Tuesday, 10 August 2010

A Controversial Issue.

I thought it was time that I did a post to make you think and - hopefully - express an opinion, and a timely subject has arisen.
In the past week I have heard of five couples who have 'split up'. All have children; three of the couples are unmarried, so there will be no divorce proceedings; with the other two couples there presumably will be. All the children involved in the split up (9 children in all) are under the age of ten.
I don't just find this sad, I also find it quite appalling. Please don't think I would like couples to stay together ' for the sake of the children.' I am sure we all know damaged adults who endured miserable childhoods because their parents were trapped in an unhappy marriage with no way out.
It is just the whole ethos, since the advent of the Pill and with it a surge forward in the emancipation of women which seems to have created a society in the Western world where men and women (often so young that in my day they would have been called boys and girls) enter into a relationship lightly, have children when they choose to do so and then end the relationship and start another one, just as lightly.
Yes, I know, I am generalising. There are many couples who seriously consider their position and discuss what is best for the children before they separate when they can see no alternative, and who take seriously the role of absent parent.
But the couples I have heard of in the last week are all very young. In three of the cases they still live with a parent (who often does much of the child care) and in the other two the couple live in rented accommodation which has now been given up and the girl - and the children - have gone back to live with Mum and Dad.
And I do just ask - what kind of children are we rearing for the next generation? I know quite a few children who have step/step Mums and Dads as their parents have changed partners several times - each time producing at least one sibling.
Coming, as I do, from a happy, stable background I find it very hard to come to terms with the chopping and changing that takes place these days.
Am I old-fashioned? Have I lost touch with the modern world? Please tell me if I have. I may be in my seventies but I do try to keep abreast of modern thinking.
Of course, marriages are rarely, if ever, made in heaven. All relationships go through doldrums, maelstroms, differences of opinion and - sometimes - quite insurmountable problems.
But what - and I am asking you directly - makes splitting up so much more common these days? Is it the speed with which society is racing towards the future; is it because it is so much easier these days to speak ones mind and to aim to have a life which fulfils our personal goals for satisfaction; or is it maybe that the grass on the other side of the fence is always greener? I would be interested to know what you think about this issue.

29 comments:

steven said...

weaver - i'll throw my hat in here and say that marriage - as an institutionalized relationship - is disconnected from the world. it has been for a very long time. i'll also say that referring to my nineteen years of teaching children - more than half of whom were from broken relationships - many of the children pay a price not for the split itself but for the nature of the pre and post-split relationship between the parents. i wish a more dynamic relational model without legal or religious referents would emerge but there are so many difficulties in the way of that possibility. steven

Gwei Mui said...

I don't think that you are "old fashioned" - I think that we have lost something within society as a whole. There is no manual when it comes to raising children and living in a relationship. There are many things about "the old days" that I do not regret have gone, punative and indiscrimaante corproate punishment, ignorng children. Not allowing children to talk. Marraiges being held togther because that's what you're supposed to do even if the realtionaship is violent and abusive. What I do regret is that people, in general have lost their personal and social sense of responsibility, the idea of working hard and savng up for things is an aborration and not the norm. Everything is immediate. We as a society are spoilt. We do live in a culture that happliy disposes of things and even people. My daughter is 17 and she was paid the ultimate comppliment the other day; "I have never come across a teenager like you, who can talk and converse so well, who has manners, is willing to plan and work towards things and doesn't expect everything to be given to them immediately."
I am very proud of my daughter and like to think that, that shows we did somehting right. For every "good" teenager I think there are just as many "bad" teenagers who will go to form unrealsitic relationships, maybe have children break up and start all over again.
For ever "good" teenager there are as many discarded and "unwanted" teenagers and young adults, whom society has turned it's back on. Perhaps we should be spending our resources on these people, young adults, young single parents, young families giving them the tools to build a meaning life with, how to be in a relationship, how to parent their children, how to become effective and good parents...
Or maybe I am getting old fashioned. I just know that somehting is wrong. And the longer we leave it the worse and more fragmented and dislocated our society will become

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I've noticed the same thing with several acquaintances of late. It's sad. Here, so much attention seems to be paid to "the wedding", but not as much focus is put on "the marriage". Of course, I have seen some marriages that were damaging to all concerned, children included, but often I feel they are discarded with far too little care. I've been married so many years and can honestly say that it just gets better as we get older. I know I'm one of the lucky ones though, so I usually just keep my mouth shut on the subject.

And yes, I am the one who recommended Marlene and Lotte and I'm totally thrilled that you chose those names!! Made my day!

Derrick said...

Well now, I'm afraid I become rather draconian when it comes to the topic of having children, which as a non-parent comes easily, of course!! Quite apart from the selfish, immediate gratification that many people expect as a right nowadays, far too little thought is given to the rearing of children. Doesn't matter if the couple can't really afford it; someone will pay. And the kids can't be allowed to get in the way of parents' enjoyment. And very few actually consider the children when they decide to break up. Saying 'it's better not to subject them to a hostile environment' when they really mean 'it's better for me'!

Mac n' Janet said...

Far too may go into a relationship with the attitude that if it doesn't work out they will have another one. Divorce is terrible for children, my parents divorced when I was in my 30's and it broke my heart, I can't imagine what it would be like for young children. When you make a commitment you should do all in your power to honor it.

Porch Days said...

I think it is due to a lack of commitment and selfishness. Not mincing words here. I have been married for 45 years. My two siblings and my husband's two siblings have all been divorced and remarried, one of them 5 times! My husband and his siblings grew up in a home of two very selfish parents who were catholic and fought constantly and separated and reconciled many times. I was brought up in a stable home and still my siblings both divorced.

How is it that my husband and I could stay married and bring up four well adjusted children when our siblings couldn't? Two of my siblings' children divorced after a year of marriage.

What I see is a lace of commitment to children. Once you have children they need to be your focus. Too many parents decide they are unhappy and to hell with the children. So many of my childrens' friends came from homes of divorce and it took a toll on them. We took in those children like stray puppies. When we moved away one of them tried to commit suicide. His mama was busy getting a law degree and didn't have time for him.

Children are the casualties in divorces. As my husband tells our children, "It is easy to get married, but not so easy to stay married."

Dianne said...

I agree with everything you said, except that you are old fashioned.

our race is racing, and accellerating.

I read a book, The Continuum Connection, when I was pregnant with my first child. I came away with an anthropologist's observations on a South American tribe's culture which was unchanged for hundreds, if not a thousand, years.

we are still connected and interdependent as a species. how we all raise children will affect the future of our society.

personally, I have not seen happier family life in divorced homes. Many choices I have made for myself, have carried the question: will the potential consequenses adversely affect my children? what is the long range goal?

but, on the flip side, life is extremely short, in the scheme of the universe, and every choice should be made to enrich our lives.

augh, what a platitude!

Shirley said...

I think it is a sad society that looks at marriage as dispensable. It is too easy to leave when problems arise. There are occasions such as abuse that call for divorce but on the whole I believe more people need to consider working through problems, make it better, make concessions if warranted. Be committed!

Is it selfishness that makes it desirable to leave when things get hard? And they will get hard. Marriage is not easy. You have to work at it and when you do the rewards are marvelous. It is a committment two people make because they love eachother and desire to spend their lives together, to be united in a holy state of matrimony. Unity means one. One in mind and in purpose. A coming together of two individuals in love with one purpose. Remember the vows "For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health"?

It is not so easy to give up when one is committed. Perhaps mandatory marriage classes like the movie "License to Wed" would work. Here I am opening another can of worms.

Heather said...

Once again I find myself agreeing with you Pat. I think marriage and relationships are taken much too lightly these days and there are unrealistic expectations of them. We have been married for 56yrs and it hasn't all been rosy, but we are still together because we honour the vows we made and each other. The church service was known as the 'Solemnization of Marriage' for a good reason. I am not particularly religious nor a regular church goer, but think that the modern service has stripped much of the seriousness away and there seems to be an attitude prevalent that if things don't work out you can always try again with someone else. Having a child is an enormous responsibility and one that continues long after it has grown up sometimes. If you are not prepared to shoulder that responsibility then it would be better not to have children at all.

maggi said...

One thing that really does concern me is the number of very young people, barely more than children themselves who decide that having a child is the easy way to get looked after by the State, house provided etc. If they are in a relationship at the time of the birth they seem to find it far to easy to give up at the first hurdle. I am not advocating that everyone should be married to have a child but we do have to start teaching young children that a relationship has to be worked at for it to be successful.

Gerry Snape said...

Well Weaver,
I made a bit of a meal and sat with the potter in the summer house and asked him what he thought. He thought that every thing is so fast and easy to get hold of and to have, makes for a shallow understanding so that people just move on to the next THING.I think that there is a lack of understanding as to what faithfulness is exactly. It's not always comfortable although it can be, it's not always happy although again it can be. How do you get the concept across that love in relationship is not always sweet and nice but often a bit of a slog and in between a patch of lightness. I suppose that you've asked the million dollar question and the eternal puzzle.

Helen said...

All I can say is .... oh, for the chance to do it all over again! There would have been no divorce and four precious lives would have been very different ...........

Leilani Lee said...

I had no idea you wrote about this when I did my post, but I think much of the problem has to do with selfishness and "me-ness" putting "me first". I certainly know that the destruction of the American family is not being caused by granting gay couples the right to a civil union or to be married (we hear that a lot here from certain groups).

gleaner said...

I think if proverbs such as "it takes a village to raise a child" and "a child does not grow up only in a single home" were regarded as valid then divorce may not be as devastating for children. Economic values are at the core of how society functions and this consequence has left children emotionally vulnerable when parents divorce.

Weaver, I haven't commented lately but still visit!

Hildred and Charles said...

I guess we can be old fashioned together, Pat, but this is an issue which causes me to ponder the balance between rights and responsibilities, and it is quite evident that responsibility is sadly neglected in almost every aspect of life.

Everything seems so topsy turvy, - in the modern world you meet someone you are over the moon about, and in this order you live together, have a child, become engaged and then plan an elaborate, expensive wedding with no thought to the solemnization of vows or to a lifetime commitment to marriage and family.

A young lady who I had thought was quite sensible was discussing another issue and made the statement that 'marriage is about love, and only love, and family has nothing to do with it'. So sad and so shocking.

Among the couples we knew who were married at the same time Charles and I were wed there has been only one divorce that I know of, and goodness only knows marriage wasn't any easier in those days, but there was a sense of honour and loyalty that seems now to be carelessly disregarded. Not by all, I hasten to add, but by enough to make it a real concern about the future.

Reflections said...

A slightly different perspective, yet one that also agrees. Coming from one of the short term marriages, although not a quick or easy decision... First, there were no children to suffer the consequences, but being raised in an abusive household which remained as such for many years "for the kids sake", I knew the obvious physical signs of abuse, but when those were absent prior to the marriage it was more difficult to "see" the warning signs not knowing anything different as a child. Then when the situation changed in the direction of abuse, I knew I could not tolerate it again. To the outside world, many would not have known of the potential for harm, it would have appeared to be a simple choice, "easily disposed of" rather than the soul searching decision it was because of my "old fashion" beliefs.

Having gone through such a marriage, I would have to wonder how many others go through the same thing I did, but appear to not have the commitment of olden days.

dinesh chandra said...

hi good post.

thousandflower said...

I think one significant factor in all this is that my generation (I am 66) found the constraints of the traditional male and female positions in society unworkable but have yet to figure out exactly what is workable. We can no longer live in those old traditional roles but haven't yet found new ones that work. So we are thrashing around a lot trying to find out how to have real working relationships without the old role models that no longer work for us. The coming and going in relationships is symptom of this uncertainty. We are experimenting with other ways a lot of which don't work. But through this hopefully a way or ways that do work will eventually evolve. In other words I think our culture is in a transition period in regard to relationships. Hopefully in a generation or two we will have figured out better what actually works.wolfeel62

thousandflower said...

I think one significant factor in all this is that my generation (I am 66) found the constraints of the traditional male and female positions in society unworkable but have yet to figure out exactly what is workable. We can no longer live in those old traditional roles but haven't yet found new ones that work. So we are thrashing around a lot trying to find out how to have real working relationships without the old role models that no longer work for us. The coming and going in relationships is symptom of this uncertainty. We are experimenting with other ways a lot of which don't work. But through this hopefully a way or ways that do work will eventually evolve. In other words I think our culture is in a transition period in regard to relationships. Hopefully in a generation or two we will have figured out better what actually works.wolfeel62

Bovey Belle said...

No-one ever said that marriage (or rearing children) was easy. There are times, I will confess, when I have thought, shoot, I've had enough. I'm sure we can all hold our hands up to that, at one time or another, but you have to balance the good with the bad.

I think Gwei Mui has hit the nail on the head by mentioning the unrealistic expectations of young people. They seem to have fairy tale ideas of what relationships - and life - are going to be like and at the first hiccup, the hay falls off the wagon. You and I would have sworn, but put the hay back up there and carried on. They just walk away.

One of the sticking-plasters in my 22 year marriage is that my husband and I are still passionate about the same interests, and that is a strong glue. We both come from the same place, believe in the same things. That is as important as still being in love . . .

Hah! - I cannot believe the word verification today - NOSESCAB!!!!!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Well thank you so much for joining in the debate. This is the really good thing about blogging - it is as though we were all sitting in one room and discussing the issue. There is nothing really that I can add except to say - do read through all the comments - they make such fascinating reading. Thanks to you all.

Reader Wil said...

In any marriage there are some problems, but they are there to be solved. We had been married for 36 years when my husband died and I know that the children were glad about that, but both my daughters have split up, in spite of the fact that they have children. They get on with their ex's as if they are brothers and sisters. I think that in this time couple start to live together much easier than we did. And splitting up seems to be normal nowadays. I am like you brought up by caring parents, who stayed together in spite of the war when my father was at sea, and my mum looked after us in the concentration camp. After the war they had to get used to each other again. That was not easy, but they stayed together.

Golden West said...

I see one large problem that runs rampant in my baby boomer generation - the inability to delay gratification. That which comes too easily isn't valued or cared for, be it a spontaneous, ill-advised purchase made with a credit card or an intimate relationship.

jeannette said...

I do marriage counseling, meaning I help people "to work it out", as I think one needs to try in ANY kind of relationship:)

One of the givens that most people overlook (because they're "in love"!)when they marry is that they tend to repeat their parents' relationships as well as their view about gender and cross-gender.

So, dear Weaver, it's not that one thinks old fashioned, or liberal, but what views one has (and has experiences) about relationships:)

Thanks for tackling this subject!

geedaisy said...

I'm late to this post, but I'll add my bit. Someone earlier had posted that her parents divorced when she was in her 30's and she couldn't imagine what it must be like for a child to have its parents divorce.

I'll tell you what it's like. You feel like you never truly belong or have a home again. When the parents remarry the child is always aware that if the step parent had their way the child wouldn't be around. My father's wife told me that if she had it to do over again she wouldn't marry my father because she didn't want to have to deal with his children from his first marriage. My mother's husband always made us feel as if we were tolerated and not truly welcome. We were told that the minute we were of age we had to get out, forget further education.

I think if there's anyway that people can work out their problems and not put their children through this then that's what they should do. Instead, most people today seem to lack commitment and instead seek instant gratification.

Caroline Gill said...

So glad, Weaver, that you also enjoy Deakin. His East Anglian neck of the woods is so much a part of my teenage years... and I love his anecdotal style and refreshingly unorthodox outlook on the world.

Don't recall swimming in rivers [or Broads] as a youngster, but I remember a pool alongside a river in Kent [my home county from age of 2 to 11] where we splashed about, collected clay - yes, not chalk in this part of the county - and made thumb pots like the ones we'd been taught to make in school. Such fun was had by all.

Caroline Gill said...

I see I've 'messed up' and posted my reply to your river post in the wrong box... mea culpa!

rallentanda said...

I like these controversial topics. I am a bit late for this post but I would like to add something. I think a lot of males are pushed into marriage and having children when they do not really want either.If this is the case I think men have got to be honest and learn to say no to marriage and children.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I'm very late here, but I think it is sad that so many people don't try harder at relationships these days.

I think people expect things to be easy and when things go wrong find it easy to run away rather than staying and working things out.

I also think that since gender roles have become blurred then there are more pressures on couples, I am a feminist and don't have (or want!) children but I can see how the traditional family structure gives a focus that possibly makes relationships easier.