Written by Beverly Willett
We have a tradition at the Episcopalian parish I attend. Every Sunday after mass, parishioners and visitors gather in the parish hall to greet one another and snack on refreshments provided by the Hospitality Guild. A few minutes into the get-together Father Cullen, our priest, rings a bell on the wall next to the kitchen.
“Are there any birthdays this week?” he asks. Each celebrant steps forward, in turn, and Father Cullen asks whether they want the tempo “fast, medium or slow.” Everyone laughs, and then he cues one of the choir members for a pitch, and we all sing “Happy Birthday.”
One Sunday, several months ago, a little girl, no more than five or six, wandered up to Father Cullen. “Is it your birthday?” he asked, smiling and bending down to the little girl’s level. The girl, bashful, shook her head no.
“Whose birthday is it?” he asked. The girl pointed to a couple across the room.
“It’s our anniversary,” they said, walking up to join their daughter and take her hand.
“Fast, medium or slow?” our priest asked. “Medium,” they said. And with that Father Cullen lifted his arm like a baton, and we all sang “Happy Anniversary To You.”
I got a lump in my throat. Ten years ago the father of my children and the love of my life walked out on me and my daughters and never came back. This year we would have celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary. Somehow the wound of what might have been, though diminished over the years, has never entirely gone away.
This month is also another anniversary. It’s the one-year commemoration of the founding of the Coalition for Divorce Reform. A year ago The Huffington Post announced our formation with the headline, “The Most Pioneering Divorce Reform Effort in 40 Years.” Since then, legislators in about a dozen states have become interested in the model legislation we’ve crafted to reduce divorce in low-conflict marriages with minor children. Our popular website has grown to over a dozen bloggers — academics, lawyers, marriage educators and other writers and family professionals.
We’ve accomplished all this, without a budget, purely on the strength, good will and commitment of volunteers who care deeply about helping to make sure that more of our nation’s children grow up in happy, healthy – intact – homes. And to restoring to children the childhood that divorce robs from so many.
Despite the statistics and heartbreaking stories of the staggering negative consequences of divorce to men, women and children, denial of the immense ongoing suffering continues to pervade our divorce culture. And resistance to divorce reform remains high. Like the best marriages, however, we hope we can remain in this for the long haul. Because we can’t imagine anything more important today than preserving our families.
Two phrases kept running through my head that day at coffee hour. I’m sure we’ve all heard them: “A child shall lead them” and “out of the mouths of babes.”
I couldn’t help but think that little girl at my church already knew what so many adults in our country still don’t seem to. How she already knew how important – and precious – her family was. And how she intuitively understood that marriage was something special to be celebrated again and again. I hope that one day her parents don’t let her down.
This poignant article boils down the heartbreak of divorce into a simple matter — divorce spoils what might have been and it lets children down. Whatever temporary reprieve the divorcing one feels is inevitably offset by the pain of “what might have been” and the agony of “letting you own children down.” Yes, people move on; they have to, but Beverly Willett is courageous enough to keep reminding everyone of the price that is to be paid when divorce is the choice. Sadly, research is clear: those couples who work out their differences are happier in the long run than those who give up and divorce.
Thank you for your support Janice. Unfortunately, my “reminders” sometimes fall on angry ears. You are absolutely right — divorce for the divorcing one may be cessation of pain initially. But that is always temporary because there’s another suffering right behind it. Some never admit the pain of what might have been or the cost to their children. I hate to be cliche, but except in those cases of high conflict and abuse, divorce truly is looking for happiness in all the wrong places.
I commend you and you inspire me to make a goal of praying for the end of no fault divorce and making it to easy to divorce. I wonder what i can do on top of, signing a petition, educate myself, pray and talking about it to peers and friends. Divorce is a death and it is right under abortion, they are both a choice to not lay down one’s life after a commitment. All the pleasure and none of the pain or hard work to endure.
God Bless you on your
Thank you Jason. It is sometimes difficult for me to continue writing and advocating for change because I feel like I’m swimming upstream against the current while the years pass. Thank you for your encouragement. I’m heartened to know you are out there working to change our cultural attitudes as well. Prayer and talking to your friends and family are huge contributions. If you haven’t already, please sign up on the CDR website for our newsletters, and also send an email letting us know where you live so we can contact you in the future as we begin our grass-roots campaign. Changing divorce laws must progress state by state. It will require many volunteers as at present we are a totally volunteer organization. All the best.
Thank you Beverly for your courage to fight. May God bless you and continue to give you strength and wisdom. Even thought it feels as if the world is against us, against those who believe in the permanency of marriage, against divorce (and evil no-fault divorce) and all its negativity; it is soothing to know that there are at least few other human beings like me out there in it for the long haul. Knowing that you exist and knowing about your conviction on this regard somehow makes me feel just a little less alone and also confirms in my mind that I am not wrong or crazy as the rest of society would have me think.
Stay strong, there are others out there trying as well. Prayers to you Sister in Christ.
Thank you, Lea. Knowing that you and others like you exist and believe as I do keeps me going, too, more than you know. It’s always easier to do what everyone else is doing. But I can’t fathom how loving your family and wanting to put them first is “crazy.” Bless you and thanks.
A work mate referred me to this resource.
Thank you for the resources.
You’re welcome, and thank you for visiting our site! If you haven’t already, please sign up for our periodic newsletters to get the latest news as well as announcements of our latest articles! Best, Beverly