Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Divorce Dilemma

This excellent article was painful for me to read since there is a lot of divorce in my family. (Via The Pittsford Perennialist.)
Finally, moral horror at divorce can easily slide into moral horror toward other people. If there’s a plan that can prevent divorce, then making the “wrong” choices allows everyone to I-told-you-so as they feel better about themselves and their own decisions. People have a deep-seated thirst for self-righteousness, and in a culture where most of the old expressions of moral distaste are themselves stigmatized, we find new outlets for our crueler needs for self-comfort.

This self-comfort is exercised partly at the expense of the divorced. A friend of mine recently spent a great deal of time talking online with a group of older women, most of whom are widowed or divorced, and the contrast between how those two groups are treated socially is hard to exaggerate. The generosity and gentleness we rightly extend to the bereaved are matched by a ferocious stigma applied to the divorced. It’s all too easy for the anti-divorce culture to become uncharitable, unforgiving, and ridden with unkind assumptions about who gets divorced and why.

We also comfort ourselves at the expense of people planning marriages that don’t fit the rules. Couples who refuse to cohabit or who marry young are scolded, warned that they’re setting themselves up for divorce, and held up as bad examples.

A culture of love can’t be built on a foundation of rejection. The path forward doesn’t include further stigmatizing divorce, or bringing back stigma against unmarried childbearing. Lack of charity in these areas will only lead to less marriage (in the case of stigma against divorce) and more abortions (in the case of stigma against unmarried childbearing). What young people need is hope: a sense that marriages can last, not because the spouses were smart enough on the front end but because they were gentle and flexible enough during the long years after the wedding....

Four decades after the divorce revolution, we know how to fear. What we need to learn is how to hope. (Read entire article.)

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