When I was a little girl, I would spend a week or two every summer visiting my grandparents in my mother's hometown. It was the highlight of my year. I would get to take swimming lessons at the local community college pool, play tether ball in the backyard, and help grandpa in the garden. Grandma would give me sewing lessons and grandpa would take me to the local Thrifty store for... - not one - but TWO scoops of ice cream. I liked bubble gum. Or blueberry cheesecake. We didn't have a place where you could get scoops of ice cream like that at home. It was such a treat!
Another reason I loved going so much was to see the friends I had there. Grandma was so good about setting up play dates with other girls my age that lived in the neighborhood. I had one friend I especially liked and she was my first choice in whom I wanted to spend my time with.
This friend of mine had eleven brothers and sisters. Yes, you read that right. Eleven. And they lived in an old home that was very small for a family of fourteen people. Plus her grandmother lived there. In fact, I think it was her grandmother's house. But it was only temporary. They were building a brand new house on the same property just a few hundred feet behind the grandmother's home. It was going to be huge! Well, huge by MY standards!
It seemed like that house was never going to be finished. For two summers, when I would visit, the house was still under construction. But by the third summer it was finally ready for them to move in. It was a beautiful home. I was in awe at the number of bedrooms. And they had a shower, that was JUST a shower! It was beyond comprehension for my young self. I had never heard of someone having a shower that was just a shower that actually had a built-in seat at the bottom half of it. I was so happy for my friend because they had lived in that old, tiny house for so long and now she was going to get her own room.
But then something else happened that summer. I didn't understand it. She told me that her parents were getting a divorce. I couldn't wrap my head around it. How could parents of twelve children get a divorce? If you have twelve children doesn't that mean you love each other... A LOT? Why would her dad just go away like that and why would her mom let him? I was devastated for her and afraid for myself. I wondered if HER parents could get a divorce, did that mean that MY parents could get a divorce? I worried and I stewed and I wondered what I could do to help my friend not be so sad. My heart broke for her and for her siblings. To me, it felt like the tragedy of all tragedies. I never found out why they divorced, but I never forgot the impact this news had on me. That's when I made the decision that I would NEVER let that happen to me. Ever. I would do whatever it took to not ever get a divorce.
Now I am an adult and I understand how people, even those with twelve children, can get divorced. I've come to understand that divorce comes for a myriad of reasons. Infidelity, abuse, money problems, laziness, being away from each other for long periods of time, differences in how to raise children, over-intrusive in-laws, differing religious views, etc., etc., etc. The list goes on. But it always goes back to one central factor - selfishness. Pure selfishness.
You know? Twenty five years later - I still can't wrap my head around it. I can't understand why people refuse to change so that they can save their marriage. It really isn't that hard. But human nature is to always blame the other person for their part, not to have to accept responsibility for OUR part. I see so many marriages that end that could have been saved. All because one or both spouses refuse to be unselfish and put the needs of their spouse above their own. People want to know what the secret to a happy and healthy marriage is. Well, I'm going to tell you. Put your spouse ABOVE yourself! Period. Love your spouse for who they are and don't try to make them into someone else. Respect their privacy, their needs, their wants, their opinions. Be loyal to them. Be best friends. Communicate. Be UNselfish. That's what it amounts to. Work harder than you've ever worked at anything else. Don't give up. Seek counseling if you need it. Forgive each other. Work to repair the cracks so that you can be strong and united. Change if you need to change. Trust me. It's worth every bit of it. Don't let your marriage become a tragedy by settling for divorce.