Tuesday, March 16, 2010

On Marriage and Divorce - Who's Most Important Here?

A few years ago I was having lunch with several fellow employees and the owner of the company. Moments after lunch was served, Owner received a call from his Ex. The school had called to say Daughter was not feeling well. Ex was in the midst of filling an order of gift baskets, and needed Owner to pick Daughter up from school. After a short conversation - snippy and rude at our end - Owner whipped his car keys out of his pocket and asked for a carry out box for his lunch. He then looked at me- the only woman at the table - and said: "Now I ask you, who is more important here; me, the owner of a multi-million dollar company, or Ex, who makes $9.50 an hour filling gift basket orders?"

I knew the answer he wanted to hear. I knew him well enough to know his question was more of a dare than a request for advice. I knew an honest answer would cost me, and I knew no answer at all would probably cost the same. I chose not to answer. Just looked at him. Perhaps raised my eyebrows a bit. He never spoke to me again, and I was "laid off" a few weeks later.

I know it wasn't just my answer - or lack thereof -that cost me my job, but it sure didn't help. I wish now I had just told him the answer. It's very simple: Who is most important in the scenario? The daughter. The daughter. The daughter!

The issues that confuse most couples - or ex-couples - are these:

During a marriage, the most important in the relationship, other than God, of course, are the husband and wife. During and after a divorce, the most important people are the children.

Children, in-laws, family, pets, hair appointments - all come second to husband and wife. A relationship is not static. We change, our needs change, our attitudes change, our interests change, we mature - or not, we are needy - or not. Because neither we nor our relationship are static we must consider the marriage and each other as most important. Always. The relationship/marriage/husband and wife is the project of most interest, focus and importance. If this works and the marriage thrives and grows - everything else will work - or at least be endured.

During and after a divorce - when the marriage is determined to be non-repairable- the focus must change to the children. This is a subject that would take days or months to cover properly. In short, though, the importance of caring for the needs of the children/step children/adopted children, by not using them as pawns, not pitting them against one Ex or the other, not ignoring their needs, not burdening them with problems, keeping them properly informed, and letting them know they are most important in decisions is where all the energy of the parents should be expended.

This focus will resolve many other points of argument in the divorce: who gets the house, who gets the Corvette, who gets the every-day dishes. Look at these questions with the children in mind. The answers are easy. What is best for the children. House? Check. Corvette? Not so much. Everyday dishes? Of course.

If there are no children, have at it. If there are children, step away from yourselves and give them the focus they deserve. A bonus here is you will keep the respect of your family and friends. You will serve as a good example to others. You will be doing the right thing.


Adrienne said...

this one caught my eye...very close friends of ours are going through a divorce as a result of infidelity. it has rocked our world, literally. however, throughout the process, my husband and i have sort of had our own marriage counseling... the single most important thing we both agree on and that you stated in your blog as well is that each of us is number one. i am his number one and he is mine... everything else follows. thanks for your very articulate and important message!

MuseSwings said...

Thank you for your comment, Adrienne! Being each other's #1 purposefully makes for a wonderful and enduring relationship!

steviewren said...

Great post Muse. Having been through a divorce I'd like to add my two cents.

In my opinion, children should be the focus when divorce is first contemplated as well. Children grow up and if the parents/couple is still not getting along then they should feel free to part ways, but give the children the chance to have a carefree childhood first. (this is if there is no physical abuse or infidelity) Like you stated marriages are static and what is unacceptable today may not seem so bad with time and distance.

Once the divorce has taken place no matter how hard a couple tries to shield the child, his life is irrevocably changed. He will never spend holidays or other special occasions with both his parents again.

Divorce is just plain sad.

MuseSwings said...

Excellent point, Stevie! I appreciate your input so much on the most difficult of problems - focusing on children when contemplating the divorce. This requires more maturity than many of us can ever hope to have, but finding it during such a difficult time is so necessary.

JamaGenie said...

It's easy to see how your former boss became an Ex in the first place. I'd venture the child he was so put out to pick up from school was much more mature than he was, or will ever be. My sympathies that remaining silent and not pointing out the obvious cost you your job. On the other hand, had Owner not owned the company, I doubt his track record as an *employee* would've been anything to brag about. (: