Imagine with me:
Hillary and Donald (careful now, not their real names) were high school sweethearts who married in St. Pat’s Cathedral in NYC. In love and on top of the world, their future was bright and sparkled with five beautiful children and a lovely home in a good, old-fashioned neighborhood.
Hillary was a part-time teacher and gifted homemaker. She was a gentle soul but with a strong passion for her family. Warm, nurturing, and deeply caring, she created a beautiful and welcoming place in her home for all the neighborhood kids to come. There was always someone extra at the dinner table and a pillow on the living room sofa for anyone who needed it. She was concerned about her family and her neighbors and, heading the church charity committee, she made sure those in their town less fortunate had at least Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas trees in their homes. She often alerted her husband to problems that needed his help, such as his having a little, heart-to-heart with the neighborhood bully’s father. She taught her children compassion, empathy, and gratitude for life’s blessings. Life was good.
Donald shared his wife’s vision for building a safe and thriving community. They both wanted their children to have the best future possible. He was a hard-driving business man who made sure there was plenty of money coming in to feed his children and to fund his wife’s many charitable efforts. He was proud of her and loved her sweet and generous heart. As a successful real estate developer with a broad vision he helped to design a 20-year city plan and brought in the much needed shopping center and new hospital wing. When Hillary told him there were homeless people down by the railroad, and their children came to school in rags, he and his company hired the men to build a new community park and gave them jobs for ongoing park maintenance. He taught his children to work hard, honor God, and be thankful for life’s opportunities. Life was good.
Donald deeply appreciated his wife’s skills at making their family—and the neighborhood—safe and happy. Hillary was thankful that her husband protected the family from harm and brought in the resources to keep their cupboards full. They made a great team.
Sadly, though, Hillary began to spend so much time in her charitable works that Donald often came home to an empty house and cold stove. The note on the refrigerator read: “Honey, I took the children out to visit the sick in the hospital. It is such a good lesson for them! Leftovers are in the fridge.” As in many marriages, their relationship should have been the bedrock of the family but it slipped back into third or fourth place behind all the busyness of life. So Donald stayed later at the office and began to have an occasional dinner with his secretary.
You guessed it. Hillary found out about the affair and was deeply wounded and outraged.
Since I’ve worked with the divorced for over twenty-five years, I know there are two ways this could go:
1 – They could first REMEMBER the good and choose to get back to their love. They can call on God to strengthen them in their trials and put their religion back into their relationship. They can seek counseling, be honest about their failings toward the other, seek and grant forgiveness to each other, and put the marriage back as the top priority in their lives. Many real-life couples who are hit by a spouse’s infidelity report that with humility and a combined, patient, and genuine effort at healing, the marriage can emerge stronger than ever.
2 – They could FORGET and fall into blaming and turn up the heart on their slow, simmering resentment. They can abandon all the religious principles they claim to embrace. They then begin to imagine the freedom of life without their spouse, and start to turn the children against the other parent. Not ready for a full-on divorce, they stay under the same roof and become Mr. And Mrs. Bickerson. Some of the children side with Dad and stop respecting and start trash-talking their mother. The others stick with Mom, except the youngest who feels torn and “undecided”. Sibling arguments increase, open communication ceases, and the family becomes infected with ongoing stress, self-righteous anger, blame, bitterness, and fear. The teens don’t come home on time and when Mom finds pot in their room, she lies to Dad and turns a blind eye. She even encourages the kids’ freedom to do whatever they feel—to use their own adolescent conscience to make decisions. After all, she needs all the allies against Dad as she can. Her husband thinks she’s lost her mind. They both have.
Tragically, the “demon of divorce” had attached itself to this family—even if no legal papers ever get filed. No civil decree is needed to tear hearts and families apart.
The same has happened to our once-great nation. The demon of divorce has been unleashed for decades and it is time for an exorcism. A long time ago, maybe when Nixon so tragically let us all down, or when other governmental infidelities were uncovered, we began to believe we could not trust each other. (That was the original sin in the garden, by the way, when that couple stopped trusting God and each other.) We didn’t mend fences and put the marriage of mom and dad back in harmony; instead we chose our camps and became the contentious Lefts and the Rights who run on fear and greed.
Both of the major political parties have had their struggles, imperfections, and history. Acknowledging the complexity of both, we might generally look at them this way:
Like this “Mom”, the current Democratic Party likes to focus on the generous sharing of goods, care for the poor, protecting the rights of and making opportunity for all.
Like this “Dad”, the current Republican Party more often focuses on securing the neighborhood safety, standing up to bullies, and creating incredible income opportunities for these who want to work.
We need each other! Couples who survive deep betrayals say, “We didn’t give ourselves the option of divorce. We knew we had to find a way to make it work, and we did. I love and trust him/her now more than ever.”
They sat down with the kids and said, “Your mother is a good woman and I love her. Without her we would not have our home.” “Your father makes all this possible. He protects us and provides for us. We’d never make it without him.” “We love each other and we love you kids.”
We need to repair the marriage. It will never be perfect because, well, Dad will always be a little too gruff with the kids. Mom will always tend to push the limit on the credit cards. But it can work. And we need to stay united against the outside forces that prowl about the world seeking our ruin.
Call me naïve. Call me simplistic. Call me whatever you want. But I say, “Honey, let’s make our family great again.” It won’t be easy and it will be a long, difficult road back but we can do it. Starting in our own marriages and families. And with God’s grace.
Let’s have real hope and change. Let’s make our family one.
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Rose Sweet helps people put relationship (with God) back into their religion . . . and their religion back into their relationships.