On Sabbath I chatted with an acquaintance of mine about a couple who is splitting up that I know a little bit but not particularly well. As I was thinking about this particularly story, even without knowing (or wanting to know) all of the details, I was struck by three particular qualities that would make divorces way less common. Naturally, this is not a subject I find particularly enjoyable to think about, and since I am not married, I definitely have to say that the reality of my parents’ divorce has definitely and negatively affected my own efforts at courtship. Nevertheless, given the fact that even bad examples have something that can teach us positively, I would like to focus on three qualities that people can have that would make divorces much less common, as more than half of the kids in my Sabbath School class seem to come from broken families, something that I can relate to painfully well.
The first quality that would greatly help couples stay together better is a firm commitment on the part of everyone to improve their lives and wrestle with what holds them back, and to encourage others to constantly improve their lives as well (without nagging, of course). Why is this so hard? It would be so much easier for couples to stay together if there was a shared commitment to overcome difficulties. This is especially true when people are struggling with problems like alcoholism or personal sins. There is often a chance for people to receive some support and encouragement so long as they have a commitment to overcome, although this is by no means certain. That said, there is very little chance at success in life and relationships if one has a massive problem in life and one has no commitment to help the problem even with the help of others. It is a lot easier to succeed in life when one has the backing of a wife and family than it is to do so alone, even though, sadly, some people are only motivated to wrestle with their own demons when they have lost loved ones over their problems.
The second quality that would help couples stay together is related to the first, and that is the firm commitment of people to others. Trust is hard to achieve in our relationships, and that trust is harder to find when people have a lot of doubts that others are firmly committed to making a relationship worse, but are rather going to be prone to cut and run when times are difficult. This has proven to be a difficult matter for me for several related reasons. One of them is the fact that my life has never been particularly easy, so anyone who is going to be with me is going to have to deal with a lot of struggles. I’m generally pretty open about what I have to wrestle with, and do not want to deceive or defraud someone into being with me in the expectation of an easy life, but all the same it is not easy at all to believe that someone is willing to stand with me and fight the darkness that I have had to wrestle with all my life, since I’m aware that I’m not asking something easy of someone else, and there are plenty of people who have less to wrestle with than I do .
The third quality that would greatly improve the survival of relationships would be thinking about the well-being of children (and one’s spouse). To be sure, there are cases where thinking of the well-being of children would involve a breakup, such as when there are parents that are sexually abusive. In such a case, though, one is dealing with the best of a set of bad alternatives, where serious damage is pretty inevitable. There are many cases, though, where more thought about other people would affect one’s own behavior, and likely for the better. All too often, though, in cases where there are troubled families, all of the adults involved are generally looking after their own personal interests with lip service, at best, being paid to the best interests of their children. Needless to say, this causes a lot of difficulties.
Several years ago, Tracy Thorn (half of the sophisticated pop duo Everything But The Girl, most famous for their song “Missing”) came out with an album that featured the song “Oh, The Divorces,” in which she reflected upon the marital problems of those around her. As someone who has never been married, but who has a pretty clear and obvious desire for a wife and children, the fact that there are so many problems with those who I am around adds to my own personal background in making it a concern exactly how to handle relationships well. Dealing well with one’s own commitments to living well and thinking of others, and choosing partners that have a great deal of persistence themselves is definitely a helpful thing. As is often the case, though, it is far harder to do than to wish and plan.
 See, for example: