Divorce is not a pleasant subject and most of us want to avoid talking about it or reading about it. I have to say, I was a bit discouraged to have to spend this week studying about divorce trends and the negative effect it has on families and children. Although, through all I have read this week from scholars and prophets, my feelings of the importance of marriage being a strength and a protector of families has deepened.
In the United States and across the world, the definition of marriage and families is changing. People everywhere are questioning whether it is even necessary to marry; to some the marriage license is just a piece a paper. Is it just paper, or is there more to marriage than just a superficial union between two people? The National Marriage Project wrote “The State of Our Unions 2012” where they share that marriage is “not merely a private arrangement; it is also a complex social institution. Marriage helps to unite the needs and desires of couples and the children their unions produce.” So many people are turning to other forms of relationships, but relationships such as cohabitation—though dedicated at first—are “twice as likely as married couples to break up before their child turns twelve.”
These kinds of break-ups are happening everywhere we turn. What is happening to the children that grow up in broken home? In the video clip, “Divorce School for Kids” from ABC News, children are sent to a special school to help them handle the stress and sadness that comes from having their family break-up. Often times, the long-term effects on the children are not even considered as couples go forward with divorce. Divorce causes children to be worse off than their peers that have two married parents. They often suffer depression, delinquent behavior, substance abuse, and psychological problems that can extend into their adulthood. In this divorce school, the children are able to talk and write about their feelings. Through these activities the parents learn the feelings of their children and have a better understanding of how much their children are struggling. This school helps the families work through these trials and strengthen their families.
If couples worked together from the beginning, meaning before they divorced, by devoting themselves to each other completely, serving, being patient, forgiving--then most marriages could be saved from this heart ache. Elder Dallin H. Oaks teaches, “Modern prophets have warned that looking upon marriage 'as a mere contract that may be entered into at pleasure … and severed at the first difficulty … is an evil meriting severe condemnation,' especially where children are made to suffer” (Divorce, May 2007, Ensign). Elder Oaks continues to counsel, “I strongly urge you and those who advise you to face up to the reality that for most marriage problems, the remedy is not divorce but repentance. Often the cause is not incompatibility but selfishness. The first step is not separation but reformation. Divorce is not an all-purpose solution, and it often creates long-term heartache.”
The answer is most often not divorce, but repentance. That may sound harsh, especially to those going through the pains of a troubled relationship. I believe that as couples turn to God, and seek professional help, they will be able to overcome most of the trials and afflict marriage. There have been studies that found that couples who worked to keep their marriage together found themselves happy five years later.
Life is full of ups and downs, some years are very tough. What a shame it would be to throw something beautiful away, such as your marriage, when you are going through a tough time. Your marriage is worth saving. Your family is worth preserving, and the world needs you to keep your family strong.