What a joyful time of year is upon us. At least it's supposed to be joyful. For many this holiday season comes attached with painful memories of difficult times and losses. Please don't be too surprised if I draw an analogy to marriage which is also supposed to be joyful, yet often is anything but. The research is clear that numerous couples who stand at an altar all misty-eyed and gleeful are actually not that many years away from bitterness, hostility and disappointment greater than they have ever known. I attended a wedding this past weekend and I like this couple's chances very much for having a long and satisfying marriage. I'll probably come back to this in the coming weeks and explain the basis for my optimism.
Despite the discouraging success rate for marriage, the vast majority of people desire to be married. I saw a statistic once -- please don't ask me where -- that said 95 percent of Americans want to be married. Many of these folks are obviously already married, but to reach 95 percent you would also have to include numerous folks who have undergone the painful experience of divorce and yet they still wish to live life as a married person.
This strong desire helps to explain why so many get married for a second, third, fourth and fifth time even though these marriages typically end as disappointedly as their first. All too often folks who are recently divorced make poor choices in seeking a "replacement" spouse. I'm certainly not saying it has to be this way, but the odds for successful repeat marriages are not good and they go down with every successive marriage. Again, not all folks who re-marry are doomed. My upcoming 33rd wedding anniversary surpasses my first marriage by more than 30 years. But if you are thinking about marrying after having been divorced you certainly should be aware of the reasons for these statistics.
So allow me to introduce you to two friends of mine who are well known in San Juan County. I'm referring to Randy and Linda Dean who married in 1999. Both had previously been married more than 20 years and they well remembered their experiences of anger, loneliness, depression, and the whole new world of being single again. Randy and Linda were determined to find for others what they had so desperately wanted for themselves -- a program that would help people work through the pain and suffering of divorce.
About 14 years ago Randy saw an article in a magazine about a program called "Divorce Care" and within 6 weeks he and Linda started having weekly sessions at their home in Farmington using the "Divorce Care" material. During the last 14 years the Deans have hosted nearly 300 individuals through the 13 week program. Dave and Paula Routt have recently joined the Deans in "Divorce Care" leadership, holding sessions in Bloomfield. You can reach Randy and Linda at 325-7733, or Dave and Paula at 632-7272 if you would like more information about the program.
Each week "Divorce Care" participants watch a 30-minute seminar session and then share their experience with each other. Among the weekly topics are: What's Happening to Me? The Road to Healing/Finding Help; Facing Your Anger; Facing Your Depression; Facing Your Loneliness, etc.
As Randy and Linda put it, "At Divorce Care you will become a part of a small group of people who are experiencing separation and divorce. By interacting with these people you'll learn there are others who understand what you are feeling and who will be able to offer you encouragement, instruction, and love. Many participants say these support groups are the most helpful part of the program."
I have often advised divorcing couples to prepare for the reality that while divorce solves some problems, it also creates an entirely different, often more challenging set of problems. This is especially true when children are involved. "Divorce Care" helps people to address these new problems and challenges such as:
When can or should I date again?
How do I know when my kids are healed from the divorce?
How will my kids react to a new person in my life?
Is it possible to reconcile with my ex?
What happens to my relationship with married couples we used to be friends with?
What happens to my relationship with my ex's family?
Moving on with life after divorce is not easy. It is like living through your adolescence again. The emotion of divorce makes us look for other people and we often find ourselves in bad relationships because we have not taken the time to properly heal. Again, this may help to explain why so many second, third, fourth, etc. marriages fail -- because healing was incomplete from past marriages.
I also agree with Randy when he states: "In my opinion, the primary reason for marriage and relationship failure is the presence of a great amount of pride by at least one of the parties. Pride can express itself in many ways in this 'all about me' society, but it takes an incredible toll on relationships and specifically on marriages. The greatest tool we all possess, and seldom use, to combat pride is forgiveness."
Randy goes on to say: "Bad relationships create resentment, bitterness, anger, etc., and the only remedy for these feelings is forgiveness. What forgiveness is, and what it isn't, is the subject of many books but, it is likely still the most misunderstood concept in the world. Forgiveness is the gift we have received from God to use to heal ourselves. It is the path to peace. It is the first step to reconciliation. It must take place or you will never heal."
So, should you attend "Divorce Care?" Are you suffering the emotional pain of a severed relationship? Do you want to try and put your marriage back together? Are you considering re-marriage? Do your children suffer from your decisions? Are you bitter? Your answers to these questions may indicate if the program is right for you or not. Another way to find out is to contact the Deans or the Routts and ask them questions about your particular situation.
I want to thank Randy and Linda Dean for their help in this article and also for their great work with "Divorce Care." I so wish the program wasn't necessary, but it is.