Rocky Marriages-UPDATE

July 20, 2006

Editor’s Note: Okay, so it’s not in my head that marriage is all over the news. Congress just alloted $750 million — all that money that we have, right? — to promote marriage among low-income people and more involvement from fathers. First of all, it’s sad that you have to spend millions to prod men to be good fathers. Secondly, how about stimulating the economy so that couples stop bickering over money? Or, making sure that single mothers can pay their bills if dad goes MIA? Jeez. -Elisa

The theme of broken marriages was rampant in today’s news. First, there was Rep. Lincoln Davis’s (D-Tennesse) comment on the floor of the House of Representatives that we should “outlaw divorce in this country” and “outlaw adultery and make it a felony.” He said that the House’s proposed ban on gay marriage didn’t go far enough to protect this sacred institution.

At first glimpse, I thought it was a clever ploy by the Democrats to kill the proposed anti-gay marriage amendment. Davis did, after all, propose that anyone who committed adultery shouldn’t run for public office.

No. Sadly, he was serious. He ended up voting for the anti-gay marriage bill.

Then there were at least two advice columns telling parents to remain in their marriages for their children’s sake. One — on MSN — came off as a bit nagging and boring in the way it rambled for three pages. (Okay, we get it! Children are crushed by divorce.) The second, by Salon’s Cary Tenis, was short, honest and sensible.

Dr. Ruth Peters spoke to Matt Lauer and later wrote on MSN:

The fireworks may have fizzled from your marriage and you may not even find your spouse interesting or attractive. But he or she is the father or mother of your children and you should invest considerable time, attention, soul-searching and honest introspection before making a decision to forever change the dynamics and stability of your marriage and your home. If you haven’t sought counseling (an honest, sincere attempt here, folks!) then do so immediately.

Thanks for stating the obvious, Ruth. The MSN column was thoughtful though in that it actually broke down the ages of children and explained how best to talk to them about an impending divorce. Definitely more clinical and less entertaining as Tenis’s columns often are.

Tenis offered sensible advice to a depressed woman who seemed bent on leaving her marriage. She had been with her husband for eight years — “more ups than downs,” she said — and had a daughter under two years old. She admitted to struggling with depression.

As Tenis rightfully pointed out, subconsciously it appeared she thought she would find happiness in another relationship. But sadly, the same problems would probably haunt her, if not compound them, with child:

And I must also say this: This is not just about you. There is a kid who’s depending on you to do what’s best for her, not for you. Ideally, what’s best for you would be best for her. But I doubt that leaving your husband while you have no job and no way of insulating your daughter from the chaos and uncertainty that would follow is best for her.

So before you leave, try one last stab at saving your relationship. Try being irresponsibly honest. Break down and tell your husband everything. Let it all out. If there is any chance of saving your bond, of finding a way to live together as two deeply flawed but loving parents, of breaking down the barriers of ego and pride between you in order to humble yourselves before a great and just purpose, then this is it: To be utterly, completely, madly frank with him, to break down in tears, to beg him to be the man you need him to be, to tear at him and scream and curse the gods for making this situation what it is, to pray that he too understands the tragic nature of your bond and see if you can’t somehow face this tragedy together so you can raise this child and not create more chaos in the world.

Come to think of it — we straight folks already do a great job of creating drama and chaos in the world. Why can’t gay people marry?