I don’t know about you, but I have really felt for the folks who have been forced to evacuate homes in recent months, and sometimes for the last time. Volcanoes in Hawaii and Guatamala, the aftermath of hurricanes down in Puerto Rico and Haiti, flooding on the east coast, and all the wildfires out in California. Perhaps you have seen, as I have, stories of individuals who chose to ignore evacuation orders, and found themselves in peril as a result. I was especially struck by the images I found on MSN of the news team in Redding, California giving their report and then having to evacuate in the middle of the broadcast
It must have been pretty scary for those ladies and their staff, but they knew that concern for their personal safety in the face of impending disaster was more important than continuing their reporting. Good choice.
Not to diminish those disasters at all, but there is a degree of parallel for divorce, wouldn’t you say? That is, when you do determine that it is time to evacuate the marriage, and when is it too late?
I used to teach an introductory speech class for a community college, and I remember one of my students who gave a speech on physical abuse in marriage. She had resourced a story out of Redbook magazine some years ago, that told of a woman who had suffered abuse multiple times at the hands of her husband in Pennsylvania. The story describe a time when he flew into such a rage that he attacked her with a baseball bat, hitting her in the head, and then threw her onto the floorboard of the back seat of her car and drove to Chicago. She was dead by the time they arrived.
Sadly, it is a fact that one can wait too long to “evacuate” from a dangerous marital situation. Even more sadly, the stories of the “battered woman syndrome” describe how often some wives are willing to endure or persevere based on false hopes, ending up in situations like the one Redbook described. And just as sadly, there are plenty of battered men out there, too, but many of them are very isolated, because it is often too embarrassing for men to admit they are being beaten by their wives, so they suffer in silence. I knew of such a man, who would wake up to find his drunken wife over him, threatening to slice his throat with the broken neck of a beer bottle.
Then there are those who suffer, not physical abuse, but emotional and mental abuse, which can also be devastating and, like the men who suffer alone, invisible to those outside the marriage. Individuals suffering this kind of abuse are like empty shells walking around, with the life snuffed out of them inside. In cases like these, the question of when to “evacuate” is much more difficult to discern, because there are no physical wounds that show themselves to be life threatening, even though the person’s life is greatly suffering.
In many of the abuse cases of all sorts, the victim all too often blames themselves for the problem, often because they have been told they are to blame by the abuser. (Which, of course, is HOGWASH!) They then believe that if they can just be a little better, or change just enough, everything will be okay…not recognizing that unless the abuser is willing to take responsibility and work on changing, too, the out-of-control roller-coaster ride that is their marriage will continue on the same track.
Rather than make this blog overly long, I am going to propose a few points, and then follow up with a second part in the next blog. The points are simple:
1) Leaving a marriage just because it is difficult can easily be evacuating too early. Studies show that couples who endure through the difficult years and work to make it out the other side can end up with a very rich marriage. (Note—THEY work through the difficulties…it takes two.)
2) Don’t evacuate if you have the alternative of putting out the fire! Sometimes a little effort can go a long way, and responding to difficulties with panic rarely leads to good results.
3) As in the case of wildfire evacuations, divorce should be considered a last resort, not the quick solution. But if you are in a life-threatening situation, evacuating earlier is better than too late, as the Redbook story shows.
4) Be realistic about possibilities for working out problems. When only one spouse is willing to make the necessary changes, or to accept any responsibility for the difficulties, to believe that everything will change because of one person’s efforts MAY BE delusional. There are certainly many things one spouse CAN do that may help create the environment for change and improvement…but ultimately, it takes two to engage in creating a healthy relationship.
Many times, it is true, divorce is chosen too quickly, when there are better options available. But there are also times when it may be the only solution short of God’s intervention. Next blog I will offer some ideas of how to sort out your own situation (or help a friend sort out theirs) when faced with the possibility of divorce.
In the meantime, if you are having difficulties in your marriage, you might want to check out this recent two part blog by Les and Leslie Parrott.SaveSave