Photo credit: Tetra Images/Getty Images
Divorce isn't a flippant choice made by people who got tired of putting in effort. It isn't a flagrant disregard for vows spoken in earnest. Divorce sucks. It feels so obvious to say this, but so many people — married people, typically — tend to mischaracterize divorce. I hope those folks never have to walk in the shoes of the countless divorced men and women before them.
Stop talking about how you're better than divorce
I wish the best for every marriage, but when I see people insist that they'd never get divorced, I start side-eying the computer. A whole lot of factors have the potential to do you part before death does you part. You're not in control of the person you're married to, and you're not in control of the hurdles life sets in front of you. Celebrate your love and your hope and your good fortune. Celebrate a partner you're compatible with — a partner who respects and loves you. Celebrate your commitment. But don't get cocky. Swearing that you'd never consider divorce isn't a magical charm against breakups. And trust me, if you're smug about it, you sound like a jerk.
You don't get a cookie for trying hard
You work really hard on your marriage? Good. Marriage takes work and commitment from both partners. Children, finances, illness, job loss, grief and infidelity have the potential to destroy relationships. Yes, people have the capacity to move forward and heal after events that traumatize a marriage. But when things don't get better, it doesn't mean partners got lazy or didn't try. Relationships are hard work. If you put the time in and work through the ups and downs, don't expect a pat on the back. It's not a contest. The reward for hard work is the growth and stability of your marriage. And for some people, the reward for that hard work is a solid brick wall and a heartbreaking divorce.
Don't forget that divorce can save lives
Before you badmouth divorce or bemoan today's high rates of divorce, remember that we're finally living in an era where women can escape toxic relationships without having to prove to a judge that the marriage is not viable. The system isn't perfect, but it allows women to escape emotional and physical abuse with no questions asked. There's a story behind every divorce. Before you judge a woman for getting divorced, consider issues like substance abuse and domestic violence. Not every divorce is about two people falling out of love.
Divorce is really, really hard when you have kids
I have never experienced pain like listening to my kids cry when I told them I wasn't going to be married to their dad anymore. It's a pain that lingers, heals and resurfaces when I least expect it. While there are certainly exceptions, most parents don't take hurting their children lightly. Give parents the benefit of the doubt before you judge them for breaking up. The decision to get divorced was likely agonized over, was likely put off for months — maybe for years. It's humiliating and scary to stand in court and admit you have irreconcilable differences despite the children who rely on you. It's scary to navigate custody, child support and parenting plans. People with kids don't get divorced out of convenience.
Family is worth fighting for
I'm sure you've heard it many times. Our family is worth fighting for. The truth is, all families are worth fighting for. One family's particular fight might involve counseling or prayer. Another family's fight might involve navigating the pain of divorce for the betterment of every member of that family. Please don't assume that divorce happens because two partners looked at the love they had and the children they made and thought eh, this isn't really worth fighting for. Co-parenting is a long, endless fight. It's a fight to remain peaceful, to find respect and cooperation and a new normal. I fight for my family every single day.
Respect the fact that the families worth fighting for aren't necessarily picture perfect.