We all know that divorce is an epidemic. We know the statistics that say that about 50% of marriages end in divorce. In many places now, people avoid marriage and simply cohabit to avoid divorce.
Many divorce filings in court cite irreconcilable differences as the reason for divorce. This represents the complex nature of human relations and the varying and often competing desires that come into play.
As complex as the subject of divorce is, I think that after talking to countless people who have divorced or experienced divorce, I know the root cause of divorce. And the good news is that I think it is preventable.
People divorce for one simple reason, they stop seeing a future together. Most people marry because they see a future together. When they stop seeing a future together, for whatever reason, they want a divorce. And sometimes, one partner stops seeing a future with the other first, even when the other partner still sees a future together.
The problem of marriages failing, i.e. ending in divorce, is really a problem of lack of a common vision. It’s not simply the lack of vision because the two partners have different visions of the future. It’s only the lack of a common vision.
When rightly seen, divorce is a leadership problem. Marriages fail because the leadership of the marriage has failed.
In every relationship of equals, there is always a leader. The person who is not a leader is not less of a human. The two people in a relationship are equal.
In most traditions around the world, the husband is given the leadership position.
To reduce the chances of divorce in a marriage, the leader must work with his team to create a picture of a common future that is compelling and drives the couple to work together to achieve it.
Related Article: Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained.
When a couple has a compelling vision that they want to achieve and see each other as the best partner to work with to achieve that vision, divorce is much less likely.
When Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal played for the Lakers, they didn’t like each other. Yet, they played on the same team and spent a tremendous amount of time practicing, traveling, and playing together. Why? They wanted to win championships. And they stuck to each other and helped the Lakers to win three straight NBA titles. Though they played well together on the court, the pair had an acrimonious relationship in the locker room.
They had a vision that was bigger than themselves. They each saw that to accomplish that vision, they needed each other.
This principle of vision is true for married couples. When the relationship is in its flower days and everything is lovely, the couple led by the head must take steps to prevent the team from growing apart in the future. The best way to do that is to create a compelling shared vision that is bigger that each of the two partners. This vision should be something that they want to accomplish over a lifetime, not something that is short-term.
Then the couple should continue to learn and grow together as they go about accomplishing their common dream.
In a few months, it would be ten years since I married my wonderful wife. We had some serious struggles in the first few years of the relationship, but the thing that kept us together and continues to do so this day is our shared vision. But that is a story for another day.
To conclude, even though marriages fail for many reasons, the root cause is only one. It’s for the lack of a common desired vision of the future that has each other as necessary players for the dream to be achieved. It is my belief that many marriages can be saved if couples can be taught and mentored on how to create and sustain a common vision of a mutually desirable future. A great place to start is by creating a family mission statement and a family vision statement. And the right time to do it is before problems arise in the relationship. Like they say, “Make hay while the sun shines.”