Earlier this week (or maybe last--this week has been a blur!) I happened to notice, when I was reading news articles, several headlines like this one off to the side of the page, grouped under the "Entertainment News" section.
I don't make it a habit to read "Entertainment News." The cult of celebrity isn't something I admire about our nation. But when I saw the headlines about Kelsey Grammer and his wife divorcing (and Grammer's younger current girlfriend), I had two thoughts in quick succession. The first was that any woman who becomes a man's third wife (unless he has had the deep misfortune to be a widower twice over) ought to know that her divorce from that man isn't a matter of "if" but of "when." The second thought was simply that my level of respect for a man who dumps his wife (and walks out on his children) for a younger woman is zero.
Lest my gentlemen readers immediately cry foul, I will hasten to add that I have a similar feeling about women who dump their husbands for--not necessarily younger models (since society tends to laugh at older women who get into the business of acquiring boy-toys) but certainly richer or more successful ones.
Divorce is a complicated business to discuss. The truth is, I don't have a lot of respect for many people who have engaged in it--but this must be said with a few caveats. A man or woman who must legally separate from a spouse who is physically or significantly mentally abusive is merely protecting himself or herself (and, possibly, the children). A man or woman who must legally separate from a spouse who is committing serial adultery with no repentance and no believable promise of reform is also protecting himself or herself, from the potentially deadly venereal diseases the spouse is bringing home to them. There are, perhaps, a handful of other reasons why a person might have to separate from a husband or wife (e.g., alcoholism/drug abuse for which the spouse refuses to seek help, involvement in some serious crimes which place the innocent party at risk, total spousal abandonment, etc.). To take the necessary steps to protect oneself in these types of situations is not an attack on marriage, but the protection of one's own life and the lives of one's children.
And while the Catholic Church does not recognize divorce at all, it should go without saying that I don't think it a bad thing for a man and a woman whose marriage has been declared invalid by the Church to separate--in fact, since they are not married, there would likely be sin and scandal should they remain together. Those who seek annulments should not be thinking of it in any way as "Catholic divorce," since it is no such thing; but if the Church declares that you weren't properly married in the first place, then you ought not remain together.
Having gotten most of the obligatory exceptions to the rule out of the way, I'll return to my premise: I don't have a lot of respect for divorce. I have plenty of respect for the innocent party in a divorce action, the person who thought that his wife or her husband would at least agree to counseling, the person whose life is unraveling around him or her, the person who finds himself or herself fighting for things he or she once took for granted, like access to the children. But for the person who initiates a divorce action, exceptions above excluded, I simply can't find a great deal of respect or sympathy.
When you research the common causes of divorce, you find that the big reasons, the ones that involve abuse and infidelity and so forth, don't usually end up on top of the lists. The sort of things that do end up there are things like poor communication, incompatibility of various types, personality differences, and different expectations about things like chores and children. For these sorts of reasons, reasons that some decent counseling and a desire to preserve the marriage can often overcome, people are willing to destroy their own families.
Because divorce is destructive of families, harmful to children, and detrimental to society. There are plenty of statistics available that will illustrate all of these points. We've gotten in the habit, as a nation, of disregarding those statistics, though, in favor of the idea that the happiness and sexual fulfillment of adults are the key ingredients of a happy and stable society, that so long as these things take precedence over every other concern, all will be well. We've tricked ourselves into thinking that divorce is no big deal, that it's just the natural result of trying to make a lifelong committment out of what ought to be a few years' diversion; we've consoled ourselves with the idea that kids are resilient, and that so long as they have some good role models somewhere it doesn't really matter if they're on their third set of step-parents (and, hey, that means more Christmas gifts, too, so it's all good, right?).
Far too often, though, divorce is nothing but adult selfishness at the expense of the innocent children who suffer the most from having Mommy and Daddy live at different homes, or in different zip codes, or even in different time zones. When the safety of the innocent is at stake in the marriage in the first place, as I said above, there may exist so compelling a reason to take the step to separate legally that the innocent party must consider it; but to decide to tear one's family into shreds so that one can shack up with a younger or richer or hotter person instead is the kind of behavior that just screams "pathetic loser" to me.