Our beliefs about marriage are influenced from our earliest days. Growing up in the 1950s, my bride doll was a treasured symbol of the expected aspiration that I get married. I was barely 6 years old when I watched my big sister walk down the aisle of St. Francis Cabrini Church wearing a white dress, carrying a bouquet of red roses. I was still a teen when a romantic boy presented me with a “promise” ring with its tiny diamond, the symbol of pre-engagement.
Images, experiences, opinions. Our culture defines our most closely held beliefs about who we can and should date, fall in love with, and marry. Whether consciously or not, matters of race, gender, appearance, and class influence who we even consider as potential partners in life.
Our beliefs about divorce are no different. Throughout our lives we take in countless messages about the meaning of divorce. Divorce is a sin. Divorce means I broke my sacred vows. Divorce means my children will be damaged. Divorce means freedom. Divorce means failure.
We develop deeply ingrained ideas, giving particular weight to the ideas of people whose opinions we value, like our mothers, best friends, and the holiest of holy ones.
It can be useful to remember that for every opinion there exists an opposite opinion.
“Divorce the SOB” and “Don’t do this to your children.”
“You’ll be ruined financially” and “You can finally live in peace.”
“What are you waiting for?” and “You can’t give up.”
“He’ll kill you if you stay” and “He’ll kill you if you leave.
“You are dying in this marriage” and “You should be grateful.”
Whether spoken arrogantly aloud or in a constant stream of incessant voices in our head, they can confuse, frighten, or freeze us from moving forward.
Considering the opinions of the wise people in our lives whom we respect is valuable. But the wisdom which will serve you best when deciding your future is the wisdom that lies within you.
Are you being true to who you are? Are you moving forward in the direction that is right for you? What does your “gut” tell you? If no one else had an opinion, what advice would you give to a beloved friend in your position?
With so many opinions swirling, discernment can be a challenge. Slow down. Get quiet. Listen to what you hear within you when the noise of opinions stills. And remember that at the end of the day, the only opinion that really matters is your own.