Divorce is a bitter pill, especially after a long marriage. It’s a betrayal of vows, trust, family, and conscience. It can cause grief that is more challenging to deal with than death. Death has some finality to it that divorce lacks. Divorce is like a splinter left under the nail. It leaves you with scars.
In my family tree now, there’s a broken branch, a division that should never be. You can stop talking to your blood relatives, but it doesn’t change the fact that you are family. Divorce hacks off a familial limb. You lose your spouse and their side of the family. It becomes as if you never were family.
After divorce you go on with your lives, leaving behind the carcass of a bond that once was. In time, it will fade and turn to dust.
Even before I experienced divorce first-hand, I felt deep sadness when I would hear that someone was getting divorced. You don’t have to go through it to imagine the horror of it. In terms of grief, it has a lot in common with death.
There are some with stone hearts who are able to blow off a marriage easily. Some, even from the start. Most people are not that shallow. God help the person who loves deeply and marries a fool like that.
Pulling off a lifetime bond is a marvelous feat. There are those who manage it simply by co-existing. The wonders are those who still love each other til death parts them.
Jesus said marriage is a difficult endeavor. People have a hard enough time liking each other when forced to cooperate, let alone loving each other over a lifetime. It’s easy to get sick of someone, especially as the years go by and there seems to be nothing new left to discover. You’re so familiar with each other you can visualize how the other will play every situation. You finish each other’s sentences because you’ve heard it all before.
It’s not that there aren’t new things to discover. It’s just that you have carved out a very deep rut for yourselves. So, you spend less and less time doing things with and for each other, and more time separately, doing your own thing. Before you know it, you are in danger of having no real relationship, just a predictable passing of each other in the hall.
Sex is seldom discussed by Christians, but I’ll broach it. In a marriage as God intended it sex is a beautiful thing. Outside of that, it’s not. There are consequences that effect the marriage. Even within the contract as established by God, sex after twenty years is not as exciting as it was at the beginning. The road is well traveled and there’s no new scenery. It takes something far deeper to make sex meaningful. If you’re love relationship is in decline, your physical relationship will be doubly so. The first goes before the latter, if the latter was ever good at all.
Some would say that their love relationship faded because the physical relationship was unsatisfying. That may be the case, but I think that is a choice. A love relationship can be sustained in spite of a bad physical relationship. A strong physical relationship cannot be sustained without a good love relationship. Marriages that fail because the sex was bad also failed because the love wasn’t there. In fact, by definition, all marriages fail when the love isn’t there.
Love is a choice. It’s also an expression. The more you tangle with someone the less likely you are to express affection. Distance is created. The love choice starts to change. Every marriage has conflict. Jesus taught that in the eyes of God this conflict can and should be overcome. He only allotted for marital unfaithfulness as an exemption; when it cannot be reconciled by the wronged partner. It’s a shame we fail much more than that, but not a surprise. That’s why Jesus agreed when his disciples said, “In that case, it’s better not to marry.” But we do. And we will.