One of my sisters is going through a divorce. After twenty-eight years of marriage, and three children (now 24, 23, and 21), she and her husband are finally calling it quits. They encountered numerous challenges over the years and a myriad of reasons play into this final decision.
I feel tremendous sympathy for my sister. She’s the first in our family to divorce and admitting this “failure” – to herself and to others – has come with enormous angst and regret. The saddest part of this situation, however, is that no one in the family is at all surprised that it’s ending. Hell, no one understood how it even lasted as long as it did.
Now that the marriage is essentially over, I can’t help but reflect back to its beginning. Why did my sister marry a guy who was so clearly wrong for her? Weren’t there clues right up front? From the first day I met my soon-to-be-ex-brother-in-law, I knew he was the wrong guy for my sister, but couldn’t articulate my reasons. The way he spoke, the way he behaved, and especially the way he treated my sister were just plain wrong. But, either she didn’t see it or just didn’t care. She wanted to get married; he came along; they discussed marriage; and she decided that he was good enough to say yes to. The potential for divorce was never on her mind. My “nay” vote didn’t count. So, for her sake, I stayed out of her business.
A recent Huffington Post article called, “Calling Off A Wedding: 5 Signs You Should Do It,” has helped me put things into perspective. It gave me some concrete points that I couldn’t articulate almost three decades ago. To paraphrase the author, marriage may not be a good idea if:
- You don’t get along with each other’s families. Problems with in-laws tend to get worse over time, not better.
- You dated for less than a year. If you’re going to spend your life with someone, you must give yourself enough time to get to know him or her – on a daily basis – in a wide variety of circumstances beforehand.
- You don’t discuss or agree up front on a variety of fundamental “life” issues (i.e. religious practice/observance, living location, career choices, views on finances/spending, etc.). These topics should not pose a surprise later.
- You lack effective communications or conflict resolution skills. Yelling or crying, slamming doors or throwing things, going to bed mad or giving the silent treatment are indications of trouble in paradise. A pattern of this type of behavior is very difficult to break.
- Your gut – that voice inside you – is telling you “DON’T DO IT!” When it’s right, you know it. When it’s not, you know it.
One of these signs could be a red flag. But, if multiple appear, a full-blow red alert may be on the horizon. If you go ahead with the wedding despite the warning signs, just know that you may be going down a very rocky path. And, understand that there may be collateral damage along the way.
We all know that many people, in at least two different families, are impacted in some way by the divorce of a couple. People take sides, worry that they are to blame, feel they should have helped in some way, etc. There often are fights over money, property, the kids, and even the family pets. Future events – like holiday gatherings, weddings, or graduations – become uncomfortable and awkward. Forewarned should be forearmed.
Unfortunately, my sister couldn’t read the signs that were right in front of her and hers was not to be a “happily ever after” story. But, she now has the chance to put this regrettable chapter behind her and move on. She can learn from this experience and do things differently. She can take stock, develop an action plan, make her own decisions, and take care of herself. She’s still young enough and capable of finding the real “Mr. Right” for her.
Before my children get married, I’m soliciting my sister’s vote…
Author’s Disclaimer: Since I have never been divorced, my thoughts and opinions have been derived from conversations with and impressions from others who have. I hope my words have not been presumptuous, hurtful, or judgmental in any way. Before writing about this topic, I secured my sister’s approval.