Dilemma 02

Hurtful Popular Marriage Advice

I know this sounds really mean, but it’s true. Much of today’s marriage advice is really great if you want to blow a marriage apart and have the couple arrive in divorce court.

The Guardian carried an article by Linda Blaire. I don’t know if this is the same Linda who played the young girl on the Exorcist. If so, she probably has good intentions and is quite sincere, and she may very well be contributing the best advice she has heard from marriage counselors or from other friends who carry popular advice.

But wherever she got the advice from, it seems better suited for ripping apart a marriage than healing a marriage in trouble.

The article is “Should I try to save my parents’ marriage?”

Why I am picking on Linda and the Guardian

First of all, I don’t wish to pick on either of them. I hope to bring up each item of advice and provide some possible better solutions for helping to save a marriage.

One conclusion they seem to come to is that the children should not try. Rather, they should understand clearly that their parents’ marriage is not their responsibility and that they should stay out of their conflict. And this sounds reasonable since some parents tend to attempt to get the children to take sides against the other parent. This is particularly hard when the children are young.

Even so, it is not fair to the children to treat them as though they do not have an interest in keeping their parents together. One thing a child might do is declare, “I am staying with the parent who wants to keep the family together.” And, like it or not, that’s fair.

It is incredibly cruel and selfish to break up a marriage unnecessarily.

Even so, the children should not have to carry such a burden. But the solution is to work on building the marriage into a successful loving one. You know, the way the couple promised when they gave their wedding vows?

The burden is relieved by telling the children to butt out and mind their own business so they will not be given the burdens of an adult unfairly. The burden should be on the parents to have the integrity to honor their wedding vows.

Am I pulling my punches poorly? Perhaps. Perhaps I am being a little judgmental. After all, if one parent is being violent or unfaithful, it is not fair to expect the other parent or the children to bear all the load. And yet abusive and unfaithful parents put that load on the rest of the family all the time.

Enough of that. Let’s move on.

“The marriage has always had its ups and downs”

One statement in the article goes as follows: “…My father speaks to my mother as if she is stupid. My mother makes sexist, but probably fair, remarks about his shortcomings…”

Actually, the marriage does NOT have it’s ups and downs at all. The marriage is the promise, the vow to stay for better or worse, to love, to honor. The two spouses are acting unkindly.

Why do people do that? It’s a choice. We never have to be unkind to one another. Do we? So why do we do that? Perhaps we hope that by being mean or punishing our spouse we will show them that we don’t like what they’re doing or what they’re failing to do. And who likes being judged that way?

The Walkaway Bride

Enter, the story of the “walkaway bride”. The story is a fallacy from the start as it presumes it’s always the bride that walks away, but that may be true these days because most people perceive divorce courts to be arbitrarily cruel and unfair to the father no matter who is at fault. So, these days, it’s more common for women to leave than men.

But the story of the “walkaway bride” has other fallacies. And the story goes like this:

A wife nags her husband constantly. He ignores her wishes. The more she nags, the more stubborn he becomes. She punishes him. He punishes her. Neither get what they want. Neither feel respected or loved.

She loses hope and gives up hope, not only in getting what she wants, but she finds men who pay attention to her more fun to talk with. Her husband thinks she’s happy at last because she stops complaining and seems to smile all the time.

Divorce papers arrive and her husband is devastated.

The Fallout of the Walkaway Bride

The fallout can take many forms, but a family is torn apart and people suffer. A jealous husband may become violent or murderous for the first time in his life. Paramours are shot, run over, beaten senseless, killed.

Some children learn to hate the parent who took their family apart and never want to see them. Or if they don’t, they may never completely forgive or trust them ever again. After all, if they don’t keep their promises to love the other spouse, why should the children believe they won’t also experience betrayal?

Some betrayed spouses commit suicide or resort to drinking or drugs and die in automobile accidents. Some take their children with them. And some children reject school and get into drugs or commit suicide.

People say children will be resilient if the parents can handle the divorce like adults. And many adults try. But this assurance does more to serve the unfaithful parent than the children or the abandoned spouse.

Many faithful spouses endure for the love of the children. But they go through years of living hell and self-doubt. “Could I have saved the marriage if I had been more accommodating?”

Eventually, the abandoned spouses realizes he or she probably could not have saved the marriage at all and that self-blame does more to enable the unfaithful spouse.

Thus, the Walkaway Bride is not the victim, but the narcissistic, self-righteous harlot who won’t learn character, love, patience, faithfulness, and sincerity. She thinks it’s beneath her, and everyone else should bow to her wishes.

While the rest of the family heals, the Walkaway Bride may go from one broken and abusive relationship to another. And stepfathers are far more likely to abuse the children than their real fathers.

And yet our courts are more likely to rip the children from the faithful father and throw them into a house of adultery to be abused because the unfaithful are the ones who bring profit to the divorce industry.

What can we do to save marriages?

Model good relationship skills. We cannot urge others to be faithful if we’re not faithful. We cannot teach others to speak lovingly to their spouses, to respect them, to seek out their best interest constantly if we do not do the same.

Love is a choice. Treating others well is a choice. And if we don’t respond well to punishment, put-downs, embarrassment, insults, criticism, and such, then why do we think our spouse will respond well to it?

Should we complain more? Or should we express gratitude more? Are we happier when we gripe and gripe to get what we want? Or are we happier when we call out our blessings and all the good things our family members do?

Is it better to model good behavior for our children or bad behavior?

Is it better to model good relationship skills or bad ones?

Good listening skills or interrupting and talking over people and insisting on getting our word through?

Do we show love or contempt?

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