Part IV: How the Effects of Divorce on a Child can Sully the Perception of Marriage
Growing up in a family that was very familiar with courtrooms, I sought validation for love and lifelong promises. I questioned my friends about their parents’ marriages, almost as if I was collecting data for a research journal. Do they go on dates? What do they fight about? Do they disappear after they argue? Do you think they love each other? Do they sleep in the same bed? Do they sleep with weapons? Do they go on vacation together? Do they each have two cell phones? Or only one? Whose side are you on?
The permanence of vows “for better or for worse” was foreign to me, as I’ve only experienced the better after the worse… and worst. As I have outgrown searching for answers among peers, I’ve decided that, from my perception and experience, marriage has become very institutionalized, whether it may be marrying out of convenience or impulse, ill-intent or desperation. Marriage is supposed to be a unity of two people together through sickness and health and everything in between, and one is supposed to bind his or herself to a person in ways more than just legally.
Few people are introspective enough to ask themselves if they’re with the right person for the right reasons. We are not taught to think so deeply; instead, we are taught to find a partner we like and cross our fingers it lasts. The institutionalization of marriage has been birthed by a society that has deemed emotion and emotional connection less acceptable. We are conditioned to be constantly advancing in order to fulfill a societal expectation of staying one step ahead of our social clocks, ultimately shifting lifelong commitments into competitions.
That being said, my first and probably most important piece of advice seems to be common sense, but, as some may know, common sense isn’t a universally shared trait. I urge adults to first really create a stable foundation for a partnership for both marriage and parenthood. I know parents who settle on a partner just for the outlet to have kids, and I know parents who settle on a new partner for the sake of their kids. While sacrificing for your children seems like the ultimate selfless (and expected) thing to do, bringing them into an environment that is as unstable as it is forced is the exact opposite of sacrificial. Not only are they now involved in a relationship whose foundation is not one that is built to last, but it provides an unhealthy role model for their own future relationships.
For those who are already in a “sacrificial” relationship: while “sucking it up” and avoiding divorce may feel like the right thing to do, staying in an unhappy marriage is harmful both for you and your children. Not only does it put you in a difficult and maybe dangerous position, but it prevents you (and your spouse) from being fully present for your kids. Second – and I reiterate this point from the preceding paragraph – it teaches children to tolerate unhappy, inequitable, or even abusive marriages, which will be mirrored in their future friendships, partnerships, or relationships.
I challenge others as I challenge myself to cultivate connections – whether they’re platonic or romantic – as ones of authenticity and security. Every day I implement mindful purpose to create healthy and meaningful relationships that will benefit myself, my friends, and my future spouse. I know these relationships will ultimately provide constructive role models for my own children, with the future goal that they don’t have to do their own marital investigation for a reputable research journal.