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Don't Say, "We Grew Apart"

Don't Say, "We Grew Apart"

In marriage, we are the gardeners, not the plants
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It could have been any day at my CPA firm. It could have been any divorce client. Today it was Suzie. Yesterday it was John. Tomorrow, who knows? The reason always seems to be the same: "We grew apart." And with those words, the death of a marriage is pronounced.

While my job as a forensic CPA for divorce litigation is to give an account of the marital estate, I cannot help but look past the numbers for the cause of the marriage's death. I cannot help but mourn the devastation left by this epidemic that has killed half the marriages in this country.

As I look into Suzie's eyes, I sense that she has long passed the mourning stage. The light of love that must have glowed brightly at the altar has been extinguished. Whatever injustices she has suffered or believes she has suffered have been enough. What is left in my office is a woman who is hoping for a better day.

Beyond my office walls begins the slow and torturous dismemberment of another family. Suzie's husband answers the door. A nameless man asks, "Are you Joe ________?" When he nods his head, the bearer hands him the papers confirming the marriage's prognosis of death that can no longer be ignored. The door shuts with an air of finality that replays in an endless loop in his mind. He falls to the ground, asking God how he could let this happen. Joe is helpless to undo what has started. Will Joe be looking forward to a better day?

Beyond my walls are Suzie's children, who are becoming the subjects of a parenting plan that may ultimately be decided by a judge who will never meet the children. Questions of where the children will live and spend their Christmases and weekends will become battleground. They will be required to live in two homes and possibly with strangers their mom and dad will date or marry. Will the children be looking forward to a better day?

The scariest part is that, left to ourselves, any of us, at a low a point in our marriages, could be Suzie. I doubt any us have not, at some moment in time (secretly or admittedly), found ourselves staring at our spouses, wondering why on earth we ever agreed to spend our lives with them. When tough times come, what will keep us from converting that thought to the action of giving up? What steps can we take to avoid becoming like Suzie?

Understanding the Garden

Before we can learn how to avoid becoming a Suzie, we must first understand what's wrong with the idea "We grew apart." Are we plants? No. In marriage, we agree to be gardeners. The plant is love, which, when tended, bears fruit. When we marry, we vow to tend the garden … to love, honor, cherish … remember? To have a healthy, beautiful garden, we must fertilize and water continuously. We must be alert for weeds and eradicate them early, before they choke out the love.

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March 11, 2013  4:54pm

I love the garden metaphor! I gained a deeper understanding of this issue from reading "I love you, but I'm not in love with you", by Andrew Marshall. He notes that this generation is more likely to divorce while still wanting what is best for the other, rather than hating them. He explains that it is because we watched our parents fight and divorce, so we deeply fear fighting, for the destruction it causes. Yet we have no better conflict resolution skills to replace the fights with. So we give in, trying to keep the peace, trying to protect the other person and ourselves from the despair of divorce. Over time, life becomes less and less how we wanted it to be, because we have not taken an active role in shaping our lives; trying to do what we think our spouse wants instead. Over time, this puts us more and more in a parent-child role with our spouse, rather than a spouse role (walking side by side). And it's not natural to feel "in love" with a parent or child. Thus, we grow apart.

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March 04, 2013  9:07am

WOW! So MANY powerful thoughts/concepts in this article ~ will definitely be passing it on to all my married friends!

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March 04, 2013  5:35am

Thanks for the article patricia for this article and great concept of growing. I totally agree with what you have said. for those couples who are in really trying there best to make their marriage workout it will be easy to start doing what you have suggested at the end. four couples who have difficulty to try right now,,,I would suggest to take time, pray and start their own action without waiting the second person. we have to also trust God. We are not alone. He is there to help us.

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