Before there is a divorce there are warning signs. Rarely do we end up dividing the furniture and arguing over who gets the children for Christmas Eve without telegraphing something is wrong. The signs might be in late night conversations or arguments; it may be passive-aggressive behavior toward the in-laws, or picking at age old marital wounds. While these decisions usher in pain for ourselves and others, they mostly make us feel again. We’d rather feel something than be numb. A dysfunctional relationship is fighting off boredom and numbness by expressing ourselves with passion. However, if the passionate, attention-getting behavior and tension does not light a fire under us to mend our relationship, the next step will be calling an attorney.
The prelude to divorce is necessary. During this prelude problems can be tackled, concerns can be addressed, and fears can be faced. Often they are. Many couples have examined their marriage and their love for each other. They have looked at the big picture, the time invested, and the emotional attachment and decided making the necessary changes are worth the work. Of course others, possibly due to apathy, decide the necessary changes are too high of a price. They’d rather have one more big fight (or so they think), write a check (usually more than one), and start over in an apartment.
Currently we are in the midst of the prelude to divorce between the races. In recent weeks a series of events have taken place revealing how fragile our relationship has become. The shooting of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Michael Brown in Missouri, and the death in police custody of Eric Garner are only the most recent concerns. Much has been written about what happened and who is to blame. This is exactly how a divorce happens. “You should have known better.” “It’s all your fault.” Blaming and finger pointing are the universal signs for divorce. We could go on and on about not resisting arrest or not hassling people for selling “looseies,” about proper police procedure or about not walking toward an officer, or why would you point a toy gun at people, to why would you fire on a suspect/citizen/child like it was a drive-by shooting. At the end of the day such statements only lead to divorce court. We are experts at fixing the blame. However, if we want to avoid divorce we need to fix the problem, not the blame.
Is the problem police brutality, poor police training, criminal behavior, a flawed judicial system, or racism? Or the problem may be all of these, or various different combinations, depending on the story. Divorce rarely happens because on one occasion a person does the wrong thing. “You embarrassed me in front of my friends!” is deserving of a lecture, but not divorce. “You undermine me with the children.” Again, this issue has to be addressed, but divorce? Even if the problems were bigger (such as infidelity or excessive drinking) moving the needle from an argument to divorce would demand a pattern, not just a one time lapse of judgment. Divorce happens because the weight of the problem indicates one or both parties are no longer trying. Somebody has given up, there is too much of . . . you name it, so you call the lawyer.
With all that’s happen in recent weeks, it’s hard not to think the weight is getting heavy. Commentators, who champion one view point, use words like “you” and “I” and work to divide the teams into manageable caricatures. We are not two teams. We are not even two races. We are one team and one race and it is the language of “us” and “we” that can save this marriage.
The only division is between those who want to solve the problem and those who want to perpetuate the crisis. Marriages are not healed by creating two teams. Marriages are healed when we are reminded there is only one team, OUR team.
For marriages to be revived we don’t need perfection. We need effort. We need for the apathy to be replaced with “I care.” We need for the “I” and “you” statement to be replaced with “we” statements. We need for “every person for themselves” to be replaced with “we are all in this together.” Effort while not perfect communicates we care about the same thing.
We care about every life. No matter the color of our skin, we matter. ALL people are made in the image of God and are to be treated with dignity and respect.
We care about public safety. No one should have to work in a convenient store, be walking in or out of one, and not feel safe. No one should do physical harm to another without legal consequences. No policeman should be slandered for doing his/her job. So we believe cameras mounted on policemen would protect both the police from undue criticism and civilians from unwarranted use of force.
We care about justice. Justice is not always easy or speedy, and it is often uphill. Demanding action not words. Police forces should represent the communities they serve. Minorities should be hired by law enforcement not as a public relations maneuver, but to get buy-in from the entire community. We want to see the just thing done.
We want every voice heard. If we can do it peacefully all are welcome to march, call their Senator, write letters to editors, and even block traffic. We can have our voices heard. But when protesting, let’s remember others. The person we are holding up in traffic has done nothing wrong. We may want to raise awareness, but let’s not make others late for work. We can raise our voice against injustice, but the business we are marching by has been in business 80 years and sold electronics to anyone who came in with money. So let’s not vent our anger on the innocent. And as we listen to other voices that are raised, let’s not lose our patience with those who march, that could be our own son or daughter carrying the sign.
Tension does not have to lead to divorce, but it must lead to solutions. For many these changes need to happen NOW, for others the chorus is always WAIT. Too often in marriage “wait” doesn’t mean later, it means certainly not. Too often in marriage “now” means without any thought or deliberation. Our actions need to be done with deliberation but without hesitation. A message needs to be sent that we love and need each other because divorce is not just painful; it’s at a great expense.