“I just can’t do this for 20 more years!” Stacy’s lonely marriage was worse than it had ever been. Now she wanted out.
National Marriage Week, which kicked off on February 7th this year, reached a crescendo on Valentine’s Day. Across the country, millions of married couples exchanged cards, sent flowers and had romantic dinners as they celebrated their commitment to each other. It was a beautiful reminder that in spite of the naysayers, marriage is not dead.
But for hurting couples like Stacy and her husband Brandon, Valentine’s Day or their own wedding anniversaries only emphasizes what they don’t have. Many couples quit, propelled by the desire to find something better.
It’s a tragedy that’s become routine. Our culture makes it easy to undo a marriage---from no-fault divorce laws that allow one spouse to end a marriage unilaterally to “marriage” counselors predisposed to see divorce as the best solution to a person’s unhappiness.
And when divorce occurs with a person’s family or social circle, it has a destabilizing effect on others’ marriages. One 2010 study found that when a couple’s close friends divorce, their own risk for divorce spikes by 75%. And a sibling’s divorce increases a person’s own likelihood of divorce by 22%. These events move divorce from the “unthinkable” to the “thinkable” category—and weaken a couple’s commitment to their own marriage.
Marriages plagued by abuse, serial infidelity, or substance use may indeed require dissolution—but the majority of marriages fail not because of serious pathology but because of interpersonal issues.
Ironically, the poor economy has produced one silver lining---fewer couples have gotten divorced in recent months. According to one report, as many as 38% of couples considering divorce opted to stay together because of today’s economy.
Some critics bluster that financial pressures that keep a couple together when they otherwise might split will imprison couples in unhappy marriages.
I disagree. I think it buys time. And often what a couple with a struggling marriage needs to do is simply buy time. Chasing something “better” is often a less successful recipe for happiness than working on what you have.