Whether we’re married or not, most people can recite the traditional Christian wedding vows; I, (Name), take you, (Name), to be my lawfully wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy law, in the presence of God I make this vow. I have to admit that although I dated my husband off and on for nine years, I had no idea of the challenge or significance of the vows I was speaking. My husband played the organ at many weddings. The funniest memory he had listening to couples recite the vows was when the bride recited each phrase louder and louder and with the tone of a question mark! For better for worse? In sickness and in health?? For richer for poorer??? He said he had to bow his head and cover his eyes so people wouldn’t realize the tears that were running down his face were because he was laughing.
We all have a wedding story fit for a bloopers program, but after years of working with couples, the solemnity of the wedding vows must be respected. “Till death, us do part” is a double-edged sword whether couples divorce or find a way toward a happy, restored relationship. “Till death us do part” usually remains. God permits divorce, but He also hates it. The aftermath of a divorce often has an extensive and long-lasting ripple effect, sometimes generational. It’s so dire that we share with couples the ramifications of divorce. This is where the “till death us do part” becomes paradoxical.
How death do us part
When a couple decides to divorce and they have children, life becomes more complicated. Two-thirds of the families in our country are “blended,” which indicates that most divorcees remarry. Instead of one set of parents, you have a minimum of two sets. Most often you have stepchildren, and if the new couples have children together, you now have half brothers and sisters. This doesn’t include the four sets of grandparents, extended aunts, uncles and cousins. What began as scheduling Christmas with the wife’s family and Thanksgiving with the husband’s now has multiplied exponentially, and that doesn’t include vacation. What makes it more complicated than sheer numbers is you now have wives or husbands, that you may or may not like, speaking into the life of your child – setting rules that you may not agree with, a lifestyle you may not agree with, a belief and value system you may not agree with, and you have little to no control over it. Now you have to make pick up arrangements with a stepmother or stepfather and continue to deal with your “X” regarding any significant decision on behalf of your shared child.
It gets worse
Although you may not be sharing a home with your “X,” you will continue to share many of life’s most defining and significant moments. Birthdays, recitals, sporting events your children participate in, teacher meetings, school events, graduations, church events. As they grow older, you continue to “share,” and the brothers and sisters have to “share” as well. Prom pictures, high school graduation, college visits and decisions, moving into the first dorm or apartment, and soon to follow, engagement showers and parties, wedding festivities, followed by baby showers and grandchildren. This is the best-case scenario; we haven’t touched on the financial implications or that many people go on to divorce a second time, further complicating the relationships. So far, we’ve focused on the relational complications the parents face.
What about the Kids?
Most often, when a divorce happens, the kids are still physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually and intellectually dependent. As adults, the parents have a voice; they will speak up and make their opinion and desires known. Children usually don’t have that opportunity, and if they do, they aren’t mature enough to express it. After all, they look to us for shelter, safety and to do what’s best for them. They go from one house to another, living with additional parents that they are expected to respect and hopefully grow to love. Very often they will share life in the same home with another set of children. They too have multiple grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts, maybe a new school and church. Very often they’re caught in the middle of inter-parent conflict. What do the statistics say about the kids of fragmented families?
- When parents divorce, most children suffer; for some, this suffering turns into long-lasting psychological damage. Neglect of children, which can be psychologically more damaging than physical abuse, is twice as high among separated and divorced parents.
- Exposure to inter-parental conflict significantly increases the odds of experiencing a subsequent episode of major depressive disorder as well as alcohol abuse or dependency disorder.
- Children from divorced homes perform more poorly in reading, spelling and math and repeat a grade more frequently than children from intact two-parent families.
- The college attendance rate is about 60 percent lower among children of divorced parents compared with children of intact families.
- Divorce diminishes the potential of every member of the household to accumulate wealth. The decline in income is intergenerational, with children whose parents divorce being likely to earn less as adults than children from intact families.
Lastly, the children of a divorced couple will typically outlive their parents, and one of the parents will pass before the other. Out of love, respect, support and grief that your child experiences through the death of his or her parent, you too will attend his or her funeral.
Till Death Us Do Part? Truer words were never spoken.
If you’re struggling in your marriage or need a tune-up, please consider attending a HOPE Weekend or Adventures in Marriage workshop. Visit us on the web at LivetheLife.org or text Hope Weekend or Adventures in Marriage to 555888. For more articles by Lisa May, visit goodnewsfl.org/author/lisa-may/