Divorce Isn’t Always a Bad Option, Especially in the Military

Resist, for a moment, your urge to pummel this guy in the face

A Seventh Day Adventist Chaplain at Robins Air Force Base recently lamented a divorce rate that has risen from 2.5% in 2001 to 3.9% in 2011. Is that a lot? Is there a solution? Have divorces really even increased? A religious perspective (as well as most of society) says any divorce is bad no matter what, but that might not be a healthy perspective on relationships.

The fact is that many* (but not most) marriages do not last “till death do us part.” Especially in a military context, pressure to marry young is higher because people want to stay together as one person ships off to training or to war. In addition, the military affords private housing and extra pay to married couples, so marriages of convenience are not uncommon. It can do more damage to try to push these types of couples to stay together after they mature and realize it might not have been the best choice. Coaching couples to an amicable divorce is an option many religious counselors may overlook.

In addition, the frequent separations and deployments can put great strain on marriages. A religious perspective does not allow for “open” marriages where wives or husbands are given permission to seek other partners during a long deployment. And, to be fair, the macho and patriarchal nature of the military can exacerbate the territorial instinct especially for men and “their” women. Coaching about safe and honest open marriage might provide couples an option to extend and improve relationships suffering long separation due to combat deployments.

It’s impossible to confirm whether military divorce rates are high or low relative to the general population because the military uses total divorces divided by total marriages. “There is no comparable system for tracking civilian divorces,” said an Air Force Times report. Civilian statistics are measured in divorces per capita (PDF). Honestly, the military metric is probably better, but it is odd that there is no comparative demographic.

Whatever the metric, the perception that all divorce is bad combined with an expectation of an exclusive, closed marriage may be hurting the military. A religious bias of chaplains who often do marriage counseling may be hurting military families in some cases. This is not to say that chaplains don’t recommend divorce in extreme cases of physical or mental abuse. A perspective of “right-sizing” the divorce rate to ensure that couples marry for the right reasons, stay married for the right reasons, and get divorced for the right reasons would be preferable to a “make it work at all costs” approach.

*As of 2009, the Census reported more than 10% of first marriages don’t reach their 5th anniversary and about 25% don’t reach their 10th anniversary. These statistics are in addition to the cultural pressure to enter young marriages, to marry solely because of pregnancy, or to stay in unhappy marriages. There is also a ubiquitous media stereotype of unhappy, controlling, sexless marriages.

About Jason Torpy

**Comments at Friendly Atheist do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers are any other organizations.** Jason Torpy serves as President of the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers (MAAF), a nonprofit community for atheists and humanists in the military. MAAF also educates military leaders about the needs of nontheists and advocates where necessary. Jason is a former Army Captain and Iraq veteran with a Bachelor of Science degree from West Point and an MBA from The Ohio State University.

  • http://www.christianfighterpilot.com/blog JD

    Torpy’s monologue is an attempt to manufacture controversy.  The military puts a strain on marriages.  It knows that.  It also knows the stability of family life affects troops’ service. The military provides both religious and non-religious methods of family/marriage counseling for those that want it.  Where’s the controversy in that?  Torpy is trying to turn a theme supported by the military as a whole into a diatribe against chaplains and religion.  It’s not only a stretch, it’s a cheap shot.
    Other than Torpy’s choice of an unrelated and classless graphic, where’s the controversy?
    http://christianfighterpilot.com/blog/2012/01/09/military-divorce-rate-highest-ever-mercyme-teams-with-familylife/

    • Anonymous

      Still stumping for you blog…lol.

      The *controversy* as you call it is that those programs are squarely focused on *strengthening* marital bonds and preservation of marriages. 

      The reality is that in most cases divorce is a healthier choice for people than staying in a doomed/struggling relationship.

      You cite “military provides both religious and non-religious method”.  What you fail to mention is that the non-secular options are run by mental health medical units that are extremely underfunded in comparison to those maintained by the chaplains service all the while carrying the obvious related stigmas.

    • Dan

      You again JD? You are a religious bully who doesn’t support the Constitution you swore to defend. I had dinner with you once after church when you were on a TDY (back when I was a fundamentalist Christian), and you really are a miserable person. Theocracy isn’t a good idea. Please go somewhere else.

  • Anonymous

    I am a military spouse and I have seen a good number of divorces, both male service members and female service members (and a couple that were both service members).  It does seem to hit marriages where the woman was in the military and the man was a civilian the hardest (% wise, not numbers wise).
    I have counseled 3 couples to divorce and they have. There is a lot of cheating, and a lot of times when the service member is deployed or on TDY both people end up feeling happier with the separation than when together.  I think that brings most marriages to a quicker close, because it offers built in separation periods.  Sometimes the stress of the job causes or increases abusive behaviors, and the authoritarian nature of the military can make the service member controlling.  It’s no easy thing to be in the military, or to be married to someone in the military.  My spouse and I have been doing well though.  But we do have an honest and open marriage so maybe that’s why.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

      Abusive behavior has only one “cause” — THE ABUSER CHOOSING TO BE ABUSIVE. “Stress” is just an excuse.

  • http://www.sailordad.com/ Thomas

    Divorce isn’t sometimes an option, sometimes it seems like the only choice. I recently returned from a deployment overseas to the Horn of Africa. Out of a division of 33 personnel, where 14 were married at the beginning of deployment, 6 of those came home to divorce papers. It was such a wide path of destruction it seemed contagious. 

    Counseling is there, but when you’re on a ship 10,000 miles away from your spouse, counseling isn’t the easiest option. Communication with home is difficult at a minimum and sometimes we were restricted in our communications because of operations. 

    My wife and I have been married for 14 years. This is my second marriage, because as a younger man, my first marriage ended in divorce less than a year later. Talk about mistakes!

  • Anonymous

    If a couple is okay with an open marriage, then sometimes that can work. But the reason why it is a struggle for people in the military isn’t because military people are “macho and patriarchal”. It’s because we as a species evolved to be outwardly monogamous. Child care throughout much of human history needed two parents to really work and the couples needed to support each other. Sure, there has always been cheating by both genders, but this was with the knowledge that they were hurting the spouse that stayed faithful by taking advantages that the faithful spouse couldn’t. Switching to open marriages attempts to reorganize the entire child care system which often goes against our instincts as a species. 

    Until recent decades, determining how much support each spouse should get and establishing paternity caused a lot of problems for anyone attempting an open marriage. We are a little better prepared to deal with such issues now, but even in willing polyamorous communities, jealousy is still a problem. It is going to be even more of a problem for spouses who are part of open marriages not because they sought it out but because they felt they needed to in order to be happy in the military. You can not change evolutionary instinct over night and the biological calculus may not work out in your favor. Sometimes open marriages can help, but other times they just create divorce between two people who would have been happier married.

    I’m not saying not to try open marriages sometimes. By all means do. But don’t expect them to work out as perfectly as people imagine they would in a perfect world.

  • Anonymous

    If a couple is okay with an open marriage, then sometimes that can work. But the reason why it is a struggle for people in the military isn’t because military people are “macho and patriarchal”. It’s because we as a species evolved to be outwardly monogamous. Child care throughout much of human history needed two parents to really work and the couples needed to support each other. Sure, there has always been cheating by both genders, but this was with the knowledge that they were hurting the spouse that stayed faithful by taking advantages that the faithful spouse couldn’t. Switching to open marriages attempts to reorganize the entire child care system which often goes against our instincts as a species. 
     
    Until recent decades, determining how much support each spouse should get and establishing paternity caused a lot of problems for anyone attempting an open marriage. We are a little better prepared to deal with such issues now, but even in willing polyamorous communities, jealousy is still a problem. It is going to be even more of a problem for spouses who are part of open marriages not because they sought it out but because they felt they needed to in order to be happy in the military. You can not change evolutionary instinct over night and the biological calculus may not work out in your favor. Sometimes open marriages can help, but other times they just create jealously that leads to divorce between two people who would have been happier married.
     
    I’m not saying not to try open marriages sometimes. By all means do. But don’t expect them to work out as perfectly as people imagine they would in a perfect world.

  • Anonymous

    If a couple is okay with an open marriage, then sometimes that can work. But the reason why it is a struggle for people in the military isn’t because military people are “macho and patriarchal”. It’s because we as a species evolved to be outwardly monogamous. Child care throughout much of human history needed two parents to really work and the couples needed to support each other. Sure, there has always been cheating by both genders, but this was with the knowledge that they were hurting the spouse that stayed faithful by taking advantages that the faithful spouse couldn’t. Switching to open marriages attempts to reorganize the entire child care system which often goes against our instincts as a species. 
     
    Until recent decades, determining how much support each spouse should get and establishing paternity caused a lot of problems for anyone attempting an open marriage. We are a little better prepared to deal with such issues now, but even in willing polyamorous communities, jealousy is still a problem. It is going to be even more of a problem for spouses who are part of open marriages not because they sought it out but because they felt they needed to in order to be happy in the military. You can not change evolutionary instinct over night and the biological calculus may not work out in your favor. Sometimes open marriages can help, but other times they just create jealously that leads to divorce between two people who would have been happier married.
     
    I’m not saying not to try open marriages sometimes. By all means do. But don’t expect them to work out as perfectly as people imagine they would in a perfect world.

    • Semipermeable

      But that history is biased to the western perspective and culture. There are several cultures that have successful variations of the nuclear family.

       For example, the Moso people on the Chinese-Tibet border, who are matrilineal, don’t marry, and men/relationships come and go at the choice of the women. The family is inherited through the mother, so there is no need to know exactly who the father is. 
      Pawnee inheritance could often go not to their own children, but their sister’s children, because they could be sure those children were at least partially related.

      A lot of monogamy stems from patrilineal inheritance, sons take the place of the father, so it was super important to know who the father of the children was, and without DNA tests, the only way to know was to ensure the virginity and faithfulness of the wife.

      You need much more proof to say we ‘evolved to be outwardly monogamous’, especially when you look at many of the species we share the most genes with. Chimpanzees are FAR from monogamous, but it’s ok because to my understanding the whole family group cares for the young. 

      • Anonymous

        In the two examples you mention, the lack of knowledge as to paternity resulted in a lack (or great lessening) of support for the child from the father. Perhaps that has worked in a few societies through support from the community as a whole, but these societies are few and far between historically.

        It is true that Chimps are not monogamous. I’m not sure so much that it is the community taking care of the chimp babies so much as it is the mother alone. This works for them because chimp children grow up much faster than human babies. Human children take over 15 years before they can really start caring for themselves. The amount of work that it takes to raise a human child means that two parents are often needed just to focus on that one child and that is why monogamy evolved.

        • Dan

          Again, the historical culture norm for marriage is polygamy, not monogamy, so your entire premise is false. Monogamy is the statistical outlier, so even if your pop evo-psych was true it would be evidence that we evolved to be polygamous, which undermines your point. (I’m monogamous, so I’m not criticizing the idea, just your inaccurate sociology and evolutionary just-so story).

    • Anonymous

      There is no evidence for your assertion that humans evolved to be “outwardly” monogamous (what does *that* mean exactly, anyway), nor that “child care throughout much of human history needed two parents to really work and the couples needed to support each other.” For much of human history, we lived in smallish tribes and, later, in extended families within smallish villages. There were always lots of adults (or older siblings) to step in to help look after children and lend support to the primary caregivers.

      • Anonymous

        By “outwardly monogamous” I mean “monogamous plus cheating”. Sure, cheating has always happened, but this is seen as shameful by the community at large. There are attempts by the society to stop this from happening.

        The evidence is that if you look at recorded human history over thousands of years across the entire Earth, most societies are monogamous. I don’t think that is a coincidence. If almost all societies on every continent over thousands of years chose monogamy, that seems to indicate that it is because it has a biological advantage to it.

        • Anonymous

          You’re conflating culture with biology. Almost all *historical* (which cannot assumed to be the case for pre-historical tribal ones ) societies have practised slavery and treated women as property too, but that doesn’t mean that either of those things are things we necessarily evolved to do.

          Monogamous marriage certainly has a *cultural* advantage for certain parties–in societies where male primogeniture is the norm. The same could be said for having a celibate clerical class. But you can’t honestly assert that we evolved to have unmarried priests.

          • Anonymous

            No, I don’t think we evolved to have unmarried priests. One of the reasons is that most religions don’t have unmarried priests.

            It wouldn’t matter if a culture had a situation where the first born male inherited everything or if they had a culture where the first born female did. Any time a man puts resources into supporting a child, he wants to make pretty damn sure its his child. To do anything else is evolutionary suicide.

            I suppose that you are right to say that things such as slavery and treating women as property isn’t biology per se, but saying that it is culture isn’t exactly right either. It isn’t something that almost every society on the planet decided to do on a whim. It is based on people trying to get the best benefit for themselves given the world that they lived in. Slavery occured because it was economically benefitial to have people work for you without pay. Women were treated as property because men were stronger (this was especially true when armies started to develop) and women were needed for reproduction. People can point out ways that abolition and women’s rights help society, but the main reason that we no longer have slavery or treat women as property in the West is because of people’s moral views, not because people decided to try a different culture on a whim. It wasn’t just a cultural change. It was a change in the very economics of society.

    • Dan

      I believe you are wrong that we evolved to be outwardly monogamous. That’s a just-so story, and could just as easily be explained by culture as biology.

      Anyways, I’ve read that most cultures have been based on polygamy, so you are wrong from even a historical point of view.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

        Polygamy is dishonest and unfair. We PAIR-BOND for a reason, you know.

        • Dan

          I clearly didn’t say that I support polygamy, so I don’t understand your comment. I’m saying the idea that we evolved to be monogamous is not supported by the evidence (it could be cultural rather than biological), and is not even how most cultures have set up bonding (pair-bonding in human culture is the exception, not the rule). I’m not going from an ‘is’ to an ‘ought’, although the original commenter was, even though their ‘is’ was false. I’m monogamous, but that doesn’t mean I have to use pop evo-psych and incorrect sociological facts to justify it.

        • Littlebrownbird

          What is the reason?

      • Anonymous

        Dan, pretty much every society across the globe for all of recorded history has been monogamous. It isn’t just culture. It is either biology or economics producing these results and given the fact that monogamy is the norm even among rich societies, biology seems the likelier candidate.

        It is true that there was polygamy for rich men among many cultures, but I’ve seen no evidence that this extended far down the rung below that. Was there really masses of men without wives throught history because all the women were married to the top men? We never read about that.

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

          Well, I can’t believe I’m doing this, but… I agree with Hibernia on this one.

          Widespread polygamy would leave large numbers of men without even one wife, as the general pattern has proven to be  high-status men grabbing up all the available women. (See the FLDS “communities” for a prime example.)

          • Dan

            Again wmdkitty, your reading comprehension is extremely poor if you think I am advocating for polygamy. A disagreement about HOW the world works is not a disagreement for how the world SHOULD work. Facts don’t change themselves because you don’t like them.

            • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

              Except that your “facts” are faulty.

              Monogamy is equality in action — every person has a near-equal chance of finding a mate.

              Polygamy just leads to old men marrying teenagers and collecting a harem, while driving the young men out of town. The young men who DO stick around end up acting out violently. Polygamy, due to the male-dominant structure, is inherently damaging, especially to women and children. Since polygamy is demonstrably harmful, AND some participants cannot legally consent to being part of it (underage “brides”, the children born into polygamous “families”), it logically follows that polygamy should be illegal.

              • Dan

                I’m not sure if you are trolling or not, I’ve explained this several times, but I’ll try one more time. I am monogamous, I think polygamy is bad for the well being of women and should not be legal. Again, I am NOT supporting polygamy.

                The argument is over this question: have the majority of societies over history been polygamous or monogamous? The original poster says they have been monogamous, and that is due to evolutionary (not cultural) pressure. I think the evidence clearly shown the majority of cultures have not been monogamous, so the claim that monogamy is common because it was selected for by natural selection is not true. You comments would be like if we had a debate over whether slavery was common in the ancient world and you bash me because I say it was, because you think admitting that slavery was common is the same thing as supporting it. It isn’t. I don’t support slavery, but the historical fact is that it has been common. I don’t support polygamy, but the historical fact is that it was common. And that fact undermines the original commentator’s claim about monogamy being the default because of natural selection.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

                  You have yet to address my points. Please do so.

                • Dan

                  What point? You just keep implying that I support polygamy when I clearly don’t. Or saying that polygamy cant have been common because you don’t like it. Well, I don’t like slavery, that doesn’t mean it never happened.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

                  1: Polygamy, when put into practice, means that only a few men in a given community will have wives. This is damaging to the other men in the community.
                  2: Women in polygamous marriages — aside from being little more than cleaning service and brood mare — have significantly higher rates of mental illness.

                  3: Polygamous groups emphasize, without exception, the doctrine of male superiority and female submission. This includes forcing underage “brides” to consummate “marriages” they did not consent to.

                  Address these points, please.

                • Dan

                  Why? These points have absolutely nothing to do with the conversation, and besides I already said that I think polygamy is sexist, hurts women, and should be illegal. Yes, all those points are true, but that has nothing to do with the conversation, and if you think it does than you have incredibly poor reading comprehension.

                • Dan

                  I’ll try to spell it out again. The original poster made two claims 1:
                  that we evolved to be monogamous (it isn’t cultural, it is biological), and 2: That monogamy is the way cultures traditional operate. Both are wrong. 1 is suspect because there is no evidence for it, its pop evolutionary psychology and relies on claim 2 being correct, but claim 2 is wrong because historically most cultures have been polygamous, not monogamous.

                  You keep on jumping in and saying that my facts are wrong because polygamy is bad. No one is disputing that, but that isn’t the argument. We are debating over how common polygamy was, not if it is ethical. I’ve said this at least a half dozen times. Just like slavery was common, but unethical, so polygamy was common, but unethical. So we can’t say we evolved to be monogamous because monogamy is a GOOD but recent cultural development, not something evolved into us over millions of years.

        • Dan

          I’m sorry Hibernia, but monogamy was not the norm historically, no matter how many times you say it. The majority of cultures have been polygamous, that’s what is taught in Anthropology 101. Partly this is because there was a lot more women than men in many indigenous populations due to widespread war and violent raiding, and women were treated as prized possessions. Even people who didn’t have more than one wife wanted more than one because it was a sign of prestige. A polygamist society doesn’t require people to have more than one wife, but it is socially accepted. Societies that accept polygamy have dominated history and anthropology, which undermines your “evolved outwardly monogamous” claim.

          Even just going back a few thousand years you can see that polygamy was societly acceptable in Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist cultures, as well as open non-monogamous relationships being acceptable in the Egyptian, Greek, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Roman empires, so this should absolutly disprove your claim that we evolved to be outwardly monogamous, unless the vast majority of cultures are doing the opposite of what we evolved to respect. The expectation of “outward monogamy” is a relatively new development in human culture. It a good one and has absolutely helped empowered women, but it has not always been so.

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      Sure, there has always been cheating by both genders, but this was with the knowledge that they were hurting the spouse that stayed faithful by taking advantages that the faithful spouse couldn’t.

      This strikes me as a very modern idea. Historically, whether they were married to one woman or to multiple women, men weren’t expected to actually be monogamous, let alone pretend to be in order to spare their wives’ feelings. In most societies, men were free to have as much sex as they wanted, whether it was with their wives or with prostitutes, mistresses, or concubines. I’m not aware of societies that punished men for extramarital activity. Since most societies have been partriarchal, only women were expected to be faithful to their husbands, for the very practical goal of ensuring the children’s paternity.

      • Anonymous

        You are right that people in the past looked the other way when men had mistresses. It wasn’t something that was as harmful to his reputation as it would be today. And it is true that in some cultures, like Islamic ones, women who are raped are punished for adultery or in Puritan New England, forced to wear a red A to signify that they were an adulteress.

        However, it wasn’t always as simple as “men could cheat and women couldn’t”. Children born of mistresses were considered illegitimate meaning that society didn’t hold the union of the man and his mistress to be as noble as a marriage. And when a woman cheated in many cultures, her husband would get angry (and often try to kill) the man who had sex with her rather than focus his anger on his wife who was the one who actually betrayed the marriage. So it could be a complicated affair (pun intended).

    • Anonymous

      I take it you haven’t heard of the book, “The Monogamy Myth”.

  • http://twitter.com/RantBot5000 RantBot Grikmeer

    I have often heard that the divorce rate started to increase (in the west) when we started marrying for love, instead of for financial or social capital. I’m wondering if anyone here can confirm or deny that with evidence, I’ve never been sure….

    It seems to make more sense to me…

    • Anonymous

      The divorce rate started to rise when divorce became easier to obtain. For much of history it wasn’t possible to divorce just because you didn’t get along with each other anymore.

      • Erp

        For  powerful men (e.g., kings) it was often possible (find a reason for an annulment) though if the wife’s relatives were also  powerful and opposed it could be problematic (see King John of England).    Marriages did tend to be shorter because there was a fairly good chance that one partner would die young.

    • Eivind Kjorstad

      The divorce-rate started to climb when it became socially and legally acceptable to divorce. This is hardly surprising, and is a benefit for all involved. None of my Iranian friends have divorced parents — several of them have parents that *should* have been divorced, but when a divorce means, especially for the woman, being a social outcast, it’s not strange that it doesn’t happen.

      I’ve got friends in Iran whose parents have separate bedrooms, who’s not had a vacation together for a decade (but plenty by themselves), who tends to avoid being in the same room, and who hasn’t been observed either physically touching or saying anything nice about eachothers for several years, nevertheless they’re still not divorced – because that’d be unacceptable.

      Divorce is mostly atleast somewhat traumatic, but it’s not the worst thing possible. A unhappy marriage can be worse than a divorce.

  • Anonymous

    Really? Your solution for lack of self control is to just decide you don’t need it? Get real. A person doesn’t cheat because they need comfort. If they need comfort, they can look to friends for that. As a military spouse, I find that a bit disingenuous. My husband is gone a lot. Why would I cheat on him? And you know what? Absences are hard, especially deployments to war zones. Talk to many military wives and they’ll tell you they completely disconnect while their husbands are at war. Why? To save themselves if he dies. 

    Many wives actually hate their husbands when he comes home. Would an open marriage solve that? Not even close. The only thing that solves that is time- with their spouse.

    • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

      “A person doesn’t cheat because they need comfort. If they need comfort, they can look to friends for that.”

      So what is it that you think they do if they want sex?

      • Anonymous

        They wait.

        • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

          To what benefit? There’s nothing virtuous about going without something you want, purely because it’s something you want. In your scenario the partner at home is miserable, and the partner away has to deal with the person they love being miserable. Just who comes out of that well?

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

            Well, the “away” partner CHOSE to be away. Again, for the one at home, buy a vibrator if you really “can’t” go without sex.

            • Anonymous

              Ah yes because a vibrator is exactly like having sex. *eye roll*

              • Anonymous

                Not even close, but it can certainly help you over the rough spots.

          • Anonymous

            Going without sex does not make someone miserable. You seem to be only thinking of short term benefits. Sometimes you go without something you want because it is better for you. For instance, if you want to lose weight, you go without that doughnut. If you want to save money, you go without the Starbucks. If you want to have a happy marriage, you go without the sex on the side. 

            The benefit is that when your spouse gets home, you’ll have the opportunity to have a good marriage. Having been in this situation, I happen to know the benefits. They’re not short term benefits. It’s not instant gratification. That’s life. Sometimes you have to wait for larger payoffs.

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

          Or get a vibrator.

    • Anonymous

      Different strokes for different folks. I don’t understand this arrogant sanctimonious tone you have. Open marriages work for some people and a “lack of self-control” isn’t necessarily a factor. Maybe it’s an understanding that you cannot fulfill every need or desire your partner has and it’s okay if they seek it outside the marriage.

      • Anonymous

        “Open marriages work for some people and a “lack of self-control” isn’t necessarily a factor. Maybe it’s an understanding that you cannot fulfill every need or desire your partner has and it’s okay if they seek it outside the marriage.”

        I don’t have a problem with this reason for open marriages. I have a problem with conceiving of an open marriage specifically to disallow cheating. An open marriage isn’t about keeping a partner from cheating. An open marriage is about a different philosophy about marriage. Everyone’s marriage is their own. And advocating for open marriages to avoid cheating is not the answer. 

        I will give you an example of what I mean. Say a couple who has a sexually open marriage has an understanding that they will not seek emotional partners outside of their marriage. One person goes against that and forms an emotional attachment to the person they are having sex with, or just meeting casually on Facebook, or just talking to over the phone, or only seeing at work. This is cheating. It goes against the philosophy of the marriage for this couple.

        Open marriages are not to prevent cheating. They are to provide the sort of relationship that a couple needs, and that is how they should be used, and not abused.

  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

    The 2010 film “127 Hours” tells the true story of how Aron Ralston survived a 2003 canyoneering accident in Utah by amputating his own right arm with a dull pocketknife in order to free himself from a dislodged boulder.  (Source: Wikipedia)

    I suppose some people might use his story, and others like it, to argue against the notion that cutting off your arm is a bad thing.

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      Not sure what you’re trying to say, but married couples are composed of two individuals. Those people are not the same entity and shouldn’t be treated as such. If a marriage isn’t working and the couple no longer wishes to be legally and emotionally connected to one another, then why not separate and end the relationship? I fail to see how it compares to amputating one’s own arm. Husbands and wives aren’t born attached to one another. They don’t belong to each other, and they don’t own each other. Divorcing is simply two people returning to the state they were in before they married.

      • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        If it’s not immediately apparent when a man and woman marry that they “become one flesh,” as the Bible puts it, it certainly is apparent once they have a child.

        • Anonymous

          Newsflash: Biological parents of a child don’t have to be married. Divorcing couples can be childless. Children are more often than not better off with parents who are happily divorced than unhappily married.

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            You are missing the point.   I don’t dispute that there may be occasions when amputation is desirable – but they are few.

        • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

          I’m not quite getting this… So the child is the combined flesh of a married couple, and for them to get a divorce would tear the child apart?

          As a child of a failed miserable marriage, I can attest that the divorce and separation only strengthened and brought joy to me and my family.

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            Then you are an exception to the rule – an amputation that was preferable.

            • Deven Kale

              I was raised in a family where the parents refused to separate for purely religious reasons. To continue the arm example, this is basically keeping an arm with
              gangrene because somebody claims the man in the sky will make it healthy
              again, if you just believe. I can personally tell you that all 6 of us children absolutely believe that in our case, our parents actually getting the divorce would have been a much better solution.

              While divorce is not always the option, I can personally testify that it can most definitely be the better option for the entire family, and not just the parents. If the arm is diseased, damn right you should cut the stupid thing off.

              • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                I have not expressed opposition to such amputations, but rather to the normalizing of amputations.

        • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

          Sorry, but I find “become one flesh” to be inherently creepy. I am my own person, and my body belongs to me. People are not owned by their sexual or romantic partners, and there is nothing magical about the act of marriage that erases an individual’s autonomy.

          Who said anything about children? Many married couples have no children, and for them, the decision to divorce may be made simpler by allowing them to make a clean break. Couples with children have additional factors to consider, but the decision to stay in a failed marriage is typically not something that benefits those children.

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            Exceptions prove the rule.  

            • NotTheOnly

              That’s gibberish. Exceptions prove that the “rule” is a poor approximation of reality.

              • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                Divorce is painful…for the couple, for the children, for the larger family, for the friends, and for society.  If, in some cases, it is deemed to be the lesser of two evils, then so be it.  But let us not call it good or benign.

                • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

                  I think it can certainly be benign or even good. Consider a couple married for ten years, slowly drifting apart and falling out of love, but willing to remain friends. Let’s assume they have no children. This situation is common enough. Why on earth should they remain married to each other? The end of their marriage hurts no one. On the contrary, it benefits each of them.

                • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                  Most people exchange lifelong vows when they’re married.  To break them later, or even reduce them, is not good.

                  Folks here keep bringing up examples of when it’s appropriate to amputate.  I’m okay with them as long as you don’t use the exceptions to justify a new rule which declares divorce is good or benign instead of bad.

                • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

                  It’s creepy the way you keep using the word “amputate.” It’s as if you do not realize that the people involved consist of two separate individuals. You’re free to hold whatever views you want, but I would never tolerate being treated like someone else’s property, and if my husband started comparing me to one of his limbs, that would not go over well.

                • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                  I don’t know where you’re getting the idea of “property.” As for my wife and I becoming one flesh, I see a demonstration of that every time I see one of our four children.  

        • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

          (Moving this up because the box was getting too narrow.)

          I don’t know where you’re getting the idea of “property.” As for my wife and I becoming one flesh, I see a demonstration of that every time I see one of our four children.

          If that’s how you and your wife view your relationship, that’s up to you. I prefer to be treated as a whole person, not half a person who has been surgically attached to someone else. I find this type of thinking troubling because not only does it not respect the fact that a married couple is composed of two separate individuals, it also seems ripe for abuse. A domineering, controlling husband could easily decide that his wife belongs to him, and that she has no right to her own life or to “amputate” herself from him if she so chooses.

  • APatheist

    I have been a military spouse for 19 years, and married just slightly longer than that. I agree that there is pressure to get married early. We married a whole year early because his delayed enlistment came up sooner than we expected. All I see this article addressing is 1.divorce or 2.open marriage. He seems to be looking only at infidelity as a cause for divorce during or after a deployment. My husband has been gone for 10 months now and I have not been temped to cheat on him. Has our marriage been more difficult this past year? Yes, but that is because I miss my husband, my kids miss their father and I was left holding everything together while my son was almost kicked out of school from behavior problems stemming from this deployment. 

    There are more reasons for divorce than not having your sexual partner available to you. Why does he only seem focused on two possible solutions? 

    • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

      ” my kids miss their father” ” my son was almost kicked out of school from behavior problems stemming from this deployment”

      You’ve been a military spouse for 19 years, and your child is clearly younger than that if they’re still at school. You and your partner chose this life for them – why would you do that do them when you could have chosen a life that would have given them both of their parents?

      • Silo Mowbray

        Come on Ewan. Sometimes people don’t have much of a choice. And hindsight is always crystal clear. It’s not so easy to look ahead when you’re young, in the moment and have a bunch of pressures pounding away at you.

        I considered joining the Reserves several years back, but as soon as my first child was born I knew I couldn’t risk being separated from him for long periods. But I could afford to make that choice as I had options. We don’t know that APatheist and her spouse had similar options.

        • APatheist

          Exactly. Married at 17 & 18, he went to college, military paid for  it he owed them time, went back for his masters, owed time. I am going to college using his GI Bill, owe them time for it. You never know how a person will respond to these things. My daughter (13) has done well. Different personalities and different responses. You do what you can but they have a certain amount of control over your life. 

      • APatheist

        First of all, there is something called service commitment, you can’t just up and leave. My son is eight years old and the last time my husband deployed we had problems. We did what we could to ensure a stable tour, we moved to freaking AL. He was not supposed to have to go anywhere but he got tagged for a 365. You can’t just walk away, unless you want to go to jail. 

        • Anonymous

          Don’t take the bait. Every child around the world has things they have to deal with. Some things are worse than others. Some children have no problem moving every three years. Some children have problems moving out of the only house they’ve ever lived in when they’re grown. Some children have to deal with parents who abandon them. Some children have to deal with only seeing their parent on holidays and every other weekend. Some children have to deal with having one or both parents die. Some children have to deal with bullying. Some children have to deal with having religious nuts for parents. Some children have to deal with abuse. Some children have to deal with neglect.

          You are okay. Your son *will* be okay. Time will heal. Ignore Ewan. 

          • APatheist

            Thanks, and you are correct. I am not upset by his comment. I just felt maybe some people did not understand we don’t always have much control. 

            I am happy to say my son is doing much better these days/ 

            • Anonymous

              And I am happy to hear it!

    • Silo Mowbray

      The article aside…

      You have my sympathies, as does every other military spouse out there, especially if you have children.

      I’m not military, but my father was, so I know a bit about the struggle. I have kids of my own. I turned down a very lucrative job a year ago because it involved me being away from home nine weeks at a time, three times a year – essentially a lot of flying around for business. I’m sure that sounds like a total walk in the park to anyone who has a spouse/parent on deployment in a combat zone.

      But you know, I can’t bear the thought of being separated from my kids for two weeks much less nine, much MUCH less nine weeks three times a year. My wife and I could survive it, but I know it would take a toll on the marriage. Military families have to tolerate so much separation stress that I honestly don’t know how you folks do it. You have my admiration, and my best wishes.

  • NorDog

    I was in the U.S. Navy for many years and made three different overseas deployments aboard three different ships.  I saw many marriages break up.  What I couldn’t understand were the marriages that did not break up.  How did these people work through so many months of separation and still make a go of it.  I envied them.  I was single the entire time and wanted to be married but the lifestyle of being a young sailor aboard deploying ships made it very difficult to even begin a relationship.
     
    A bit of a tangent here…
     
    I have often heard the statistic that half of all marriages ended in divorce.  So some years back I did a little research.
     
    I’m NOT good with statistics, but certainly someone here is and can explain the conundrum that follows.
     
    I knew something was wrong with the statistic in the press that said half of all marriages ended in divorce when I noticed that my almanac cites the following statistics for 1993:
     
    Birth rate per 1000 = 15.7
    Death rate per 1000 = 8.8
     
    Marriage rate per 1000 = 9
    Divorce rate per 1000 = 4.6
     
    Now the ratio of 15.7 to 8.8 (i.e., birth to death) is roughly equivalent to the ratio of 9 to 4.6 (i.e., marriage to divorce).  Treated as divisible fractions, the numeric value for Birth to Death = 1.78; the value for Marriage to Divorce = 1.95.  (A perfect “half” ratio would produce a value of 2.)
     
    Now if these figures mean that half of all marriages end in divorce, then it follows that half of all births end in death.  But the last time I checked, all births end in death, eventually.
     
    What gives?
     

    • Dan

      Uh, these stats measure a specific point in time. If there are twice as many births than deaths it doesn’t mean that half of all people do not die. It means that there is a net population growth because the birth rate is higher than the death rate (also increasing longevity would come into play here). Obviously all those people will eventually die, but for the birth and death rates to be equal it would call for exactly the same number of (mostly) elderly people to die each year as the number of babies born (zero population growth or longevity change).

    • Anonymous

      I think “Birth rate per 1000″ means how many people per 1000 gave birth in that year, versus how many people died. It makes sense that the birth numbers are higher, because people can have multiple children, but can only die once. Certainly 100% of people are born and 100% of people eventually die, that fact just isn’t directly observable in the time span of 1 year.

      Also, since the vast majority of marriages last more than a year, this 1-year snapshot isn’t necessarily indicative of how many marriages end in divorce, since the marriages started in 1993 were largely not the same marriages that ended in 1993. In order to measure how many marriages actually end in divorce, you would need to track a cohort of couples (doesn’t have to be done in real-time; just get access to census data or something) over the lifetime of their marriages, and record whether they ended in divorce or death.

    • Silo Mowbray

      Hi NorDog

      So what you’re missing here is that the rates are reflective of the entire population for the given period. For every 1000 people, you can statistically expect 8.8 of them to die that period. For every 1000 people, you can statistically expect 15.7 babies to pop forth that period. The 1000 people encompasses all demographics in the population, of every age (newborns to the very old), every ethnicity in the study, gender, etc.

      Something to keep in mind is that there are demographic bulges typically seen at the younger (teen to mid-2os) age ranges – mortality is generally higher for the very young and the old. If health care is good in a region, that bulge carries on with a slower reduction as you go up the age curve than if health care is poor.

      In the example you gave, all that is going on is that people are having babies faster than people are dying. Those numbers can switch places. In North America we have the baby boomer bulge, and our birthrate has plummeted overall. One day you might see a death rate twice or three times the birth rate as the baby boomers push into their 80s, and the following generations decide they’re going to hold off on having kids.

      I hope I helped and didn’t complicate your understanding.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

    Here’s a solution to the divorce rate: BAN STRAIGHT MARRIAGE.

    Y’all are the only ones ruining marriage, anyway…

    • Anonymous

      A better solution would be to do away with government-recognized marriages. It’s a form of discrimination against couples who do not wish to marry and single people, not to mention those who are involved in a romantic relationship with more than one person. There’s no reason why married people should have a host of rights, responsibilities, privileges, etc. just because they’re married.


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