Some Thoughts on Divorce and Children

The other day, an acquaintance said to me “I didn’t know Mormons could get divorced.” It stopped me short, but I recovered quickly. Yes, Mormons can and do get divorced. The general impression is that we do it with less frequency than the broader population, but if you look at the numbers, we are nearly equal. There is some discussion to be had on those numbers and how the Church counts them- a civil divorce is still a temple sealing, and a second temple marriage after a civil divorce counts as two marriages but if the first sealing was not broken, as zero divorces. Parse that out however you like, but it seems when the cold hard numbers are looked at, we are divorcing only slightly less than the non-Mormon population.

Part of me likes that we are perceived as having more stable marriages, and part of me pays the price for that perception within my own community. There is a stigma, being divorced in our wards and communities— it sometimes feels like a fear of contagion. As a church and often as a people, we focus with such myopic intensity on The Family, and on our preferable idealized version of such, there can be a bit of a kickback when a family changes its dynamic and arrangement. It’s human nature to withdraw from that which we fear, and when we watch a friend’s marriage break apart, it’s harder to hide the cracks in our own lives and marriages, and  we wonder, maybe subconsciously, at our own immunity. It’s scary.

At the moment, I have three separate sets of LDS friends who are navigating the choppy waters of divorce. All three are radically different circumstances, all three are vastly painful, and all three are temple marriages between decent people. No one ever wants this to happen— I don’t care who is involved or who initiates the process, it sucks. Anyone who tosses platitudes about how divorce is “taking the easy way out” or “giving up” is an inconsiderate fool.  While every divorce is different, I guaran-damn-tee you, it wasn’t a decision entered into lightly, with any degree of casualness, nor on the fly. It never “just happens”, despite comfortable or popular blame narratives. There is always— always always always— years of pain and hidden struggle, despite how things may look from the outside.

Despite a divorce and a substantial reorganization, my family, my children, are not broken. What my children and I experienced in our divorce— albeit, atypical of most divorces, LDS or not— was not just the loss of a husband and a father, but the literal loss of home, safety, financial support, family and any shred of security. Most children, mercifully, will never have to go through that, even in a divorce; but I want to yell from the rooftops, with a big Moroni trumpet, that the ones who might (mine) can and do turn into fine, well-adjusted, happy and healthy young people.

It just takes time.

Jeffrey will be eleven in two weeks. He has the most memories of the last few years, and the vocabulary and maturity to express himself- and he does. In the car the other day, we were talking, and Jeffrey wondered aloud at how his friends are feeling. I asked him who he was thinking of, and he rattled off the names of the kids who’s parent’s are divorcing, and added “I remember then, when it was new, and it was scary and hard.”

I was quiet, hoping he would add something further. I find if I give him room, sometimes he is able to find more he needs to say. “How about now?” I gently ask.

He leans his head back on the seat and looks for a bit out the window before turning to me. “Now it’s so much better, mom. I’m happy. I wish I could show my friends that. I don’t want them to be scared. Things are SO much better.”

I teared up, and put my arm around my giant kid. With the pain we went through, the upheaval, the constant struggle, the mom being in school year-round, the extra responsibility placed on his too-young shoulders— this is the truth. He is happy. He knows he is loved, and he has the compassion and ability to empathize with those he cares about and try and share it.

It’s not that I recommend divorce as a way of forcing growth- that would be absurd. If there is a way to happily and healthily hold a family together, or course it’s preferred. In my case, that wasn’t possible. But we do need to change the narrative— sometimes, as counterintuitive as it might seem, divorce actually is choosing the better part. Know that if you’re facing divorce, or someone you love is, it’s truly not the end of the world. In fact, it may be the opening of a whole new world, one you didn’t know or plan for, but one that might hold happiness you never expected to find.

I know that my children are better off and happier than if I had sacrificed us on the altar of “staying together no matter what”. I know this— it’s one of the benefits of believing and knowing the power of personal revelation. The idea of staying together “for the kids” is fraught with pitfalls; what a heavy burden to lay upon your children. Two miserable people cannot raise happy children who know how to build healthy lives.  Ironically (or perhaps not) my relationship with my ex-husband is better and healthier now than it would have been if we had stayed married. Getting divorced freed us from the expectations of the other, and allowed us to be who we wanted and to remember what we liked about each other, and not be swallowed in disappointment and pain. He’s my friend again.

This enables both of us to be productive and healthy parents, in ways that were likely blocked to us had we bypassed our own spirits and happiness in order to present the world an idealized imagine of The Family. We might have held onto the white picket fence and the big house, but what was inside that pretty house would have been crushed and sick from the weight of appearances mattering more than soul. I don’t give a damn what the neighbors think or what my divorce does to the statistics. Had we stayed together, I would have been a miserably unhappy woman, and he would have continued to turn to unhealthy means to cope with the weight of that unhappiness- his, and mine. Nothing will ever convince me that raising children in that environment would have been healthier— emotionally, spiritually or temporally— than what we have now.

Let’s change the narrative, let’s change the picture of a healthy family to include those of us who had to make hard choices that might not have matched up with the cover of the Ensign. Allow that if you know someone traversing this rocky shore, you probably don’t know the whole story, and if there is anything you can do take the edge from the rocks, do it. Err on the side of love and forgiveness. Embrace, don’t fear, the families in transition, and know that their path, while perhaps not  yours, is just as valid. All families are valuable to the body of Christ.

Comments

  1. THANK YOU! Bravo! I think the stigma of divorce sometimes weighs more heavily within our community and it breaks my heart. Divorce is not easy nor should it be taken lightly but staying for the sake of staying is not enough. It took me years to get out of a situation I could have walked out of in the early months but I hesitated. I was afraid and thought maybe it was part of the newly wed stage. Now, when I encounter others in my past situation, I don’t encourage divorce but I also share my story with them in the hopes that they can avoid the heartache my son and I went through.

  2. Beautiful. It took 4 years for my divorce to be final even though we had no children and no assets. It was a long, hard, 4 years. When it was finally over I had such a mix of emotions that I didn’t know what to think at all. My status as a divorced woman enabled me to not have to attend a Singles Ward, but attending a family ward as a young divorced woman was lousy with complications and stares and tongue clucking.

    I never judge people for being divorced because I know that sometimes it is the only way obviously from my own experience. I had said this just the other day, but many people are under the impression that it is too easy to get divorced and that is why the rates are so high. I couldn’t agree less. It is too easy to get married, imo.

    Glad your son is handling it well and that as you said he can empathize with his young friends.

  3. I am glad to see that your family is healing, and glad that you and your ex are friends again. You deserve the healing after all the pain you have been through.

  4. I know this wasn’t the thrust of the post, but I’ve heard it argued before that divorce is never entered into lightly and the argument bothers me. I understand that people who have been through a divorce want to emphasize that *they* didn’t do it lightly. And I don’t accuse them of doing so. I’ve seen divorces tear people up inside. But I’ve also seen it done lightly. Not from afar, just random people in my ward. I’ve seen it in my family, my close family. My siblings and parents and grandparents and my husband’s siblings and parents. It seems everyone in my family gets divorced at least once and there is a lot of variety. Some of them struggle for years and finally leave. Like the wife who finally couldn’t deal with her husband’s drinking. Often the husband decides to leave his wife once the kids are grown to marry his girlfriend. That always leads to a second divorce. But sometimes there isn’t a lot of struggling going on. Once a husband left on a vacation and then called his wife (of like 18 months) to let her know he’d moved in with someone else and wouldn’t be coming home. Another marriage lasted 8 months before the wife decided she’d rather live with her parents, who were much wealthier than her husband, and have the things she was used to getting. Incidentally, the engagement leading up to a rather lavish wedding was 14 months. This is wrong. Some of these people didn’t choose the better part. They turned their backs on their family obligations because they didn’t feel like keeping up with commitments they had made.

  5. Wonderful essay. Growth happens wherever we are — it is the response to the trials of life, whether they come by means of a divorce or an illness or a family that reunites or countless other variations.

    Your comment that folks don’t enter into divorce lightly and that it is not the easy way out is certainly true. Kudos to you for helping your kids find their way through it over time. And kudos to you for being still enough to let your child share his feelings. That’s something I need to be much better at.

  6. Anonymous says:

    An interesting and informative description of divorce and it’s impact on children and those involved. It doesn’t tell the whole story, but it does give one experience. The pain of it will be there forever, even if it does get buried or rationalized away. There is one part that confuses me. though. “Getting divorced freed us from the expectations of the other, and allowed us to be who we wanted and to remember what we liked about each other, and not be swallowed in disappointment and pain. He’s my friend again.” Could you please explain this and why couldn’t it have occurred inside the marriage with some give and take. I have been on both sides of this, as a child many years ago, and as a spouse that was cast off. You have started an interesting discussion, both on how it is viewed from within and without, and what the results can be. Thank you.

  7. This is something of a difficult topic for me.

    My ex-wife and I separated a week after our first anniversary, and our divorce was finalized almost 8 months later.

    There were a number of causes behind out divorce, but the principle one was that she decided that she just didn’t want to be married anymore. (The was exacerbated by her long history of depression, the stress of her mother being diagnosed with breast cancer, and my being unemployed for 2 months because I had to walk out on my previous employer when they wouldn’t pay me.)

    I was fortunate to have a very loving and supportive ward at the time, and it made all the difference for me. My Bishop called me to be a Temple Service Patron (called to attend the Temple at least twice a month). This was an incredible blessing to me, as it helped me to recenter myself as I faced that challenge.

    Fortunately, in our case, we didn’t have any children, nor had we been sealed in the Temple (she was baptized shortly after our wedding, after investigating the Church since before I first met her and we got engaged three years earlier). But, that didn’t make it any “easier”.

    I still had years of guilt and readjustment after the divorce. Just over two years after it was final, I met my wife, and six months later we were sealed in the Temple. We now have 1.8 kids (a son and a soon-to-be daughter coming next month), but even today (more than 5 years after the divorce) I still feel many of the lingering effects. I’ve fully accepted that I did what I could to save the marriage, and I’ve tried my best to apply the Atonement in my life to help where I failed, but that doesn’t wash away all of the effects. I know that marriage may have failed, but that doesn’t mean that I was a failure, but I still worry about how I may fail in the future.

    In the end, though, I am grateful for the experience, because in many ways it helped prepare me for the family I have today. I wish there had been other, less painful ways for me to learn those lessons, but I am grateful for how it improved me as a person, as a husband, a priesthood holder, and prepared me to be a better father.

  8. NewlyHousewife says:

    Cowgirl, I don’t think you know the full picture. The wife who couldn’t deal with her husband’s drinking–have you ever been around an angry drunk? It’s not pleasant. The husband that leaves his wife after the kids are grown to live with his girlfriend–he’s been cheating on his wife for years prior to that, and she went along with it because it’s part of The Family. The husband that left and moved in with someone else after 18 months of marriage–you have no idea how hard those 18 months were. Chances are they were fighting 24/7. The wife that moved in with her wealthier parents after 8 months of marriage–no matter how long the engagement, no matter how much you think you know someone, you don’t know the full picture til you’re married to them.

    You may think they’ve chosen ‘the easy way’, but I don’t.

  9. Fabulous post. I must say that I believe that posts like this one demonstrate the great value of the Bloggernacle. I imagine that every divorce is at least painfully unexpected. Post like this can help me to not feel so alone when I feel weighed down by my life’s own nasty little surprises. It reminds me about the nature of nasty surprises, like eating some fruit only to discover very unexpected consequences. What has impressed me recently is that, as members, our role is extending compassion to others. We can allow stewards to judge, hopefully in righteousness, love, and compassion. But for us, the equals, the non-stewards, we get to respect the opacity of others and simply extend compassion. In mortality, where we are all learning to expect the unexpected, or at least to learn faith when the Lord’s path for us zigs instead of zags, posts like this illustrate for me how to be compassionate amidst painful insecurities.

  10. NewlyHousewife says:

    Tracy M, the link you’ve provided had this in it:

    “These rules have since been changed so that men and women are now treated equally regarding temple divorces. If either a man or woman had been sealed once they cannot be sealed again while their former temple spouse is alive, without first requesting and receiving a cancellation of earlier sealings.”

    Does anyone know if this is true?

  11. it's a series of tubes says:

    “These rules have since been changed so that men and women are now treated equally regarding temple divorces. If either a man or woman had been sealed once they cannot be sealed again while their former temple spouse is alive, without first requesting and receiving a cancellation of earlier sealings.”

    Does anyone know if this is true?

    Current CHI, Book 1, 3.5.4: “A member who has been sealed to a spouse may remarry after the spouse’s death or following a divorce or annulment. A member’s divorce proceedings must be final according to law before he or she may remarry.

    Worthy members in these circumstances may also be sealed according to the guidelines in 3.6.”

    excerpt from 3.6: “Sealing of Living Members after Divorce
    Women. A living woman may be sealed to only one husband. If she is sealed to a husband and later divorces, she must receive a cancellation of that sealing from the First Presidency before she may be sealed to another man in her lifetime (see “Applying for a Cancellation of Sealing or a Sealing Clearance” below).

    Men. If a husband and wife have been sealed and later divorced, the man must receive a sealing clearance from the First Presidency before another woman may be sealed to him (see “Applying for a Cancellation of Sealing or a Sealing Clearance” below). A sealing clearance is necessary even if (1) the previous sealing has been canceled or (2) the divorced wife is now deceased”

  12. Thank you for sharing this post. I wish there were more statistics on members and divorce. I was recently talking to a friend (we’re both BYU students) about students who we either have known, or have heard about, who married young and were divorced within 2 years, in some cases still as students. She told me about a couple that are getting married next week that have known each other for a couple months. Sometimes the young man, while on a self-righteous trip, makes her cry, but she is still going to marry him because she really wants to get married. I know this is a different issue than what you are talking about, but I wonder if we were more educated about divorce in the Church, both in terms of what you have shared and with statistics, young singles would be learn to be more cautious entering marriage.

    Just to drive my point home, last semester I took a marriage and family prep course. The teacher shared a list of issues that contribute to real hardship in marriage. Within that list were things such as getting married young, not spending a lot of time away from home before getting married, not being financially secure before getting married, and a few others. One of the students asked, “Isn’t that what we’re taught to do?” There is something really tragic about this.

  13. Snyderman says:

    In a class I took as a college freshman in 2005, we talked about how the two factors that correlated most highly with divorce were: 1) age of the woman, and 2) age of the man. The younger the people getting married were, the more likely they were to divorce.

    I’ve heard this statistic a number of times since then, so I imagine it’s still true, but never have I heard it in a Church setting (though to be fair, I did go to BYU). I am now an unmarried 26yo, and in my now five years since returning from my mission have never heard one leader praise me for waiting to get married, despite the correlation. However, it has been implied more times than I can count that I am sinning in not having gotten married yet. To be fair, I don’t know that it’s ever been explicitly stated that I’m sinning, but it has been explicitly stated that I’m at the very least doing something wrong (even if it’s not technically sinful).

    Anyway, thank you for this post. I think we need to start talking more openly and honestly about divorce in the Church, as we are now affected by it as much as those outside the Church. It’s a real problem that deserves real discussion.

  14. Amen and amen.

  15. I think the language we use is huge. “Broken family” needs to be banished from our lexicon.

    My sister told me that being divorced is the new leprosy within the church. Why is that? Why after enduring abuse, cheating and finally abandonment is she the one left to feel like the leper from members of our faith?

  16. My parents are now embarking upon the road toward divorce after many many years of marriage. My mom is finally escaping years of emotional abuse and control that was very well hidden. My dad is playing the victim at church and with friends and family. Now my mom is becoming a social pariah in her ward of 15 years, where she served faithfully and cheerfully. How could *she* leave him? How could she break her covenants? I don’t even want to mention what her bishop told her when she counseled with him. It was disappointing to say the least. Nobody seems to understand that emotional abuse IS breaking covenants in and of itself. Sacrificing herself for covenants that were not well kept in the first place is not what our doctrine is or should be about and threatening to take away her temple recommend seemed completely counter-productive to me.
    I’m not a fan of divorce. I dont’ think anyone is. But there are times when it is needed to wipe a slate clean. My mom has the strongest testimony of anyone I know. She did not take her decision lightly – it took her MANY years to make it. It is quite wonderful to see her countenance change so quickly as she is taking charge of her life. She now comes home to a peaceful home where she can feel the spirt – something she admits she NEVER felt in her home in all her years of marriage. I would agree with the little boy quoted above – it is SO much better. Separation, and eventually divorce, will actually help her to live the gospel more fully, as backwards as that sounds.
    Now if i could figure out what kind of relationship I’m supposed to have with my dad…

  17. Anonymous says:

    Snyderman:
    When I married my 2nd wife, I learned a very valuable lesson. It seems that the very best are often overlooked during the “marrying years”. If anyone tries to make you feel inferior, or a sinner, the sin lies with them not you. Our culture has men often locked in a lifestyle that makes women objects rather than people with brains. Keep what you know to be true and be true to yourself. You will come out the winner.

  18. A lot of good comments here.

    I’ll start with Cowgirl: I agree with NewlyHousewife- there is no way you know the whole story on anyone. None of us do. You may observe folks in your ward in what seem like casual splits, but you’re wrong. That was part of the whole thrust of my post. I guarantee, you don’t know everything, and thinking you do from observation is preposterous.

    The truth is, we all bumble and mess up in a million ways. It’s not for any of us to rank the mess we make and decide who is more culpable. Ours is the task of forgiveness and humility and charity. And, even if, against all odds, someone were casual about divorce? Still not my job to judge and sit in condemnation.

    Paul: Why couldn’t we have done that within our marriage? Complicated answer, but I anticipated the question. For me, my ex-husband is an addict. He’s in recovery now, but he had to lose everything to hit rock bottom, and that meant all of us. He had difficulty holding down work, and is not terribly stable. Because I am no longer dependent on him to be the provider, I can look upon him with kindness now, and great forgiveness of his broken parts. I have mine too. It would be easy to blame him for our divorce- after all, narcotics addiction is one of the acceptable narratives for a woman, and makes it easy to feel bad for me. But that’s a cop out, too. We are all culpable. It’s easier to pin on him- but it’s just as wrong.

    WE chose this route, and it’s not our job to justify the deeply personal pain and tearing that got us here- that’s my point, when looking at anyone. Trust them to have made what is likely the most painful decision of their lives with some degree of solemnity. Try not to ask them to justify to anyone, besides God. Love them.

    itsaseriesoftubes & NewlyHousewife- that means that a man can still be sealed, with clearance, to a second wife, when civilly divorced from the first. We don’t widely publicize that, but it’s true. I personally know men who are sealed to more than one living woman.

    David F- yes. I think it’s not too easy to get divorced, speaking from exprerience. But I do think marriage is entered into with much to little solemnity and preparation, all too often. It’s so easy to get married.

    kc- agreed.

  19. JA Benson says:

    “Let’s change the narrative, let’s change the picture of a healthy family to include those of us who had to make hard choices that might not have matched up with the cover of the Ensign. Allow that if you know someone traversing this rocky shore, you probably don’t know the whole story, and if there is anything you can do take the edge from the rocks, do it. Err on the side of love and forgiveness. Embrace, don’t fear, the families in transition, and know that their path, while perhaps not yours, is just as valid. All families are valuable to the body of Christ.”

    Amen! and Lovely! Tracy, thank you for your thought-provoking post. Very well said.

  20. “Sacrificing herself for covenants that were not well kept in the first place is not what our doctrine is or should be about” Unfortunately, I think that is the message many of us recieved that we SHOULD be doing. Sacrificing everything, proving ourselves worthy during our Abrahamic trials.

    Maybe it was just me, but I was a full grown woman before I realized that I had been taught wrong and it was okay to find my own happiness. That God didn’t require me to put it on the alter of an abusive husband or 12 children or just in constantly trying to make everyone else around me happy. Hopefully things have changed but as a child and young woman I got the message loud and clear – my happiness would come in the next life if I gave it all up now to “serve” someone else.

    I’m just sorry it took me so long to call BS.

    Tracy, I’m glad your son feels better. We all have tough times and emotional baggage, and yours is no more a “sin” than anyone else’s.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Tracy, re#18

    Men cannot be sealed to more than 1 living woman. Someone violated the rules if it exists. I went through this process and so have many others I have met.

  22. I agree that we should get rid of terms like “broken family.” But my friends who are divorced are the most likely to use such terms. When I try to assure them that they are equals, just as good a family as any out there, some get angry. Apparently it comes off as condescending. Advice on *how* to assure them that we really and sincerely consider their families just as healthy?

  23. Snyderman says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Anonymous. Most of the time I just smile and nod and go on doing exactly what you advocate (effectively ignoring them). Looking back now, I am so happy I didn’t marry in the 1-2 years following my mission. I wasn’t really myself until later and I think it would have been a huge mistake to have gotten married during that time. At least for me.

    The question facing me now is how to know whether the girl I’m currently dating is one I could marry. Is she someone I could stay true to forever? What evidence can I even look at to determine that? To what extent is my staying in love with her on me and to what extent is it on her? Is thinking about it in those terms even okay or should I only focus on myself and making sure that I stay true?

    And I could go on. I’m increasingly of the opinion that the only way to truly know the answer to questions like this is by marrying the person; I just don’t want her to have cause to write a blog post like this, poignant though it is.

    But then, I’m kind of threadjacking the OP. The real question posed here is how to change the discussion/narrative around those that are divorcing/have divorced so that they are treated as equal members. For surely that is exactly what they are.

  24. Unless things have changed in the last 9 months – a woman can also be sealed to more than one man. The catch is she and her ex-husbands all need to have passed away. My mother is trying to get me or my brothers to seal her to her first husband after she dies… .

  25. I think this must be a ward level deal. In some wards you are treated no differently if you are divorced, and in others you are worse than a pariah. I imagine it is probably worse if you live in a ward and are divorcing and continue to stay in that ward. My husband was a non-member so I was at least spared that drama.

    Snyderman, you will have to marry her to find out I reckon. If you want my advice I would only say don’t rush into it, ask the hard questions before engagement, don’t discount women over 25, and do all you can to foster healthy communication habits. That in no way means you won’t get divorced, but it will mean you went in with open eyes, and did all you can. Good luck since I know the boat you are in since I am single as well and trying to find a good egg that suits me. :)

  26. “To what extent is my staying in love with her on me and to what extent is it on her? ”
    — one of the leading marriage counselors in the U.S., Dr. William Harley, states that it is 100% YOUR responsibility to keep/make your spouse in love with you.

    So, it’s your responsibility to make sure your wife loves you. It is her responsibility to make sure you keep loving her. There is a lot more to it, but that philosophy works very well. After 17 years of marriage my wife and I have been attending marriage counseling – not because anything was terribly wrong, but things were getting too comfortable AND we found out our Stake President and current bishop are both in marriage counseling as a way to make the marriage even stronger.

  27. I call BS. It is impossible to make someone stay in love with you. The only person you can make love you is yourself. You can keep romance alive, etc etc but you cannot make someone love you.

  28. #18 Tracy, was this: “Paul: Why couldn’t we have done that within our marriage? Complicated answer,” in response to my comment #5? I think maybe it’s for Anonymous #6. (I certainly didn’t intend to question your choices or your outcomes, but rather to admire your lessons learned and acknowledge that I had something to learn from you.)

  29. #26 – It’s the responsibility of each spouse to strive to love the other – and to love him/herself. Nothing in this post says otherwise.

    I can’t make someone love me, and I can’t make them stay in love with me. That philosophy keeps people (disproportionately women) in abusive relationships and ruins self-esteem – which perpetuates a vicious cycle. It allows terrible spouses to justify their behavior and shift the blame if love dies as a result.

    This topic (divorce) needs to be discussed much more openly, comprehensively and realistically in the Chuch. I agree with the ideal, but we simply have to acknowledge reality and nurture and love everyone within their reality.

  30. “He leans his head back on the seat and looks for a bit out the window before turning to me. ‘Now it’s so much better, mom. I’m happy. I wish I could show my friends that. I don’t want them to be scared. Things are SO much better.'”

    That is so profound. Thank you, Tracy, for sharing it.

    If an 11-year-old can understand this, why can’t adults?

    I understand the effect fear can have on married people who read about divorce, but why can’t we admit that people really can be happy outside of what we see as the ideal? I know the implications of that understanding on other assumptions we hold so dear, but isn’t that the heart of the Atonement of Jesus Christ – that we who are living far from the ideal still can “have joy” in our imperfect realities?

  31. “Two miserable people cannot raise happy children who know how to build healthy lives.”

    Amen Amen Amen.

  32. MCQ I will add my Amens as well.

  33. Yeah, I call BS too- the notion of my being responsible for making anyone love me is a notion rife for abuse. No frakking way- what I _can_ do is be the best person I can be, be kind, loving, respectful, and compassionate to myself and others. Hopefully the partner I choose does the same. But the idea that it’s MY responsibility to MAKE him? Preposterous. And terribly, unrighteously misguided.

    Paul, you might be right. Sorry!

  34. Sharee Hughes says:

    #24 Nebraska. You are right. A deceased woman who has been married more than once can be sealed to all of her deceased husbands and ex-husbands. When my mother’s older sister died, we had her sealed to both her ex-husband (who was the father of her children, and the man she had been married to for many years (and who predeceased her by a couple of years). We just need to remember that only one of those sealings will be valid in the next life.

  35. Annonymous #21- read the handbook language more carefully. It says a man must receive a sealing _clearance_, it does not say a _cancellation_ as it does for the women.

  36. Sharee Hughes says:

    I am divorced myself, and, although I struggle financially, I am so much better off. I was only married for 3 years, but it was, for the most part, a miserable 3 years. I hated the idea of divorce, as it made me feel like a failure. I fasted and prayed for a long while before I made the decision to ask my husband for a divorce. I felt that Lord had inspired me to do so. When I told my bishop, he said God would never tell me to divorce, but, after the fact, when he saw how much happier I was, he said that maybe the Lord wanted me to divorce so I could find a worthy man to marry in the temple (my ex was not a member). Well, that hasn’t happened yet, and I have been divorced for 41 years, but at least he was willing to admit that my divorce may have had divine sanction. Our Heavenly Father does not want his children to be miserable.

  37. Meldrum the Less says:

    I don’t know much about divorce having never been there. I’ve been married for about 3 decades and I can’t say I know very much about that either. I am anxious to provide any help or advise to my college-age children although I suspect they will make their own decisions, based more upon what they see than what I say.

    Marriage is like a market place. Divorce is like an extreme form of buyers regret to the point of reversing the purchase even when it really is going to hurt. Although difficult to define there is sort of a social status ladder that drives the decision to marry but not so much the decision to divorce. One single young woman who lived with us a few years back agreed completely with this model and claimed you could measure this social status easily in the singles ward; in women with a bathroom scale, and in men with a wallet biopsy.

    Notice the song: “It’s summer time and the livin’ is easy.
    Your daddy is rich and your manna good looking.” Not the other way around.

    If we had transparent ways of assessing real marital suitability and equal numbers of men and women at each level it would be a simple matter for people to seek out those of similar station.( Rich guys and skinny girls, middle income guys and normal girls, poor guys and plump girls.Just kidding.) But what is valuabale to one is not valuable to another. Our social ladder becomes multidimensional and it is never easy. Of greater significance, distorting most other considerations, is the fact that the numbers are not equal.

    I estimate that the ratio is about 5/8 single LDS women to 3/8 single LDS men.

    A simplistic model of a statistical average singles ward would divide the women into 5 grades of 20% each and the men into 3 grades of 33% each. The people in the top grade would tend to marry each other, The second and third grades the same and the bottom 2 grades of women would not marry, within the group anyway.

    This forces most women to marry down if they marry in the church. Women in the middle grade are marrying men in the bottom third. And since the bathroom scale does not measure anything that even remotely has anything to do with future marital success, a whole lot of deserving women are hampered if not excluded from marriage and those who do marry are not assessing the right features of future partners. Then inspite of heroic effort it can not be made to work in too many instances and then we blame the woman (or both).

    I know the causes of every individual divorce are complex and divergent from any model. But his demographic problem I submit is at the bottom of why so many women find themselves in specific marital circumstances that are impossible to tolerate.

    The solution to this problem is:
    1. Better methods to assess marital compatibility. (Why waiting a few years leads to less divorce)
    2. Keeping more young men in the mix and even out that 5/8 to 3/8 ratio.
    3. Or accept that 40% of the women will not marry in the church if at all.

    These three basic facts suggest potential solutions that might change the demographics and make it easier for more people to be in a position to make a marriage work.

    # 1 is the hardest and most important; we need to make certain our YM/YW programs function better and that our dating practices do a better job of allowing people to get to know each other better. There might have been a woman out there who could have been happy with the guy you dumped, hard as that might be to believe. Everyone believes the corollary, there definitely was a guy out there you did not marry who would have made you happy. J Golden Kimbal said: “Go to the temple with both eyes open and leave with both eyes closed.” How to open our eyes?

    Another approach would be to seek ways to improve the set of skills that enhance marriage success in all of our youth. (Advising girls to lose weight is precisely not what I mean.) More along the lines of developing better communication skills, more sensitivity etc. Float every boat higher. More likelihood of compatibility and successes. An obvious suggestion.

    #2 I have a wild idea. The LDS mission experience is great for the 20-30% of guys who go. But it drives too many other decent guys out of the equation. We need to allow a young man to honorably not serve a mission and still be completely eligible for marriage. Realize the alternative is for most women to “marry down.” Currently the mission is a deal-breaker for too many young women. The mission also blinds some naive women into thinking- if he is a RM he will be a good husband. When in fact his companions could all tell you what a rotten husband he will be. The greater question remains, how to get more good young men back in the church and into the marriage market.

    #3 We could be more accomodating of interdenominational marriages. Currently LDS wards are not a very good place for a non-member spouce who is never going to convert. I’m not convinced that an LDS woman improves her marketability that much by going outside the church, where the bathroom scale might be replaced by a stop watch measuring quickness at jumping into the fornication bed. I guess we could tolerate that if it resulted in decent marriages? I honestly don’t know if premarital relations are as bad as we are taught: Most of my good non-LDS friends with solid marriages were sexually intimate with their wife before marriage and with generally a small number of other women. But they don’t want their kids following that dangerous path. At least until college. (It becomes impossible to keep high school kids from imitating their college siblings and peers.) But if we superchaste Mormons are divorcing at almost the same rate as our less chaste peers in the world and marrying less frequently, then what is the point?

    Would it be better if we had more marriages across equal social status instead of down, a few more divorces because of a little bit more tolerance of sexual experimentation? Is that even possible?

    I don’t mean to be insensitive to the people who have been divorced but I am thinking of our chldren.

  38. Re: #21. I am my husband’s second wife (this is my first marriage). He was civilly divorced from his first wife. When we wanted to get married/sealed, he applied for a cancellation of his first sealing. The cancelation of his first sealing was denied, but he was granted clearance to be sealed to me. We were told that because his ex-wife did not write a letter (she refused to do so), his request for a cancellation would not be considered. Thus, he was given “clearance” to be sealed to me. This occurred in 2007. So, in fact, men can be sealed to more than one living woman, I am proof, and I assure we went through all the proper channels.

    After reading the OP now I’m wondering if keeping his first sealing in tact, despite the wishes of those involved, is a way to “pad the numbers”. Oh, I hope not! I think it already feels rotten enough to know your husband is still sealed to a woman living a few miles down the road! I know this is not the point of this wonderful, well-written, important OP, but I wanted to clarify #21.

  39. I can’t help thinking divorced people feel more stigma than there really is. I’m sure this varies from ward to ward, and clearly there must be exceptions, but times have changed and there’s a lot of divorces out there. From my not-divorced perspective, I think most of us take divorces at face value, have no interest in establishing blame, and would prefer if divorced people would quit explaining how bad their ex was in their effort to gain an equal status they already have. Sometimes it’s almost as though divorced people assume I’m judging them and feel they can then judge me back — I’m judgmental and insensitive when I fail to consider their circumstances, or patronizing when I do.

    I think I can understand the feeling of failure that comes from having a failed marriage, especially in a family church, but I’m convinced most of the judging is being done by oneself, not by others. Rather than tell people to quit using the term “broken home”, shouldn’t we just recognize the home was indeed broken, but maybe it happened long before the divorce? And so what if your family doesn’t match the cover of the Ensign? I work out, but my physique doesn’t match the cover of Sports Illustrated either. Doesn’t mean the cover has to change or that I can’t be proud of what I am.

  40. Martin I cannot disagree with you more. There is plenty plenty judging going on. Maybe you aren’t the one doing it, and that’s good, but it is no indication that it is all in divorced peoples’ heads.

  41. Martin, I think you might be right about many specific people in particular wards. But the _general_ condemnation of divorce is so intense and so pervasive that it’s hard not to feel judged, even if the speaker saying “no other success can compensate for failure in the home” isn’t looking at you or even thinking of you when she says it. This happens in my ward–everyone is very kind to me, and I don’t think they are necessarily judgmental about my divorce. But when we have lessons on marriage, and everyone talks about how much work it takes to keep your marriage going, or how any two righteous Latter-day Saints can have a good marriage, or whatever, it’s hard not to hear that as implicit criticism, even where it isn’t intended. Yes, we all need to grow thicker skin, but it would also really help to ratchet down the rhetoric.

  42. And on top of what Kristine said, we have, hanging on nearly every member’s wall, a Proclamation declaring children have the _right_ to be reared by a mother and father who honor their marriage vows… Yes, there is lip-service given to extenuating circumstances- but we are not allowed to forget for one moment that we are the exception.

    People are nice to me. I don’t feel judged by my friends and ward members, as individuals. But when those people who love me get up and give (yet another) lesson on not failing in the home, on the importance of temple marriage, and all the things Kristine mentioned- the criticism eats away at you, intended or not. Every Sunday we are reminded that we are different, that we are somehow less than the ideal measuring stick for success in our church. After all, no success in the world can compare to failure in the home. Ad nauseum.

    Also of note- someone in this very thread felt comfortable asking why I wasn’t able to try harder and work more towards my marriage, if my ex-husband and I are friends now. The implication is that I didn’t do enough, and in the church, we are comfortable, as a people, making such assumptions about others. I shouldn’t have to constantly justify how hard I tried. And I don’t have to— anywhere but in church. That is the direct result of the rhetoric being so pervasive.

  43. Martin, I cannot agree with you more. When people feel bad about themselves or their situations they often feel like they are being judged by everyone around them, when, in fact, they are not.

  44. Brian are you sure that it is “in fact”?

  45. IMO there is no ‘failure in the home’ if I have done the best I can, in either raising children that ‘go astray’ or, in trying to save a marriage that ends in divorce. And only I and God know what my ‘best effort’ is. No one else can judge that nor should they. I agree with Tracy and others about feeling judged at times As a mother (who feels I did the best I could) with adult children who have ‘gone astray’ I have not appreciated those church talks/lessons that made the main focus ‘no other success can compensate for failure in the home’. That term, IMO, is open to wide interpretation in regards to just what constitutes failure. When I am feeling vulnerable I tune the speaker/teacher out and for many years I avoided church on Mother’s Day.

  46. Reading some of the comments, I see another evidence of our mistaken fetishization of family, even above our salvation. We teach with relentless focus about “not failing” our families, working in helpful reminders in every possible venue, with little time or energy left to focus in any depth on teaching the basics of the gospel. Our teaching of the fundamentals of salvation (Christ’s ministry, the atonement, faith, repentance, our baptism covenants and living by the Spirit) is, by comparison, pitifully shallow. Those fundamentals lift us all more or less equally, partly because it requires that we all face the reality of our own brokenness. The Gospel of the Forever Family enables us to make a lot of misguided distinctions about who’s broken and who’s not.

    I know a few divorced parents who are beyond heroic in not failing their families, and Tracy is one of them.

  47. I have yet to read a comment from a divorced member who says Tracy is wrong in anything she wrote.

    Just saying.

  48. Ray, for at least one, that is because she sees no value in picking pointless fights. Not because she agrees with the viewpoint.

  49. Mark Brown says:

    SilverRain, it is possble to have a different viewpoint without picking a pointless fight. FYI.

  50. Divorce is as different as people are, and no two people/couples experience it the same way. However, I found the themes in the OP to ring true with the divorced people I know as well as with myself. Does that mean everyone has it the same? No. Does it mean the OP is not correct in her assertions either? No. As per usual I agree with Mark Brown.

  51. Apparently I have been misinterpreted. I thought I wrote clearly the first time, but here is a clarification anyway.

    @NewlyHousewife: I didn’t say the wife who walked out on the drunk husband was taking the easy way out. That was the best thing for her to do. I was listing examples of the wide variety of circumstances. Some of which ended in divorces that were lightly decided on.

    @TracyM: As I stated NONE of those were examples from my ward. They were ALL examples from mine and my husband’s immediate family. Not distance cousins. Our family. So maybe I have some idea of what was going on.

  52. Mark Brown, I agree wholeheartedly, so long as the other person is willing. And in my experience, that is quite rare. I believe that Tracy needs this space to vent her viewpoint. I’m willing to respect that.

    But I don’t want Ray or others to extrapolate that just because no one dares (or feels compelled) to violate Tracy’s space, that she speaks for all divorced people on ANY level.

  53. Now I’ve had a moment to calm down. I read through the responses to my comment and was a little angry. Tracy M, you objected in your post to the generalization that people who get divorced weren’t trying hard enough. I’m objecting to your generalization that people who get divorced are doing the best they can. It’s not always true. I’ve seen lots and lots of divorces up close and personal. Sometimes people struggle through and try. And even if they are wrong, they aren’t doing it lightly. There’s a context. But other times, they don’t. They got into the marriage because it seemed convenient enough at the time and left when it wasn’t anymore. It’s morally wrong. Providing a blanket statement that it doesn’t happen isn’t true and it denies the real pain that those kinds of divorces cause to their victims, whether a spouse or a child who is discarded as casually as the marriage was.

  54. Ugh. I just read through that. This part

    “I’ve seen lots and lots of divorces up close and personal. Sometimes people struggle through and try. And even if they are wrong, they aren’t doing it lightly.”

    Seems to imply that divorce is per se wrong. That is unintentional. I was thinking of a particular divorce when I wrote that. What I meant was, even if people make mistakes or have an affair or whatever, they aren’t necessarily entering lightly into a divorce.

  55. “So maybe I have some idea of what was going on.”

    But probably not. Relationships are complex and human emotions and motivations are various. So much so that they are a mystery even to those who are taking part in them. We remain, even those of us with a habit of serious self-reflection, something of an enigma to ourselves. The bringing together of two people multiplies the confusion. People habitually and universally conceal themselves from themselves, and from others. Nearness to the situation is as or more likely to involve a person in unseeing as in seeing clearly.

  56. Cowgirl, I apologize if I misread you. I do maintain, along with Thomas Parkin above, that even within a family, it’s impossible to know everything. Certainly there may be cases where someone quits a marriage sooner than might seem appropriate to outside eyes. Or maybe someone did just callously leave– but that’s an anomaly, not the normative. We just haven’t been there.

  57. 55: I just knew someone was going to pull that one out. Here’s how this argument goes now:

    “I am 100% that NOBODY ever anywhere leaves a spouse lightly or just for convenience or whatever. Even though I don’t know anything at all about anywhere near 100% of divorces. If you have a counter example, then you must just not know enough about the situation. But I do.”

    Do you realize that sounds ridiculous?

  58. I don’t claim to anything, Cowgirl. You’re the one claiming to know the intimate workings of the marriages that you’re “close” to. Maybe you do, but more likely you don’t know nearly a much as you think you do. It’s a matter of humility in the face of complexity. I’m sure that there are times at which someone leaves a marriage “lightly”- whatever that means – but far more often this kind of talk accumulates in family relations and becomes a kind of common touchstone through which people explain things away. Aunt Silvia left her marriage lightly. Oh, yes, we know. We love her but she sure is screwed up, isn’t she.

  59. #52 – SilverRain, I didn’t say that, and I don’t think anyone else has said that.

    What I said is that I haven’t read anything from a divorced person who said Tracy is wrong in anything she said – and I still haven’t. I’ve now read your and cowgirl’s comments disagreeing with things they think Tracy’s post implies, but I’ve yet to read anything that actually quotes something directly from the post and explains why they think it is wrong.

    I respect differences of opinion, but in a setting like this, I don’t like it when people crtiticize someone for something they didn’t say – like your comment #52. I never said or implied Tracy speaks for all divorced people. I chose my words very carefully, and they still stand – until you or someone else quotes Tracy and comments on those quotes, without extrapolating unsaid things from them.

  60. Snyderman says:

    I’d like to emphasize what Thomas Parkin said. I can’t tell you how many times my girlfriend has asked me a question about myself that I simply didn’t know the answer to. Generally the question concerns some emotional aspect of myself–why I am or was feeling a certain way or why I wasn’t–and I honestly didn’t know. We’re not nearly as transparent to ourselves as we like to think.

    Building off of this, it seems that even if we think a divorce is lightly entered into, it probably wasn’t. Many people who are unhappy in marriage may not have the emotional maturity or intelligence to figure out why they’re unhappy. Now, maybe they should have gotten help, but even that necessitates a certain level of maturity and intelligence. I know that many times in my life I did not seek help when I should have.

    Basically, my point is that even if from our perspective it seems like a divorce is lightly entered into, it probably does not seem that way from the people involved. To use a metaphor, think of how hard it is to see something clearly when you’re holding it an inch from your eye (and also how hard it is to see anything else). This is the persepective those in the relationship have. Thus it’s difficult to judge how light their decision was from our (I think) wider, clearer perspective.

  61. #53 Cowgirl, in my view (and I can only speak for myself), the best one can say is “divorce is not right for me.” I cannot pass judgement on anyone else’s choice. Even the Judge In Israel (the bishop) is counseled NOT to tell people whether to divorce or not: it’s a personal decision. Who am I to judge another’s choice in that regard? The BEST I can do is comfort those who stand in need of comfort; I may not judge those whom I assume stand in need of judgement. (In so writing I do not mean to imply that you are doing that; I’m speaking for myself, as I said.)

  62. #61 Pail: I have difficulty agreeing or disagreeing with you. Certainly when any acquaintance or friend gets divorced I take that approach. And even within my family I typically take that approach. I might be frustrated by the extremely poor decisions that led to the divorce whether its alcohol, poor choice of mate in the first place, cheating, whatever. But I leave the past in the past and look towards helping my loved one get through the experience. However, sometimes people really truly do abdicate all family obligations to a spouse and/or children. This is something I can’t seem to avoid judging. Perhaps I shouldn’t, but it feels too wrong.

  63. Paul! I meant Paul! I can’t type today apparently.

  64. Actually, I think the statement that “two miserable people cannot raise happy kids” is just as bigoted and judgmental as anything divorced people get thrown at them.

    How do you know that?

  65. Ray, you and I generally get along very well here on the blogs, and I don’t want to start anything with you.

    But your comment, followed by “just saying,” most certainly implies that the reason you haven’t read anything is because there isn’t any valid argument. You can’t legitimately use the power of connotation and then appeal to denotation for plausible deniability. I won’t let you do it when it is my voice that is being usurped.

    I will NOT take Tracy’s post and pick apart why I disagree with it. It is her perspective, and I have every intention of respecting that. Both because I have been through difficult transitions and choices myself, and understand the power of being able to work through things on your own and get positive support for wherever you are, and because I have no desire to enter into the sorts of discussions I have been in with her before on related topics.

    This is my last comment here. I have made my point. If you would like to discuss anything privately with me, consider yourself invited.

  66. An article for consideration:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/04/AR2005110402304.html?referrer=facebook

    A relevant excerpt:

    “Many people incorrectly assume that most marriages end only when parents are at each other’s throats. But the reasons can often be far less urgent, like boredom or the midlife blahs. Research shows that two-thirds of divorces now end low-conflict marriages, where there is no abuse, violence or serious fighting. After those marriages end, the children suddenly struggle with a range of symptoms — anxiety, depression, problems in school — that they did not previously have. The waxing and waning cycles of adult unhappiness that characterize many marriages are often not all that obvious to children. For the children of low-conflict marriages, divorce is a massive blow that comes out of nowhere.”

    I also think parents tend to vastly overestimate how concerned their own children are with their parent’s happiness.

  67. So one should wait for abuse, violence, or “serious fighting” ( a subjective term if there ever was one)? Good advice…except it isn’t. It isn’t up to you or anyone else to dictate acceptable marital arrangements for other people. If that is your guideline good for you.

  68. EOR, if none of those abuses or dangers is present, then I would question that you should be getting divorced in the first place. Especially given that people who stick out their marriages (in non-abusive situations) tend to even out and resolve their unhappiness in about three years as a statistical matter. And even further supported by the well-known phenomenon that divorcees tend to seek out people similar to their ex-spouse when they remarry.

    I don’t go around judging the people in my life EOR. But news-flash.

    I’m allowed to disapprove of divorce without it being a personal attack on particular people.

    Another excerpt:

    “We found that children of so-called “good” divorces often do worse even than children of unhappy low-conflict marriages — they say more often, for example, that family life was stressful and that they had to grow up too soon; and they are themselves more likely to divorce — and that they do much worse than children raised in happy marriages. In a finding that shatters the myth of the “good” divorce, they told us that divorce sowed lasting inner conflict in their lives even when their parents did not fight. No matter how “good” their parents were at it, the children of divorce were travelers between two very different worlds, negotiating often vastly different rules and roles.

    Although only one-fifth told us that their parents had “a lot” of conflict after splitting up, the children of divorce said, over and over, that the breakup itself made their parents’ worlds seem locked in lasting conflict. Two-thirds said their parents seemed like polar opposites in the years following the divorce, compared to just one-third of young adults with married parents. Close to half said that after the divorce they felt like a different person with each of their parents — something only a quarter of children from intact families said. Half said their divorced parents’ versions of truth were different, compared to just a fifth of those with married parents. More than twice as many children of divorce as children of intact families said that after the divorce they were asked to keep important secrets — and many more felt the need to do so, even when their parents did not ask them to.

    Children of divorce feel like divided selves, and at no time more so than when their parents get together amicably on special occasions — as they are often urged to do by experts advocating the “good” divorce. As one friend told me: “When I was a kid it would really stress me out when my divorced parents were in the same room together . . . because I didn’t know who to be.” When they come of age, children of divorce struggle with being their whole, true selves around anyone.”

  69. I actually think the article that Seth points to is important. It’s nice to tell ourselves that an unhappy marriage is a bad model for children, that children are better off if their parents are happy, etc. But I think it’s true that children don’t register their parents’ unhappiness in the ways that would justify divorce in relatively low-conflict cases (or even in the case of adultery, which many would regard as justification for adults making the choice to divorce, but which simply doesn’t register with kids). Parents who divorce ought to be honest about the fact that, in some cases, they are trading some of their children’s happiness for their own. That isn’t always unjustified, but it should be faced squarely.

  70. There are certainly exceptions to every item and point of belief I have. I did not write this as an academic paper, footnoting all the exceptions and references. I have read that article, Seth, and others like it. But for every article like it, there are ten that support another position.

    In my own life, my ex-husband’s parents stayed together “for the kids”. It affected all four children profoundly. I believe I am paying part of the price for that ripple. It is also, as I stated in the OP, a heavy burden to lay on the kids. When they were small, they didn’t have the maturity or vocabulary to express it, but once they were all adults, it was a shock to realize their parents had been utterly miserable for decades in order to stay a _proper_ family. They all carry the weight of that, and all ask “why?!”

  71. I don’t think we need to change the narrative so much as we need to change how people react to those who are in a different place than they are.

    The ideal is a family with a loving mother and father. That’s what we’re all aimed at, even if it takes us more than a lifetime to acheive it. Just like Christ is our individual ideal. Just like those who have had problems in their journey toward the ideal of being like Christ, many people are going to have problems, to one degree or another, in attaining that ideal family. Weather or not those problems include dissolusion of a marriage shuold be immeterial. We all make mistakes, all suffer from those mistakes, and all look forward to a time when our suffering will be relieved through Christ. We can’t remove the narrative of an ideal family any more than we can remove the narrative of an ideal individual. We just need to remember that we all fall short, no matter how successful we think we have been in our own journey.

    (and for the record, this is from someone who has been through divorce, not that it should make a difference.)

  72. Kristine, a child’s happiness should be weighed, but I reject the notion that it should be the deciding factor. My parents never should have gotten married, but further they DEFINITELY should have gotten divorced. They were miserable with each other and thus miserable to their children.

    They have been married for 40 years, and 31 of them have been miserable. There goes your 3 year rule for “low conflict” marriages Seth.

  73. EOR, your isolated anecdote is noted.

  74. Incidentally EOR, I never presented three years as a “rule” in the first place. I presented it as a matter of statistical likelihood.

    I wonder why you immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was a rule…

  75. EOR, I’m not saying no one should ever divorce in such a situation. (I did.)

  76. We all judge based on our anecdotal experiences. Every last one of us. (Me too) And we should stop it. As a partner in a “low conflict” (insert hysterical laughing here) marriage for decades, I have come to see that what you “know” about marriage and divorce changes drastically when it’s your own, people outside the marriage simply have no idea what the reality is. An analogous situation that comes to mind is how differently you experience having your own children as opposed to your experience of other peoples’ children.

    So we should quit blithely passing judgement on anyone’s marriage but our own. Maybe watch our tongues (fingers) a bit closer? Be more careful when making pronouncements about the Rules of Marriage and Divorce? It’s so hard to resist the armchair quarterbacking.

    The only people I might allow somewhat of a pass are the children born to a marriage. And even that has limitations. I have a few opinions about my parents’ conflicted marriage/divorce but I keep them to myself and thank God that I am not called to be their judge. I grudgingly allow my children the same courtesy, but that doesn’t mean they are a well-informed judge.

  77. The problem is MDearest, are we required to not say anything bad about divorce just because we’re worried about offending or improperly judging people we know who have done it?

    It seems that some of the people who’ve been through divorce are requesting that nothing bad be said about divorce – period. Simply by virtue of the fact that they themselves did it – and they consider themselves nice people.

  78. You know, in my OP, I said very clearly that if there is a way to happily and healthily hold a family together, it should be done. Divorce sucks. It hurts and it’s hard. How am I advocating that nothing bad should be said about it? What needs to stop in the passing of judgement and the slinging of rhetoric.

    MDearest hit the nail on the head though with what’s bothering me about some of the comments: it’s like people without kids opining on raising kids. Anyone with kids laughs at their previously held ideas once the kids actually come crashing in. It’s the same with divorce.

    Only I hope most of you don’t experience divorce. But for those that do, I’ll be one of the ones being kind.

  79. Be More Careful, I think that’s what I said. I stand by it.

  80. I’ll give my support for that MDearest. I want to make clear that I oppose divorce as a broad societal trend and see it as something to be combatted.

    But that does NOT mean that I go about sniffing at or disapproving of people in my ward who divorce (even privately in my own head).

    Every family in the church has their own less desirable aspects – including mine. It’s not my place to judge whether their problems are worse than mine or better than mine, nor try to weigh who is more moral or less. Nor do I consider my marriage of 12 years to my own wife to be any reason to conclude that she and I were in any way superior to the single guy in our stake. I have no way of knowing how I would have dealt with his situation (for all I know, I would have handled it far worse than he did).

    But when talking about broader social policy, shouldn’t I be able to plainly state that I think divorce is a negative thing and is hurting society in various ways – AS A TREND?

  81. Seth, yes, finally we agree on something. And what you just said, with the exception of your first and last sentence, was the entire gist of my OP.

  82. Seth, yes, you should be able to say that. But you should realize that it will likely hurt people who are divorced when they hear you, whether or not you are directing your criticism at them.

  83. Kind of like when people criticize Mormonism as a religion. They may think you’re really nice and all, but it’s hard not to be pained by their critique of aspects of Mormonism, even if the critique is fair and reasonable.

  84. I know – it’s a minefield.

    But it just seems to me too important an issue not to advocate for.

  85. Tracy, the only thing I find problematic (which may be what Seth is getting at) is your line

    “Let’s change the narrative, let’s change the picture of a healthy family to include those of us who had to make hard choices that might not have matched up with the cover of the Ensign.”

    I truly don’t want divorced people suffering paroxysms of guilt every time they come to church. I can see how the family-centered rhetoric can be rough, and the “no success can compensate…” quote has got to be positively brutal. But it’s like the scriptures that God can’t look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. He can’t — sin is absolutely abominable, and yet we all do it. But the ideal can’t change. Even those who haven’t had to get a divorce are screwing up their families constantly with the mean things we say, the things we choose to neglect, etc., and there’s really no success to compensate for that. But we’re all doing it.

    I understand that divorce is the right answer sometimes. But the church rhetoric has it’s uses. I believe it saves marriages that shouldn’t be terminated, including mine. If my wife or I felt that divorce was ever an option, I think we might have taken it. But it simply wasn’t an option. So, we went through a rough several years before we both kind of pulled it together. It’s not all roses now, either, but our marriage isn’t bad. Divorce would have been an unmitigated disaster. If, during our darker hours, my wife or I had read a couple articles in the Ensign with the “new narrative” you’re proposing, I think we might have made a very bad choice.

  86. I don’t see anything destructive in changing the narrative to include in the realm of healthy families those that are made healthier by divorce. It need not exclude the many healthy families that don’t get divorced.
    It would probably mean that people be more careful in what they say, and to think before saying it. That’s not a bad thing either.

  87. Ok Martin, but what if, despite the “church rhetoric” and despite your best eforts to dissuade her, your wife had chosen divorce during the darker hours. What then? You would now be divorced instead of married and now you have to sit and listen to the rhetoric. Still feel the same way? I doubt it.

  88. Seth, you really believe that advocating against divorce “as a trend” makes any difference at all? What is it you think you are accomplishing by doing that? The trend ain’t listening.

  89. In that case, MCQ, I would probably take the new narrative as being patronizing.

  90. MCQ, given the circumstances you described, I think I’d still be fine with the church rhetoric. I’d probably also be fine with it if I chose to divorce my wife because she was chronically untrustworthy, abusive, or several other things. Where it would be hard is in the circumstance where we just decided we made each other too miserable to continue, because it would be so hard to know if I’d done enough. That’s why I have no problem withholding judgment on those who have to make that choice.

  91. Seth R. (#84), what would this kind of advocacy look like? Would it be primarily disseminating information (like the article you shared)? Are there other options out there that you’re suggestingI’m genuinely and personally interested, as I’ve often felt that the options for those who feel like they’re on the brink aren’t given much to work with: talk to the bishop, find a therapist, and otherwise grit your teeth.

    I would like some advocates around, if they bring some kind of real insight or training or even just spiritual guidance. But while being told that I may ruin my child’s life (or my own) is an important fact, I question how much my knowing that actually would/does improve my choices.

  92. MCQ, I have absolutely no interest in the defeatist paradigm.

    Lines like yours could also be used to advocate against women getting equal opportunity in employment in Saudi Arabia:

    “Do you think advocating for women’s rights makes any difference? The trend ain’t listening.”

    Peter, I don’t have any grand ambitions. I would advocate starting small – one mind at a time. We can’t even hope to reduce the phenomenon of divorce if we can’t even agree that it’s generally a negative.

    Martin, a lot of my response was to the comments as much as to Tracy M’s OP.

  93. “We can’t even hope to reduce the phenomenon of divorce if we can’t even agree that it’s generally a negative.”

    Isn’t that a given for every person here? I thought there was unanimous agreement already about that – not in society, but here.

    I’m not saying that in a snarky tone, but it’s a great example of why I tried to draw the distinction between what Tracy said in her post and the comments that criticized the post.

    Seth, I know you said you were responding to comments more than to Tracy, but I can’t find a single comment that argues that divorce is generally a positive. I agree we need to reach the fundamental agreement above, but I also believe part of deeper understanding and compassion among us is to avoid attributing statements to others that aren’t in their words (arguing about things where there is no disagreement) – and that is what I see in the sentence above within the context of this group and this post.

  94. To share an example of “truth” about divorce used improperly:

    I listened to a Sacrament Meeting talk once in which a very good, very humble, very faithful, very caring man quoted from an article about the ten greatest threats to marriage. In front of a congregation with multiple single parents who were struggling to do their best to raise their children alone, this good man talked about single-parent families as one of those terrible threats to marriage. He listed multiple general effects of divorce on children, figuratively beating the horse long past any possible enlightening point.

    As I listened, I actually thought:

    “Is there anyone in the congregation who wants to encourage divorce, in general, or who doesn’t understand the difficulties introduced by divorce – even divorce in cases where it is the best option? What is the purpose of sharing those stats in this setting? What good is going to come from it? How much harm is being done in the name of teaching something that everybody listening already knows in this particular way? etc.”

    I don’t want us to glorify divorce in any way, but neither does Tracy. I just want us to step back before we open our mouths and think about how to address something in a way that doesn’t hurt others unduly. Beating dead horses in the name of teaching an ideal, when everyone already understands and supports that ideal, hurts people unnecessarily. It’s important to understand that, imo.

    Finally, just to say it, divorce isn’t a threat to marriage; divorce is the result of failed marriage – whatever the reason for the failure. Divorce doesn’t attack marriage; marriage creates divorce. Also, there is no universal, comprehensive “solution” to divorce, in and of itself, except to forbid it completely – and that is just as damaging in many cases as reflexive divorce in other cases. We ought to teach the correct principle, but that principle is mutual love, respect, humility, charity, sacrifice, etc. We ought to focus on teaching the characteristics and actions that will minimize divorce, especially in an environment where everyone wants to minimize divorce even without it being pounded into them.

    Seriously, is there any way for a normal member of the LDS Church to be justified in thinking that divorce generally is a positive? If not, then what’s the purpose of mentioning it in context of this post?

  95. My wife was divorced. This was long enough ago that she thought that her eternal chances were utterly ruined and that a good marriage was impossible. It only goes to show how utterly miserable she was with a sadistic bully that she would leave him under that possibility.

    Being a good Mormon Boy I had never thought I was going to marry a divorcee with all of the attendant (non)issues. (Boards with nail holes, dirty cake, etc.) Fortunately I was guided by a higher power. When I kissed her for the first time I made an oath to myself that I would never make her unhappy because of my commitment. There was never a more wonderful and delightful companion.

    That being said, my observation is that marriage is a race to see if we grow enough fast enough not to be overtaken and beaten to death by our imbecil unconscious. Too often the imbecil wins.

  96. Meldrum the Less says:

    “No success can compensate for failure in the home.”

    I hope this helps. That brutal statement from the compassionate lips of David O McKay was referring to his own greatest failure. Not to anything else. The quote is misapplied today. DOM and his brother raised their almost 20 children together in adjacent houses. DOM was away often traveling to distant lands on church assignments and his brother, an unsung hero, became the hands-on father for both. They sort of specialized in different aspects of fatherhood for both sets of children.

    The best and brightest of this branch of the McKay tribe was the oldest child of the brother of DOM. Her name was Fawn. She was incredibly intelligent and did great things and had enormous potential. She lost her testimony, married a guy named Brodie and wrote a book that probably had more long-range negative impact than the positive impact of DOM as Prophet for almost 20 years. (Especially, in my opinion, since DOM was untimately unsuccessful in tempering priesthood correlation.) DOM was both furious at her, he had a towering Scottish temper but he also had enormous compassion and frequently wept for her. She reported that he was the least judgmental of any of her extended family and always made her feel welcome at family gatherings when others would have shunned her.

    I take the brutal statement more as a description of his own failure than as a prescription for every family in the church. DOM would trade being an apostle and prophet if it would bring his beloved Fawn back. I think he is saying to do what is best for the children which in many cases would support the choice to divorce. Too many divorce stats are comparing apples and oranges. Most of the time a divorce is undertaken to improve the life of the children involved. To persistent in a horrible marriage would be the greater failure.

  97. #94 “is there any way for a normal member of the LDS Church to be justified in thinking that divorce generally is a positive? ”

    Yes for me, [if i’m normal that is!] and probably is for all divorcees who have been through years of abuse, neglect and general negative situations at home…..

    I married in 1990, separated in 2004 and divorced in 2005. Between about ’96 and 2005 the only positive experience in my life as a man actually was the divorce. After my divorce the verbal abuse, infidelity, disrespect, hellish home life all ended for good -although with the separation most of it ended except for seeing her at the negotiations and divorce proceedings.

    For me divorce started the very positive process of regaining my self-respect and self-esteem, even though I started seeing my children less. I felt both liberated and a living breathing person again and stopped thinking about suicide after that living hell that was living with an unfaithful, cheating wife. I became more active in church, went to the Temple almost weekly as she completely abandoned church and all religion. Some people in church were obnoxious with me though. Some actually thought that a ‘mother’ would never do what she did -which included the abortion of her out of wedlock baby- without being in someway forced to do it by her ‘priesthood holder presiding husband”. To those I wanted to remind them of Susan Smith or Andrea Yates, but in the end it was just a useless waste of time engaging in conversation with them.

    About the OP I’d only add that the stats in church are skewed towards the ‘active’ members and because of that they don’t actually tell us the correct numbers for temple marriages that end in divorce because many couples run into problems first, then go inactive and years later divorce without the church finding out about it. In my last ward we had to photocopy the decree absolute before recording it in MLS, which is impossible to do with inactives since most don’t care about having their membership records up to date in church. Then if the numbers are close today or almost the same for temple marriages as civil marriages, if and after the church’s inactives could be censured, these numbers would be even closer than what they appear to be today.

  98. Fawn Brodie’s book had more long-lasting impact on the church than the David O. McKay administration?

    Really?

    Well, to a hammer everything looks like a nail.

    And to someone involved in controversial religious blogging….

    You fill in the blank.

  99. #97 – John, I said “generally”. I understand totally that divorce is a positive in many individual situations.

  100. I don’t think we should talk about divorce negatively, or condemn it. I think this idea comes from a time in Church history when the idea was to attack the symptoms behind problems to stop the problem themselves. So to condemn fornication, Church leaders spoke out against miniskirts. Maybe that is somewhat helpful, but it leads the argument in an unhelpful direction. In the same way as miniskirts are “bad,” so is divorce. But if the goal is to end divorce (good), then the narrative needs to address the issues that cause it. If condemning divorce causes less of them, then we need to be asking ourselves, are we just talking about putting a small bandaid on a larger wound?

  101. Excellent point, DavidF. If condemning divorce solved the problem, we would have very few divorces. I love the idea of supporting and teaching better and healthier relationship skills– but then that opens up a massive hornet’s nest of issues within the church on gender roles, YM and YW programs, healthy body image, sex education (real education, not just “don’t do it”) and on and on and on…. I’m fully in support of that- it’s just so much bigger and exponentially more complex and nuanced than saying “Divorce is bad- don’t do it.”

  102. #99,

    Ray, I’d say that divorce is “generally” a positive for most individuals in church -after the conflicts and battles of the court processes and any sealing cancellations/clearances are over and done with.

  103. #102 – John, I think we are talking past each other and defining “generally” differently. I agree with your comment, but that’s not what I meant. I’m sorry I wasn’t more clear.

    In the Church, divorce might be a positive for the majority of divorced active members. There is no way for me to quantify that, and I’m not going to argue against it. However, conceptually, I don’t think any active member or participant here believes that divorce is a positive option for most marriages – that it “generally” is a positive.

    That’s what I meant, and maybe I misread the intent of the original comment to which I was replying.

  104. David F., I think that idea works among people (like on this forum) who all agree that divorce is a bad thing.

    I’ve been in places online where that wasn’t necessarily the case and people had a really casual and “so what?” kind of attitude towards it – or simply heavily recommended cohabitation without marriage as an ideal solution to the problem.

    In places like that – I’m not sure we want to abandon the ability to argue that divorce is indeed a bad thing.

  105. #104 & #103 ,”However, conceptually, I don’t think any active member or participant here believes that divorce is a positive option for most marriages – that it “generally” is a positive.” & “people (like on this forum) who all agree that divorce is a bad thing”

    That’s the problem with divorce in church; whereas for the active member who divorces his/her divorce is the beginning of a new life (after the pain of separation and court is over with) and the end of an, usually, abusive situation other members look down on divorce and don’t seem to understand this. Other members just throw divorce into the adultery/immorality/prison term basket of shame, as something to look down on and despise as a failure but that isn’t the case for the majority of divorces in church -or at least all the one’s I’ve seen around me in a few different wards now. Divorce for me is more of an escape valve to open when things do go wrong.

  106. Seth R. Even then I’m a little hesitant to agree. I grant you that lots of divorces (as the study pointed out) could be easily avoided. We talked about this and related studies quite a bit in a family prep course I took at BYU. Lot’s of people DO get divorces casually, and a surprisingly high amount wish they didn’t 2-5 years later. If anything this tells me we need to hear more talks about seeing marriage counselors.

    However, since a significant amount of divorces are related to more serious issues, condemning divorce sends the wrong message to our own members. For them, divorce isn’t a negative thing, it is the best solution to years of real unresolved problems. It’s a little like saying, “Don’t take the cure.” If I were to weigh their needs against some people on the internet who don’t much like us to begin with, I would say that we need to look after our own before we try to send out our PR team. If anything, we shouldn’t say we are against divorce, we should say were are for trying to help and save marriages whenever possible. That, to me, sounds a little more like Zion.

  107. Marriage sucks. Its hard. It knocks the rough edges of a person better than anything I’ve personally experienced. When I accepted that reality, I was able to deal with the ups and downs of my marriage a little better.

    My wife committed adultery, multiple times, with different men. I would have been justified to have left upon my discovery. But I decided to stay–for three reasons: 1) I had been married for nearly 20 years; 2) she sought my forgiveness and stopped the behavior; and 3) I did not want to hurt my children. So, I did stay with my wife in part for the children. It would have been much easier to leave. It hurt to stay, badly. I would rather have died than experience the paid I felt. But I believe that I saved my children significantly more pain than they would have experienced if I had left. Best decision I ever made. I get up every morning knowing I did the right thing, no matter how much it hurt and continues to hurt.

  108. #105 – John, I don’t think we are disagreeing with each other.

  109. “Do you think advocating for women’s rights makes any difference? The trend ain’t listening.”

    Wow, Seth. Really? The trend in that case is listening. Demonstrably so. You can’t equate those two subjects in any way, in my opinion, but you go on believing they’re just alike if it makes you feel better. In my estimation, you’re just alienating your divorced brothers and sisters while accomplishing nothing at all with your advocacy against divorce. That’s because, for the most part, exactly no one ever wants to get divorced. They end up there only out of necessity or because of someone else’s choices. In such situations, advocacy can have no positive impact.

  110. Yes MCQ, but the point is – back then – the trend WASN’T listening.

    Your argument would have been invalid in that instance, and it’s invalid now. Whether what we say is popular has no ultimate control over what is the moral position to take.

  111. And MCQ, I already provided statistics showing that the vast majority of divorces actually are completely voluntary and have no element of abuse or danger in them. Most divorces don’t even have high level conflict – just a case of boredom or the mid-life blahs.

    Painful as the mid-life blahs can be – don’t get me wrong. I’ve been there (am there). But it’s not adequate cause for divorce.

    “I’m generally unhappy with my situation” is not adequate cause for me to divorce my wife.

  112. You provided a link to *one* study, Seth. What constitutes a “high enough” level of conflict, and who gets to decide? You seem to have completely missed my overarching point- no one gets married wanting to be divorced; it’s hard, it sucks. No outside individual can really know the internal pain and circumstances that brought it on. I don’t care how many statistics you toss out there, they don’t change the wrenching private nature of it.

    Thank you, MCQ.

  113. Tracy, this link may provide extra details on the study Seth cited, and other related ones to it. http://marriageandfamilies.byu.edu/issues/2003/January/divorce.aspx

    Seth:
    I think this study is important, and it should inform our thoughts, but I don’t quite agree with your conclusion. 1/3 of divorces happen in high level conflict marriages. That means that there are more high level conflict marriages that continue without addressing the real problems. How many more, and how many of them keep going because the stigma of divorce is too high? 1/3 is a large enough percentage that it deserves serious attention.

    Consider this. I know a girl who married in her early twenties. Two months later her husband left her (several years ago now). Technically, she isn’t divorced, but for all intents and purposes she is. Every time she meets a guy she likes she has a dilemma. She will have to bring that up. But the problem is that the word divorce carries with it all kinds of baggage and ideas of foolish lovers, uncommitted couples, and probably a lot of sin (“two righteous people never get divorced, so what does that mean about someone divorced…”). Her life is already seriously altered by her marriage, and now it carries labels that are imposed upon her by others. This sort of thing happens when divorce is the center of the fight against marital problems. We need to shift the focus so that, a. The real issues that cause divorce can be addressed (including the blah’s, which don’t actually get solved by scaring people out of divorce, they get solved by working them out), and b. the stigma of a being a divorcee can go away allowing people to go on with their lives.

  114. What I get from all this is that we really suck at teaching. Youth leaders suck at teaching healthy relationship practices, we all suck at teaching each other about the effects (good and bad) of divorce, and even the apostles suck at teaching us about marriage. (As Mr. Miyagi said, “There is no such thing as bad student; only bad teacher.”) Perhaps lecturing each other, regardless of the rhetoric, just doesn’t work – a truly shocking educational revelation. I saw my brother ache after his divorce, wondering why his ex-wife didn’t love him. Watching that horrible spectacle I realized something that has solidified my own marriage: love can’t be earned, only given. It’s sad to say, but I learned a lesson from his divorce that I probably would not have internalized had it been spoken to me a thousand times. I’m guessing he learned many such lessons.

  115. Yes David, but how many children and spouses suffer through divorces that were not necessary because the stigma is too low?

    I don’t think this is an issue with a clear answer.

  116. This is not a bad point Seth, and it is why I did not want to come across as a person who says, “Let’s make divorce a happy word and leave it at that.” As Mormons, we need to fight against divorce, not by attacking it, but by attacking the real heart of the matter, the actual issues that broke down marriages long before divorce came up.

    Here’s an analogy; one that might resonate with you. Some members think that the best way to defend others against anti-Mormon arguments is to tell them, in very serious terms, to avoid that kind of stuff at all costs. Don’t read it, don’t look at it, don’t listen to it; it will destroy your testimony. It is how they try to control a serious issue with one simple command. But there are many tragic side effects to this. We’ve lost all kinds of members because, out of their fear of anti-Mormon literature, they’ve stayed away from anything about Mormonism from non-Church approved sources. Using arguments against divorce as a means to solve all kinds of marital problems is likewise problematic. It misses the real issues, and creates an unfortunate side effect: communal labeling of divorcees.

    This isn’t THE solution, but here is a step in the right direction: “Except in dangerous situations such as domestic abuse, divorce should only be considered after serious effort has been made to work with a professional marriage counselor.” We could quibble about how that should be worded (after all, we’re not actually writing policy), but I hope the message is clear. It makes divorce okay, but as a result of trying to get at the real issues. If you read more about the study you cited, the author believes that most low-conflict marriages that ended in divorce could have been saved had the couples sought professional counselling. Sure, even in the world of this quote, some people could be flippant about divorce–people have their agency–but I think it does a better job of keeping people away from being hurt by the community.

  117. Well whatever solution we arrive at – I’m pretty-much not in favor of stomping on people who’ve gone through the difficulty of a divorce, or even making it my business to inquire whether their divorce was an “acceptable” divorce or “unacceptable” one. I don’t see that sort of targeting of people I know as ever being productive.

  118. Ah! Establish a policy … that always works. No one get trounced once you’ve got a well worded policy!

    I’ve got a better idea. Don’t make assumptions. Keep your nose out of business where it doesn’t belong. And love your brothers and sisters as you do yourself.

  119. Meldrum the Less says:

    Seth #98:

    I didn’t create the quote. Stop hammering the messenger. Find a witch with a familar spirit and congure up the ghost of DOM and argue with him if you must.

    I offer this as DOM’s perspective. If you think DOM was not referring to Fawn when he made that statement then that is a different problem. I don’t have a footbnote. Sorry. You got me there.Take it or leave it.

    Seriously, my kids don’t have a clue about DOM and that era of the church. He wa dead 20 years before they were born. Fawn’s Book is in their school library and is still the most credible non-LDS source on the life of the founder of their faith. Yes 2012- Fawn has more influence than her uncle both in the church and definitely outside of the church which is >99.9% of the world.

  120. No, I disagree.

    Brodie only has much influence if you’re talking intellectual ex-Mormons.

    Not even the majority of most ex-Mormons have even read Brodie or give a fig what she said or thought. The only way you can argue she’s more influential is if you boil the world of “Mormonism” down to residents of the bloggernacle, DAMU, and anti-Mormon circles.

    Don’t get carried away – this online world we share is only a small slice of Mormonism as a whole. Outside of it, people don’t frankly think much about or care about our concerns.

  121. Meldrum the Less says:

    An encyclopedia I purchased has an article on Mormonism. It has about 5 foot notes. Brodie is among them. She crops up all the time and not usually among the intellectual types who prefer less-stale sources of a critical nature. Just common sources considered reliable outside of the jello belt.

    She is not alone in her view. Others came before and many after. But she was a loud and seemingly credible voice about Mormonism during a crucial time when it emerged from isolation and obscurity following WWII and began to be more widely recognized.

    Her position, that Joseph Smith can be dismissed as a pious fraud has only been tweeked by most critics who follow.Yes, a few like Ed Decker think The Prophet was having visions with the devil.But by an large a lay person can almost get up to speed about what non-LDS think about us with Brodie.

    About the only thing most young Mormons know about DOM is that his name is in an obnoxious primary song:
    “Latter-day prophets are number one,
    Joseph Smith, then Brigham Young,
    dot dot do
    David OOOOOOO McKay is followed by…

    It gives them permission to howl like a coyote.
    I guess this depends upon which circle you orbit in. I concede that we could both be right. Fair enough?

    But do you agree that it is possible that this harsh DOM quote might not be vested with the same meaning today as when it was originally given?

  122. I’m not really interested in arguing Brodie further one way or the other, because I don’t see it as terribly important.

    But yes, I’m open to the possibility that the quote might not have the same meaning.

  123. Antonio Parr says:

    This post and ensuing dialogue remind me of how challenging it can be to find a balance between encouraging people who face challenges and difficulties arising out of failed communal expectations while at the same time extolling the communal expectations that are important for the stability of our community.

    There is no question that the Church and surrounding secular community benefit from strong, stable families, and there is no question that strong, stable families take a lot of work. Therefore, we do ourselves well to encourage people not to give up on marriage, but to make every attempt to work things out. This is the ideal.

    And yet, good, wonderful, moral, wise, spiritual people get divorced with some frequency, and we should never judge those who face such challenges or speculate about “could-have-beens” that all involve complexities known only to the couple at issue. This is the reality.

    So how to balance the two?

  124. #111 Seth, “MCQ, I already provided statistics showing that the vast majority of divorces actually are completely voluntary and have no element of abuse or danger in them”

    Where no-fault divorce is available, the stats will always show the majority of divorces as having no element of abuse or danger in them. What they should be analyzing are several years of the relationship before the actual divorce.

    #123 The balance? teach strengthening families and marriages only without mentioning divorce stats or even the word divorce. No one marries to divorce later on…..well no normal mormon person so there is no point in discussing divorce in church. But if we teach strengthening families and marriages then all people, first marriages, second marriage, step-families, those who dream of marrying one day….all will benefit.

    Problem is also that all the issues surrounding divorce are good fodder for the mormon gossip vine. People love to talk about what happened, who did what, argue over why and so on…..

  125. It’s really not that hard to try to be more careful of sensitivities that divorced people have, or any other sore spots that people suffer with. A lot of it revolves around investing your attention in what you’re really doing. Read between the lines a little bit, give some thought to who your audience is, figure out what’s really needed and prioritize it, and put stuff like extolling community ideals to the community already on board at low priority, below punching someone in their never-quite-healed broken arm.

    There are as many ways to counter bad community trends as there are sands in the sea (or people living on the earth,) and extolling something just to be seen as standing up for the Better Way is only one of them.

  126. Once again, Thomas Parkin FTW.

    If everyone just listened to Thomas, these discussions would be a lot shorter and a lot more productive.

  127. “I already provided statistics showing that the vast majority of divorces actually are completely voluntary and have no element of abuse or danger in them.”

    This statement is really apallingly naive. Voluntary for whom, Seth? If one partner wants to leave, for whatever reason, generally speaking the other partner is going throug a divorce completely involuntarily, only beause it’s what the other person wants. That means that in half of those “voluntary” cases, the divorce is only voluntary for one person, not the other.

    And what about the divorces where there is no abuse or “danger” but there is years of addiction, infidelity and/or neglect. Are you suggesting divorce is unacceptably “voluntary” for those people? Because there was not enough danger? Do people have to be in fear of violence to get an acceptable divorce according to you?

  128. MCQ that is exactly what he is saying (see comment 68 in relation to my 67) that is why I stopped even bothering with this discussion.

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