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Is divorce ruining relationships?

Date
Divorce is no longer as imposing as a Mt Everest trek.

Divorce is no longer as imposing as a Mt Everest trek. Photo: MacGillivary Freeman Films

Here’s the thing. I am against marriage as the only legitimate romantic relationship. I support gay marriage; matrimony should be possible within any romance, just not the only romantic possibility. I also don’t think marriage has to be monogamous.

But I am starting to have doubts about divorce.

And this is a problem because, er, I am starting to think perhaps divorce really is such a bad thing. I’m starting to think divorce really is ruining our relationships. And it’s starting to make me sound like a hypocritical conservative.

Am I?

Well – perhaps not.

Let me explain.

Divorce used to be difficult, socially. Things that are difficult are generally undesirable, even if their consequence is attractive.

Having the bragging rights to an Mount Everest summit story is attractive, but actually reaching the summit is not. Hence the respect we afford the journey, and the awe-bordering-on-suspicion we grant to those who survive. This peculiar sort of judgement comes from lack of experiential relatability, and a shared belief system – common sense, in this case.

But if the summit could be conquered with ease, and if most of our mates had been there and back, it would be different. Reactions to tales regaled would be met with ambivalence and adverse judgement – “that’s interesting, but you’re crazy” – less likely.

So it is with divorce today. Yes, there are still costs attached to it – legal bills, emotional toll, and so on and so forth, which makes it unattractive. But the social cost has changed. More people have been there and done that, so it’s not as peculiarly fascinating anymore. And the belief system common to most people nowadays doesn’t have the ‘burn in hell’ ring it once did.

Thus divorce is less undesirable. Certainly it’s not attractive – I imagine few divorcees wanted to get divorced as they walked down the aisle – but it is accessible. And this accessibility has impacted on the way we view relationships. And when I say we I mean me, though I presume I’m not alone.

Certainly, when I broach the subject with my 20-to-30-something friends who are single-ish, educated, and could hardly recall a positive parental romance between them, I find similar thoughts have seeded. These notions might not be proudly nurtured by those who would self-describe as liberal progressives who value choice and freedom and individualism above all else. But the idea is there all the same.

The idea that perhaps too much choice, freedom and individualism is challenging love lives in the way their opposites did generations ago, before no-fault divorce swept through much needed change. Divorce in the 60s and 70s was a much needed antidote to the social stiffness and personal constraints of the decades previous.

But that was then. Now, the accessibility of divorce – the ease with which we can conceptualise ending relationships, even very, very serious ones – has helped make the reality of marriage a difficult pill to swallow. The reality of long-term, life-time commitment is the new Mt Everest. Those who manage it might be publicly feted, generally envied and privately doubted by those who have not, but want to.

And about here is where my palm hits my face. What am I saying? That we should go back to a time when marriage was for life no matter what? Where giving up on the great dream was social suicide? Have I regressed?

I don’t think so. I simply think the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction and needs to be corrected. I think many of us are sleeping in uncomfortable, lonely and sometimes very unhappy beds. We’ve made these beds with sheets of perpetual dissatisfaction on which we lie and wonder, ‘are you really the one, or just the one for now?’

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199 comments so far

  • people ruin relationships, divorce terminates marriage.

    Commenter
    Victorious Painter
    Date and time
    June 20, 2012, 6:09AM
    • Brief and succinct. I find this is a tough article to agree or disagree on, besides this comment. I would be the last person to argue that divorce is too easy these days. I also find that the reluctance (or inability?) to make a commitment to someone doesn't begin once a couple has tied the knot, but long before that. Here in Germany, getting married seems an old-fashioned idea that nobody wants to blow the dust off of, but I often get the nagging feeling that many of my peers approach any kind of relationship with a wait-and-see-if-someone-better-comes-along attitude. That's kind of troubling, really.
      When it comes down to it, though, it is up to every person him- or herself to make a commitment and stick to it. I hope that all those poor, lonely friends of Kat's have taken their perceived lesson to heart and don't wait around for society to begin condemning divorce again so that they can safely wait out a natural end to their next marriage.

      Commenter
      Vyvienn
      Date and time
      June 20, 2012, 4:46PM
  • 70% of divorces are initiated by women, just sayin...

    Commenter
    Marc
    Location
    Brisbane
    Date and time
    June 20, 2012, 7:20AM
    • Marc, that is a well known stat. and clearly shows men are more commited to a marriage than women. For some reason, women (mothers) are elevated to some position of exultation but why? I for one have not found a reaason, in fact, I have found quite the opposite. For example, have a read of this article:
      http://www.theage.com.au/national/sins-of-the-mother-the-tragedy-of-neonaticide-20101218-191ee.html
      That is just one piece of evidence for this argument. All the other side can produce is flat earth style "just because" arguments.
      Just say'n

      Commenter
      snafu
      Date and time
      June 20, 2012, 9:43AM
    • yep, my mum initiated the divorce proceedings between her an my father, but only because despite my dad running off with another woman, he couldnt be bothered doing the paperwork.

      Commenter
      ads
      Date and time
      June 20, 2012, 9:57AM
    • I think it has more to do with the fetishisation of marriage. It's no longer about joining two people in love, it's about throwing the biggest and most outrageous party for the bride that the groom can afford. Everything and everyone comes after the bride on "her special day." Then, when the shine has worn off and she finds that the reality of being married doesn't live up to the expectation, she says hello to no fault divorce. And also to hello paycheck for whatever kids and hello to a free house.

      I think kat is right, marriage as an institution is dead.

      Commenter
      Marc
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      June 20, 2012, 10:12AM
    • @snafu
      "For some reason, women (mothers) are elevated to some position of exultation but why? I for one have not found a reaason, in fact, I have found quite the opposite'

      Thank you for being clear about how much you hate women. Some on here try and skirt around the issue, but your comment just screams it loud and clear. What happened honey bunny, ya mumma didn't love you enough? Were the cute girls mean to you at school???.

      Well get a tissue and get over your issue, sunshine. The grown ups are talking.....

      And I doubt very much you have ever been married or had children....

      Commenter
      AT
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      June 20, 2012, 10:24AM
    • ... that the groom can afford ????

      Wife's parents supposed to be paying for the wedding, its their big day to show off.

      Commenter
      enno
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      June 20, 2012, 10:24AM
    • Marc,
      Divorces are on the decrease since 1991, even though marriages have been on the increase since 2005. Hardly dead then.

      Commenter
      AT
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      June 20, 2012, 10:26AM
    • You are committed to your marriage or you are not... and words are cheap. It takes two to make it work; it takes just one to spoil the marriage. I am divorced and did the divorcing when my husband continually proved through his actions that he was not committed, trustworthy nor faithful. Marriage is an oath between a man and a woman that they will be faithful to, honour each other and stay together to raise their children, should they be blessed with offspring.

      Without trust, honour and fidelity there is only acquaintance or friendship, not a relationship. Friendship is a great basis for a relationship but it falls short because it entails no long term commitment or plans for a shared future. People who always think the grass is always greener on the other side are not mature enough for a commitment.

      No one that I know with an open relationship is proud enough of how they live their lives to tell their kids... even when their kids are adults. They are hypocrites.

      Commenter
      J
      Date and time
      June 20, 2012, 10:45AM

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