Marriage, Divorce, and Kids


by Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC

It's been said that one of the problems that married couples have today is that men tend to choose their wives the same way they choose their cars or trucks.

They get the best one available and hope that there's not much maintenance down the road.

While this may occasionally be true, there are certain practices that married couples must follow in order to avoid adding to a divorce rate that hovers around 50%. These are practices that are essential not only for the success of their marriage, they are essential for the well-being of our children.

In Maggie Gallagher's book, "The Abolition of Marriage," she states that, "Half of all children will witness the breakup of a parent's marriage. Of these, close to half will also see the breakup of a parent's second marriage."

Can we possibly continue with a system that allows half of our children to witness the breakup of their parent's marriage? Is a divorce rate near 50% enough to have us consider new ideas about how we decide about marriage and divorce?

One logical place to start is to educate people about the qualities of a successful marriage.

We can't be effective when we educate them two months before they marry. Emotional intelligence skills and relationship skills must be taught to our young people early in life.

When we do teach them about successful relationships, we should include these qualities:

1. Commitment-- According to one definition, "commitment is a freely chosen inner resolve to follow through with a course even though difficulty arises. How do we show our children what to do when difficulty arises? Do we move to where the grass is greener? Commitment is a daily discipline. It's the core from which we respond to difficulty. It's what makes our lives richer and deeper.

2. Emotional Awareness-- If we know what's really bothering us, we can have effective and meaningful conversations with our spouse. We can be genuine, honest, and open with each other. And we can discover that much of the pain we feel in our relationship is actually our past emotional history coming back to haunt us.

If you're planning on getting married, be aware of what your emotional issues are. If you don't know what your issues are, you may be the most likely candidate for a divorce down the road.

3. Be Kind, Not Right-- We tend to have a tremendous stake in showing our loved ones that we're right. An enormous amount of time is wasted in our relationships by arguing over who's right or wrong.

This excessive arguing is just an indication of our low self-esteem. A much easier and more effective way to be in a relationship is to commit to kindness. When you're kind, you don't need to be right. And it's much easier for others to be with you!

There certainly are both justifiable divorces and "well-done" divorces that are respectful of the kids involved. But the number of divorces involving childish and irresponsible decisions based on self-interest is staggering.

Children deserve more than this. To allow a system to continue that has half of our kids witnessing their parent's divorce is to turn our backs on our most precious commodity.

It's time to consider alternatives. Let's look at how we can spend more time educating and training young people about relationship skills and emotional intelligence. Let's look at the fact that in about 80% of the divorces in this country, only one of the participants (usually the woman) wants to end the marriage. Can we keep no-fault divorce as it is?

And most importantly, let's look at our own attitudes about commitment and decide what we want to do.

Because the cost of not doing these things is beyond measure.


Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC, is a certified personal coach, speaker, author, and workshop leader. He is the author of "Fix Your Wife in 30 Days or Less"
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