Any Justifiable Reasons for Divorce?
Published November 19, 1987. During the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many men and women who have been or are divorced. Unless a person has had this experience, I think it is difficult to understand the adjustment and transition from being married to being single once again. And sometimes well-meaning friends, family members, neighbors and relatives make the task of adjustment even harder.
Making the decision to divorce is difficult enough. There are long periods of deliberation whether to stay in the relationship or to get out of it. And the alternatives are not always distinctly positive or negative. Sometimes there are combinations of both. But eventually a decision must be made. Either we are going to stay married and perhaps work to improve it, get out of it by divorce, or live on, as one counselor has noted as “married singles” in “quiet desperation.”
By now most readers of this column know I’m highly committed to stable and satisfactory marriages, including my own and those of others. When troubles occur I firmly believe that married couples should do all in their power to work toward reconciliation and a more satisfying marital relationship. I think this is usually the case, not only for the couple, but for the children often involved.
But the pervasive question remains for those considering divorce and all other married couples. Is divorce justified? An experience I once had comes to mind.
When I was teaching at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, I was invited to speak at a women’s luncheon in the community. After my remarks I asked if there were any questions. There were one or two. Then I was handed a note scribbled on a napkin which read: “Dr. Barlow, if I am in an irreparable marriage where divorce seems impossible, which is the best alternative? Suicide or murder?”
I read the note aloud, and the room became very quiet. We all realized the woman who wrote the note was serious and everyone became interested in what I would say. I also wondered.
Finally, I suggested that no marriage relationship is worth a human life. Whenever a human being is assaulted, or life is frequently threatened, I question the value of staying in the relationship. Divorce seemed to me to be a viable alternative to either murder or suicide.
Before sitting down, I also suggested there were probably other justifiable reasons for divorce but only those in the troubled marriage could make the decision. They are the ones who ultimately will abide by the consequences of that decision. They are the ones who will have to live with, or without, their marriage partner.
Deciding to divorce is usually a long, difficult decision. Sometimes people rush into it prematurely and perhaps even unnecessarily. But there are also those who give the decision careful and deliberate consideration. We as family, friends, neighbors, or relatives may not agree with someone else’s choice to divorce. But once the decision is made, those involved need our friendship and understanding.
When do you think divorce is justified?