Commentary by Amy L. Stewart
By day, I am a divorce lawyer. By night (and in truth, during most of the day, too), I wonder how we can create more love and meaning in the world, beginning with our own lives. Naturally, my attention often is focused on marriage and divorce, and I often am asked why divorce happens. Many things are a mystery to me, but that one I think I can answer. Divorce happens (along with countless other destructive and dysfunctional effects), because we don’t know how to have healthy, loving relationships.
Consider the last time someone told you they were engaged. How did you react? What questions did you ask? Were they about the wedding date, the venue, the dress, the guest list, the honeymoon? Or did you ask about what marriage means to them and why they chose this person, to form a decades-long partnership? Did you ask about their values, goals, and needs, their similarities and differences, their expectations, their challenges, their fears, their capacity to be vulnerable, the real meaning of trust and respect? Did you explore how they will deal with conflict, extended family, finances, parenting, unemployment, illness, anger, disappointment, unhappiness, infidelity? Did you ask whether they have considered counseling, or what other resources they will turn to, to prepare for and sustain their marriage? Did you discuss the balance between safety and excitement, between being faithful to another person, ourselves and a relationship? As your gift, did you offer to be part of a community who will support them in a lifetime of being loving, self-aware, open and non-blaming?
If that conversation seems uncomfortable, you understand why marriages fail at the rates they do. It is the most important role we have – the foundation for everything else. Yet we don’t learn how to do it well or talk with one another – friends, family, neighbors, congregants, colleagues – about what it requires. What would happen, if we chose today, to start that conversation?