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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Should I get a Divorce?

Dear A. B.

I've really just been going around in circles wondering...what is your opinion about divorce? Do you think it's ever the way to go? Are some people just better off single? Due to repressed fear & baggage, are some people incapable of creating & sustaining a decent relationship?

I ask because I wonder if I am fighting so hard for something that is impossible for me to achieve. Maybe I should live alone. I never imagine that there is a better man/marriage waiting for me somewhere. Maybe being a wife is just not something I'm cut out for. I don't even imagine that I'd like to date or have a boyfriend. The thought of moving on to another relationship holds no allure for me at all.

The counselor last summer seemed mystified as to why I stayed in my marriage. " Is it money?" he asked. I said it was my investment of time, effort, energy that I hated just throwing away.

Yes, I know I'll be poor if I leave the marriage. Through the marriage, I am not rich, but am situated firmly in the middle class. I don't have to worry about where my next meal or mortgage payment is coming from. I have health insurance. Losing economic stability would be a price I would pay for divorcing. I'm not thrilled about that, but accept it.

When do you think leaving is the best, healthiest move to make? I know a lot of people jump ship too hastily, but I've been married going on 23 years. We lived together for 2.5 yrs. before that.


Dear G________,

YOU ASK: Due to repressed fear & baggage, are some people incapable of creating & sustaining a decent relationship?

MY ANSWER: Yes. And these people are also incapable of creating and sustaining a decent life alone. They are also incapable of making appropriate decisions. The answer to baggage and repressed fear is not divorce. There is no answer to baggage and repressed fear except to face them with courage and transcend them. And then you will be a happy person, with someone else, or living by yourself. And then, whatever decision you make will be appropriate, in some way, to your life.

I personally don't think that an adult (a child is different) is ever happy or unhappy due to someone else. The reason is because no adult is helpless to take care of themselves in any situation. As I have said to you before, it is my understanding of the human condition that happiness is ours already and therefore we can't get it from anything or from anywhere. The only thing we can do is to learn how to face the fears and the repressed fear that is covering up the happiness of our essential okayness.

But this is very hard to do. It takes great courage and perseverance. Difficult as it is, divorce is a whole lot easier. Many people opt for multiple divorces. If divorce were the answer to happiness, our society with its more than 50% divorce rate would be 50% happier than before divorce was the easy option. Is it? All the research shows that despite all our modern advances, the average person reports less happiness and satisfaction with life than they did before 1960. The depression rate is skyrocketing.

No wonder you are considering divorce. Our culture no longer supports marriage or the family as the basic unit of civilization. This culture supports the individual as the basic unit of civilization. And thus marriage is seen, not as an institution which is the sanest way for people to live, and the surest way to achieve a sustainable civilization, but rather, marriage is seen as an instrument to promote individual happiness.

A symbol of this attitude is your counselor who is mystified as to why you stay married. Most counselors advise people the same way "Dear Abby" does. If your marriage gives you more grief than happiness, then leave it.

Modern day therapists counsel: "If your needs aren't being met by the marriage partner then you must negotiate with your marriage partner so that they will be met. If your marriage partner will not negotiate, then to be happy, you must leave." I find this deplorable advice. What about commitment to the major decisions of your life, duty, sacrifice. What about meeting your own needs?

Modern psychology focuses you on what life owes you, how you can get it for yourself, it does not focus you on what you owe life; what marriage owes you, not what you owe marriage. You should read Viktor Frankl's book "Man's Search for Meaning," if you haven't read it yet. He only learned to be happy while confined in German concentration camp.

Someone who is unhappy will not be capable of making appropriate decisions about divorce, or anything else, because their decisions will be based upon their unhappiness (fear). Nothing appropriate comes from fear. Self understanding is difficult. But if you meet your fears honestly with courage, instead of distracting yourself with blaming (blaming is the way a human being avoids the pain of their own fear), if you uncover and confront your repressed fear, then your decisions will be coming, not from fear of something (like I'm afraid I won't be happy if I stay married) but love of something (like honor, duty, an appreciation for your own life, or your own talent or craft, and what you have made of it). Any decision coming from love of something is always appropriate to your life in some way. Read Chapter 10 again in "Depression is a Choice."

I believe most divorce is the quick-fix cop-out for a harder-won self-understanding. Or, as my seven-year old son told me one day. "Mom, I think I've figured out what divorce is. Divorce is when you're unhappy and you think its the other person's fault." That son has now been married for more than 25 years.

I myself have to admit that I bought into my own marriage counselor's advice about meeting my own needs, and was divorced for 9 months. During that time I realized that I had never really made a commitment to my marriage. My view of marriage was always dependent upon what I got out of it. It was based not on the satisfaction of what I was able to put into it, but a reasonable return on my investment.

My view of my husband was always how he adequately measured up to what I expected of him, certainly my view of him was not how I could somehow manage to make his life wonderful. I realized that I never really bothered to find out who this man really was, or what he thought, or what his fears were, or his hopes and dreams. I just assumed he wanted whatever I wanted. I recommitted myself and returned to my husband who, lucky for me, still cared for me enough to take me back. That was 20 years ago. Remember the old adage, "only the brave deserve the fair." I would say "only the brave deserve a good marriage."

People are complaining about the government today, our economy, the corruption in Congress, the impending loss of Freedom. But the old adage puts the blame where it belongs: "Every nation deserves the government they have." A nation whose people are not themselves corrupt, greedy, dishonest, lazy and apathetic, will not slowly become enslaved by a corrupt government. How about "every person deserves they marriage they have?"
A. B. Curtiss

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