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Wifey Wednesday: A Rant on Those Who Desert Their Marriages

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

Usually on Wednesdays I say something inspiring, practical, or cautionary. But at least I give advice.

Today I just want to rant, and I do hope you'll excuse me. First, a bit of background. I have to admit that I like country music. When there's nothing good on the Christian station where I live, the dial always goes to country. And when I'm driving three hours to a speaking engagement, chances are I'm listening to country all the way there, singing to make sure I don't get tired on the road.

But one of the songs that's way high at the top of the charts right now makes me so mad I could spit. It's by the Zac Brown Band, called Highway 20 Ride, about a dad who feels badly because he can't be with his son. Here's a snippet:

A day might come you'll realize that if you see through my eyes
There was no other way to work it out
And a part of you might hate me
But son please don't mistake me for a man that didn't care at all

And I'll drive
And I'll think about my life
And wonder why, that I'll slowly die inside
Every time I turn that truck around, right at the Georgia line and I count the days and the miles back home to you on that Highway 20 ride

The whole song has a very melancholy ring--the music, the lyrics, the beat. It tells the story of a guy who says "there was no other way to work it out", so he left, and he only gets to see his son every other weekend. He feels lousy, because he loves his son and wants to be with him, and that's fine. I understand that. He's sad, and he hopes one day his son will understand.

But his son won't. Trust me. He says he loves his son, but honestly, if you love your kid, you stay. Period. Perhaps the song is really about a dad who lost custody because of a court case (which happens far too frequently), but it doesn't mention that, and so I doubt it. I think a marriage has fallen apart, and he only gets to see his son every other weekend, and he's feeling sorry for himself instead of doing something about it.
Photo by Pink Sherbet

Frankly, I don't care if you're sad. I don't care if you're feeling helpless. It's YOUR KID. Make your marriage work, or live right next door and see them everyday anyway. It's not rocket science. I know many couples who have split up who still both spend a ton of time in the kids' lives.

Whether or not you feel badly bears absolutely no bearing on whether you were right in doing what you did. Somehow we think that as long as we feel badly about something we're exonerated. No, you're not. What matters is not what you feel; it's what you do. And perhaps if as a society we spent less time worrying about how we feel and more time worrying about what is the right thing to do we wouldn't have as many marriages breaking up as we do.

Now I have to put my regular caveat in here: I know some marriages can't be saved. I am not saying you should stay with an abusive spouse, or with someone who has serial affairs. But most marriages break up for far less than that. And whether or not you feel guilty doesn't really matter. What matters is how the child feels, not how you feel. If you feel that badly, then go back and pick up the pieces of your marriage. I am sick and tired of hearing how badly people feel for not being able to see their kids, or for having let their marriage fall apart. Feelings don't matter. Actions do. And feeling badly doesn't help your child who is lonely and who is feeling as if his or her whole life has fallen apart.

You are the adult. Once you are the adult, it means that you put responsibility before your feelings. That's what adults do. And your responsibility to your child comes first. I keep hearing people on the radio talk about what a moving song this is, and I wonder, "what is the little boy thinking who is hearing this song"? I don't think he thinks it's such a great song. I think he wishes his father would stop feeling sorry for himself and come back home where he belongs.

Trust me, as the child of divorced parents, I can honestly tell you I didn't particularly care how unhappy my father was in the marriage. I really wasn't interestd in the fact that he loved another woman. I still don't. What mattered to me as a child was not his feelings. It was the fact that he left us.

Today I'm not angry at him. I feel more sorry for him, because he missed out on my life, and he doesn't really know my children well. But I do understand the emotion in this song, because I have experienced it my whole life, and I believe even more strongly that self-absorption is pathetic. Feeling badly won't make up for leaving your child. I'm sorry if the marriage was awful, but that child never asked for you to get married. That child never asked for that relationship--that child only came afterwards. And now you have a responsibility.

Unfortunately, too many people feel that they don't have to live up to their responsibility because life is making it impossible. In this vein of thinking, life is something that happens to them, as if they have no control. "The marriage fell apart". "We couldn't fix it". It's as if the marriage is something external to you, happening to you, instead of something in which you have a choice. They like seeing themselves as helpless because then they can justify to themselves why they didn't try harder or take the road less traveled by. It wasn't their choice, you see.

There is always a choice. Maybe it's a choice to keep loving, even when your spouse doesn't, because you know it's the right thing to do. And studies show that in these situations, 5 years later more than 80% of married people consider their marriage "good" or "very good". Just because it's rotten now doesn't mean it always will be. Even if someone leaves you, you still have a choice in terms of how you treat your child. You can move to the same neighbourhood. You can fight for access. You can love that child anyway. You have a choice.

So take it. That's what makes you an adult. Stop wallowing, shut up, and go home. There. I think that just about sums it up.

Now, on a happier note, what advice do you have for us today? Do you have anything to say to make a marriage stronger? Or do you want to "rant" yourself? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!


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At 9:29 AM , Blogger Cheerios in My Shoes said…

I always look forward to your Wed posts-I love them! Ranting is good for all, not just those who do it to hear themselves talk, and believe me, I know plenty of people who do that. A marriage gone sour and then off to the dogs is hard on all involved but I do agree that its harder on children. Being a child of divorce as well, I sympathize. How is a child supposed to understand why a parent isn't present anymore? How many children have thought it was his/her fault? There's so much that rises to the surface for questions but very few legitimate answers. Thanks Sheila!


At 10:03 AM , Blogger Lisa said…

And perhaps if as a society we spent less time worrying about how we feel and more time worrying about what is the right thing to do we wouldn't have as many marriages breaking up as we do.

This line is awesome Sheila! So true!!!


At 10:42 AM , Anonymous Jennifer said…

Even when a divorce happens for the best reasons it is still tremendously hard on the kids. Someone I know well got a divorce because of abuse. Even though there was no other option, and things were far better with the divorce than without it, the children were still devastated and as adults are still coping with the aftershocks in their lives. Seeing this has left me with a strong belief that divorce should never happen for anything other than the most dire reasons. The damage is just too extensive.


At 11:22 AM , Blogger Deborah said…

Amen! I get so sick of hearing people talk about how sad it is that they "had" to leave their marriages in order to pursue their own happiness. It isn't about their happiness once they become parents; it's about what the kids need! Thanks for this rant, Sheila. I agree wholeheartedly.


At 11:58 AM , Blogger Megan said…

A lot of truth here. One of the earliest and hardest lessons I learned upon becoming a mother was that the word "quit" is no longer part of your vocabulary. Period. (Same should be true for dads too, of course!). Exhausted from being up every hour breastfeeding a newborn (or every 20 minutes as I was last week, heaven help me)? Too bad. No one else can do it. Toddler just threw up in the car and now you want to do the same? Guess what -- you're the mom here and now it's your turn to clean up the mess and, even more important, make your little girl feel better since she's scared about what just happened. When YOU are the parent, YOU don't get to quit!

As a caveat, my sister is divorced and remarried and this was the best choice she could make for her children. Her first marriage was abusive and her husband was an unrepentant drug dealer and a terrible father. In her case, leaving wasn't quitting but was rather fighting for something better. This meant giving up drugs herself and taking a single bag of clothing and making her way to a new life.


At 1:30 PM , Anonymous Debbie said…

I think this is a timely commentary on the idea that staying together in rough times is worse than splitting up for the children's sake. People have gotten all twisted up in this. Kids NEED to see that people can have differences and survive devastation by learning to love and forgive and be true to commitments you've made. Kids need to see Love In Action and learn that God is greater than anything tough that life brings... Sorry you suffered - but really glad you shared.


At 4:01 PM , Blogger Herding Grasshoppers said…


I think this is one of your Best. Posts. Ever.

Actions supersede feelings.

So do beliefs, for that matter.




At 4:45 PM , Blogger The Fifth Street Mama said…

Amen! Love is a choice not a feeling. Service is not give and take it is all give and sacrifice. Marriage is sacrifice. WORK IT OUT!

Well that was my little rant :)


At 5:22 PM , Blogger Teri Lynne Underwood said…

Yes. Amen. Bravo. Well said. Thank you.


At 7:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Wow! This SO hit home! My parents divorced as well, and I'd say it's the closest thing to hell on earth to go through that! Thank you for ranting!


At 9:36 PM , Blogger HL said…

Thank you! Amen.
Agreeing with you Sheila, as a child of divorce and even now divorced and remarried; we make every effort to still live in harmony for my oldest son. He is held dearly by four parents doing there best to raise him. The unfortunate economy has recently taken my ex to another state; but still local enough for monthly visits & they talk all the time! Even text each other often too. Years ago we took the steps to set the couse to raise him together asbestos we can; we were all on a bowling team together where other members thought his now wife & I were sisters!

Thank you for sharing this song I have yet to hear & the reality of being the child caught in the middle. Too often today's society is too busy to see the harm to the child.

Hugs, HL

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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