Sometimes I wonder how it ever got to the point where my marriage ended up with a divorce. Then I look at the way President Obama behaves towards his wife; the light shines and I figure it out.
More than anything else, President Obama's behavior towards his wife provides an example for all men of how they should behave towards their wives. If they want to stay married and they respect the sanctity of marriage. What he does is on each and every occasion when it is the least bit appropriate, President Obama makes public statements at social events and in person about how much he is grateful for his wife, and how much he holds her in esteem, and how he places her first in all of his considerations. This is the secret for any man to nurturing and maintaining a healthy marriage.
My father was exactly the same way. Throughout my childhood, and indeed, throughout my entire life, I observed my father on frequent occasions verbalize to all of us in our family how much he loved my mother, how much he held her in the highest esteem, and how he considered her first in all things.
Perhaps he did not always live up to that ideal--and sometimes he'd be caught out on something she didn't approve of and he'd walk around looking all guilty. But ultimately, this was his ideal, even when he didn't feel like it.
At appropriate times, during important family events, my father always took the opportunity to thank my mother, to reflect on the special moments of their lives together, and to restate again his commitment to her as the most important person in his life. Those moments when he did that always made me feel proud. I say this with great admiration because his devotion to my mother was often quite extraordinary given that my mother wasn't always the easiest person to get along with.
Still, my point is that he died a married man and lived to see his 60th wedding anniversary.
How is that done? It is done first by sticking by that promise you made to have and to hold from this day forward. Funny to hear that on a blog devoted to divorce!
My father made his marriage as all men do. They make it by insisting upon it. They make it by respecting it. They make it by valuing it. They make it by considering it their top priority. They make it by articulating to themselves and to the world that this woman, or this person who is my partner, is more important to me than anyone else in the world. This person has fine qualities which I admire and that I cherish and I would never be the person I am today were it not for her.
My father married my mother on his birthday. He was 23 and she was 19. They actually met when she was 16 and he was 20. And can you imagine they were together well into their 80s.
I always think, and I believe my parents conveyed to me, that the reason my parents chose his birthday for their wedding date was because their marriage made my father the man he became; it literally gave birth to him as a personality and as a human being. My mother, literally, was a gift to my father on the day of his birth, and thereby gave birth to him. The date alone was an indication to their children how important our mother was to my father and to the family.
So when I look at my own marriage and why it failed, I would start with the fact that my ex-husband went around complaining about me in public, rather than demonstrating the kind of respect President Obama knows how to show towards his wife. He would trot around that old chestnut that our misogynistic society still falls for, i.e. "She doesn't feed me!" as if he wasn't quite capable of feeding himself, as if we weren't both equally pulling our weight when it came to earning a living, and so demanding I do all the housework on top of that was rather immature and thoroughly entitled.
What gets me, though, is that we still live in a world where people are willing to actually give a complaining husband the time of day. It is as if folks love to aid and abet the destruction of a marriage and egg the guy on, even in Churches.
In fact, when I finally filed for divorce one of the first things I did was collect written affidavits from Church members who stated that my ex would come to Church committee meetings and talk trash about me. These were the very same Church members who came to my wedding and lifted up their hands in agreement that they committed themselves to supporting and encouraging my ex husband and me in our marriage.
Talking about lying hypocrisy.
Of course, that is not surprising given the pastor of the Church. This was a fellow who took pains to hide his wife and pretend that he had nothing to do with her. His behavior was so bad that it took me a few years before I figured out who his wife was. I guess the spirit of a Church leader infiltrates the Church community and creates a group of imitators; many of the marriages in that congregation ended up with divorce as well. Of course, he stayed married--it wouldn't have been respectable for a pastor to do anything different. But as I say, not everyone who is married is actually married. He used to say, "I choose to love her." as if someone was pulling one of his teeth out. I'm not sure that actually counts as a marriage.
What I am saying is actually very simple and straightforward when you think of it and it doesn't seem to have take President Obama that much to have figured it out and acted upon it. But look around you in our culture where 50% of marriages end in divorce. How many people do you know actively engage in the manner of President Obama and verbally articulate in public and often how much they respect and appreciate their wives.
To be honest, I don't see it happening that often, and to me that says it all about where the failure lies.
You may be saying right now, oh that isn't fair. Why do guys have to do all the work here. I'm sorry. That's just the way it is. My father used to say to us kids, "If your Mom isn't happy, no one is happy." Mothers are the very heart and foundation of the family. If you break that heart, there is nothing left for anyone but the fragments and the tossed about pieces. That's why the men need to straighten out, step up to the plate, and do the job they were intended for. If they choose not to do it, then they are responsible for the consequences.
That is particularly true for those scum of the earth men who snatch custody from mothers and deny them all contact with their children. There is a special place in hell for those kinds of men.
My mentor in college, a poetry instructor, used to talk about the kinds of people who could look at a statue, an image, or a symbol and fail to understand what it meant even though it was right in front of them. Here we have our President (I haven't quite gotten used to the fact that he is a former President) demonstrating right before our eyes the proper way to behave, and yet so few have actually picked up on it. You'd think it would be obvious, but I guess it isn't. Often wisdom is a distilled quality, and when finally acquired, it is too late.