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Divorced Couples Need Our Empathy

May 26, 2016 | by Emuna Braverman

With all its inherent pain, most couples do not treat divorce cavalierly.


We are all troubled by the terrible rising rate of divorce in our society. It is tremendously painful and makes us fearful for the future. In the wake of this anxiety, I believe there is a rush to identify the reasons for this plague and perhaps thereby protect ourselves and those we love from falling victim to it. But we need to be careful in assigning blame.

One of the most commonly asserted causes for today’s high divorce rate is that we live in a disposable society and that the attitude towards marriage is “if this one doesn’t work I’ll dispose of it and get another one”. Some people may think this way, but I don’t believe it is the majority. I recently heard a radio talk show host, himself divorced and remarried, discuss the issue. He described the pain involved in his divorce – from the difficulties inherent in the marriage to the decision to divorce to the divorce proceedings themselves. Every step along the way was filled with pain and, according to him, no one would choose this if they felt there was any other option. He didn’t look at his marriage as disposable.

Listening to him opened my eyes. Unfortunately over the years we have been witnesses to many divorces, within the orthodox community and without, across the spectrum of Jewish observance. In not one situation has the decision been made cavalierly. In not one situation have the parties not been in tremendous pain. In not one situation have they not prayed for other options and tried their best to avoid getting divorced. In not one situation have they looked at their marriage as disposable.

I don’t know why marriage has become such a struggle. Each generation certainly has its own unique challenges. I believe most men and women go into marriage with hope and optimism and prepared to give it their all.

We live in very confusing times. People feel more vulnerable and more anxious than in past generations. Community has broken down and families are spread across the globe. There is more mental illness (detected and not, curable and not), more substance abuse and addictions, more domestic violence and sexual immorality, higher unemployment and less financial stability. There are a lot of pressures on marriages these days.

In addition I think there are higher expectations. A husband or wife is expected to be “my everything”. They should solve my problems and prevent loneliness, and make me happy and keep me fulfilled. No human being can provide that for another and if we expect our spouse to do that we will be in a constant state of frustration and disappointment.

These are just some possible suggestions; there are many potential reasons for divorce and I certainly don’t mean to list them all here. We need to examine the issue carefully so we can properly tackle the issues.

Young couples need our help and support to make their marriages work. And divorcing couples need our empathy and understanding. We need to be careful that we don’t judge them. We don’t really know what goes on behind closed doors. We are taught that when a couple divorces, the Almighty cries. We should be crying also. Only then can we begin to lay the foundation for a more hopeful future.

Why do you think the divorce rate is on the rise? Let us know in the comment section below.

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