Come celebrate our maturity

Posted By on December 12, 2011

I first noticed it on the entertainment pages of CNN. I keep up with showbiz, because I work with teens, and whether we want to admit it or not, current culture has a huge influence on them. Since we can’t lock them up, it’s better to teach them to interpret and put things in a context of values. But I was not sure how to approach this. Some rock star was holding a party to celebrate his divorce. With his ex-wife. They were divorcing, and a number of friends were invited to join in the celebration of how they wished one another well in the next part of their lives and how they would always work together for the good of their children. So many people in the comments were indeed congratulating them, sincerely, on how responsible they were, and how happy they were to see such good examples. I do not remember who that first star was, but then I found it happening again. And again. Divorce parties and amicable split ups with people saying how wonderful their now ex-partner is, are in.  People proclaim themselves not a failure in their marriage, but a wonderful person in their way of divorcing.  It sounds so much better.

And not just with celebrities. I have seen several acquaintances recently who in one sentence announce their divorce or split with the father of their children and in the same breath assure us that everything is wonderful and that they are dealing with this like mature adults who like each other and want the best for the other and for their children. And children want their parents to be happy, of course!

Really? Have you ever tried to finish something, a book, a chore, a bit of work, while your child wants you to refill their juice or read a book for the fiftieth time? Toddlers don’t care about your happiness, unless it affects them. They are not supposed to worry about your happiness, but you about theirs. When they grow and become more mature, they are supposed to grow in care for others. Because care and self-sacrifice is what they have seen modeled all their lives before them. The problem is that this generation of children has not seen that modeled to them. They learn the lesson early that if something makes you unhappy it is your responsibility to change it, no matter how it affects others.

People who divorce, especially amicably, quite often say that it would be a horrible thing to ‘live a lie’ in front of their children. The implication, of course, is that ‘pretending that they still love their partner’ would be the lie. It sounds so rational. So good. We do not want people to lie. Lying is bad. Your life, however, would only be a lie if love is only a feeling. Even when you do not feel in love anymore, love can be a decision. You have given your word to love that person. That doesn’t mean you will feel deliriously romantic every day. It is hard to feel deliriously romantic, serene and blissfully happy when you have mashed banana in your hair, when your spouse came home late after a hard day while you were counting the minutes, and when he doesn’t get the fact that you just threw him a ‘look’ that should have said everything. You were biting your tongue, and he didn’t even notice. Or your job takes you each away from home every day, and between getting your child out of daycare, off to music class and soccer practice, you barely had a chance for a conversation and when you have it is awkward because you just don’t know what to say to each other anymore. You just…drifted apart, and it is all good. Clearly this wasn’t meant to be, so let’s celebrate that you are good and responsible adults who do not try to kill each other and move along. After all, it is better than ‘lying’ to everyone and pretend that you still are in love.

But love is not an emotion. It is a decision. A choice. Divorce is the lie. You make a lie out of the vows you have made, and you tell your children that nothing anybody says can ever be trusted. After all, if even words said as solemn as we can say anything–with money spent to make the occasion as memorable as it could, with people to witness them and photographs to keep the moment saved for eternity–if even those words can not be trusted, what can? If lives can be uprooted, not because of horrible situations, but because people have ‘grown apart’ or ‘are no longer in love’ and are ‘no longer happy’, then what can we not sacrifice for our own happiness?

Divorce, even divorce of people who were never formally wed but bound themselves to each other through children, teaches everyone around us that there is nothing that we can hold on to, and nothing that is more important than how we feel. We, and our own feelings, are the center of the universe. We are victims of our feelings. We can not help them, train them, or put them in their place. Which means that if I am angry, I have the right to lash out, to become violent, because that is how I feel. If someone does something, I have the right to laugh at him, make him feel stupid, or to be rude to him–because I feel he is stupid and to pretend otherwise would be a lie. In laying off the restraint that generations have put on feelings–not to suppress them as unworthy, but to channel them into something better–we become as immature as the toddler who did not want to let us finish anything until his own happiness was secured by way of a refilled juice or a book or whatever he desired at that point.

In divorce, without the grounds of adultery or abuse, we have reduced our maturity to the immaturity of a child, and we reduce the chance for our children to grow up with the knowledge that maturity is a matter of growing in happiness, not by the immediate gratification of our wishes, but by the channeling of our feelings into becoming better human beings.

About The Author

I've been a contributor to LAF through many changes in my life. From Miss Eva B to Mrs Eva H. From living in Europe to living in the USA. From being single, to being courted. From being courted to marriage and further into motherhood. I like to share the realities of life as well as the inspirations, the beauty as well as the work that it takes to honor God in our daily life.


6 Responses to “Come celebrate our maturity”

  1. happy2beKLB says:

    Great perspective! Have never thought about it that way. Certainly a timely message for today.

  2. nyb says:

    I’m confused. I take it you’re trying to make an argument for not divorcing. Which is fine. But I majored in sarcasm, and your argument is flying right over my head and straight onto morning.

    “But love is not an emotion. It is a decision. A choice. Divorce is the lie.” Excuse my french, but WTF? Love isn’t an emotion? I decide who I love? Then I decide that I do not love my parents. There. That gets rid of any filial piety I might think is running my life.

    And “And children want their parents to be happy, of course!” Well, I can agree with the sarcasm there. Toddlers don’t care about their parents happiness except when it has to do with them. But wait! Hark, a star appears on the horizon. Children whose parents are divorcing blame themselves. Captain, we have a logic delimma! Abandon ship!

    Children are not blind. They know when a marriage is going wrong. They know when Mom isn’t happy. They hear the arguments at night. They wonder if maybe they just did a little more the fighting would stop. But it doesn’t. Most parents who are on the road to divorce do get caught up in their emotions, and as a consequence neglect the mental health of their children. And thus, logically, children do care about the happiness of their parents. Because if they didn’t support the separation of the parents, then the snide remarks and undercuts would greatly jepardize their own happiness.

    Do you have some good points? Sure. I can see them. But I think you’re talking apples (divorce after less than 5 years of marriage with one or more young children), I’m talking oranges (divorce after 10+ years of marriage between two people who don’t have a clue how to live amicably, with children over the age of 5), and we really should be discussing grapes (how to lower the divorce rate amongst American families–which I think we can both agree starts with people actually knowing what they are getting into when they walk down that aisle).

  3. Mrs. Eva H. says:

    Hi Nyb,

    you make some valid points, but I would like to reply to them. When I say love is an emotion, I meant it. Being ‘in love’ is an emotion. It is great, and it supports love. An emotion is what you feel: happiness, sadness, joy, contentment. Love is more than what you feel at any given time.

    When you say: “Then I decide that I do not love my parents. There. That gets rid of any filial piety I might think is running my life.” You are right. You can decide not to love your parents. It’s a wrong decision, but yes, it is your choice. There are several people who have chosen not to love their parents, especially once they are no longer dependent upon them. This decision is not always made consciously, but sometimes selfishness or lack of attention or a hundred other little vices crowd out love unless it is a constant decision. Now ‘deciding’ not to love someone doesn’t immediately set you free from emotional entanglements, which is exactly one of the reasons why I made that distinction. Love is more than a single emotion that comes and goes.

    In your second paragraph, you wish to separate the effects of divorce on older and younger children. A good idea. You agree with me that toddlers don’t care, but disagree that this is the case over the age of five. You are right in pointing out that children over a certain age quite often harbour feelings of guilt over the divorce and happiness of their parents. You point out, rightly, that children are not blind, they hear the arguments and they know something is wrong.

    But then you add this phrase: “Because if they didn’t support the separation of the parents, then the snide remarks and undercuts would greatly jepardize their own happiness.” Just like no sane person goes into marriage wanting a divorce, no child wants their parents to separate. What they want is for their parents to change and to get along, and the marriage to work. Sometimes they will be so emotionally exhausted and tense, because parents expose them to a situation that they should not be exposed to. An 8 year old should not be exposed to a constant tension, snide words and hateful looks. Worrying about his parents happiness should not be his burden. My argument is exactly that in creating these situations, we distort the normal, healthy development of our children. They learn that when we feel something, we act on it, by arguing, by resentment and so on. And then when we can’t even resolve our own feelings, we just avoid that person. Because we and what we feel is the most important thing in the world. I am not saying that people should not have any feelings. I am saying that we have the choice to learn how to manage them and when and when not to give them voice. And over time, some negative emotions can actually even diminish and become less of a reflex when a more loving attitude becomes part of our personality.

    Do some children long for divorce? Of course. The conflict is away, there is no more tension, and everything is fine again. Until there is another reason for parental anxiety where the children once again pick up on the tension and become worried and sad.

    Children are not supposed to worry about their parents, because their parents are supposed to be a rock of them. That doesn’t mean that children do not have any feelings if their parents are hurt and crying. It’s actually part of the process of developing empathy.
    If a marriage is ‘not right’, if there is not a question of abuse or adultery (I deliberately made that distinction), parents should model for their children, how to resolve a conflict with those we love. How to put feelings of being hurt or angry over the small things in love aside and put them in the bigger picture of love.

    This article is not an argument against divorce, it is an argument against claiming that divorcing is the mature thing to do when there are problems in a marriage. The mature thing to do is to work out those problems. And in the mean time not to expose your children to constant strife. Learn how to hold your tongue. Learn how to smile. Learn how to talk things out that bother you. And in modelling those skills every, single day, in modelling putting the others needs before your own.

  4. It is irresponsible for people to throw a party for what cannot truly be construed as an event to celebrate. Celebrities and the media try to show us what is hip or cool to do in any circumstance, and unfortunately divorce is included.

    In an ideal world, there would be no divorce and people would never separate. Unfortunately real life is a bit more complicated than that.

  5. Mrs. Lisa Cadle says:

    It seems to me that marriage is taken way too lightly by many now days. To celebrate the failure of it is wrong. My parents divorced when I was in the “younger than five” category and I’ve yet to see a benefit to my life from it. I don’t remember what it was like to live in a home with consistant access to both my Dad and Mom on a daily basis. Thanks to dating and the divorce I grew up in, I had fears and doubts about getting married myself. How could I trust anyone to keep their vows? I am so thankful that the Lord has done such a wonderful work in my life. I’m also thankful for my husband and children and our commitment to each other and the Lord. I wish our culture wouldn’t take marriage and divorce and their effects on the lives of children so lightly.

  6. Amen, Mrs. Cadle.

%d bloggers like this: