Posted by: minnow | June 4, 2012

A Healthy Separation

On a FB friend’s recommendation I recently read, “her.meneutics: Christianity Today’s blog for women”.  In this particular post Caryn Rivadeneira interviewed Jennifer Grant about her latest book, MOMumental:Adventures in the messy Art of Raising a FamilyNo doubt the image Grant used of one or both of our parents reading the Bible in the quite of each morning as the children sleepily walk into the room is one of the most idealized pictures Christians paint of a family on the right track.  As a fifty something wife and mother I have heard this description countless times in small groups, from family oriented Christian writing–like “her.meneutics”, at women’s conferences, and from Church pulpits.  Most often the teller of this story does so in the first person, as a testimony of what spoke security into his or her heart as a child.  And, the listener whether subtly or overtly is encouraged to go and do likewise.

Personally, I never saw either my Mother or my Father read the Bible yet I can safely say theirs was hands down the best marriage I have ever witnessed right up to my Mother’s death.  My parents fit.  They enjoyed one another.  They liked similar things–cards, Griz sports, simplicity, big band music.  And, they had similar values–politically, socially, economically.  But mostly, they respected each other.  My own marriage, despite avid Bible reading  cannot be described in similar terms.  So, did I simply find two exceptions to the rule, or is it that the image set up by testimonies like Ms Grant’s really don’t translate into rules very well?

To be completely fair, I have not read Grant’s book.  I only read the Christianity Today interview.  In fact I never heard of either  woman before I read this particular post so I don’t know if the post is representational of Grant’s book, of either woman’s other writing, or an unusual point of view for both women.  My post is not meant to discredit their experiences.  Nor am I trying to attack Bible reading, or slam Christian principles.  At the same time, I am weary of the quick and easy solutions I so often hear from well meaning Christians, to complex problems.  I hate the formulas implied  by our easy to remember Bible verses, or the latest three simple keys for living.  Good marriages take time.  They take commitment. They take diligence.  And they take two, two healthy individuals.

Sure, healthy people can have mediocre marriages.  They can drift apart.  They can become lazy.  And, their marriages can suffer because of it.  These relationships can be restored, if the individuals are willing.  But, behavior modification only goes so far toward addressing a problem.  Even with healthy individuals if the couple  never roots out the causes, the core issues, the whys and hows their relationship has become dissatisfying, they never really solve anything.  They might chase a bad habit away for a while, give an appearance of health, but they always run the risk of the symptoms (bad habits) resurfacing.

The scary statistics we’ve all heard regarding children of divorce (the ones Ms Rivadeneira recounted in the beginning of her interview)–that they are more likely to use drugs, be promiscuous, and become divorced themselves–are not caused because parents divorce.  Just. like. drug use. and promiscuity. divorce. is. a symptom. evidence of a lack of health.  The fear mongering caused by confusing these symptoms with the disease actually discourages individuals and couples from seeking the health they need.  In other words, it keeps us going through the motions, pretending we’re okay, smiling instead of crying out, telling ourselves things could be worse–we could be–divorced.

A marriage cannot be healthy unless the two people in it are healthy.  And, an unhealthy marriage cannot become healthy unless both people in the marriage become healthy.  Sometimes, when the lack of health of one of the people within a marriage makes it impossible for the other person to get or remain healthy divorce is actually a wiser, healthier, better choice (for the whole family) than staying married.  Most of the Christians I know won’t agree with me.  For some reason they seem to think that a failed marriage that stays together is better than a failed marriage that admits defeat and allows the individuals a chance to succeed on their own.  It’s sort of like wasting food by cleaning your plate and stuffing your face is better than leaving a little on your plate.  I’m not sure why–the starving children in Africa still are being fed–but it’s just better somehow.



  1. God is good – just yesterday I proposed this very idea to a dear friend who’s daily challenge is a spouse who suffers from mental illness. I also lived in this environment and eventually the stress took it’s toll and the marriage ended. I BEGGED my husband to try this-not to “get away from him” as he insisted, but rather to rest, regroup, and ponder the many ways I loved him. While I totally confess the Biblical “becoming one” marriage, it remains that we are two individuals and the stress of those differences can be overwhelming, perhaps especially for believers. While I believe this can be a tool to strengthen a relationship, I see all kinds of danger signals as well, particulary if the marriage is not rock solid. Certainly this should be considered only after much prayer and conversation. My heart goes out to those of you who must be apart for economic reasons. Look at it this way from one who knows – it’s better by far than being without your partner. Blessings.

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