Like war, divorce shouldn’t be declared lightly

I’m really struggling. I’m in a very toxic, totally disconnected marriage with someone who has a personality disorder (in my opinion) and we have two kids. I desperately want to get out of the marriage, but doing so will hurt the kids, will probably significantly limit my time with them, will reduce their standard of living, not to mention the cost and struggle of going through what I’m sure will be a contentious process that will only add to the conflict between me and their mother. She’s already indicated that she just wants to take my money and the kids and cut me out of the picture, and she will fight to do so. Obviously, we are way beyond reconciliation. I know that the current situation is hurting the kids; the signs are clearly visible. What are your thoughts on how to decide between staying or leaving or waiting a bit longer to leave?

— T.F., Detroit

Here’s an analogy that surprises people: I’ve always thought, for morally conscious people, anyway, that deciding to divorce is a lot like deciding whether it is necessary to go to war. Are you familiar with “Just War Theory?” (see Thomas Aquinas, et al.). Just War Theory advances a set of principles attempting to bring restraint and even honor to a regrettable and terrible circumstance of two non-innocents. In brief, these principles include 1) having a just cause, that is, advancing or defending a pre-eminent value, 2) being a last resort, that is, every possible effort at reconciliation has been exhausted, 3) being declared by a proper authority, which is to say undeclared wars are by definition immoral, 4) possessing right intention, 5) having a reasonable chance of success, 6) and the end being proportional to the means used.

Apply these things to deliberations about divorce.

A just cause? The easy calls are when you discover that your spouse is evil or doing evil. Domestic violence, unrepentant addiction/compulsion, unrepentant serial infidelity, chronic patterns of degradation/humiliation, chronic patterns of emotional withholding/withdrawal, cruelty to children — such things are widely perceived as just causes.

A last resort? If your mate is unwilling to join you in the work of marriage and the work of selfhood that marriage entails, yet he/she will not leave you, then you’re cooked. There is no way to be in a marriage by oneself.

Declared? Astonishing the number of people who are participating in “an undeclared divorce.” (See above.)

Right intention? “I deserve to be happy,” “I’ve gotta go find myself,” “I think I married the wrong person” — such things represent blurry intentions. Not that I would begrudge your happiness, not that I don’t admire the journey of authentic selfhood; just that, as strategies go for getting happy and finding yourself, divorce is a statistical loser.

The end proportional to the means used? To hear you, T.F., your wife does not feel bound by this restraining principle. It’s more like MAD — the nuclear war philosophy that means “mutually assured destruction.” You must prepare for that possibility.

Of course divorce is lousy for kids! But neither will they ever, as adults, thank you for wholesale surrender to martyred misery as you relentlessly fake your way through the next 20 years postured as a gift to them. If anything, such decisions make children feel responsible for their parents’ misery. Do this, and the greater likelihood is that they will someday tell you to “get a life.”

Of course divorce means you will see your children less, have less continuity in child rearing and change their standard of living. All the more reason to clarify for yourself whether you have just cause, etc.

My thoughts on deciding to stay, leave or wait a bit longer? I think you’ve already decided to leave. Which means the moral/philosophical part of this deliberation is over. Now it’s only a question of honor versus dishonor, good politic and prudent strategy. How will you commit to “the high road,” no matter how your soon-to-be ex decides to wage war?

The best, most justifiable divorce is hell, T.F. And they go downhill from there in a hurry. But, when divorce is necessary, it can be done with honor, mercy and integrity. Divorce does not have to ruin the lives of children, or, ultimately, the lives of the people divorcing.

Endure, good man.

Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns also appear on Sundays in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at 227-4165 or skalas@reviewjournal.com.

ad-high_impact_4
Local
NFR- Kory Koontz
NFR Team Roper Kory Koontz talks about his years at the event since 1992, his dynamic with a 23 year old partner Dustin Egusquiza, and how he contines to perform with diabetes with Aaron Drawhorn outside of Thomas & Mack before round 5 of the National Rodeo Finals.
Meet the woman behind the Las Vegas Bowl
Melissa Meacham-Grossman is the associate executive director for the Las Vegas Bowl. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NFR Highlights Day 4
NFR highlights day 4
NFR Introduces Golden Circle Of Champions
For the first time, the National Finals Rodeo has partnered with the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo to offer the Golden Circle of Champions. The event brings in 20 children and their families from around the country that have previously or are currently fighting life-threatening cancer.
NFR Time Lapse 2018
Watch Thomas & Mack Center transform from a basketball court to an arena fit for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. Video courtesy of Las Vegas Events.
RJ's Mark Anderson on the UNLV loss
Review-Journal sports reporter Mark Anderson recaps UNLV's loss at Illinois. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Joel Ntambwe on performance against Illinois
UNLV forward Joel Ntambwe talks about the 18 points he scored against Illinois. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Amauri Hardy on loss at Illinois
UNLV guard Amauri Hardy talks about Saturday's loss at Illinois. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Marvin Menzies on loss at Illinois
UNLV basketball coach Marvin Menzies talks about Saturday's loss at Illinois. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Baby Roman's mother and his doctor talk about his medical condition
Baby Roman's mother and his doctor talk about his medical condition. Roman was born Dec. 13, 2017 and has been at Sunrise Children Hospital with a rare heart condition since. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
NFR 2018: Unique Gifts At Cowboy Christmas
Before you head over to the Thomas and Mack for NFR, be sure to check out some of the unique and one of a kind items at Cowboy Christmas!
NFR: Dale Brisby
Day two of the National Finals Rodeo has started and Premier Vegas Sports host Cassies Soto interviews social media influencer Super Puncher Dale Brisby.
103-year-old celebrates birthday at gym
Joe Rosa of Las Vegas celebrated his 103rd birthday celebration at 24 Hour Fitness in Summerlin Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. After being the victim of a hit-and-run crash, Rosa's medical team told him he would never walk again. Rosa credits physical therapy and a personal trainer at the club for his return to health. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Henderson native Mason Clements finished second in NFR bareback go-round
Mason Clements discusses his second-place bareback ride on opening night of the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec 6, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Marvin Menzies on where UNLV stands at this point
UNLV basketball coach Marvin Menzies talks about where UNLV stands at this point in the season. (Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Public memorial service for Jerry Herbst
The Mob Museum
Saddle bronc rider Joey Sonnier earns spot at NFR after overcoming years of drug addiction
Joey Sonnier started saddle bronc riding at 18, but at 20 he began using methamphetamine to cope with the work of the rodeos and became addicted. At 39, after years of addiction and a low point that pushed him to rehab, he's qualified for the National Finals Rodeo. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Core Arena opens at the Plaza downtown in time for NFR
Core Arena, downtown's first permanent outdoor equestrian center, opens to the public at the Plaza. The arena will be used for events throughout the year, including the 10-day 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas
MountainView Hospital celebrates the opening of the new Sunrise Health GME Simulation Center.
MountainView Hospital celebrates the opening of the new Sunrise Health GME Simulation Center. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
NFR Preps Livestock for the Limelight
NFR’s Jed Pugsley discusses the care that goes into preparing the rodeo’s livestock for Las Vegas’ big event.
Grand Menorah lighting begins Hanukkah
Rabbi Shea Harlig led the ceremonial lighting of the menorah to begin Hanukkah at the Fremont Street Experience. There were also performances by the Desert Torah Academy's choir and the Dancing Dreidels. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Perla Gumm has spent the past few years collecting toys for kids for the LV Rescue Mission
Perla Gumm has spent the past few years collecting toys for kids for the LV Rescue Mission. It's something she started even before the rescue mission was her beneficiary; she just felt a need to collect toys and teamed up with them later. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Marvin Menzies on Cincinnati
UNLV basketball coach Marvin Menzies talks about Cincinnati and his own program. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Tony Sanchez wraps up the UNLV season
UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez wraps up the season. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Tony Sanchez wraps up the UNLV season
UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez wraps up the season. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Joey Logano talks about Champions Week in Las Vegas
NASCAR champion Joey Logano talks about the future of Champion's Week in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Nov. 28, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rain hits Las Vegas Valley
Widespread rain hit the Las Vegas Valley on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Valley Hit with Rain, Clouds
Rain and clouds hit the Las Vegas Valley on Thursday afternoon.
Ducks have Lorenzi Park to themselves
Thursday’s rain kept people inside, leaving Lorenzi Park to the ducks.
Kyle Busch Reflects On Disappointing End To Nascar Season
Kyle Busch reflects on disappointing end to his 2018 season during NASCAR Champion's Week in Las Vegas, Nevada, on November 28, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like