More of us are choosing to stay and fight for our families
by Heidi Overson
Congratulations, all you couples who are struggling. If you made it through January without filing for divorce, the chances of your marriage surviving just went up a couple of notches.
January is known by many in the legal profession as “Divorce Month.” Lawyers see a tremendous increase in people filing for divorce right after the holidays, as that time of year often crystalizes how unhappy people are.
But there is good news to celebrate this Valentine’s Day and this National Marriage Week. The divorce rate in the U.S. is on the decline. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent statistics show the divorce rate has actually been on the decline the past 15 years, with scholars reporting the rate is now somewhere between 42 percent and 45 percent. Compare that to rates well above 50 percent not all that long ago.
“Young married adults are not divorcing at the same rate as their parents did at similar ages,” Scott Stanley of the University of Denver told CatholicCitizens.org in a recent interview. “So it is likely that the divorce rate will decline in the future, once the baby boomers (who were and continue to be highly divorce-prone) leave the population.”
But even at 42 percent, the rate is still too high, sadly. Marriage has been shown to keep us out of poverty. Research shows that married people build greater financial security than do single men and women. Children raised with both parents perform better academically and have less addiction, less teen pregnancy, and less trouble with the law, wrote Sheila Weber in an article on FoxNews.com.
Why can’t couples get it together?
Unfaithfulness, abuse, non-commitment and too much fighting are a few of the reasons cited by Divorce.usa.edu as to why couples often call it quits. Margaret Herlitzka, an attorney at Hale Skemp Hanson Skemp & Sleik in La Crosse, Wisconsin, agreed with the findings.
"I see recurring themes for divorce," said Herlitzka. "Sadly, power and control problems, domestic abuse and infidelity (are) the primary reasons. I commonly see couples who have failed to communicate. I have witnessed couples failing to properly address marital disagreements involving alcohol use/abuse, overspending and the division of labor in child rearing, resulting in built-up, negative emotions."
Other reasons commonly cited in divorce, according to CatholicCitizen.org:
– Cohabitation: Couples who live together have a 50-to-80 percent higher likelihood of divorce than non-cohabiting couples.
– Education: Only 27 percent of college graduates will divorce by middle age.
– Income: Having a collective annual household income of $50,000 or more is associated with a 30 percent lower divorce risk.
– Pro-Marriage Beliefs: The strong conviction by both husband and wife that marriage is for life protects against divorce.
– Religion: Those with a strong common faith have a 7 to 14 percent lower risk of divorce. However, having a nominal faith has no protective effect.
– Childbearing: Having a first child after marriage reduces the divorce risk by anywhere from 24 percent to 66 percent.
Many couples also grow apart after their children age and leave the nest, said Herltizka. And no matter their age, she told LifeZette, it's the children who truly suffer when mom and dad decide to split.
"I’m usually involved in the messiest divorces in our area," said Kimberley Ward, with Ward Law Office in Viroqua, Wisconsin.
Ward often serves as a guardian ad litem in divorce cases.
"I see a lot of power and control issues, where one parent will use the children as weapons to control the other parent," she said. "I also see addiction and/or mental health issues. There are some very troubled families out there. The children are obviously traumatized by divorce and grow up testifying (to) their terrible childhoods."
Marriage can be hard work. It’s not always rosy and there can be many tough trials. Communicating frequently is critical, as is praying and never giving up hope that things can get better.
Some words of advice to keep a marriage strong:
1: Never forget the person you fell in love with. That person is still there. Some days you have to work a bit harder to realize it.
2: Life is really short. You can overcome things that throw your relationship off course. Really.
3: Put each other and your marriage first. This is a wonderful thing for your children to witness. It makes them feel secure. Have a "date night." The alone time is precious and crucial.
4: If life events or material hindrances come between you, try to get rid of them, within reason. Focus on your relationship. Are you fighting about making ends meet? Is that snazzy car or boat payment really more important than your marriage?
5: Plan ahead together. What happens when the kids move out? Talk about the future optimistically.
6: If a situation that puts strain on a marriage is unavoidable, remember it’s probably only temporary. You can get through it.
7: Hug each other often. Hold hands. Keep the romance alive, no matter how old you are.
8: Keep God at the center of your marriage. Pray together and pray with your children.
Pastors Jerry and Nancy Hatlevig of Connect Church in Onalaska, Wisconsin, officiated at my own wedding 24 years ago, and as marriage counselors, they know what keeps a couple together: "No one can keep a marriage together unless Jesus is at the center and both husband and wife give their lives 100 percent to each other and without reservations."
Roll with change, keep laughing, and avoid becoming a statistic if you can.