Culture

As a child of divorce, I beg you: Don’t do it

by Fiona Teh // April 24, 2018, 1:58 am

Marriage

When I sit across the table from someone going through the process of divorce, or whose parents are considering a divorce, it’s hard to find the right words to say. 

“You can’t tell me what to do – you’ve no idea what I’m going through.”

I can see how sometimes, divorce seems like the most viable option for an unhappy marriage. Statistics show that while the number of marriages drops each year, the number of divorces is on the rise.


Things change, feelings fade, and sometimes even good people become monsters in a marriage that feels like it has become diseased. And divorce looms as a remedy: Let’s just remove the tumour.

When it’s come to that stage, it’s almost as if we look on divorce with the same rose-coloured glasses that some of us look at marriage with in the first place: “It will make everything better.”

DIVORCE IS THE DISEASE

But marriage is not the disease. The real disease is the lie that divorce is a solution.

It may not feel that way when you’re deep in daily arguments, cold wars, tears that have run dry. In desperation, we grasp at any illusion that paints us a better reality than the one we have right now. But the mirage is dangerous.

After interviewing 200 separated or divorced persons, psychologist and counsellor Diane Medved – herself a former divorcee – concludes that “the process and aftermath of divorce is so pervasively disastrous that in an overwhelming number of cases, the ‘cure’ that it brings is surely worse than the marriage’s ‘disease’”.

Don’t throw your marriage away, even if it hurts right now, even if it’s going to take a lot of work to restore life to it. Because the end of a marriage will hurt far more.

Dr Medved had originally set out to write a book to de-stigmatise divorce, believing that people who suffer over an extended period in unhappy marriages ought to “get out”. She wanted to strike down taboos about divorce.

But the extensive research led her only to one conclusion, detailed in her book The Case Against Divorce: I had been wrong.

We have fewer taboos about divorce now, and it feels easier than ever to get one.

But don’t throw your marriage away, even if it hurts right now, even if it’s going to take a lot of work to restore life to it. Because the end of a marriage will hurt far more.

There can be healing for your marriage – and for you – if you would fight for it.

FIGHT FOR YOUR MARRIAGE

Even though it feels like no one can fully empathise with what you are going through, you can get through the ordeal without getting out of the marriage.

The marital vows themselves acknowledge this truth, but reminding us to commit to someone for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do you part.

We don’t vow to hang around only in good times.

No one is perfect. The vows of marriage are not validated by perfection, but renewed every day by the commitment to be each other’s even in the face of all the things that would separate two people.

All that truly holds them together is this vow to stand by the other.

Marriage vows are not an insurance against imperfection in your partner or yourself, but a reminder that you have made a promise to love and to cherish – especially when the other needs it from you the most.

“Instead of applying energy to dismantling your marriage, put the same amount of effort into fixing your divisions” – Dr Diane Medved, The Case Against Divorce.

When you’re fighting for your marriage – you’re doing exactly what you vowed to do. And there is no shame in that.

I’m sorry if it feels like you’re in a lonely and uphill battle to love your spouse right now. Or if you find it hard to find the strength to even just look at your spouse in the eye again. I’m sorry if you haven’t heard a loving word in your house in a long time.

But it can get better. I hope you’ll find the strength to fight for your marriage and your partner.

It’s terribly hard to be the first one to reach out to say something nice, to give in and forgive – but this is where the true fight is.

And if you have children – you fight also for them when you fight for your marriage. And it will always be worth it.

FIGHT FOR YOUR MARRIAGE

As a child of divorce, I received an inheritance of fear when the fallout happened. I didn’t know it then, because I was trying to grow up, be understanding, and beat the odds by being the kid that was “okay” with her parents’ divorce.

I thought that was the mature thing to do, but in my acceptance of my parents’ divorce as a way out of an unhappy situation, I dug a deeper hole for myself.

I feared relationships and I feared marriage because I learnt very early on in life that people leave; wedding vows are nice but they don’t mean much – because people leave.

It’s one thing to have statistics tell you about divorce in a time like ours, and it’s another to have your own parents show you what divorce is.

I’ll never have the chance to look upon my parents’ marriage as an example for my own. I didn’t need theirs to be shiny or perfect, I only needed theirs to be intact.

Proportion of divorces by length of marriage in 2016. Source: Department of Statistics, Singapore.

If you’re thinking about a divorce, hear it from the child of divorce who once thought it was “okay”, and hear it from the child who has grown into an adult but who is still picking up the pieces within her: Don’t get a divorce.

It’s not worth it. You might be happier in the short-term, but you won’t be as happy as you would be if you stayed and fought for your marriage. Leave your children an inheritance of love, not fear.

It’s never too late or too foolish to honour the promise you have made.

The division of matrimonial assets in a divorce reflects the violent separation of what had been joined together. Emotionally, the damage is often harder felt. It is taxing to a nearly unbearable degree.

Dr Medved suggests focusing the energy in the right direction. “Instead of applying energy to dismantling your marriage, put the same amount of effort into fixing your divisions. The results will mean the world to your children, and can make your world one with far less to regret.”


TO THEE I MAKE THIS PROMISE

You’ve made a promise to your spouse at the altar of marriage. Would you make another one to yourself today?

“Dear self, today I remind you that you are more loved than you can ever imagine, no matter how your situation with your spouse looks like now, or what has been said about you. I remind you about the commitment you made to love and to cherish at all times. The situation is challenging, but I promise that fighting for your marriage will be worth it.”

When we make the decision to marry and to love, we also give up our right to forsake and to walk away.

We do this for a sweeter and greater love that teaches us what Love is like whether in despair, in joy, in pain, or at all times.

Marriage is for life, and there are sorrows and squabbles to sort out, but there are plenty of joys on the way too.

The vows of marriage reflects God’s promise to us: He will never leave us nor forsake us.

If you need strength to love, find it in God’s everlasting love for you – even at your worst, His heart is not to leave you in that position, but always to restore.

About the author

Fiona Teh

Fiona is low-key hilarious, a dog person, and she loves a good chat with strangers – particularly at Yakun. She also believes that everyone should know that they are absolutely worthy of love.