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Thursday, 22 March 2001

To Divorce or Not?

Written by  Naomi Baum, PhD.

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Q

Dear WholeFamily Counselor,

Aren't there some situations where divorce is justified??

My husband I have been married 18 years. We have two beautiful boys age three and seven. But now, I can no longer tolerate his immaturity. He has hit me in the past (bruises, not broken bones). He has also struck a child in our home one year ago, for which he has now received a court order to go to counseling.

He tells me that he is looking forward to counseling (now that he knows I am contemplating divorce). I have no doubt that he will complete therapy. But, isn't the real question: Why didn't he have it in him to seek this out long ago??

I'm having trouble respecting a man with his thought process, his passivity. I would like a divorce. I would like to find a man who can offer me maturity, no fear of physical violence, no daily addiction to marijuana.

In fact, I have found such a man, but we have never met face to face. It is a chat friendship. This man has shown me, for the first time, what real maturity can be. He has opened my eyes to the real dysfunction in our household. My husband has not held up his end of the bargain.

Should I feel guilty for leaving him? Am I right to put the boys through a divorce??

I look forward to your response,

To Divorce or Not

A

Dear To Divorce or Not,

Only you can answer the questions you pose at the end of your letter. Certainly physical abuse is grounds for a divorce. You might ask yourself the following question: "Why, now that your husband is apparently making some real moves to change, do you think it is the right time to divorce?"

Your chat friendship may be allowing you to revel in a fantasy life that is rich with rewards. A chat friendship has absolutely no bearing on life in the real word. Via the Internet, a person can present himself or herself as they wish, with no accountability. You have absolutely no guarantees that your chat friendship would withstand even one week of a real-life relationship.

The fact that children are involved needs to be considered seriously. There is no doubt that divorce is very hard on kids, and most studies show that it is better for kids to grow up with both a mom and a dad, even if their marriage isn't a bed of roses.

Now that your husband is cooperating with court ordered counseling it would seem to me that your energies and efforts would be better spent dealing with the real issues of your relationship and marriage. As long as your chat friendship continues, you will not be emotionally available for a serious marriage encounter. I would not belittle your husband's willingness to go for counseling, despite it being court ordered.

Look at this as an opportunity for change.

I would agree with you that there are red lines in any relationship. Physical abuse is one of those red lines. Change, however is possible, and giving your husband a chance to prove this change may be the beginning of building a new relationship within your marriage.

Good luck!

Naomi L. Baum, PhD

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Naomi Baum, PhD.

Naomi Baum, PhD.

Naomi Baum is the Director of the Resilience Unit at The Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma and the National School Resilience Project. Her work at ICTP focuses on developing programs to build resilience in communities that have been highly exposed to trauma and stress. She has successfully brought her approach to Biloxi, Mississippi in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Her work there included seven visits to the city, she trained teachers, social workers, school nurses, and counselors. She has also worked with the population in Haiti following teh earthquake. She has written about Trauma and Resilience in several published articles and books.

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