Jon and Kate Gosselin, stars of the hit reality show Jon & Kate Plus Eight, announced to the world that they will separate from each other. Irreconcilable differences seem to have driven them apart. And I am sure it doesn’t help that their lives are played out for all to see.
Unfortunately, by the time couples reach this point they’re barely cordial toward each other. The basic good-will afforded to strangers is absent from their relationships. This sets up a scenario which almost always makes divorce inevitable. Once separated, it’s possible that they’ll miss the other person but it’s more likely that they will feel relieved and begin to enjoy life without the other. This makes the possibility of reconciliation even more unlikely. In the case of the Gosselins, their will be eight big losers if they remain on their path toward divorce.
Is divorce the only option for those who endure the unhappiness of a failing marriage? I don’t believe it is. But if the Gossleins think it is, they should recognize that while obtaining a divorce is relatively easy, it almost always results in an emotional bombshell. No matter how much anticipated, divorce is more painful and complicated than imagined. On a personal level, divorce often shatters self-confidence and leads to guilt, anger and insecurity. Socially, it complicates interpersonal relationships — especially when children are involved. Financially, it’s usually a lose-lose arrangement.
Don’t be fooled. Divorce is never an easy solution to a troubled marriage. And, if divorce is difficult for marriage partners, it is far worse for children caught in the middle. If you doubt this, read Judith S. Wallerstein’s landmark book, “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study”. After reading this book, Jon and Kate will have eight very personal and precious reasons to follow my advice: Cara, Madelyn, Alexis, Aaden, Collin, Leah, Hannah and Joel.
Now I recognize that in some cases marital separation is necessary. This is especially true where a pattern of abuse exists. I have observed this in relation to substance abuse, severe financial irresponsibility, unending emotional and/or verbal abuse, psychological breakdown and abrogation of marital commitments. Each case has its own circumstances and degree of severity. Sometimes separation is also necessary to cause a mate to recognize his or her destructive dysfunctional behavior.
In my years of experience, I’ve learned that it takes wisdom to discern the whole truth about the condition of a marriage. In most cases, meetings with both parties separately and together are essential. This takes time—something those in crisis don’t feel they have. But marital demise usually involves extended patterns of neglect and alienation– intertwined with self-deception and selfish behavior. This fact, along with the high levels of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion, makes the road to reconciliation difficult but worthwhile.
Counselors must be aware of patterns of deceit and selfishness that often color individual perspectives on failing marriages. Seeking the truth requires time, patience and wisdom. When Couples are in a crisis mode, they often expect help and answers immediately. Sometimes crisis intervention must come first. But counselors must not be drawn into hasty reactions or conclusions based on the desperate state of a marriage.
When martial separation becomes necessary, I prefer to apply a structured separation and I believe the Gosselins have eight compelling reasons to consider this. A structured separation should involve seven components.
1. A specific purpose statement for separation related to the problems in the marriage. This could also include a signed covenant.
2. A set of specific and measurable goals.
3. A projected time frame that does not allow for indefinite separation.
4. A study on themes of forgiveness and reconciliation.
5. Reading “Hope for the Separated” by Gary Chapman
6. A built-in accountability with Church leaders and/or a counselor/mentor.
7. A small support team to pray for the marriage and offer tangible help.
Millersville Bible Church
58 West Frederick Street
Millersville, PA 17551