The "Good Divorce" - Does it Exist?

Is there such a thing as a "good divorce?" Even in low conflict separations the effects often are significant and leave lifetime scars.
Author and Speaker
Updated Apr 14, 2009
The "Good Divorce" - Does it Exist?

"Almost 80 percent of the adult kids of divorce were doing fine and had made some peace about their parents' divorce," says Dr. Ahrons, author of We're Still Family: What Grown Children Have to Say About Their Parents' Divorce (Harper Collins), which expands on her previous book The Good Divorce (HarperCollins).

Forgive my skepticism but making "some peace" is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the so called good divorce. If "some peace" is the best case scenario of the 80 percent I wonder how dysfunctional the 20 percent must be.

My personal experience with friends and with friends of my sons tells me a different story. Even in the so called "good divorce" the effects often are significant and leave lifetime scars. I had one child of a "good divorce" ask me to write a book addressing how you can recover from the betrayal (his word) of Christian parents abandoning their vows. I was interested and encouraged to see that author Elizabeth Marquardt had the courage to challenge the idea of the good divorce.

Disclaimer: obviously if a divorce is inevitable it is far better to be amicable than bitter, angry, and vindictive toward one another. Having said that, lets examine the following excerpt that appeared in the Dallas Morning News Family section on January 18, 2006.

In Marquardt's book, Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce (Crown Publishers), she includes results from a three- year study involving more than 1,500 young adults.

"The day that I sat there, looking at the data for the first time, there was this amazing moment of, 'Wow, all that stuff I struggled with; it wasn't just me.' "

Ms. Marquardt, believes divorce is "a vital option" for what she terms "high-conflict" marriages which involve violence, chronic addiction or other problems. Children do better after high-conflict marriages end, she says. But her study suggests that children fare worse after divorces that end "low-conflict" marriages, in which parents break up because they feel unhappy or unfulfilled. As a result, she wants parents to think twice before these "low-conflict" break-ups, which she says account for about two-thirds of divorces.

I believe that Marquardt has hit the nail right on the head. Clearly some marriages must be dissolved. But it is the other two-thirds of divorces that are problematic. The hard truth is that Christians have embraced the cultural creep of the "easy out" marriage. I wonder if we really understand the vows we take on the wedding day. As comedian Margaret Smith suggests, perhaps we should change the vow from "'till death do us part' into 'till my self-esteem grows enough to upgrade.'"

We read the passage from Paul's letter to the Corinthians at our wedding nearly thirty years ago.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

We start out believing that is possible. Then life comes along, and we start thinking such love is not realistic. Discouragement follows and the inevitable thought process about deserving happiness comes shortly thereafter. The decision to bring children into the mix raises the bar even more.

Too many of us are like Founding Father Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson simply cut out portions of Scripture that he didn't believe. Jesus had some hard things to say about divorce. I wonder if we don't just choose to cut those hard things out in application.

Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"

Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."(Matthew 19)

I know this is uncomfortable for many. I don't believe that divorce is the unforgivable sin. But you need to at least be honest enough to acknowledge that divorce will have an impact on your children. You are making a decision that can affect generations and the very DNA of your family. This is serious stuff. Don't fool yourself with hopeful oxymorons.

Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and "Bring’em Back Alive – A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church." Dave is available to bring his unique perspective to your conference, meeting, or broadcast. Dave and Joni, his wife of twenty-nine years, have three grown sons.

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