Staff & Sling

Joseph E. Hébert, Ph.D.

98119 N 3745 Rd
Okemah, OK  74859
918 623 3078

D∙I∙V∙O∙R∙C∙E; Episode I

Some have referred to it as "The Late Great 1968." It was the Summer of Love in San Francisco and Woodstock was just a town in upstate New York that no one had ever heard of (save the people who lived there and some young entrepreneurs with dreams of a rock and roll festival and great wealth). Tammy Wynette had 3 number one hits that year, and the best known two are ironically diametric in subject. One was "Stand By Your Man," and the other was "D•I•V•O•R•C•E."

Of course, in 1968 divorce was still hardly spoken of in polite company, and then only in whispered voices. Little more than ten years earlier it simply wasn’t spoken of at all, period. But that was before the advent of the birth control pill and the sexual revolution (thank you 1960s, he wrote sarcastically). Tammy Wynette’s hit song didn’t cause, so much as reflect, a change in the cultural norm. But it was a watershed moment in our cultural evolution nonetheless, in that it made the subject acceptable to discuss openly and out loud.

You see, leadership is never about taking people where they don’t want to go. If they don’t want to go then they simply won’t. Leadership is about showing people the way to where ever it is they already want to go. Sometimes it might be preceded by convincing people to go somewhere (John the Baptist preceded Jesus), but they still have to make the choice. In the end, they have to want to go before they will be led.

But when people do want to go somewhere, they will gladly follow anyone who either knows, or at least claims to know (witness Jim Jones and David Koresh (sic?)), or even appears to know the way. The fact that divorce exploded into the epidemic it became, in only one decade, proves that the people involved wanted to go there to begin with. Otherwise they wouldn’t have. Otherwise, they probably wouldn’t have listened to the song a second time, much less bought the record.

READER ALERT. If you are divorced, put on your steel toed boots right now. I am about to step on your toes. Maybe not so much in this Episode, but certainly next. Nonetheless, if you bear through to the end of Episode III, I think you will be edified for having done so.

At this point I am going to pose a question. It’s a question I want you to think about. Yes it is both a trick and rhetorical question. But I still want you to think about it because I think you will be surprised by my answer.

Why do people get divorced?

Everyone has seen lists of the reasons given for divorce. Infidelity always makes the list. Financial difficulties likewise are always among the favorites. But do you know that the most common "reason" given for divorce, when it is available as a choice, is "irreconcilable differences." When "no fault" divorce is an option it is always the most commonly invoked.

Infidelity, financial strain, etc., these are not the reasons people get divorced. Let me repeat for emphasis, that these are not the reasons people get divorced. They are the excuses people come up with to justify getting divorced. So again I ask, why do people get divorced?

People get divorced because they’re willing to.

Read closely. I didn’t say they want to, but that they’re willing to.

It’s that simple. This is why "no fault" divorce is so popular. Once someone decides that for the right reason they would be willing to get divorced, they have only to find the right reason, which is to say excuse, and they're getting divorced. And if they're spared the turmoil of having to justify themselves, then the divorce they're willing to get comes that much quicker.

Consider, for example, someone who takes the position that they would divorce their spouse for infidelity. They have already said that they are willing to get a divorce (for the right reason of course). But look at it just a bit differently now, for clarity’s sake. Except for distinctions of degree, they are just like the person who says (s)he will get married and if it doesn’t work out then (s)he’ll just get a divorce. Granted, (s)he is willing to accept far more excuses as justification than the other. But that doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t’ matter that the one’s list is much shorter. The point is that they both have a list.

There’s something you need to understand about this list. The list is there just in case, in the event of something unforeseen. That’s why so many put infidelity on their list. They simply can not, or will not, believe that their spouse would ever do that, at least not when they first get married. Even the person who has an incredibly long list has it "in case" something unforeseen happens, namely that "it doesn’t work out." Why, in this day and age, would anyone, even that person, get married if they expected it to end in divorce. No, even that person wants his/her marriage to work. Even they do not want to get divorced. But they, like the other with his/her single item list, are willing to accept divorce as a solution to some unknown, unforeseen, or otherwise unimaginable problem.

And in every marriage something (the same thing by the way) unimaginable, unknowable, unforeseeable always happens. "What is this thing that happens in every marriage yet is magically unforeseeable," you ask? In every marriage the newness wears off. In every marriage the reality of living with someone day in and day out eventually sets in. And if one were already willing to consider divorce as a possible solution to something unforeseeable, well, ..., then, ..., there it is. There are the seeds of those irreconcilable differences.

If you are willing to have a list, any list, no matter how short, then it is a safe bet that in time you will also be willing to expand your list as necessary, because of something unforeseen, to justify getting that divorce that you’re already willing to consider as a possible solution. In other words, even if your spouse is never unfaithful, it’s a safe bet that eventually you will find at least one more reason to add to your list, one that actually applies to your spouse and/or marriage.

Stated more simply, if you’re willing to get a divorce for any reason at all, eventually you will be willing to get a divorce for a reason that actually exists.

"But wait," you say. "Jesus said I can get a divorce if my spouse is unfaithful!"

If we were speaking face to face, here is where I would make a raucous buzzing sound, like the buzzer on a game show, and reply in my best game-show-announcer voice, "Wrong answer! But thank you for playing!"

And now, in that same game-show-announcer voice I’ll say, "Tune in next time for D•I•V•O•R•C•E; Episode II." In the meantime, set in your mind the idea that divorce is never an option. Remember, you swore "... for better or for worse, ...," not "for better or forget it."