Maintaining the Knot: How not to get a divorce
DIVORCE IS becoming a very common way to a end a marriage in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). As a legal practitioner, I have represented husbands and wives (even when one party is abroad) in going through the three stages of the divorce process in the High Court of SVG: (1) Decree Nisi; (2) Ancillary Proceedings dealing with children and settling property; and the final stage (3) the Decree Absolute. There are (5) reasons for divorce in SVG: living apart for 2 years requiring consent of the spouse, living apart for 5 years which does not require the consent of the spouse, desertion, infidelity and unreasonable behaviour, including domestic violence. Couples are bound together by decisions they make in marriage as well as by decisions they make in divorce.
This article, however, is focused on strengthening the bonds that hold a husband and wife together. I do not enjoy, nor should any practitioner, taking instructions from a distressed husband or livid wife about the end of their marriage, but it’s part of my job.
I have three pieces of advice for married couples and those thinking about getting married. It can potentially make a difference in your own relationship.
Disclaimer: This is only a selective list and not a substitute for seeking marital counselling. I am not, by any measure, or claim to be a relationship expert. However, I have observed common threads that seem to be part of a fabric of problems and solutions for married couples.
(1) Communication is important and communicating respectfully. If you do not know how to communicate with your wife or husband I can guarantee even if you stay married, it will be a difficult experience. Stop jumping to conclusions and seek always to understand what is being said to you before you respond.
I always encourage my clients that have ended their marriages to read and reflect before getting into another relationship.
I am concerned at how some couples relate to one another sometimes, and I cannot imagine that this can be healthy for the relationship or its longevity.
This, like most things worth doing, is easier said than done especially when emotions are running high. A few useful titles on this topic: “5 Love Languages” by Dr Gary Chapman, “The Adventist Home” by Ellen White, “The 7-minute Marriage Solution” by Stephen Arteburn. You may not want to read the entire book but a summary or a digest is a great place to start.
(2) Be willing to grow and learn together. This applies to not just the growth of the marriage but also the growth of the individual. It is incredibly frustrating when only one half of the marital union is interested in saving the marriage, growing the marriage and deepening the union whilst the other is remarkably ininterested. So how does a couple grow together? For example: Leroy and Suzan (these names are fictitious) have been together for 10 years.
Both Leroy and Suzan are incredibly busy either at work or engaging in house improvement as well as chores. Regardless, Leroy and Suzan both create a serious appointment every Thursday evening to spend time together with minimal distractions.
During this time, they talk and reflect about: their relationship, things that are troubling them, solutions, ways that they can improve as well as celebrating their independent accomplishments. Having the difficult conversations now can help build a better marriage. A few useful titles on this topic include “Each for the Other” by Bryan Chappel; “His Needs, Her Needs” by Willard F Harley, Jr and “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller and “The Heart of Money: A Couple’s Guide to Creating True Financial Intimacy” by Deborah L. Price.
(3) Learn how to resolve conflicts properly. I believe every couple has disagreements and why wouldn’t they. They are not the same person and they are, inherently and individually very complex. That said, learning proper conflict resolution is important. Raising your voice does not improve the quality of your argument. It only helps to alert individuals in the area who engage in “macco- ing” to acquire the content for later spreading of “melee” or gossip. Focus on the problem and not the person. Use phrases like “I feel that…” or “I believe it would help if…” rather than accusatory language like “You see you…” or “You’re always doing this…” Be upset. Be angry. Talk about it. Nothing is wrong with getting counselling. When you finish an argument and it is resolved, please practice not bringing it up weeks, months and years later.
This undermines your previous agreements and shows you have not truly forgiven your spouse or been truthful about laying the issue to rest. If one of you “wins” then you both have lost. Never use violence or threats against your spouse – there is nothing to be gained by that except an embarrassing court case and possibly an unsettling stint in prison. Domestic violence is more damaging than we realise, the wounds that are inflicted reach deeper than the eyes can see. If this is your experience, I recommend you seek help immediately. Some useful titles on this area are: “Crucial Conversations” by Kerry Patterson; “Conflict Resolution for Couples” by Paul Shaffer; “The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work” by Nan Silver.
Ultimately, we should make choices that support the security of the marriage and consider the costs attached to all marital decisions. Never be fooled by images on Facebook, Instagram or clips on Tik Tok, not a single one of us is perfect. Many marriages are in trouble but that does not have to be yours.
Marriage is not just cute selfies, nice quotes and celebrations but it is filled with challenging chapters and incredible memories. One person stated that marriage reveals the character unlike anything else created. Your marriage will, inevitably, be what you both choose to make it. Dave Willis wrote “Your marriage will not be defined by the size of your struggles, but by the size of your commitment to overcome the struggles together.”
Chevanev A.Y Charles is a legal practitioner in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.