Marriage is both a private commitment between two people and a public statement to the world that you are no longer walking through life by yourself. The public part often includes a ceremony where the audience commits to supporting the wedded couple in their new life together. A joyous celebration often follows.
While celebrations of divorce are gaining in popularity, divorce itself is often still considered a private matter between the spouses. Yes, couples realize their children will be impacted, but not much thought is given to other family members, mutual friends, acquaintances, or the community at large. Add in new partners, their children and extended families and the complications grow.
The Impact of Divorce
Think about some of the divorces you’ve been associated with. If it was yours or your parents’ divorce, you were directly impacted in very serious ways. Your financial status, where you lived, your emotional foundation all were disrupted in some way or another.
If a sibling, child, or good friend divorced, you probably felt somewhat caught in the middle. Or, worse, you may have actually been forced to choose sides. Many grandparents are cutoff from people who either are family–their grandchildren–or have become family–their sons/daughters-in-law. In these cases, they often end up “divorced” too.
There are even jokes made about who gets the mutual friends in a divorce settlement. But for the friends, it is no joke. It can be heart wrenching to have to stop being friends with someone you really care about. Toss in the recent evidence that divorce can be contagious and upon hearing the news that one of the couples in your circle is breaking up, your world can really be rocked.
Debbi Dickinson’s recent article, Why My Married Girlfriends Divorced Me, addresses this issue with friends from the point of view of the one getting divorced. This time of transition is scary for all of you. The anxiety you each feel plays out in ways none of you can imagine. You all have to face the demons around both who you are and what’s happening in your intimate relationships. Sometimes the friendships don’t survive.
One of the most challenging aspects in this situation is trying to figure out what, if anything, you can do that might help someone considering divorce. When you’re privy to the extreme pain present with this situation it’s hard to know what to do. It’s difficult to even identify what it is you’re reacting to. What’s more, you may wonder how you can even address your concerns about someone else’s life decision.
The biggest hurdle others face in referring clients to me is their discomfort with “interfering” in the personal lives of their friends and relatives. Even if you believe you can offer a different perspective, or you know they haven’t thought through the long-term implications to their children, you may not feel it’s your place to say a word. I mean, what gives you the right to butt in?
Vicki Larson discusses this point in Just How Private Should Divorce Be? There are studies that suggest not only is divorce “contagious”, it is also generational–adult children of divorce tend to divorce, too. There is a wide spread view among young people that marriage has become irrelevant, yet 90% of the population wants to be in a committed relationship. Can this disconnect be due to the easy acceptance of the “divorce culture” and the focus of personal happiness above all else?
On a list of life stressors, divorce ranks second, only below the death of a loved one. It ranks as a traumatic event in most people’s experience who have close knowledge of one. Divorce is like a stone dropped in a pond that ripples through lives. Its impact is felt on surrounding communities and the wider society as a whole.
The reason many wedding ceremonies ask friends and loved ones of the couple to promise to support the newlyweds is because of this greater impact. If marriage truly is just between the two partners, why ask for the commitment of support from the gathered community? If you made this promise of support, doesn’t that require you to step in? Is it truly none of your business if you can identify clear ways your life will be impacted by this action? After all, you’re not your brother’s keeper. Or are you?
If you’re concerned about your marriage being impacted by divorce, I invite you to have a conversation with me about how to face this dilemma head on. Call me at 1-919-924-0463 to schedule a free 1-hour consultation today or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a private discussion about how to make your marriage thrive!
I would love to hear from you. What do you think? Have you been negatively impacted by a divorce? Do you want to help a friend but don’t know how? Let me know in the comments below what your biggest questions and concerns about divorce are.
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- Divorce is a Decision Best Made Cold
- PreNups and PostNups and Marriage Insurance, Oh My!
Photo: David Castillo Dominici