An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Divorce or Work It Out?

Callie and Bret were married at age 17, not because they were in love, but because she was pregnant. Seventeen years and three additional children later, they are divorcing. Their finances are a mess. Callie’s health is poor. Some of the children are in therapy, and Bret is trying to make up for missing out on his carefree teen years. Pregnancy is not a good reason for marriage, and staying together for years of desperate unhappiness serves no one well.

Callie and Bret are only one of several couples I know who have divorced after years of unhappiness. Geniel waited until the last of her six children was grown before leaving her husband. Years of living in a household of sniper warfare has divided the children into two camps. Geniel sacrificed to keep her children in a two-parent home, but three of her children side with their father and have cut her out of their lives.

Bibi and Bill met the Mormon marriage pattern—BYU students from good families who marry in the temple following his mission. Apparently, Bibi and Bill’s courtship didn’t include discussing details such as how many children they wanted, where they would live, who would make decisions, and what kind of help each was willing to do to keep a family afloat. Eight years of counseling did not help them resolve differences.

After 20 years of bickering and blaming, an explosive argument ended their marriage. Bibi married a man who is paying child support for his six children. They uprooted her children from schools, neighborhood, and grandparents to move to his city. I fear the ruptured family, the move, and possible conflict with a stepparent make her kids vulnerable to negative influences outside the home.

Fasting, praying, attending the temple, and reading scriptures don’t always resolve marital differences—nor do they protect children from the harm of a warzone home life. Of course, divorce should not be undertaken lightly. It hurts children—but so does living in a home with perpetual conflict between parents. Is it wise to counsel desperately unhappy couples to stay together and add children to a family that will likely split apart?

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