(About a 4 minute read)
A few days ago, I was reading about a pastor from one of the Southern states who is of the angry opinion (why does everyone think they need to be angry to open their mouths on nearly any subject these days?) that divorce was far too easy in America.
He blamed no-fault divorce for breaking up the American family, and warned that it would soon lead to the collapse of the nation. Consequently he was calling for laws that would make it much harder to get divorced.
I think it’s a common enough sentiment that the laws should indeed make it tougher. But I myself don’t share that sentiment. For one thing, I believe divorce already is one of the toughest commonly shared life experiences anyone can go through largely due to the emotional suffering involved. For another thing, I’m pretty much opposed to the government having anything even approaching a say in whether a couple must stay married or not. And last, I’m familiar with the tragedy of placing too much blind emphasis on staying together at all costs.
A good friend, who is also an occasional reader of this blog, was born into a traditional Muslim society where divorce — although possible — is very difficult. For ten years she was married to a man who physically and verbally abused her and their three children. By the time she divorced him, her oldest boy was beginning to physically abuse his younger siblings. Yet all this abuse wasn’t enough to make it any easier on her to get a divorce.
The blind instinct of people in her culture is to do whatever they can to pressure each other into staying married — despite the costs. There is — at least initially — very little effort to weigh each case according to its merits and judge them individually. Instead, everyone just assumes that the couple ought to stick it out.
Consequently, she had no support at all from anyone — apart from one sister — when she decided to divorce her abuser. Even her parents rallied to his side (he didn’t want a divorce) and forced her to almost return to him. But her parents were not alone. Even unrelated people — “friends” — felt they had an obligation to get involved on his side. Add to that, there was religious pressure brought to bear on her too.
Naturally, she became deeply confused about what she really wanted, despite the effect he had had upon her and upon their children. She managed to divorce him, but the pressure didn’t let up even then. People simply switched from “stay married” to “re-marry”!
What disturbed me the most about her situation was the thoughtlessness of it all. It’s the relatively rare human who genuinely likes to think. Most us would prefer to merely figure out what someone else is telling us is true or should be the case.
If someone told us — especially when we were young in life — that the sky is made of asphalt, we wouldn’t even really question it. We would, instead, spend perhaps considerable time pondering what it meant that the sky was made of asphalt and then calling that pondering, “thinking”.
Given human nature, I worry that making divorce tougher than it already is will lead to all sorts of mischief such as was last seen when the divorce laws were indeed tougher. Peer pressure to stay together, in addition to the legal pressure. Spouses finding it is easier to poison their partner rather than divorce them. Divorced people finding it difficult to impossible to get re-married due to the stigma of divorce. And so forth.
In my opinion, rather than toughen the divorce laws, we should be educating people on how to exercise greater wisdom picking a partner in the first place. That, I think, would be a good start.