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BellaOnline's Marriage Editor

When Divorce is Not an Option

As a marriage advocate, I rarely condone divorce. It has become an easy out for too many impatient, self-centered, and immature individuals who wreak untold emotional havoc upon their innocent families. Generations past have reaped benefits when they waited out their short-sighted impulses, finding that love deepens you take the good with the bad and learn that no one has to be perfect to be loved perfectly.

So when couples would declare that “divorce was not an option” for them, I felt glad to know that the word “commitment” still meant something today. Yet, real life marriage experiences have taught me that dangers lurk when there is no escape clause in the marriage contract.

When divorce is not an option
I understand the sentiment behind this vow. It’s better to focus your attention on fixing rather than ditching your marriage, but when there is no divorce option, a couple of potential risks can befall your relationship:

1. Abuse. When partners feel that there is no penalty (divorce) for misbehavior, bad behavior can abound. Discourtesy. Physical abuse. Spouses can take each other for granted and devalue their relationship. If there is an imbalance of power in the marriage, the risk of abuse increases. There is truth to the old adage: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
2. Depression. People naturally buck against limitations. Because free will is built into our birthright as human beings, we crave the freedom to live as we choose. An individual who is forced to stay in a relationship against her will finds it hard to “make the best of it.” Even if her body and mind are resigned to staying in an unhappy situation, her heart, like a maverick, will not give in so easily. Unresolved dissatisfaction leads to depression.
3. Death. Despondent spouses, with “no way out,” may contemplate suicide as the only alternative.

When divorce is an option…
1. Abuse need not be tolerated. Marriage vows are a contract that both sides need to live up to, and when one party fails to “love, honor, and cherish” by abusing his partner, the contract should be null and void. No one should be forced to endure abuse at the hands of the person who is duty-bound to love and protect her. No religious dictate or legal decree obligates one to being subject to harm.

2. You don’t take your relationship or your spouse for granted. If you mistreat your mate, he or she can leave. Your partner should be the recipient of your best behavior.

3. You can’t use your marriage as an excuse for not creating the life you would like to lead. If you’re unhappy, you can do something about it. No martyrs allowed.

The option of divorce can enrich your relationship
Throwing out ultimatums or threatening divorce has an extremely detrimental, eroding effect on marriage, and divorce should never be a casual threat. In fact, it is best kept an unspoken possibility for the direst of circumstances. But knowing that divorce is available can have some positive effects on your marital relationship. When you say, “I don’t have to be here. I choose to be here” it makes all the difference in how you view your marriage and how you treat your mate.

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