Divorce is not the problem. It is a solution

Orpah's producer asked,"Did I agree that divorce was a river of pain that runs through our country/"

While filming the first episode of “Where are they Now” with Oprah Winfrey, one of the producers asked me to comment on the following quote, “Divorce is a river of pain that runs through our country.” I responded by saying, divorce isn’t the problem. It’s the solution.  Now don’t get me wrong, divorce is indeed a river of pain.  It is one of the most painful human experiences that we endure.  I know; I have been divorced.  But divorce isn’t the problem here; it is simply a tool that represents the evolution of a relationship which took a different path than expected.  Did you notice that I purposely avoided the word failure?    Everybody feels like they failed when they divorce and it adds a layer of shame that is just unnecessary. My feelings about failure are for another day.
Can we get out of our emotional brain for a minute and look at this rationally.  We live in a free country, hallelujah, and some of those freedoms include being able to get out of situations that no longer work for us.   If we hate our job, we look for another one and quit as soon as we can.  If we have a friend who has treated us badly, we stop being friends with that person.  If we’re in a contract that is losing money, we can even break the contract (not without consequences) but we don’t go to jail if we get out of the contract; in fact, except for taxes and school loan debt, as long as we’re law abiding, we have the choice to get out of any situation that doesn’t work for us.  That’s a perk of being a citizen of a free country.
     We understand, and accept, that we’re going to make mistakes in most areas of our lives.  We’ll choose the wrong profession, we’ll study the wrong subject, we’ll live in the wrong place, we’ll drive the wrong car…the list is endless.  When we’ve made a mistake, we usually try to undo it if possible.  What in the world makes us think that we won’t make a mistake with the person we choose to marry?

So I think we should honor and celebrate the idea that we live in a country that is enlightened enough to recognize that 1. People can make mistakes and if a mistake is made, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have to live forever in that mistake, and 2. People evolve and change over time. What was once true for them may not always stay true and it is an important part of growth to recognize and respond to the changes.
     The problem with divorce is that marriage precedes it, and what we do in marriage is what causes all the problems.  Please note, I did not say marriage is the problem, I said WHAT WE DO in marriage is the problem.  Personally, I don’t think anything is as wonderful and satisfying as a happy marriage.
     The trouble starts because when we get married, we get careless.
     I tell the couples I counsel, that if you want to stay loved, you have to stay lovable and for some dumb reason, we forget to do that after we’re married.  When we’re dating, we shower often, brush our teeth and avoid garlic regularly, wear our best, most flattering (clean) clothes, smile a lot, laugh even more, stay blissfully attentive to everything our partner says, and make sure to keep bodily functions out of sight or mind of our partner.  Then we get married. 
Now all of a sudden, the TV is more interesting than our partners. It’s too much trouble to brush our teeth three times a day, and …gee, that oversized, patched pair of overalls is too comfortable to throw out. We forget to be courteous. We forget to be attractive. We forget to attend to our personal hygiene. We forget what being alone really feels like. Until we get divorced. 
So, yes, divorce is a river of pain that runs through our country, but it doesn’t have to be.  So brush your teeth, go out on dates, work on staying attractive, be attentive to your spouse, play together, laugh even more, sacrifice for each other, remember why you chose each other; and if you do so, we’re less likely to be having a discussion about the river of pain, called divorce. jancounseling.com

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.