Forever…Or Just For Now

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorced after a mere five years of marriage. Sadly, the announcement of the divorce itself was not shocking; just another celebrity relationship washed down the drain. The clandestine, sudden, speedy, and uncontested nature of the news, however, is what caught everyone by surprise. I suppose we’ll never know exactly what constituted their “irreconcilable differences,” but suffice it to say that they are part of a growing statistic.

Almost 50% of marriages end in divorce today. And, why do marriages fail? According to Divorce.com, it boils down to ten main problems:

  1. Financial (differing expectations, hardships, inheritance, etc. with money matters)
  2. Communications (typically a lack thereof)
  3. Family (challenges dealing with in-laws, step children, ex-spouses, etc.)
  4. Sex (matters of frequency, quality, infidelity, etc.)
  5. Friends (meddling, separate vacations, sharing of confidences, etc.)
  6. Addictions (dealing with excessive behaviors associated with drugs, alcohol, gambling, shopping, sex, etc.)
  7. Abuse (physical and/or emotional)
  8. Personality (conflicts based on incompatible traits)
  9. Expectations (inability to accept changing roles, unrealistic dreams, religious differences, differing parenting styles, etc.)
  10. Time (poor time management with regard to balancing home, work, family, friends, etc.)

Is any of this a news flash? Somewhere, somehow, one or more of these factors typically contribute to the demise of a marriage. But, it’s open, honest, and ongoing communication that can help ward off or better manage any marital challenges that arise.

The reality of divorce dates back to biblical times. In the book of Deuteronomy in the Hebrew bible, for example, we read that a man can hand a “bill of divorcement” to his wife if he merely finds some “unseemly” thing in her (chapter 24, verse 1). The rabbis even say that it’s a mitzvah – a good deed – for him to end the marriage because this “unseemly” thing would prevent him from loving her or having a relationship with her in manner that she deserves. This “unseemly” thing could include anything from her being a bad cook to having intolerable body odor.

It should be noted, however, that wives could initiate the process of divorce as well.  The rabbis strongly advocated for a woman whose husband’s personal habits or ailments, or career choice, disgusted her to the point of refusing to have sex with him.

Finally, it’s important to mention that, according to Jewish values, divorce does not condone unethical, inappropriate, or unsympathetic actions between ex-spouses – especially where children are concerned. While the end of a marriage is painful and difficult to move past, the negative feelings and adverse effects from it should not guide or justify “bad behavior.” The ultimate goal should be tolerance and, if possible, a semblance of mutual respect.

Elsewhere in this blog, I’ve spoken about finding one’s – beshert – soul mate.  I’ve also talked about the “Happily Ever After” fantasy that many girls dream of achieving. I’ve even written about the challenges and the need to work hard at maintaining healthy relationships. But, I now add that marriage isn’t for everyone; especially remarriage after divorce. I hate to be a cynic, but after all, half of marriages fail AND rabbis clearly support divorce.

I don’t want to trash the institution of marriage, but of the 50% of couples who stay married, only 25% are actually happy and fulfilled in their marriages! For some people, marriage simply is too much work. For some, it’s not necessary if raising a family is out of the question. For some, the fear of being alone is overtaken by the desire to be free and independent.  For some, the cost of fidelity and commitment isn’t worth the price. For some “just for now” is more realistic than “forever”…

What are you willing to do to beat the odds?

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