Monday, December 27, 2004

It's All About Me

I'm pleased that vehement opponents of a law that I find unobjectionable have found a civil, non-invective-filled way to express their opinions. In the same spirit, I would like to say that I think they are wrong.

The issue is no-fault divorce. A bill being proposed for this year would remove no-fault divorce for couples who have been married 10 years and have minor children, under certain circumstances. Couples in those circumstances could still divorce for abuse, adultery, etc., and that is as it should be. But being married 10 years and having irreconcilable differences strikes me as being rather like the guy who takes his 5-year-old video camera back to the store saying "it never worked right since the day I bought it," and asking for his money back. If it wasn't working, why'd you wait so long?

I have some good friends who recently divorced in exactly those circumstances. Their divorce did not have to happen. If they had gotten some counseling, they would still be married today. The father didn't want a divorce. But the mother found it easier and more satisfying to tell her flawed but devoted husband to kiss off, instead of starting to unpack the baggage she brought with her into the marriage. Since then it's been a real struggle to remain friends with her. Everything is all about her. She exists in a selfish little universe, while her kids go untended, unbathed, and unfed. The no-fault divorce only fed her selfishness. Once she had gotten a taste of what it was like to serve only herself, she just couldn't stomach serving anyone else. And so she went on to do every kind of disservice to her children-- driving away their father, letting their home get squalid, and absenting herself from them emotionally, even when she is physically present. This has been extremely unhealthy for her, and only time will tell how deeply she has wounded her children.

The author of the op-ed I linked speaks sensitively about the needs of the adults in a bad marriage, but says not a word about the children. That would be a fine argument, if only adults were involved in the divorce-- but under these limited circumstances, it is clear that this is not the case. Adults who raise children have committed themselves to 18 years of subordinating their needs and desires to the needs of the children; that's what being a parent is about. A conscientious parent will cultivate her marriage as well, for the benefit of the children, her husband, and herself. There is no "what about me" in raising children or in marriage. If you are selfish enough to create children in a marriage when you don't intend to do everything it takes to cultivate the marriage, and keep up the charade for over 10 years, then you really do deserve to have to at least explain your actions to a mediator before going to court. It'll be good practice for when you have to explain it to your kids, and later to the Almighty.

The author of the op-ed I linked speaks sensitively about the needs of the adults in a divorce and their desire to lessen the pain inherent in their irresponsible actions, but says not a word about the children. He or she has entirely missed the point of the elimination of no-fault divorce under these circumstances: it's not all about the adults. Adults do not need a cowardly way to avoid facing up to the responsibilities they took on, no matter how badly it hurts.