position. A very unpopular position, even among many Christians. I'd refrain from posting it but this topic is too important to ignore. So let's get into it.

Divorce is far too common today. It's accepted. Is that okay? People say it is. But it's really not. Why? Because it's going to get worse. The acceptance of divorce as a way out creates a sort of feedback effect that makes people more likely to divorce. It is getting worse, so much that it has transformed marriage. People fear divorce so much they choose to eliminate marriage altogether and become life partners. I don't mean same sex partners. I mean heterosexual domestic partners. That's got a whole different set of problems associated with it. I'll ponder those and report on them later but for now let's focus on divorce.

What I realized is the acceptance of divorce allows people to take their pre-marital relationships too casually. In many Christian circles, divorce is not an option. Even in the case of infidelity. I know that can be difficult but forgiveness wouldn't be meaningful if it was easy. When forgiveness is easy you dismiss the apology, saying "think nothing of it." But a spouse who cheats can't apologize enough. We can't apologize enough for our rebellion against God either, but God forgives. Not because it's easy. He forgives us because we are that important to Him. This kind of forgiveness is meaningful. So too is the forgiveness for infidelity. Your spouse is so important to you that you are willing to forgive him or her for anything, even infidelity. That is unconditional love. Anything less would be conditional.

Most cases of divorce do not happen because of infidelity though. They occur because of "irreconcilable differences." Well, if you find that you're irreconcilably different from your spouse, you didn't do your homework before you were married, did you? Is Divorce okay for you? Absolutely not. If your marriage suffers from bickering or backbiting or differing perspectives on life or name your sin, then you missed something in the courting process. You didn't test one another enough before you said your vows. Now your punishment is to remain married and unhappy.

Wow! Really Alex? You really believe this? Absolutely. Yes. You made your bed. It's your fault. If you divorce you only reinforce the idea that marriages are disposable. This isn't to say that divorce is a picnic. It's terrible, sure. But ripping the bandage off is nothing like keeping the bandage on for the rest of your life. If you are mature and accept your punishment, your unhappy marriage can now serve a purpose: teaching other people that they must make sure they are marrying the right person. And your bad marriage will be well known. People will gossip about it. And the longer the awful marriage lasts the longer the lesson can be taught. I know it's harsh, but if life's lessons were easy then we wouldn't learn anything.

Holey cow! Now you can see why this is unpopular. Even many Christians have a hard time with it. But if you are a Christian you must accept the infallible word of God. And God tells you that you must not divorce. There is one single case in the new testament (Matthew 19:9) where Jesus (in a roundabout way) gives permission to divorce in the case of infidelity. But we already covered infidelity. It can be overcome. And I believe that Jesus' apparent permission had something more to do with the attitudes of the time. Things are different today. So I think it's clear in no way should a Christian couple get a divorce. EVER!!

Of course the proper solution is to fix your marriage. Come to terms with your differences. Accept them. Learn to live with them. Change your perspective. Meet in the middle. Compromise. Or outright change. Ask for advice at the church. Or from your friends and family. See a marriage counselor. But if all of those things fail, then it is still not okay to divorce. You should have done your homework and you should let your unhappy marriage be an example that tells the world, "this is what happens if you don't court properly."

So why do I believe this? Today's attitude about divorce increases the likelihood that you will divorce. By accepting the notion that you can get divorced as a last resort, you can take your pre-marital relationships more casually. You don't do your homework. You don't test. You don't prove. Oh, you might live with each other before you marry to test the waters, but that creates a completely different set of marital problems. I'm gettin' sick and tired of frikkin' 'splainin' to people that they shouldn't live together before they get married. The statistics don't lie. If you live together first, you have an 80% chance of splitting!! So living together is not testing the right way. Testing takes time and a different perspective than just falling in love, or more likely, lust. (After all, what cohabiting unmarried couple doesn't have sex too?) When you walk down the aisle, you need to know at the bottom of your heart that you will be with this person until death. Not because you are against divorce, but instead because you have proven it to each other. If you don't do this, then you don't deserve to be married. And if you do get married, and find that you are incompatible, then you deserve your punishment. You must stay unhappily married so you can be an example for others.

It seems that we aren't learning anything any more. We are in fact going backwards. People are living together because they are afraid of divorce. That's not right. The answer isn't to fear marriage. It's to make sure you are compatible. Not by living together, But instead by spending time together. By asking questions. By watching them live their life. If divorce wasn't an option, more people would be doing this, and the result would be a greater number of happy marriages.