How Divorce Affects Families

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Evidence of how divorce affects families is apparent in the prevalence of single parent homes, an increase in teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and an increasingly high number of school dropouts. Statistics indicate that single parent homes broken by divorce are less likely to produce stable children. A single mother struggling to raise several kids without a father in the home may be forced to seek low-paying employment or live on government subsistence. A lack of income or the necessity to work long hours outside of the home produces what is known as an "open child" syndrome. Latch-key kids with little adult supervision are left to their own devices. With mother away at work most of the day or evening, a latch-key kid wakes up in the morning, dresses for school, grabs a bowl of cold cereal or goes to class hungry, and tries to stay awake all day. Once home in the evening, an unsupervised child is on his own until the single mother walks through the door-- too tired to ask how Johnny is doing, too tired to check homework, too tired to fix dinner, too tired to be an effective parent, and too tired to play the role of both mother and father.

While not all single mothers and fathers fail at child rearing, the odds are stacked against them. Increasingly how divorce affects families can be seen in juvenile court, detention centers, or on the city streets. Children are being forced to fend for themselves in an unkind world riddled with drugs, saturated by satanic influences, and fraught with almost certain failure. A rampant divorce rate of almost 50 percent of first time marriages in the United States and abroad is wreaking havoc with the nation's youth. Children of broken homes are less likely to graduate from high school, more likely to get pregnant, and more likely to try drugs. Short term effects of how divorce affects families can be seen in the jail houses and dope houses of America and Europe, or in the streets of big city housing projects. The nation's children are deplorably neglected by deadbeat dads who think that paying child support is an adequate substitute for hands-on fathering. "And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:16-17).

The tragic consequences of how divorce affects families can be seen in teen pregnancy centers, adoption agencies, or welfare lines. America and the world are steadily producing kids that have little hope of thriving in a digital age where knowledge is power and education is the key. Far too many fatherless girls wind up in the streets or with a live-in boyfriend pregnant with a child they cannot raise. A soaring teen pregnancy rate can cripple a state's welfare system and push an overloaded food distribution program to its limits. Babies having babies just to collect welfare checks sends healthcare costs skyrocketing and breaks the back of taxpayers who pick up the tab for unwanted pregnancies. Single teen moms can easily become caught up in the snare of welfare, perpetuating a vicious cycle of living hand to mouth, month to month until the child support check comes.

Even in affluent societies, how divorce affects families has a similar impact. Children who wear designer jeans or drive expensive foreign cars still need fathers. A weekend dad cannot possibly guide a kid down the right pathway like a 24/7 father. Twenty-first century parenting has changed all the rules about child rearing, substituting material wealth for spiritual and moral dearth. But a $500 allowance cannot take the place of a father's arms; nor can a piece of crack ease the pain of poverty and rejection. Adverse impacts of marital failure on families is just as devastating on Rodeo Drive as it is on skid row: single mothers struggle, fatherless children fail to thrive, and an entire society is robbed of a future productive generation.

Anyone who wonders how divorce affects families can plainly see that the traditional family unit is on life support with the devil standing by to pull the plug. If mothers and fathers want to see a nation's children thrive and survive and reverse the negative impact of how divorce affects families, there must be a greater commitment to marriage. Husbands and wives must learn to love again, to forgive and to allow God to heal relationships broken by distrust and devastated by divorce. Twenty-first century parents must resolve, just as the grandparents and great grandparents did, to "stay married for the sake of the children."

Generations ago, marital relationships were not so much different than they are today; but divorce was taboo. Mothers and fathers stayed together to raise the kids even though the love had long gone. It was the "right thing to do." And in daring to stay, even when the thrill was gone, yesterdays parents were able to raise upstanding citizens, educated in the nation's institutions of higher learning. Men and women, proud though poor, wealthy but willing to sacrifice to fill the ranks of teachers, doctors, and lawyers and make an investment in the lives of those who were yet to be born. In the future, how divorce affects families will rest in the hands of today's parents. If it takes a village to raise a child, then the village must be willing to pay the price to love, educate, nurture, and sacrifice for tomorrows leaders.

How Divorce Affects Friendships

No one can anticipate how divorce affects friendships until the experience hits home. Husbands and wives are not the only casualties of a marital breakup, but family and close friends are sometimes lost in the fray. Couples who shared laughter and tears with a close knit group of neighbors, coworkers, or acquaintances may find that ending a marriage also ends other relationships. Former partners soon discover how divorce affects friendships when the phone ceases to ring, emails go unanswered, and invitations to go for coffee are at first slim and then none. There are several reasons why long-standing relationships fail after divorce. Many people are embarrassed to discuss the breakup. Others feel ill at ease in the company of half of what once was a whole couple. Still more feel forced to take one partner's side over the other, but dividing allegiances can be difficult. Although the pain of losing a husband or wife is compounded by the loss of close shared friends, people contemplating divorce should be prepared to lose all but the faithful. "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12).

For intimate associates of both the husband and wife, witnessing a marital break up can be unnerving. How divorce affects friendships is evident by how associates deal with the couple who are no longer together. Divorce is like having an 800-pound gorilla in the room: everyone knows it is huge and dangerous, but no one knows exactly what to do. Because the "gorilla" of divorce refuses to go away, those who are in its company may eventually decide to leave. They are at a loss for words; and expressions of sorrow seem inadequate. The ex-spouse is still alive; therefore there is no body and no casket to bury. Conversations can be strained, especially when half of the formerly married couple may not be in attendance. And should a former mate choose to visit a favorite restaurant or venue in the company of someone other than the ex-husband or wife, friends of both partners will either respond in defense of one or offensively toward another. More importantly, there may be a fear that the specter of one couple's breakup could haunt others in the group. After a time, the embarrassment of responding to the pain and suffering of an emotionally distraught husband and wife is simply too much to bear. The 800-pound gorilla keeps right on sitting in the middle of the floor as former friends slip silently away.

Divided allegiances also result when couples with intimate associations decide to go their separate ways. But knowing how divorce affects friendships can help ex-spouses deal with cold shoulders, accusations, and innuendos. Divorce can divide best buddies the same way it severs marital ties. Usually, females side with females and males with males. If infidelity was the primary cause of marital dissolution, and the perpetrator was the husband, the wife's female friends will gather around like cowboys encircle a wagon. Everything the adulterer says or does is scrutinized, harshly criticized, evaluated and condemned. Male friends may be more forgiving; but how divorce affects friendships among men usually yields the same result: sides are clearly chosen for or against the ex-husband or ex-wife.

Couples who have been wounded by infidelity or marital woes must not allow a private battle to become a public altercation. While wounded spouses may certainly feel the need for support from family and friends, ending the marriage and all the events that led to its demise is a very personal matter. A husband or wife's dirty laundry need not be aired in the public; and close acquaintances should be discouraged from denigrating an ex-spouse. "For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil" (I Peter 3:10-12).

As former couples discover how divorce affects friendships, they will surely experience the hurt of having a dear friend become an enemy. The pain of losing a spouse and close associates, coworkers, or in-laws may seem unbearable, but life must go on. Ex-husbands and ex-wives must realize that the loss of relationships is part of the divorce process. Holding grudges, trying to explain one's role in the breakup, or attempting to mount a defense against allegations is fruitless. As time goes on the realization of how divorce affects friendships may cause those who separated themselves or wrongly accused either spouse to conclude that the end of a marriage does not require taking sides.

In spite of how ex-spouses who have been abandoned by friends, family members, and associates are treated, they should never attempt to retaliate, nor should details of the divorce be discussed, even when asked. The best recourse is to treat accusers with kindness and let the Lord mount a defense. Former husbands and wives should be sensitive to an ex-friend's embarrassment or ill feelings and forgive those who may wrongly judge them. Compounding the breakup by holding grudges or retaliating against one's accusers will only add additional hurt and forever close doors to friendships that could one day be rekindled. "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you: That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven..." (Matthew 5:44). Couples in crisis may soon discover that in spite of how divorce affects friendships, there will be opportunities to form new relationships as a new life is forged from the ashes of a dissolved marriage.

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