This 4-part writing riff started with a conversation I had with a guy who had divorced his wife, which, I surmised, was due to his inability to navigate the dynamic between he and his wife so that both of their cups were filled. In his immaturity, he didn’t see a path forward to get his cup filled, so he ended the marriage. I believe, with no data to support my belief, that this is the underlying dynamic inherent in a large number of divorces. Immaturity, lack of vision, inability to get to a “I pour/you pour” relationship, calcified frustration, seeming insurmountable barrier to happiness, loss of hope, maybe bad behavior, divorce.
What is divorce really? When does divorce occur in the above sequence? Divorce occurs at the point when the flicker of hope for happiness has gone out. In the above guy’s scenario, he concluded in our conversation that it was his immaturity, lack of vision on how to get where he wanted to go, that led to the premature conclusion to pull the plug on his marriage. He lost hope that he could get his cup filled. Doesn’t that seem like it would be a common enough conclusion in a young man’s thinking?
Of course I’m not just talking about sex as the only thing a man needs to fill his cup. It is love he needs in the way he needs it, sex being just one way. I get my cup filled when Lis compliments me on these letters. I completely take notice when she comes alongside me and rubs my shoulders for no other reason than to just touch me. My cup is filled when I can see her respect and admiration of all my efforts and of who I am. Those actions on her part are among the multitude of nuances of our intimate relationship. Having a level 9/10 marriage frees up your energy away from frustration and allows you to grow elsewhere.
“That’s swell Dave on how awesome your marriage is, but you don’t understand. My wife is…” sick, injured, dealing with being abused, a shrew, cold, comes from a dysfunctional family, hormonally frigid, won’t engage with me, or some such thing.
Divorce occurs when hope dies. You can even stay legally married, but only be roommates, economic partners. Marriage is a spiritual endeavor. Each person seeks wholeness through relationship with the central hope that there is growth, progress. There is a reason why people who attend church tend to stay married more than those that don’t. By adding the notion that God exists and that difficulty is a part of life for spiritual reasons (James 1), then perseverance is a part of marriage. The mature quality of perseverance keeps hope aflame because of the imbedded assumption that there’s benefit awaiting on the other side of conflict.
Lis broke her back when we were 34. For 7 years we struggled with that issue. Our marriage wasn’t mutually satisfying, to say the least, because of her constant battle with pain. After dealing with the kids all day, there wasn’t much in her cup to pour out for me. I did contemplate the loss of hope at one point. And yet, and yet!, there was for us a belief that this issue was designed by God for our betterment. And so it was.
If your flame is flickering, it’s likely, so is your wife’s.
Loss of hope leads to spiritual divorce that oftentimes leads to legal divorce. The hope of what? More sex? On the younger side of maturity, it may look like that. But no. What the loss of hope really signifies is the loss of shared intimacy where both people care to balance the needs of the other by pouring out. It’s the complex intertwining of two lives in experiences, loves, energies, capacities, needs, priorities, and relationship.
God is a good marketer. Just like any good Madison Avenue marketing guru, he uses sex to draw you into a more complex transaction. If your marriage is a 7, then I would imagine you’re on your way to a 10. If it’s a 5, take hope, you’re on the front side of opportunity.
To your flame.