The hard work of making a marriage stronger

Salt Lake Tribune

Whether we agree or not, I extend my gratitude and respect to the articulate readers responding to last week’s column in which I posed the question: Is there such a thing as a good divorce?”

A reader who identified himself as a “dad and grandpa” echoed concerns I expressed regarding the disillusionment of the dissolute: “My daughter’s husband of 15 years abandoned her and their three daughters. . . . We were all so devastated. I watched my daughter fall into a state of depression, and my granddaughters become confused as to their future. My daughter sought counseling and begged her husband to return. . . . My granddaughters can see the hurt in their mother’s heart and the unhappiness in their own lives. I hurt for my children (daughter and granddaughters). I know the impending life they will face, as I, too, come from a broken home.”

Another reader whose e-mail said he is a Salt Lake City resident in his mid-20s believes his conflicted parents never should have married in the first place. “My parents told me they were getting divorced when I was 12. Although my younger brother did not want them to get divorced, I thought it was the best thing they had ever told me. At the time, they decided not to go through with the divorce because of how much it upset my brother.”

Having experienced great despair in an abusive marriage, Janean Justham of Salt Lake City wrote: “Please, don’t come down on divorce. It saved me and my children from a number of beatings, more mental and emotional than physical, but abuse is abuse. . . . People, who stay married when they shouldn’t, create and/or perpetrate more societal problems than those who divorce.”

Obviously, some circumstances warrant divorce. However, studies show that only 10 percent to 15 percent of the divorces that happen in our country are due to serious problems such as chronic substance abuse, infidelity, and/or domestic violence.

Most divorces are due to low-conflict issues, such as money, sex, children, in-laws, and time. As a clinical psychologist, what I often hear in the 11th hour of a couple’s marriage is, “I love him, but I’m not in love with him.” “I’ve fallen out of love with her.” “The passion isn’t there.” “We don’t communicate anymore.”

These excuses are not worthy of divorce. You can learn the skills necessary for a happy marriage, and you can keep your families together for the sake of the kids — and yourself.

Staying miserably married is not the answer for a troubled marriage. The answer for a troubled marriage is making the marriage better. Doing so, however, is hard work. It is far easier to move out and move on, hoping for a little quality time with the kids along the way.