People often ask me why people divorce.
I think they expect to hear that people divorce because of long-standing disagreements about money, children, sex, chemical dependency or whatever. Certainly these things can contribute the breakdown of a marriage. But, that’s not what I believe about the ending of marriages or any relationship, for that matter.
I believe that all people, including our marriage partners, come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. The concept of “a reason, a season, or a lifetime,” seems to originate from a poem by Brian A. (“Drew”) Chalker: People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you figure out which one it is, you will know what to do for each person.
When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty; to provide you with support; to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend, and they are. They are there for the reason you need them to be.
Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.
Some people come into your life for a SEASON, because your turn has come to share, grow or learn. They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it. It is real. But only for a season. And like spring turns to summer and summer to fall, the season eventually ends.
LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons; things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life. It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant. Thank you for being a part of my life.
In my law practice, I ask my clients many questions about their relationship with their spouse.
How did you meet? What attracted you to him? Why did you decide to marry her? What happened to your connection? How did you know the marriage was over? I want to know their story – at least from my client’s perspective. Having this framework provides me with a lot of additional detail about each party’s underlying needs and interests, which helps me to be a more effective attorney for my clients.
This framework has also taught me that people come together for many different types of learning. Some couples come together shortly after a previous relationship or the loss of a parent. Perhaps they’re both there for a “reason” – to help each other heal from the pain, to grow, and then to move on. Others come together to learn strengths from each other. I’ve represented many women who said they were attracted to their husband’s sense of adventure, easygoing nature, and playfulness. I’ve represented many men who have told me that they were drawn in by their wife’s warmth, kindness, and compassionate nature. Opposites may attract, but I’m not sure that this pairing sets people up for lifelong learning. As my best friend likes to say: “you’re treading water all the time just to stay afloat, instead of swimming together toward your desired destination.”
Other couples come together for a “season” in life – such as to marry and raise a family. Then, by the autumn of their lives, when the children have grown and started down their own paths, the leaves of the marriage fall to the ground, and it is time to start anew.
And some people, like my own parents, come together for a LIFETIME. The idea of relationship longevity is often held up as the gold standard for marriages in our culture. I’m not so sure. While I can see the benefits inherent in learning lessons over time in the context of a committed relationship, I have also seen many long term marriages that completely lack laughter, smiling, joy, playfulness, positive regard, let alone passion and intimacy. To me, marriage isn’t marathoning. If I get through 26.2 miles and hate my partner, why did I bother finishing the race? And yet, some couples get to the finish line together, still loving their partner, and with a shared history of all the hills, valleys, twists and turns of the course.
My personal belief is that there a divine plan in all of this. I don’t think we come together by accident. And I don’t think we uncouple by accident either. I suspect that when we have given and learned all that we can from a relationship, regardless of its tenure, it is time to move on. Many people, including me, have struggled with how to free ourselves and take the next step. It’s hard enough to move forward when you know the next step – and practically impossible when you’re stuck in the fog, unsure of which way to turn.
So now what?
What if we’re not sure of the next step? Unity minister, and prosperity writer, Catherine Ponder suggests when we’re not sure of what to do, we must open up ourselves to all possibilities by affirming that “the divine plan for my life is manifesting now, quickly and in peace.”[i] I would add this: “when the next step becomes clear to me, I will take it.” When these affirmations are repeated, according to Ponder, change will come.
The one thing you must be prepared for, when you start calling on the divine plan, is transition and change. Nearly every one of us has wandered away from the divine plan of his life. When you begin to dwell upon the divine plan, you may find changes taking place in your life very quickly. Instead of resisting and resenting them, recognize them for what they are – part of your divine plan which can only lead you to expanded good if you will let it.[ii]
In the context of marriage and relationships, your expanded good may not be a lifelong relationship with your partner. Perhaps a healing was needed (“reason”) or child-rearing was undertaken together (“season”). Regardless of the length of your connection, it had its purpose – even if it was to educate you as to what you do not want in a partner! And, when it’s time to move on (whether by your own choice or that of your spouse), affirming the quick and peaceful manifestation of the divine plan for your life will help illicit the perfect next step, as well as its timing.
[i] Ponder, Catherine. Open Your Mind to Prosperity. (DeVorss Publications, 1983). Page 120.
[ii] Ibid., page 121.