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Tuesday, November 29. 2005
According to Marquardt, the author of the excellent Between Two Worlds, two-thirds of divorces in America are "optional" or elective, ie not a consequence of abuse, violence, addictions, adultery, or similar lethally destructive misbehavior.
Orson Card has written a wise, thoughtful, and mature review of Marquardt's book, and I agree with every word in it. In my experience, many "unhappy" people are unwilling to see that much unhappiness comes from within, not from without, and refuse to see that they have the power to make things work, or not work. Or to see that much human misery comes from people's unwillingness, or inability, to grow up.
And both Card, and Marquardt, are emphatic about the point that a family is not a casual institution entered into for "personal fulfillment" or selfish gratifications: it is meant to be a rock and foundation for growing people - both the married people and any kids. Being married is difficult, sacrificial, possibly sacred, and oftentimes happy and peaceful, especially when we take it for granted and do not even realize that we have a good thing going. Marriage is not "natural." Honeymoons never last; passion fades when faced with daily reality; everyone has terrible, nasty flaws; the grass is rarely greener except for a brief time. It's too bad that the adolescent fantasies of true love that lasts forever is not automatic, but must be built and re-built over time.
Some quotes from Card's review:
"....Between Two Worlds is not just an important book, it is a highly readable one. And, to put it plainly, I believe that anyone who has children and is contemplating a divorce should regard it as a solemn duty to read this book first, and take its findings into consideration."
"Given that our whole society seems to believe the myth of romantic love -- that hormonal yearnings should trump rational commitments -- it's hardly a surprise that many perfectly good marriages break up over matters that should have been left behind in adolescence. Bad enough the heartbreak such misbehavior causes among the formerly married. But when children are involved, the selfishness and callousness of the behavior of some supposed adults should earn the disapproval of all civilized people.
But we are all so nice, so nonjudgmental, that we have to assure everyone that we aren't condemning anybody, that "it's your life." "
Read the whole thing.
Posted by Dr. Joy Bliss in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 07:02 | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)
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Wow. Now that's a good review. Think I'll come here more often.
Sounds like one of those Depressing and Necessary things like dentists...Personally, I've always felt that suicide was less of a sin than divorce. Have been lectured by my shrink that I am mistaken. So I live on, miserably.
However, Joy dear, in your profession you must learn to set aside your personal prejudices, morals and even years of observing people screwing up themselves and their family by getting divorced. I agree with your conclusions. The times I've been most tempted to leave my spouse have been when I am feeling and acting like a raging, disappointed toddler. Grownups suck it up and stay for the sake of the kids. But I've never know anyone to "electively" divorce. Yes, people leave and marry or cohabit or just sleep with someone else. But the new other is never the cause for the breakup. Only someone in a long-dead relationship is tempted to seriously stray (as opposed to those who like Tshirts that say Married But Not Dead, who are all talk and no action).
By your self description, oh fabricated Joy, you enjoy both a useful and satisfying career and a sexually and emotionally fulfilling marriage. More power to you. It is some small consolation to us real people, grimly keeping promises that feel like chains, that you do not really exist.
Oh, and shrinks never believe in romantic love. Perhaps it is because most physicians are marked and hunted down by golddiggers, who indulge them in their fantasy that they are god, or at least indulge their narcissism as a Cliffie never would. As for me, miserable failure that I am, demonstrating daily to my children that the love between parent and child is sacred, that between spouses non-existent, I do believe in romantic love. And, no, do not need the other romantics in the audience to clap to keep the dream from dying. Romantic love is better than the medieval contract I so scrupulously keep today. I may not admire people who have the guts to divorce, but I certainly envy their better love lives.
Being virtuous sucks. And I know my kids won't thank me for it--some day they will be putting the addition on some shrink's house agonizing about "Why didn't my Mom have the guts to leave the bastard..."
Wow. What a truly depressing comment. Let me put in my little attempt at sunshine. My wife and I have been married for a couple of months more than a year, and so far we've had our arguments, but we're realistic enough to know life isn't always sunshine and roses, and that we need to make our own happiness, work on things together. Chesterton had it absolutely right when he said that 'marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honour should refuse'. Perhaps he should have written 'no man or woman'.
As to being a miserable failure, I learnt long ago that anyone has a great deal more power and control over their situation if they allow themselves to take that power. This isn't idle platitude. I don't pretend it's easy. But it is simple.
One last point, it's altogether possible that Dr Joy exists (though almost certainly not under that name). There are people who don't make the Faustian deal of exchanging their souls for professional advancement. Look at Scott Peck as an example. Statistically, there have to be at least some people. I think perhaps you take solace from the fact that Dr Joy 'doesn't exist' because that means that Joy itself doesn't exist, and therefore you're not missing out on anything. You comfort yourself with your own despair, and say that really you're the only one seeing things truly, when you could step out into Joy at any moment if you so chose.
Or not. I don't know you, I certainly don't know your soul. The above comment is mostly speculation from your comment. For the sake of your soul, I hope I'm wrong. From my observations, though, I don't know...
Ah, Dumb Brit. Grew up in the damp isles, so wish you well...and how I hope you two stay happy together. We all begin marriage blissful. Then little things like unemployment, poverty, social isolation, chronic illness, a child's disability, caring for a relative with ALzheimer's, take the bloom off the rose.
When you are a little older, and have had to take care of several others 24/7 for a few years, and have had to consistently set aside your own hopes and dreams, perhaps forever, then you can get back to me if you are still so Pollyannish. Or at least when you become a parent. Until then, you will never have to put yourself last on the list. Or maybe only your wife will have to grow up and renounce self--a familiar pattern.
I remember when I felt as you do. It's the pleasant part of youth. If you have an autistic child, tho, or if your spouse cannot get or hold a job year after year, you may find that you do not have as much power and control over your situation as you presently do.
But God preserve you in your newlywed bliss. As charming to veterans of marriage as a basket full of puppies. All potential and licking tongues...
Oh, sorry, I should have mentioned. We're Christian, so you see, we know the self-renouncing isn't a sacrifice, it's a good thing. In my youthful ignorance and narrow views, I see nothing but the ever-changing now. It took me the hell of a long time to get the job I have, and there are skeletons in the closets that bug our relationship, just as your child's disability bugs yours. Somehow, we young fools seem to manage. Which raises the question why old sages like you lose hope.
Again, the charm of youth. A good thing too, given the depression of so many of us long-married, dutiful ones...And if the salt hath lost its savor it is good for nothing...At least that is how we sometimes feel as we strive to put a brave face on things so as not to discourage and further alienate everyone at work and at church. I am Christian too, despite the Anglican church, or would have thrown in the towel long ago. I meant it sincerely, I wish you both well, envy you your optimism, and the sense that joy is possible.
I was preaching at a friend's wedding 15 years ago and felt that I really understood things at last. Two years married myself, I was nursing my second child (who could not bear to be out of my arms). She fell asleep right before I had to speak, so I spoke softly so's not to wake her, hopefully loud enough for the congregation (a bunch of brilliant agnostics from our college with their non-Ivy spouses looking vaguely uncomfortable). As the only Christian, I had to deliver the homily, everyone there superstitious about it. The image I chose probably seemed weird to them. Told them to imagine a bunch of horses galloping around a field, whinnying, nuzzling, two pairing off. That was the waymost of us imagined romantic love and marriage. Passion, sparks, speed, power, freedom. Then reminded them of the medieval metaphor for marriage, as the yoked pair hauling heavy burdens over someone else's fields to produce a crop for another. That that was where we got phrases like "equally yoked" as the model for compatibility. That in marriage we had a job to do, to serve another, and that other was God. That if we were blessed with children they were to belong to Him, and we were to care for them knowing that. Etc.
This is still the way I think about marriage. I may have depressed my congregation of Ivy agnostics and I am sorry if I have depressed you. In my heart I believe that God cares more about our efforts towards holiness than our happiness. Our marriages aren't about our individual happiness, but are just about directing our efforts into serving God and raising children to love HIm. Selfishly, tho, I wish He had put a little more effort into the happiness department.
For what it's worth, people like myself who have been depressed a lifetime, are both envious of and encouraged by those I call "the blessed ones," ie: people who seem capable of enjoying life, love, etc. in the here and now. The words of Christ that always shine in the darkness for me are those about "I am come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly..." I had always hoped and prayed that I would live that abundant life, but middle-aged now, I tend more and more to think that it's only for the hereafter.
So we dour types tend to just think of marriage as suffering, a school for our particular sin, testing, character-bulding, etc. The idea that anyone might actually enjoy it is extraordinary.
Finally "the self-renouncing isn't a sacrifice" My word! Even Jesus found it a sacrifice....
May you stay married even longer than my parents who just celebrated 51 years!
Ahh, I see now.
Yeah, before I forget, I need to clarify/qualify what I said about self-sacrifice. Of course it is a sacrifice, what I should have said is that it's not the loss you were seeming to say it is. My self? Your self? If we seek it, it'll vanish, if we forget about it, and just focus on doing things, it'll be that much stronger in us. That's what the great writers seem to say, anyway, and I've found it to be true in my own limited experience.
You speak of depression as a constant. Do I take it you mean clinical depression rather than just your marriage making you depressed? Please excuse if that's too personal, but it does make a difference to our discussion here of marriage in and of itself.
On happiness, I'm reminded of a discussion I was having with my (CoE) priest a few weeks back. He was saying that we all need to remember to take pleasure in the simple things in life. I, however, had just been reading chapter 10 of Chesterton's excellent 'Heretics' and replied that it'd make much more sense to take the simple pleasures in the things in life.
I'm also reminded of a poster I saw in the church a while back, a cartoon with two priests discussing the 3rd world.
Priest A: I sometimes want to ask God why isn't doing more for the poor, the homeless, the destitute.
Priest B: Well, why don't you?
Priest A: Because I'm afraid he'll ask me the same thing!
On marriage itself, I'm reminded of the Screwtape Letters and Screwtape's comment that it's best (from the devils' point of view) to fool people into looking for happiness, sparks, passion, etc, as the only 'real' ("and never let them ask what you mean by 'real'!") and 'good' reason to get married. Happiness can grow out of superordinate goals, out of time spent together, and so much more. But you'll never find it by looking for it.
The bleatings of a young fool, take them or leave them as you wish. (or better yet, reply to them, I'm enjoying this conversation) And many thanks for your well-wishes. I'll keep you and your family in my prayers.