It’s a new year and for many that means a fresh start. Less chocolate, more exercise, a new hobby and…new partner? January is known as ‘divorce month’ in legal circles. You may be happily married and very comfortable in your own skin (I hope so) but for many the reality is that they are not. Should we care?
Recent studies revealed the devastating effects on children as a result of separation and divorce of their parents. Significant numbers turn to drink, drugs and self-harm. A small number attempt suicide. And yet a massive ‘four out of five parents polled for the study by the parenting website Netmums thought their children had “coped well” with the break-up – a sentiment shared by only a third of children themselves’ (reported the Telegraph).
I found that shocking!
The article concluded with a quote from Siobhan Freegard, founder of Netmums, saying: “Divorce may be a little word but it has a huge effect…To flourish, children need security and while we will never see a society free from break ups, we should be investing more time, more care and more money into making sure our youngsters have all the support they need to get through this difficult time.”
I would totally agree with Ms Freegard’s conclusion, however, I also believe that it’s vital to support the parents. Preferably before situations get so bad.
I know from personal experience that if someone is struggling in their marriage they may try to hide it. Others complain bitterly to anyone that will listen. It is a touchy subject because no-one really likes to feel they are being told how to live their life…let’s face it, it’s easy to feel judged.
So what can we do?
If you know someone in your friendship circle, at work, the school gate, church, gym … then why not come alongside them. Have a coffee (or decaf green tea if you’re holding to healthy New Year resolutions!) and ask them how they really are. Listen well. Care for them.
Stay alongside. Regular texts with kind words, practical support and encouragement can be helpful. Be careful not to try to fix! But if appropriate gently encourage them to think very carefully about separation.
If you’re someone who prays, then pray. Prayer can make all the difference. Pray for the couple regularly, for them to be able to talk openly and honestly with each other about their struggles, pray for healing of wounds, forgiveness and reconciliation.
You might even ask them to consider going on a marriage enrichment event or perhaps couples counselling BEFORE taking those final steps. Perhaps send them a link to this article?
One person attending a recent FamilyLife A Day Together event told us afterwards: “Despite not wanting to come today, I am so glad I did. We needed this so badly – I now feel I want to try and sort our marriage out, instead of throwing in the towel. Thank you for the tools to start to open communication channels.”
A family solicitor attending another event said: “Most worthwhile experience no matter how or what state a marriage is at. Enrichment of something already good cannot be a bad thing. Saving something under strain is unquantifiable.”
So maybe, just maybe your friend might consider a fresh start for their relationship instead of ditching their partner. That’s what happened to us and we’re so glad we made it work, for our sakes as well as those of the children.
Christine and Mark Daniel have been married for nearly 30 years and lead FamilyLife UK. They and other ordinary couples share their stories together with practical relationship tools underpinned by Biblical principles at A Day Together events for couples. Check out our forthcoming events.
For tips on finding a good couples counsellor, click here.