Friday, June 6, 2014

Needed: speed-bumps on the road to divorce

The “empty-nest divorce” threatens to become a familiar rite of passage in American life. During the first few years after graduation from college we are regularly invited to the weddings of our classmates and friends. A few more years pass, and we hear about the birth of their children. Another decade or two, and we may receive invitations to those children’s weddings. Then, sadly, we hear that the couples, our old friends, are breaking up.

Every divorce is a tragedy. Lawyers and legislators may speak glibly of “no-fault” divorce, but in practice there is plenty of fault on both sides. Except in the most unusual circumstances—those rare cases when a civil divorce is the proper response to legal problems—a divorce is a public proclamation that two people have failed at the most important business in their lives. Divorce, as Peter Kreeft has observed, is the suicide of a family. But in this case the suicide may claim innocent victims: the children, if there are any; the unwilling partner, if only one spouse wants to end the life of the marriage.

Yet as sad as divorce always is, it is even more heartbreaking to watch the disintegration of a marriage that has endured for 20 or 30 years, and produced a handful of children. How is it possible that a couple could live together for decades, appearing to all the world like the happy heads of a healthy family, and then suddenly abandon the project they had been working on together?  (more...)

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