One of the great pains of the early part of my life was my parents divorcing. I was 12 when my dad hit a very rough patch of his life-long struggle with mental illness, ultimately separating from my mom and divorcing a bit later. Two people who came together in love and built a family found that living together was no longer possible. Watching the pain that they both struggled with for years after was unbearable, made even more so by the pressures they had to "move on".
So many people who I know and love have struggled with their own divorces, the pain of failed relationships and the tumult that a dissolution creates. I think back to serving as chaplain on the trauma ward this past summer, watching patients in a coma fighting, seeing open wounds or gashed heads - the trauma of divorce up close is just that visceral.
I've spent countless hours (& thousands of dollars in therapy) struggling
with some the schrapnel I took from what was painful for all involved. Going through something like this when I was just hitting my teen years was more than a bit unsettling, both for my understanding of what it means to be a man (and then a dad years later) and living in relationship entails.
- Extra-marital affairs - 27%
- Family strains - 18%
- Emotional/physical abuse - 17%
- Mid-life crisis - 13%
- Addictions - 6%
- Workaholism - 6%
While I am in no way minimizing the brutal pain involved in marriage and divorce, it is striking to me that one of the great "advances" of the modern age is divorce. Ironically, in all my time in the church, I have never heard a sermon on divorce. We seem to have simply accepted this relatively recent phenomenon, despite the fact that in the first 400 years of the Early Church, the church maintained a unanimous voice opposing divorce.
I was reminded of this again while reading the great feature in Christian Century on Elizabeth Marquardt's study of the experiences of children of divorced parents with the experiences of children of married parents, as well as the book she has written on it Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce. One of my most adored writers, Lauren Winner, reviews the book and shares part of her own aftermath of divorce.