The True Face of “Happy Divorce” is Quite Ugly

A feature film now in theaters tells the story of children devastated by divorce and the story of middle-aged adolescents living almost exclusively for themselves.

The Way Way Back is the story of teen-age Duncan, who spends part of a summer at a beach house with his mother Pam, her boyfriend Trent and her boyfriend’s snotty and obviously wounded teenage daughter.

Duncan is morose, deeply depressed by the situation he finds himself in. Trent bullies him. He demands that Duncan rate himself between one and ten. Humiliated, Duncan finally mumbles “six.”  “No, you’re a three,” says Trent. And that’s the remarkable opening scene as they drive to the beach.

The woman at the beach house next door is also divorced and most of the time drunk. Her hyper-sexualized daughter is also morose. Another couple enters the scene, long time friends; they all seem to have been going to this beach resort in Massachusetts their whole lives.

Though the divorced Pam has been dating the also divorced Trent for a year there is not much of a connection between them and she certainly does NOT connect with his longtime friends, she seems an utter outsider.

There’s lots of drinking and some pot smoking and silly cavorting on the beach. All the adults act like adolescents while the real adolescents are disgusted. They are disgusted not simply in the way adolescents might always be disgusted. They have a reason for their disgust, which is the way the adults are.

In one of the revealing moments in the movie Duncan finds the dinner table festooned with dirty plates after the adults have stumbled to the beach, this after Trent had ordered the boy to remove his own plate since “that is what we do in this house.” Trent is not only a bully, he is a hypocrite, too. But this becomes painfully clear when Duncan sees Trent making out with one of the married neighbors and that tees up one of the more dramatic and confrontational moments in the movie.

One of the film’s writers says the movie came from his own experience growing up in a divorced family and that the opening humiliating scene was almost verbatim from his own experience. Clearly the makers want us to see the children as victims of their parents’ sad “happiness” and the easy divorce culture that remains so much a part of our fraying social fabric. All the fathers are gone away to some mystical place where fathers get younger wives, spoken of only sotto voce. The only men left are the philandering boy friend who is no kind of father, and the feckless husband who knows his wife is canoodling with the boy friend but who cannot muster himself to do anything about it. The women are weak or drunk or both. There is a man-child at a local water park who befriends the boy and even cares for him but even he is a nearly hopeless case.

How could these kids not be disgusted and damaged almost beyond repair?

We were told at the dawn of easy divorce that it would be good for families, children and society. We were told children would be better off bouncing between happily divorced parents rather than living with unhappy ones. The important thing for children was the happiness of their parents.

Almost immediately after the divorce culture set in, we discovered something quite different. Entire generations have been harmed.

One of the best books on this topic remains Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce (Crown, 2005) by Elizabeth Marquardt, which reported “the first national study in the United States of grown children of divorce.”

Marquardt and her colleague Norval Glenn performed 1500 telephone interviews of young adults, half from divorced families, half from intact families, in addition to 70 face-to-face interviews.

The first thing to understand is that of the one in two marriages that now end in divorce, overwhelmingly most were from low-conflict marriages. These are not couples that spent their days fighting and throwing things. These are couples that have simply grown bored, feel they now lack communication, having mid-life crises.

It is likely they never knew what marriage was in the first place.

A trick was played on kids from these low-conflict divorces and that is the myth of the happy divorce, a notion that Marquardt easily dispels with her research.

Divorce in a low-conflict marriage comes as a total surprise to the children. Out of nowhere a child’s world is ripped apart. The child may spend years or even his whole life trying to figure this out. Trying to figure this out is a huge and profoundly unfair burden to place on small shoulders. It traumatizes for life.

The parents, following the playbook of the happy divorce, tell the children that nothing will change, you still have a mother and a father, “we will simply be living apart.” The children know this is a lie.

The parents explain in great detail exactly how the child will live; how many days with each parent, when, where etc. But what inevitably happens is the child now lives in two different and in most cases irreconcilable worlds. Marquardt and Glenn report that such children feel interiorly divided. They are asked to keep secrets but also to inform on each parent. The two worlds are likely very different with different rules, values and ways to live.

Marquardt writes, “Most startling, two-thirds said their divorced parents seemed like polar opposites, compared to one-third of those with married parents, even though few said their divorced parents conflicted a lot.”

Consider that these types of interior conflicts begin when children are 4 or 8 or 12.

Marquardt’s cites a book called The Good Divorce by Constance Ahrons who tells the story of two little girls—4 and 7—who spend half the week with mom and half with dad but when the switch is made the four-year-old “regresses” and begins sucking her thumb, clings to her mother and whines, while the seven-year-old starts “to let go even before she left.” She becomes more independent and “ornery.” And these poor troubled girls are presented as a success story.

It is likely these poor girls are suffering and will suffer their whole lives because their parents went through a bored patch in their marriage, maybe had a wandering eye, decided they would be happier without their spouse and because of no-fault divorce there was nothing to stop them or even to slow them down.

The result of all this mess is that children of divorce, including children of “happy divorce,” have much higher incidents of deeply harmful pathologies including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, an inability to form relationships, and much more.

This is the true face of happy divorce in America.

The odious homosexual agitator Dan Savage makes an excellent point, one we should pay attention to. We marriage proponents wag our fingers at the homosexual penchant for multiple sexual partners even within “committed relationships.” Savage admits homosexuals do this and is unrepentant. And he wonders how we can criticize homosexuals for not being Ozzie and Harriet when we are so far from it ourselves.

In the coming months and years if we lose the marriage debate, if marriage is redefined to include homosexual couples, we should know we lost it a long time ago. We lost it when we devalued marriage to such an extent that it became easily disposable and we irreparably harmed our children for our own convenience and “happiness.”

Austin Ruse


Austin Ruse is president of C-FAM (Center for Family & Human Rights), a New York and Washington DC-based research institute. He is the author of Fake Science: Exposing the Left’s Skewed Statistics, Fuzzy Facts, and Dodgy Data published by Regnery. He is also the author of the new book Little Suffering Souls: Children Whose Short Lives Point Us to Christ published by Tan Books. The views expressed here are solely his own.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    The principle effect of no-fault divorce was to end the charade of “Hotel Cases,” in which the receptionist who booked them in and the chambermaid who brought them their early morning tea proved that the Defender (always the husband), whom they identified from a photograph, spent the night with a lady, who was not the Pursuer; their precognitions might as well have been mimeographed. No effort was ever made to identify the fair unknown and there was never any evidence of prior association.

    • Percy Gryce

      So, Michael, what do you find to be the origins of this rise in divorce rates?

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        I do not know and I do not suppose anyone else does either, but No Fault divorce can be eliminated as a factor, for there was no increase in the rate of acceleration of the divorce rate following its introduction.

        What I do know is that there was a sharp rise in the divorce rate between 1930 and 1959, with the average annual rate in the 1950s being some 250% higher than in the 1930s. I know that the average annual rate for the 1930s (597 decrees) was 360% higher than it had been a generation earlier, in the 1890s (130 decrees).

        • Patsy Koenig

          You are so right, Michael, all divorce should be eliminated.

    • James

      Precisely. The purpose of no-fault divorce laws was to free up the courts’ time from having to deal with these manufactured cases.

      If couples want to get divorced, they will find a way to do it.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        The old law sometimes produced bizarre results. Thus, in an action of divorce or separation, if adultery was the ground of action, it formerly had to be proved beyond reasonable doubt and by corroborated evidence. Accordingly the Court could find the defender guilty of adultery with the co-defender, but assoilzie the co-defender because there was no evidence sufficient in law to prove that he had committed adultery with the defender.

        “The confessions of the wife, defender, may warrant the Court in finding that adultery is proved against her, while, not being evidence against the co-defender, he escapes; and thus divorce may be granted against the wife for adultery committed by her with him, while he himself is assoilzied from the action.” Creasey v Creasey 1931 S.C. 9 There the wife’s confessions were corroborated by evidence of clandestine association (meetings in a tea room), but insufficient to infer adultery against the co-defender. Mr Creasy got his divorce, but not his expenses from the co-defender

        • Tuffycatt

          Nothing is worth breaking up a home, a family, a marriage, especially if children are involved, why put them through that? If one spouse has hurt another spouse, whether it be drinking, or infidelity, or some other sin, take it to the Lord in prayer, and forgive that spouse, entrusting that spouse to God and trusting God to change that spouse. More often than not, God is changing the wronged spouse’s attitude so the guilty spouse can look at the wronged spouse with new eyes and be brought to repentance. If you trust your marriage to God, you can trust Him to give you the strength, courage, grace, and peace to endure. Forgiveness is healing, and it is a daily effort, but with God’s grace, all things are possible. Find strength through prayer, reading the Bible, fellowship at Church or in prayer groups, or the advice of a priest who will help you rebuild your marriage. The wrong thing to do is take the easy way out, the only exception is if there is abuse, and your life is in danger. I am still working through some issues, putting my family and marriage first, as the price is too great otherwise. Therefore by the grace of God go I!

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            That is very true, but we must remember that the Council of Trent teaches, “CANON VIII.-If any one says, that the Church errs, in that she declares that, for many causes, a separation may take place between husband and wife, in regard of bed, or in regard of cohabitation, for a determinate or for an indeterminate period; let him be anathema.” (Sess 24)

            And, of course, the Church is, in each case, the judge; no one should separate on their own authority (except in case of imminent peril) without submitting the matter to her tribunals

            • Patsy Koenig

              Absolutely true. Separation may be neccary for various reasons of abuse, non-suport, drunkenness, drugs, dultery etc. However, the Church allows separation NOT divorce.

      • Patsy Koenig

        Yes, ALL divorce is wrong, and damaging to the family and to society. Only necessary separations should be allowedby law.

    • Micha_Elyi

      Under the cover of the name “no-fault divorce” “unilateral divorce” was smuggled into the laws.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        This was already possible, by the creative use of “constructive desertion,” in which the Pursuer averred that the Defender’s behaviour caused him or her to leave, even though not amounting to “cruelty.”. It was a slow process (four years’ separation), but was increasingly used against reluctant spouses.

    • Patsy Koenig

      Yes, the precursor to no-fault divorce was at-fault divorce. Both are evil. At-fault-divorce will naturally lead to no-fault divorce. The problem is divorce – period. It is NEVER neccessary. Separations are sometimes neccessary; but divorce is never neccessary; nor justified. The purpose of divorce (as opposed to separation) is to marry someone else.

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    They told us that no-fault divorce would solve the problem of unhappy marriages. They were wrong.

    They told us that contraception would make couples happier because there would be fewer mouths to feed and there would be more for everyone. They were wrong.

    They told us that abortion would solve the problem of unwanted children and all children born would then know they were wanted and loved. They were wrong.

    They told us that marriage needed to be between two people of the same sex because they would find fulfillment there. There were wrong.

    They keep telling us things that we know are wrong and we keep believing what they tell us.

    In all my years doing clinical counseling with families and individuals I have never met a person from a divorced family who did not know that his/her mother did not belong with the man she was now with and the same for their father. The myth of the happy blended family has been exploded by the reality of children damaged for life by the selfishness of their parents. But, heck, get them the newest iteration of an ipad and that will make their lives perfect once again.

    • Charles Lewis

      I wondering. Did you ever meet a couple so damaged or so ill matched that staying together was impossible? I know what the Church teaches but what about couples in which one spouse cheats on the other, or where one spouse constantly demeans the other or civil conversations almost never occurs. Do you think these couples can be fixed. I know the author is talking about low-conflict marriages. But when couples are destroying each other I’m not sure in the civil arena why a divorce must turn into a long-term expensive affair.

      • msmischief

        Well, actually, in that case there’s nothing that a legal separation wouldn’t fix, insofar as it is fixable.

        Note that statistically, the longer the marriage lasts, the later the divorce, the better off the children are, which shows how rare the damaging marriage that can be fixed by divorce is. Not to mention that the parents can go on conflicting even after the divorce.

        This can appear in pop culture too. I offer an example, where the son is a happy-go-lucky, comic relief twit, and the father, well — think the Emperor from Star Wars — but the son still suffered.

      • Deacon Ed Peitler

        The fact of the matter is that if couples knew they could not divorce, then they might make an attempt to behave more civilly. Similarly, if couples knew that they could not use contraception, they might think twice about copulating. If couples knew that they could not get an abortion, then they might find ways of supporting that child. If people knew that they could not take sexual partners of the same sex, they might find friends who would support their celibate status. We keep lowering the bar for people and guess what????

        • LeticiaVelasquez

          There is a survey of deeply unhappy couples which finds that the great majority are happy again in ten years if they ride out
          the storms.

          • leogirl87

            Yep. 80% are “happier than ever” in their marriages. They need to work out their problems. Also, second marriages have even higher divorce rates compared to first marriages. They bring their baggage with them. That is why each person is supposed to have just one spouse, not a string of spouses.

        • Charles Lewis

          Forget same sex couples and abortion for a moment. Talk about well-intentioned straight couples who despite best efforts just cannot live with each other? If they couldn’t divorce they would live a apart and then live with someone else. Honest people will try their best, and go beyond that. I just think you’re not seeing this realistically. Forcing people to stay together is just not going to work. Or you’ll create these dead marriages of strangers living in the house. One last point: To make divorce illegal the state has to get involved. Do you really want the government telling people what they should do in this area?

          • Deacon Ed Peitler

            It’s hard to believe in this day and age but many, many people – through their own efforts and the grace of the Sacraments if they are Catholic – manage to find resources they never knew they had when confronted with pain, suffering, adversity. It may takes years for these resources to surface or God’s grace to work in their lives, but that is what the virtue of hope is al about. And meanwhile, the children will be treated to a lesson in life about how adversity is handled by watching closely what their parents do. But they will never know where strength might come from or the power of God’s grace in their lives if we just say, “Ain’t working; dump the broad.”

          • dbwheeler

            I can speak with authority here, Charles. I went through a divorce and remarried four years later. The second marriage was turning into a disaster but I knew I would never ever get a divorce as I realized too late it solves nothing. I remained true to my vows and God carried me through it til now, 37 years later my husband is my best friend and our marriage is good and a witness to the faithfulness of God. There is no such thing as a dead marriage, only dead souls, You’ve lost your way and no longer have God as your first love. There is no surer way to grow spiritually than through suffering, though you don’t know that until you look back at how God has been there with you all the while. (and our Beloved Mother, as well.) because we’re loved unconditionally…if your mate isn’t giving you the love you think you deserve, (a mistake, by the way) remember that our Lord is our true Bridegroom and remain faithful for His sake. Anyone contemplating a divorce unless the mate is in an adulterous relationship and doesn’t want reconcilliation, should give everything you’ve got to restoring your relationship. Refuse to divorce. It should not be an option unless your life is in danger and even then you should just separate if possible because you are still married to that person in the eyes of God. If you remarry without an annulment you’re committing adultery. It isn’t the government telling people what to do, it is the LAW protecting children and society, something that too many forget is the whole point of government. The family must always be the first consideration in all law and in economics. It is the whole point of culture. No fault divorce is the work of the devil

            • RichardW

              “It isn’t the government telling people what to do, it is the LAW protecting children and society, something that too many forget is the whole point of government. The family must always be the first consideration in all law and in economics. It is the whole point of culture.”
              Exactly. The problem is that when society reaches the point where the majority see something like divorce as a self-evident good (and anything like self-sacrificing love as a self-evident evil), they will demand that the laws be changed.

          • Louise

            ” Do you really want the government telling people what they should do in this area?”
            A: yes!

            • Patsy Koenig

              Glad to hear you say that…I agree.

          • Patsy Koenig

            Yes! I definately want the government telling people they cannot break their contracts, especially the covenant of marraige! “Freedom” has beeny over-sold; and the “freedom” to treat human beings like automobiles, and trade them in at-will, is an abuse of “freedom,” and an abuse of persons. Furthermore, marraige and all of life, is NOT about subjective happiness or personal fulfillment. It is about responsibility towards our neighbor and serving God. A spouse, who is being abused or cheated on, can separate – the Catholic Church approves of that. Your conclusion that they will then co-habit is false. They need not co-habit with another – with the help of God’s Grace. Sin is ALWAYS a choice of the free-will.

          • RichardW

            The point here is *not* that divorce should be unavailable in all cases, but that it should be more difficult to obtain than it is at present in the United States.
            There are actually cases in which children wish their parents would divorce–usually when extreme domestic violence is involved–but these are in the minority.

          • Micha Elyi

            Talk about well-intentioned straight couples who despite best efforts just cannot live with each other?
            —Charles Lewis

            Your hypothetical couple doesn’t exist, Chuck.

      • Proteios

        Good question. Too many variables. The me generations filled with narcissism, prolonged adolescnence, etc. Even those not deeply entrenched in this selfishness tend to come at things with that perspective. A lifetime of introspection and I still do it. But I went into marriage with the idea it was a piece of paper, not an institution. 20 yrs later I’m glad God looked out for me when I wasn’t. But perspective is another factor that means men aren’t raised to be husbands and fathers but something else that satisfies their own interests. Women too. So the idea that men and women would enter relationships game ready is just not the case.

      • Apples

        I spent 15 years married to a verbally abusive and extremely controlling man. He controlled the finances (and lied about them), controlled where I could go and with whom, wouldn’t let me even see a movie with my own mother unless he went with me, had to account for the money I was allowed to use for groceries and such while he selfishly bought things on a whim and put us into massive dept. I have been called a f**king b*tch, a fat worthless cow, vile while I home-schooled and raised our children, took care of the house, etc. He ridiculed almost everything I liked doing if they were things he had no interest in. We lived on his parents property without having to pay for rent, etc. and went on all major vacations with his parents, his brother and brother’s wife/kids, spent every holiday at his mother’s house and had dinner at her house every single night (she would cause problems if we didn’t do these things and he always took her side). Top all of that off with the fact that he refused to have sex with me for the last 6 years and I am not a gross, slatternly person. We fought most of the time and he wouldn’t stop fighting because the kids were present. In fact, he would go so far as to try to get them to side with him.

        Last summer I pushed for marriage counseling with him. The only reason he finally agreed to go is because I told him it was our last chance to save the marriage, that if he didn’t go to counseling and we didn’t fix the marriage it WOULD end in divorce. I was slowly sinking into depression under the stress of emotional abuse, lack of love and affection to the point where I lost almost all interest in the things I normally enjoyed. He went to 4-5 counseling sessions and then deemed them to be a complete waste of time and money before quitting. That was a sign to me that he had no desire to fix or change anything so I sought divorce.

        I chose divorce so that my children won’t grow up thinking that that is the normal way for adults in a relationship to behave towards each other, so that they don’t think that’s how men treat women, so that they don’t have to be around constant fighting. I was hoping the divorce could be as drama free as possible, that the kids wouldn’t get caught in the middle but my ex husband finds ways to bring about as much drama as possible as well as manipulates the kids. Despite all of that I finally feel free and I can feel the cloud of gloom lifting off of me. NOW I can be myself again and be a better mother to my children because of it.

    • Slainte

      It is often the case that one of the spouses is taken unaware and is left behind without any power to alter the decision of the spouse who wants to leave. The left behind spouse is demoralized, shocked to the core, and may be responsible for raising children by him or herself usually with minimal or no child support. Hence, that spouse becomes the walking wounded trying mightily to raise children in the best way possible while forced to assume the role of mom and dad. I have witnessed this scenario more than once; it is tragic for all concerned. Some form of adultery is usually involved.

      • Gerard_Altermatt

        That’s right. It happens all the time and there is nothing the wronged spouse can do about it.

      • leogirl87

        That is why the “no-fault” divorce is bull… someone is always at fault!

      • JefZeph

        Have you been reading my diary?

    • Left Coast Conservative

      My mother’s parents were divorced. The divorce has affected my life and the lives of my children. The self centered behavior mentioned in the article pass through the generations. We are at the third generation post divorce – it is very sad.

    • Micha Elyi

      You’ve spent “years doing clinical counseling with families” and still misleadingly call unilateral divorce “no-fault”. You’re part of the problem, hon.

  • Uuncle Max

    Let us not forget the fact that these children are the grandchildren and in some cases the great grandchildren of the 60s – the love generation. We sewed bitter seed in those days and now the harvest is in its 3rd generation. God help us, God have mercy on us.

  • publiusnj

    The author closes by saying that “we” lost the marriage debate when “we” devalued marriage to such an extent tha it became easily disposable. “We” didn’t do that; legislators did. Why are legislators eager to relax the pre-existing culture’s moral constraints on just about any subject? Because there is no moral consensus the legislators need to observe in a society which equates all religious beliefs and none and legislators love to “give” things to constituencies. Although the prior moral teaching is there and controls the conduct of some of the people still, the legislators can “give” a new constituency–the people chafing at moral constraints–something (supposed “divorce freedom”) that costs the State nothing, at least in the short run (defined as the legislators’ careers), and creates “grateful” voters. In fact, given the Legal Bar’s need for new business, Divorce even opens up new streams of political contributions.
    So, legislators are the problem and the first thing we need to do is ask ourselves why we need legislators passing new laws all the time? “We” have been at self-governance for more than 225 years now; so why do we need lots of new laws on any subject but the budget (and perhaps a handful of genuine newly developed problems). Why can’t legislators meet for short sessions and then let the culture get on with its business without constant interference from the “legislators.”

    • Paul S.

      Culture lead law – not the other way around. Take responsibility.

      • publiusnj

        This is a mere ipse dixit. “Culture” has very little effect on legislators who are instead governed by the next election. The people who inherited the dominant US culture also went to public schools which have indoctrinated students since the 1960s with a non-judgmentalism that hinders them from making voting decisions based on the inherited culture. So, the inherited culture is going away due to the subversive effect of the chief transmitter of the culture, the schools. And who controls the schools? The politicians. QED, to use a phrase inherited from the once-dominant culture.

      • Tony

        Well, it does work in both directions. Bad law undermines culture — it can confirm the worst in a culture, or sustain and support the best. Roe v. Wade is a case in point, and so are the Great Society programs, and so were the consolidations of school districts, and so were the SC decisions opening the sewer gates for porn …

        • Micha_Elyi

          Those who made little or no effort to vote out the legislators who passed those bad laws (or failed to oust the bad judges) and remain unrepentant about their offenses of commission or omission against the body public are the “we”.

        • Patsy Koenig

          Yes, it goes both directions.

  • Steven Jonathan

    Excellent article Mr. Ruse, outstanding!
    Divorce, the death of the family, is worse than the death of one or the other parent-

    • publiusnj

      SJ is right. Families continue to exist even when one parent (or both) die, so long as the remaining family continues to think of itself as family. My brothers and I (the “Brothers Publius”) continue to remember our mother’s death, when we were very young, every five years with a memorial Mass. We’re coming up on the 60th Anniversary next year. Yet, the family that breaks up does not stay together and the children’s identities are ruthlessly rended in half. And if the parents then have children by other “mates,” the issue of identity becomes even more fractured.

      in the end, the problem with divorce is that it is a “hard hearted” thing to do, just as Jesus observed (Mark 10:5). Marriage should mean that two flesh become one and that means the participants no longer look out for themselves but for the couple’s interest.
      How can divorcing people claim to be following Christ when they disregard Christ’s words so plainly: “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.””

      • Thomas

        My marriage was ill-conceived by both of us because we were not in love; we wanted to have a family.
        Of course, it was highly volatile. She kicked me out for a “trial separation” at the urging of a female co-worker and then began an adulterous affair with her affluent boss. We divorced and she married the philanderer. That marriage didn’t last either. She drank and tried to seduce other men in an attempt to win another husband; she succeeded, but not before orally copulating a candidate one evening on the sofa of her home. She didn’t know at the time that my daughter had seen it. Later, husband number three happened onto the scene.
        She realized the errors of drinking and her careless and reckless lifestyle. She entered AA and renounced her short experience (since our wedding) as a Catholic and became Christian. Now, ironically, she is a marriage counselor at that church. She goes around the country receiving training, etc.
        Me–what did I do? I stayed single and didn’t even try to get an annulment. I couldn’t seriously consider taking up with another woman after what I went through, so I just took care of the kids, whenever I had my chance.
        The bottom line is that my three children are damaged goods. I won’t go into details, but everyday that I see my two sons and interact with them (they moved in with me a few years ago as teenagers) I am faced with my complete failure as a father. While God may have forgiven me for my sins and errors, life has not, nor will it forgive me or my children. Some people should never get married–at least not to each other.
        They resent not only her, but me as well–and they should. The eldest moved back with his mom; my middle son is unmotivated to study, read, or learn. He is barely getting through an alternative high school. He thinks smoking pot is the answer to all of his pain. My daughter….she drops by to see me when she wants money.
        Yes, I was taught the way as a child, but I took a different track and the damage she and I have done to our innocent children causes more pain than all the child support I’ve paid, and more pain than the betrayal of her adultery. The suffering of my children is my earthly hell.

        • Thomas

          Last summer when my ex tried to blame me for my daughter’s indifference toward me (“You never developed a relationship with her,” even though the ex was skillful in blocking my attempts) I reminded her what Jesus said about divorce. She made no reply to this, but it must have hit her hard and caused some ambivalent feelings since she was working in her church’s marriage ministry. After that, she put a block on all of my emails.

          Recently, I told her I was applying for an annulment and I requested her help, but she in typical fashion, declined to comment or assist. I said, “The Church does not believe children become bastards as a result of annulment.” She replied, “I don’t care what the Church says; I care only what God says.” She once wrote on Twitter: “If you want to see the Church, look in the mirror.”

          What is the point of this?

          The point is that divorce is never the end. The point is that I can’t shake her or her heresy from my life. She is the never ending sore and the constant reminder of my folly and my own reckless notion of the easy dispensability of marrying someone on a purely trial basis.

          What foolishness we do.

          • Joyfully

            and so He says, “Forgive them, they know not what they do.”

            Seriously, he has taken up our sing unto himself and, with our consent draws us into him and through his passion and death we are promised his glory … our cross is his, his cross is ours.

            I hear you Thomas. I will pray that you continue to draw closer to the heart of Christ so that you will grow in the strength of manhood that God made for you have. It is your constancy and strength that will help your young ones heal. May Christ’s peace be with you.

          • Micha_Elyi

            She replied, “I don’t care what the Church says; I care only what God says.”

            I guess she doesn’t really care about what God says either – sigh – for He said about those who hold the office of bishops in His Church, “Who hears you, hears Me”.

            She once wrote on Twitter: “If you want to see the Church, look in the mirror.”

            For many of us like her, what we see in the mirror is a view of the Church from a very, very great distance away. And the view is clouded, too, by our own sins.

            Despite all the shortcomings of the living stones of which He builds it, a direct look at His Church gives us a much clearer view of His Church and His will for it than any mirror-gazing.

          • BrunoB

            Dear Thomas, I feel your pain brother.

            It was to avert such a fate that I encouraged my ex-girlfriend, with whom I was cohabitating, to perform an abortion. Back then I thought that my son or daughter wasn’t really a person, and I couldn’t bear the thought of living with her mother, who had full potential to make all our lives miserable.

            Oh, the regret. It prompted me to the faith, only to make me see more clearly how debased I am, a murderer of my own kin.

            Yes, I found the faith to be forgiven by Jesus, I hope. But the scars remain. And I tell you, I ask God to grant me not only forgiveness but also the grace of someday having a family, and lots of kids. But I know that it would be only just to die alone.

            What I’m saying is, if I could go back in time, I would face any misery in the hands of that woman to see that child be born. I think that no matter how hard it could have gotten, I would still be a happier man than who I am today. Richer, indeed, as I would have at least a cross to carry in love. But I threw mine away.

            Cheers, Thomas. Your kids have the world ahead of them. Forgiveness can always happen.

            • Slainte

              Your testimony is brave and compelling. Please consider joining a right to life group and giving testimony to young high school and college aged men to warn them of the earth shattering effects of abortion on a man. If only one young man hears your appeal and encourages his girl friend to keep their baby, you will have saved an entire family and make possible many future generations of children. You have made a difference by posting in this forum today; you can continue to transform lives with your testimony.

              Peace be with you and may God soothe your troubled heart

            • dbwheeler

              I’m so sorry Bruno, but remember that you do have a child in heaven waiting for you to be reunited with him or her. Give her or him a name and remember that little person IS a person in the eyes of God. That person forgives you. Only you can forgive yourself, and like I told Thomas, satan wants nothing more than to see us in pain and separated from God. God wants us filled with joy that we can bring salt and light into a dark world, but if we’re full of recrimination and self-loathing, who profits but the great deceiver. Live in such a way that someday the first person you see when you die is your very own child waiting for you. I have a son who was killed in a car acciden when a little baby, and sometimes I feel his presence at Mass, with the angels. I’m not a romantic person, but I know that what God says is ALWAYS true. Believe it!

          • Patsy Koenig

            Annulment. If a child’s parents were never married (as an annulment declares); then HOW can the children be born to married parents??? And when a child’s parents were never married, any slang verbiage can describe it… the word doesn’t matter – the reality does. If you don’t like the word; take a look at the reality. The Church also does NOT proclaim those children legitimate, either. That’s because the Church no longer proclaims who is legitimate; and who is not. But reality is a fact.

        • Micha_Elyi

          “She… renounced [being] a Catholic and became Christian.”


          You horribly misspelled “Protestant”, Thomas.

        • dbwheeler

          Thomas, you remained faithful. Stop blaming yourself. “All things work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”. Keep praying for your children and ask Mary to pray for them! Satan the accuser is workiing a number on you, making you relive the pain and blame over and over, when if you’ve been to reconcilliation and been forgiven, are NOT to do so anymore. Ask what you can do to serve the Lord and give your children over to God to be restored and healed. In our weakness and neediness, He can work miracles, but if we keep holding on to our pain, we keep replaying the same movie again and again and don’t allow Him free reign in our lives. . As they say, ‘Let go and let God, Thomas. God bless you and I’ll be praying for you and your family.

        • Patsy Koenig

          Love is ALWAYS a choice; an act of the will, a decision. The bitterness of divorce usuallly makes people look back negatively on the circumstances of their wedding. Forget it; loss clouds our subjective recollections. If you two did not love each other when you wedded; the problem was spiritual e.g. a lack of charity. You did the right thing to honor your marriage vows: your children would be far worse off, if you had not. My husband did something similar, and I also stayed single – honoring my vows; but my adult children are seriously damaged by the divorce and their father’s immoral behavior. Think how much worse off they would be, if I had not honored my vows and provided them with an example of following Christ’s teachings.

        • Micha Elyi

          She entered AA and renounced her short experience (since our wedding) as a Catholic and became Christian.

          All Catholics are Christians. Duh.

          She became Protestant. And because she had once held the truth of the Christian faith, she–unlike people who were never Catholic Christians–is also a heretic.

  • lifeknight

    Selfishness is at the core of this “revolution.” Children are always the ones who suffer the most.

    • Patsy Koenig

      Incorrect. The abandoned spouse suffers the most – usually the wife. Marraige is a one-flesh life-time relationship. And children are supposed to leave their father and mother – and cleave unto their spouse. After divorce, children go from having a full-time father to having a part-timefather. While the spouse (read “wife”) goes from having a full-time husband to having no husband, at all – while still morally and personally obligated to raise his children. Thus theologically, divorce damages the wife the most. The fuel behind no-fault divorce is that society does not care about women. They only care about children.

      • lifeknight

        I suppose no one can argue that all involved suffer. I have the children in mind the most because they did not have a will to be without either parent. They are casualties of the war on families.

      • Micha Elyi

        Children are always the ones who suffer the most.

        Incorrect. The abandoned spouse suffers the most – usually the wife.
        —Patsy Koenig

        Doubly incorrect. The wife is most likely to be the abandoner. Feminists proudly claim that over 90% of divorces are initiated by the female, university social scientists using more rigorous methods find that she initiates* divorce about 2/3rds of the time. The truth is probably at least somewhere in the middle. And her top reasons? She’s bored, she’s “fallen out of love”, or is just “not haaapy”. Being cheated on or beaten on is rare and because females victimize men by cheating and beating them at approximately the same rate as vice-versa, the gyno-centric excuse makers for the epidemic of female-initiated divorce have to account for the other 80% of divorces. They can’t.

        *That’s not who files, but who was the root cause of the divorce.

  • carl

    Short sidebar:

    Quote from article

    “The first thing to understand is that of the one in two marriages that now end in divorce, overwhelmingly most were from low-conflict marriages. These are not couples that spent their days fighting and throwing things. These are couples that have simply grown bored, feel they now lack communication, having mid-life crises.”

    In my mind, low conflict people, in general, are no better
    than high-conflict people, in fact I think they’re worse. Low-conflict
    people typically manipulate a situation from their perceived
    ‘low-conflict” moral-high-ground. Then use the high-conflict person’s
    passion against them when in reality the other is just manipulating.

    Examples, employee and employer, employee and co-worker relationships.
    I actually appreciate a bombastic up front co-worker more than the person with “low-conflict” who’s actually placing daggers in your back.

    More, C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape never advises Wormword to convince patients away from the enemy, God, through high-conflict communication techniques. By using innuendos, temptations, subtleties, and low conflict! Why, of course, someone with soft or even tone speech is always looking out for your best interest!

    Low-conflict verses low-conflict, many times two people manipulating and/or deceiving each other.
    Low-conflict to high-conflict, many times a person who is manipulating verses someone being rude but honest with their feelings!

    • WSquared

      Carl, you’ve just described “the politics of nice.” Screwtape obviously knows it well.

      I mostly agree with you, in terms of the type of low-conflict manipulation you describe, with its dubious, self-righteous moral high ground– especially when someone first starts something they’re unwilling to finish, or foists something unreasonable on you, and when you call them on their bullpuckey and tell them that it’s not on, they have the gall to tell you, “I don’t want to argue with you.” They may be “nice,” but the following is still clear: they expect to have an opinion, and how dare you question it. If you do, that makes you passionate and therefore irrational.

      But I’ve also come across enough high-conflict behavior that is just as manipulative, precisely because the person behaving that way thinks they’re entitled to get what they want when they want, and because they think that emotionally overwhelming the other person or bullying them will make him or her give up and/or go away. They may be honest with their feelings, but the problem is the fact that they preface their feelings as the arbiter of all good: you “hurt their feelings,” so you’re obviously in the wrong, and it’s obviously your fault.

      Both types of behavior may even exist in the same person, and often does. But the constant is that everything is always All About Them, and the only thing that matters is being right, and getting what they want. It’s why objective reality, logic, and morality matter, because whether you raise your voice or not, you not only have to stand your ground, but know what ground you’re standing on. That ground helps you not make it all about yourself, too, but about what’s right because it is right: you may be right, but be wrong in approach, just as the other person may be calling good evil and evil good, thinking that they can get away with it by bullying or being “nice.” You’ve got to be able to call it all for what it is. And in advancing truth, justice, and mercy, a gentler approach does work wonders most of the time, but note that gentle doesn’t mean “nice” or “soft,” because undergirding it is integrity. And sometimes, you may well just have to raise your voice.

      • Carl

        LOL,all true. If men were angels a few words would suffice!
        But today in our butchered language and tyranny of relativism discerning someones intentions is difficult.

      • Patsy Koenig

        My husband deliberalty created conflicts as an excuse to file for divorce. High-conflict marraige does not justify divorce. It might neccessitate a separation; but it never justifies a divorce, a certainly not a re-marraige.

  • Lorimae

    People now in their seventies were the last generation to be raised in a traditional family simply because divorce was taboo. This generation failed to teach moral ethics to their children choosing rather to teach them to reach for the material stars. The seventies generation worked hard to educate their children and their children responded by being worldly successful, but morally bankrupt. Two generations later we have what you describe in your article. What will the third generation be like in America? Pope Francis may be the Pope that gently guides us back to embracing and living out the marriage commitment, “Till death do you part.”

    • Micha_Elyi

      Good point. Imparting wisdom is not to be confused with “education”. Education is not to be confused with “schooling”. And schooling is not to be confused with “clocking seat-time”.

      These are all mistakes America’s so-called Greatest Generation made.

      • WSquared

        Wholeheartedly agreed. In the same vein, utilitarianism and efficiency aren’t to be confused with right and good, either. Especially not when deifying both as right and good produces an aggressively bland lack of curiosity breeding complacency.

        Cherishing the wisdom of one’s elders is something that our entire culture doesn’t “get.” Including the so-called Greatest Generation.

        It is, however, something that the Catholic Church “gets” in spades. And that wisdom is accessible to both young and old alike.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    No-fault divorce caused a not so much as a blip in the inexorable rise in the number of divorces throughout the 20th century.

    Taking the figures for my own country, Scotland, in 1930, there were 469 decrees. A generation earlier, in 1890, there had been 87. There were 890 in 1939, but in 1949, there were 2,447. In the 1950s, the annual average was 2,071.

    There were only 1,828 decrees in 1960, but in 1965, there were 2,691 and in 1969, there were 4,246.

    In 1970, there were 4,618 decrees and in 1974, the last full year before no-fault divorce, there were 7,221, a 168% increase on the 1965 figure. In 1976, the first full year of no-fault divorce, there were 8,692.

    In the 1980s, the annual average was 11,824, a 64% increase on the 1974 figure and in the 1990s, it was 12,381. In 2011, there were 9,862.

    • Patsy Koenig

      In the United States, the “blip” after No-Fault Divorce was legaliized was LARGE.

  • ColdStanding

    So, what then is the initiating and sustaining cause of these particular instances of societal breakdown?

    The failure of men – specifically males – to pray*; to have a prayer life; an ardent prayer life. This includes both private prayer, where one closes the door and prays as the gospel councils, and public prayer – both at the altar assisting at mass and within the home leading the family in prayer. (Prayer includes: lecto divina, meditation, prayer, and contemplation).

    You can’t have anything that would be identified as Catholic, not even or especially the sacraments, without first having prayer. That is without Christianity carried out in the setting of prayer. The only grace not lost by Man at the Fall, was that of prayer.

    * I don’t claim credit for this insight. A priest rebuked an parishioner at a recent conference when the parishioner went on about how their life was falling apart, blaming the priest for not preaching, so the priest raised this point. It confirmed my own experience.

    • carl

      Blaming others: Big Government, Politicians, Evil Corporations, any ism for that matter, etc.

      The source of all societal problems are individuals. Specifically denying God. Then individuals collectively create a huge vacuum, the one where God is missing, and the aforementioned are more then happy to fill.

    • Patsy Koenig

      Thank you for sharing that. I think the failure of males to lead, in a Catholic manner, is what gave rise to “femenism” and all it’s nonsense.

  • Willing to take the chance

    So, what do we do? What do you say when a friend or even an acquaintance talks about divorce? Or even long before talking about the divorce–when the friend is constantly !@&%$# about the spouse openly? As we are all affected by divorce, it’s imperative that we ALL speak up when relationships start to go down that road. We even need to start speaking up BEFORE folks get married. We need to speak the truth even if it means that friend may never talk to you again. You owe it to your friend and his/her children to at least try to get them to see the truth of what they are doing to their children

    • Jennifer

      Amen Willing. Not sure if plugging other links is allowed, but I’m a writer in the Midwest and you can google my piece “Friends Don’t Let Friends Get Divorced” in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, which thankfully lets me run Catholic-themed op-eds…Stay strong brother! Jennifer B.

  • Dave Heath

    YES! YES! YES! Oohhrah! Thank you, Austin Ruse! This article ought to be read by every Family Court Judge before the divorce gavel falls to give the parents one final chance to act like mature adults, and not a pair of twenty-something emotional, selfish boobs. I hope this article gets posted, re-posted and re-re-posted a gazillion times. It deserves to be sent to every Catholic Tribunal office in the country in the hope it may cause some Tribunal Judge to blink before granting a specious annulment…to think about the whole, not just a single part…to consider the Souls devastated, rather than the one Soul placated…to heal and renew a Family for the good of their Souls, of the Church and of Christ Himself.

    Divorce sucks. Specious Annulments are pure evil and always will be.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      It is a curious fact, though true, that, with annulments running at some 60,000 a year there must always be a considerable number of Catholics who could not say off-hand whether they were married or not. It is only when the question has been decided in a marriage tribunal that their doubts can be removed. But although they do not know if they are married, and no one could tell them with certainty till the cause was tried, it is nevertheless true that they must be either one or the other. There is no half-way house. This must be an unsettling thought for anyone contemplating marriage.

      • Patsy Koenig


        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          Would you please explain how, for example, those petitioning a mariage tribunal can be certain, in advance of its decision, whether they are married or unmarried?

  • Lee

    I am now 81. My parents divorced when I was about three. Thank God for my grandparents who provided a home until mother married again. She married a man who really “liked” me and I spent the next ten years dodging him and trying never to be alone with him. At that time divorce was uncommon and I spent much of my time explaining to my classmates why my last name was different from my mothers. I hated it so much that when I was ten, I promised myself I would NEVER get divorced. Fortunately, I married a man who made that an easy promise to keep. I became a Catholic under his guidance and spent 54 happy years with him and our 8 children. However, I am still trying to forgive my father and my stepfather for what they did to a child (me). My mother I forgave a long time ago…she did her best and suffered very much from her choices after my father abandoned her. No fault divorce????

    • Bono95

      I am very sorry to hear what happened to your parents, but very happy to hear that you and your husband had a wonderful, happy marriage that brought about your conversion, provided a good, intact, and loving home for your children, your husband, and yourself, and allowed you to keep your promise. Your strength of character is something to behold. If only we had more women and men like you. Thank you so much for sharing your moving and inspiring story and may God bless you and you give you the grace and strength to forgive your father and stepfather. I cannot speak from experience here, but I know that I would be struggling very much to forgive in this situation, considering how hard it is for me to forgive much lesser things sometimes. Ask St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, who died defending marriage, to pray for you.

  • James

    In all fairness to Dan Savage, what he is suggesting is that heterosexuals look past occasional infidelity and stick together for the kids. And he has a point there.

    • Craig

      But the facts support to stay together for the children. Since to part is so easy now, it happens so easily, like selling and purchasing a car.

  • CharlesOConnell
  • Therese

    My fathers parents divorced when he was 13. Into his 80s I could still see the pain he had from that experience even talking about it. It wasnt untill we children were adults that we really understood how much pain that divorce caused. My sister went on to abandon her husband after 20 years of marriage, leaving him behind with the children to chase after a man she met on the internet. More recently , my spouse has done the same to me, after some 20 years of marriage also, to chase the dream of a ‘soul mate’.
    sadly many clergy out there will believe the sob story of a dissatisfied spouse who simply will re-write the marital history to rationalize why they must abandon the spouse and family. Rather than standing up for biblical/ Christian/Catholic values and morals- even many clergy will suggest divorce and almost guarranteed annulment of the marriage.
    meanwhile the spouse left behind, like myself a former homemaker , are left living just above the poverty line, while their spouse is living it up ,spending freely with a younger replacement.
    these spouses as well as those clergy who are assisting in this grave sin will have much to answer to on judgement day.
    the pain suffered by an abandoned spouse is worse than suffering the death of a spouse.
    at least if ones spouse dies, it is a natural thing, one has the happy memories and the family can remember the spouse who passed away in a good light.
    when the spouse runs off, the abandoned spouse is somehow supposed to pretend that 10-20-30 years together did not exist. Even within the Church there is very little support besides the suggestion to move on a find a new spouse.
    But for those of us who believe Jesus teaching that man cannot divide what God has joined and that the man or woman separated from ones spouse must remain faithful, or reconcille to ones spouse-( corinthians.), it is a lonely long life.
    For the couple that has children, one will always have to be dealing with the other parent, and for a faithful spouse to be forced to meet, or have ones children spend time with the other woman/other man is emotionally painful beyond any description.
    financially this has ruined any chance I had to retire, emotionally our children are damaged , spiritually they have left the faith, and to anyone who does not believe this is this level of traumatic- then you have not experienced it in your life and Thank God every day that you have a spouse who honors their relationship with our Lord enough to not betray you and the promise they have made to God in marriage.

    • slainte

      I will pray for you and your family. Take it one day at a time and put your faith in Jesus. He will alleviate the pain.

    • WSquared

      Therese, I’m so sorry; I can imagine that level of trauma only too well. I’ve just prayed for you, too. may the Lord grant you His peace and mercy.

    • Tony

      Therese — a wonderful and brave woman named Bai MacFarlane is trying to fight the good fight, to get the Catholic Church in the US to support the abandoned spouses and to stand up for the indissolubility of marriage. You might want to look her up.

    • Patsy Koenig

      Therese, that has been my experince also, as the victim of no-fault divorce, when our three children were 4, 6 and 8 years old. I have been so grieved at the complicity of our clergy with this travesty. My children’s faith was ruined and my life was made extremely difficult. The Church has all kinds of “divorce care” programs (read “divorce approval”). Where are the divorce prevention programs?

  • Tina G

    I loved this article! My parents divorced in the 70’s. mom’s therapist told her to find herself, so the three of us teenage children took turns caring for our youngest sibling, age three. We did rhis during this during the week and were alone on weekends, until we were old enough to move out. NONE of us graduated HS and before the divorce, we were all on track for college. There are lasting problems with alcoholism and divorce for the children. As an added bonus, we still pay – every holiday, when we have to split our time with one parent or the other. Never both, with their new spouses, at the same time.

    If parents could made to understand the truely profound sorrow and chaos they will inflict on their children, for their entire lives, I have no doubt that they would almost never divorce. The problem is with society…telling the parents that divorce will be better for everyone, that it’s ok to put yourself first, that the children will adjust, and lastly, that marriage should be easy. When adults divorce and get remarried, their focus is on the new marriage and we, the children, get ripped off again.

    I had a girlfriend from Ireland, whose parents had a wonderful long lasting marriage. I asked her mother once what her secret was. She told me that in Ireland there was no divorce, so you could either learn to make it work or you could be miserable. Obviously, they learned to make it work. Maybe we should take a lesson from Ireland!

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  • Joyfully

    Meanwhile, I was a 37-year-old teaching the doctrine of the Catholic Church to 13-year-olds before I actually learned that marriage was a “vocation”.

    My point is this: until a person (we) understand that the way we live out our earthly lives should be through “vocation” — service to God as we are called — we will struggle to find meaning or purpose in what we do with our lives.

    This word “vocation” needs regular, common and accurate usage every day, as do the words of virtue. These are nouns and the use of them will assist us all in becoming more fully what were are intended to be: glorious daughters and magnificent sons.

  • TomD

    “We lost it when we devalued marriage to such an extent that it became easily disposable and we irreparably harmed our children for our own convenience and ‘happiness.'”

    The majority of young people, even Catholic young people, favor same-sex marriage, many saying, “what is the big deal?”. They do not value marriage, in large measure due to their experiences, and those of their close friends, growing up in broken families. Among young people today, co-habitation is replacing marriage as the dominant household type for couples.

    I’m willing to bet that there is a positive correlation between those young people who favor same-sex marriage, or perhaps more accurately don’t oppose it, and their own negative attitude about marriage . . . it is, for many of them, “no big deal.”

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  • concern00

    Yes, we have significantly damaged the institution of marriage such that it is ripe for a take-over and potential destruction. Now is not the time to give up though; now is the time to recognize our culpability and to fight back for what we believe in.

    • TomD

      You are right. And this is the time to be emphasizing the essential difference between civil marriage and sacramental marriage. We lost when civil marriage replaced sacramental marriage in Western culture as the “standard.” The origins of this go all the way back to the French Revolution, when the French Radicals elevated civil marriage over sacramental marriage, making marriage a civil contract.

      In a way, the civil or “legal” sense of marriage, became dominant . . . for many, even for Catholics, the sacramental nature of marriage became less clear. Do we really view marriage as sacramental? Have even we succumbed to the primacy of the “legalization” of marriage, a legalization that ultimately made marriage into a non-binding, legal “contract” that defines, to a great extent, the obligations and responsibilities upon failure of the contract, not any binding quality of the “contract.”

      It is here, in rediscovering the sacramental nature of marriage, that I find the most hope. But it will not be easy. Civil marriage is most likely gone . . . and, perhaps, we may have to accept that civil marriage is no longer worth fighting for . . . it was, in reality, lost long ago.

      • slainte

        A sacramental Catholic marriage is an unbreakable Covenant by and among one man, one woman, and Our Lord Jesus Christ…three uniting in Love, through one flesh, to bring forth new immortal beings.

  • tamsin

    I went to see the movie, “Way Way Back” this week (spoiler alert) and it was interesting to see:

    1. The woman wanted to break small rules and the man did not (Candyland)

    2. The man broke large rules and the woman did not (Sex)

    The woman tried to defend her small rules, but would not defend her large rules. Yet she was very upset… The primary criticism of the main character,
    her son, in the most dramatic confrontation of the movie, was that his mom
    would not defend her “large rule” that boyfriends should not cheat on

    The viewer is left wondering: is it bad to have rules? Does having rules set you up for pain? If the woman had agreed to small rules, would the man have been more inclined to abide by the large rules?

    Ultimately the movie seemed to come down on the side that: rule-breakers are rewarded, whether in marriage or in employment (at the Water Wizz).

    The movie made serious, rule-following people seem ridiculous; more ridiculous than originally, and permanently, ridiculous people.

    Very interesting. The preponderance of the evidence was: break rules, or be broken.

    Even the son’s nickname, “pop-n-lock”, came from a situation in which he enforced a rule at Water Wizz (no cardboard), but was only allowed to enforce it by the
    rule-breakers, after he engaged in their rule-breaking (break-dancing).

    Perhaps another way to frame the moral to the movie’s story is: break rules, or be left behind. Break rules early and often. Last person to break rules is a rotten egg.

    So sure, the movie depicted the real damage done by real divorce to real children. The last scene was very heart-warming: the woman chooses her son over her boyfriend. But there was no commitment on the part of the movie-makers as to whether the son had learned to not divorce a wife.

    High point of the movie: how the dignity of work transforms lives.

  • Norman

    My mom got divorced three times before I was 21 and now when I ask young women about “what’ll happen if you marry the wrong person too soon?”, I usually get a glee filled “then I’ll just get a divorce!” answer as if it were a simple math equation.
    Yes, older people place the importance of their happiness way above their children and always resort to the usually immature and always selfish resolution of “well I have to be happy and if I’m not then no one near me will be”; I’m guessing because we don’t really learn not to hurt others because of our pain, even when it’s our own children?… The answer in the wealthiest country in the world just so happens to be “yes”, but it baffles me as to why we’d wonder where all of these broken relationships and fatherless or motherless families come from. I guess only wealthy people can be that ignorant so it’s fitting, but so sad to see just the same…. We have all of this great stuff; clean water, a great education, ridiculous technology, entertainment, and we all use it to just try to eliminate all pain from life at all times as if it were actually possible, and if not, then lashing out because of the pain is now also a part of happiness????
    Freedom is not “doing what I want, whenever I want”, that’s anarchy, anarchy that does not involve any “responsibility” at all (what happens when someone doesn’t want to be responsible?). When things like this it apply to the moral realm we can expect moral anarchy (or, what Pope Benedict XVI would call moral relativism) and all the happiness that comes with it. The scariest part of all this is that our great education system is teaching very smart people to avoid these facts at all cost, to include the cost of deluding one’s self which we’re all too open to doing if we think it’ll make us happy. Ironically, I used to be an atheist, now for the life of me I can’t help but think Americans are deluding themselves in how to be happy, let alone actually working at it.

  • Jennifer

    Excellent article. Last year’s lamentable film “The Descendants” portrayed a similar theme, with the kids acting like the adults, and vise versa. Thank you Mr. Ruse. My parents divorced when I was 30 and already married with two children. The biggest lie I told myself was “I’m grown, it won’t affect me.” 17 years later the toxicity still runs deep, and my siblings are walking away from faith and their own marriages. And Mr. Ruse’s final points on losing traditional marriage are spot on. We need to be vigilant about supporting marriage, especially when we get invited to weddings. Why sip champagne and throw rice, and then look the other way when they shun their vow of “til death do us part”?

    • Patsy Koenig

      My husband filed for divorce – AFTER his father divorced his mother. We were 40 years old at the time and his parents were around 60. The damage of divorce is contiual, and it gathers momentusm like a snowball rolling downhill.

  • bill1944

    My parents split when I was 3 1/2 years old. When my Mom said we were no longer going to live with Dad, I felt as if someone reached into my guts and ripped them out. I have lived with the pain of this separaton for 66 years.

  • Skating on the Edge

    Using this motion picture to make your point, I think, hinders your argument. Those that think and behave as the characters in this movie, have no concern for the deeper questions that should be addressed before taking this drastic step. Is it your intent to paint all those that resort to divorce as alcohol fueled, philandering, jerks? Or to just illustrate the extreme end of the spectrum?

    “feckless husband who knows his wife is canoodling with the boy friend but who cannot muster himself to do anything about it.” So what do you propose he do? Ankle chains? Doors locked from the outside? Or something a bit more… corporal? How does a prison sentence fit into your point? Is one measure of a man’s strength his determination to do the right thing, for the kid’s sake, in spite of his spouses refusal to recommit? Is that feckless? But then surely you don’t mean divorce? Do you?

    While we have common ground in that we agree that divorce is tragic, I think you may be laboring under the false assumption that all marriages that end in divorce are modeled after the movie character’s.

    • Scating on the Edge

      Clarification: “Do the right thing” (as in staying in the marriage for the sake of the children.)

  • Divorce is always hard!


  • Patsy Koenig

    Thank you for un-masking the falsehood of a happy divorce. After being on the receiving end of a divorce petition, I can tell you from experience, that divorce causes emotional, social and spiritual destruction for the children, and also for the parents. I can see the facial differences in my childrens’ “before and after” photographs: in photos before the divorce, our children looked happy and serene; then photos after the divorce show their expressions as strained and no longer joyful.

  • Asinus Spinas Masticans

    “Gay marriage” is the caboose, not the engine. I’m so glad you, among others, caught this.

    Basically, we are in the position of trying to restrict gay marriage [AKA serial monogamy] to heterosexuals, and the homosexuals are justifiably upset.

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