05 marzo 2011

how not to divorce your children or anyone else

thought one:
i never understood divorce before. i mean, i understood the concept, yes, obviously, but i didn't understand how a person could find within themselves the desire to break apart from someone they're connected to.

then i became a teacher. i didn't understand divorce in year one or two, but now, in year three of making my living by teaching kids. maybe it has nothing to do with years and everything to do with a couple of children i've met, but i realized recently: i understand how people divorce.

it starts (for me) with will. in most of my relationships, i don't have all that great a stridency that my will be done. i think it's a personality thing, not a virtue. but as a teacher, it's my job to make other human beings do what i decide they need to do. sometimes for their own good, sometimes for the good of the class, but still, my will over theirs.

this year, i have a couple of kids with very strong wills. they're not monsters. i like them, actually. love them, really. they're great humans. i don't even dread seeing them each day. they bring me joy. they make me laugh. but. we fight.

not verbally. i'm an adult, and arguing with kids is not interesting to me. our wills fight. i will they work. they will they not. i can threaten x, y, z consequences. they can swallow the consequences and keep on willing other. i can call parents. they can reform. ...and then, again, will other when they forget that adrenaline rush of fear. i can take them to the principal. they can work. ...and then there's the following week.

the problem is our conflicting wills. somebody's gotta submit, and it's not me. [clearly, in a godly marriage, both wills would be submitting in various ways and at sundry times. but i'm not talking about godly marriages, rather identifying with broken ones.]

and the struggle is wearisome. one does not want to relate to another human being with a "win/lose" mentality, especially someone loved! one gets tired of all that unrelenting will when a remedy (the opposite's giving up of their will) is so easy. the frustration of so much selfishness...! why can't they just do the right thing? why can't they just do the hard thing? they won't die; they'll live as a better them!

yet, i get to go home, be silent (or be expressive, as need be), and drink in the tranquility of a home where God is king. there exists family, creation, books, distraction. struggle exists, but it is escapable.

people in breaking marriages have no home to go to. their family is their battle ground, not their refuge. they would be, i guess, in an inverted situation: their job would be their escape. nonhome would be their distraction. the outside would be where they'd seek "home."

so, all that to say, all of a sudden, i "understand" how one could hate that struggle, emotionally.

thought two: from a killer post on permissible/ impermissible rationale for divorce.

[example of impermissible:] Inability or unwillingness to become an adult. Many
people don't like marriage because only adults can tolerate marriage. Kids, as
likeable as they are, have a hard time overcoming their feelings. "Bigger kids"
-- older than 30 and much less likeable -- not only refuse to overcome their
feelings and passions: they turn them into a god...

The dirty secret of marriage counseling is that a lot of it just doesn't work. And the reason why it doesn't work is because marriage counseling is not “the one thing needful.”

What is needful is faith and works. The Way of the Cross and the Receiving of Grace. What is necessary is the practice of self-emptying, even starting with only one of the two partners. What is needed is for husband and wife to learn to control their own thoughts and emotions first through prayer and fasting. Their own lack of faith is played out treacherously and splayed out in the manifestations of these "impermissible rationales" – each of which bear a striking and spooky resemblance to logismoi (i.e., demonic insinuation).

I suggest that what marriages really need, in order to prevent divorce, is not marriage counseling, but rather exorcism – i.e., exorcism in the manner of catechism and spiritual works, of being trained to refute these horrid insinuations and to speak in the language of servanthood, charity and forgiveness.

The Lordship of Christ
and Orthodox "psychic order" (i.e., kenotic self-sacrifice, and a mutual desire for sacramental peace and beauty) are what is needed. Marriage is oneness of flesh: it is a mysterious icon of Christ's union with the Church. Only an adult woman and an adult man can know each other well enough. Too many overstuffed and plasticized children with Playboy bodies and Mattel heads hook up in sex outside the shadow of the Cross, and wonder why they cannot survive the witching hour of soulish interrogation.

...The interrogation will come: and will you two know what to do? This is the supreme question for pre-marital counseling: it is the thematic question that not only defines the course of "marital therapy," but sadly explains why the couple is at loggerheads, and the icon of the Wedding at Cana has become so blurred.

Exorcism is the only antidote to divorce.

-father jonathan

thought three: "out of the mouth comes the issues of the heart"... and where do the issues of the heart come from?

It is sad, too, to hear the conversation of charge and counter-charge. It is rare that this dialogue ever ventures above adolescence, above the dull conventions of "He did this" and "She did this first." I think when I listen to these prurient ravings – these contretemps which are amplified into melodrama – I am actually hearing artifacts from movies and television. I think I am hearing not real and actual selves, but scripted ghosts of selves. It is as though the combatants were only faintly aware of feelings, and sought thus hither and thither in their short-term memory for some good line to articulate these feelings: but what is accessed and brought to the fore is simply that which is regarded the most, considered the most, and interiorized (even cathected) the most.

...It turns out, more often than not, that they were not brought up well at home: they should have grown up, over Sunday dinner, hearing and reading the noble stories, the beautiful myths that had the winsome virtue of psychic ordinance – the interiorization of the Sacred Order. They did not see the mother fill the room with light and grace, sustenance and healing, commanding love by the sheer presence of her quiet love and forgiveness. They did not see the father talk deep on memory and stand on ceremony. They did not see the father command himself before he ever thought to lead his wife and children.

(For that is what "headship" means: all command is predicated on self-command ... all external order is based on and structured by internal order. That is the simple, ridiculously simple, and sole reason why only an insufferable dolt insists that women and children "submit" to him: the very act of stating thus is itself an transgressive rejection of self-command.) [yes, i read this sentence.-Ed.]

These adult children saw instead a full embrace of sixties free expression, mod art and polyester, smorgasbord and shiny aluminum swanson Salisbury (a “Salisbury” by the way that had nothing to do with steak or England).

They saw the father belittled and the mother belabored.

They saw the cultural divinization of childishness at the expense of the domestic life-or-death nurturance of childhood.

And now I have husbands who do not know manhood enough to be husband or father … wives who do not know womanhood enough to be wife or mother.

Now I have adults in their forties, fifties and sixties who have watched TV so long that their psychological "models" are narcissists on TV and blowhards on the radio (never mind the dumpster-divers on the Net).

I have heartbreakers who are stuffed with the scripts of transgressive ego, but they are not filled with words or English: language, after all, communicates – but psychic "tapes" do not act as language at all. They are, simply, soliloquies. They are puerile challenges to the abyss, and the narcissistic echoes are taken – insipidly – as confirmations of their self-established myth.

...Adults are tough, mainly because they think they're adults. And what makes matters worse is the melancholic fact that more often than not, one of the two partners is guiltier than the other. One really has sinned more. I thought I would never see such a thing: but really, many marriages die because one of the two played the Prodigal Son (or daughter). And modern marriage counseling refuses to take this into account -- and thus it falls down.

So, in all this, as I am beating off the red-eyed wolf and the raving lion with my pastoral staff and smooth stones of enthymeme, I plead with my cold warriors to forgive as Jesus did. I paint an icon, psychically, of the extremity of the Cross, in the middle of the anger-spouting faces. And I try to plant, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do" in the middle of their lips. I know that that God has condemned (or rather, elected) them both to the eternal yoke of this marriage: and that this cold marital season, this very winter of their discontent, is meant for the chastening of their will, and for the redemption of soul and body. I know this, and I remind them of the fears and joys of forever.

...No. Instead of those money-making measures (and you can write a best-selling book about any self-soothing therapy), I have more in mind that just won't go away. I have this little thing called eternity, and for that, marriage requires not foam sticks, modern sex or fantasy. It requires fasting, for one thing. It requires quiet (turn off the matrix noise). It requires the Eucharist and the washing of feet, practiced every day in nuptial self-sacrifice. It requires giving up and surrendering in verbal arguments: even and especially husbands should say, simply, "You're right," pick up his socks and muddy boots, and let her have the last word.

I think that all verbal arguments should be ended with surrender. Let them win. For all your victories have been pyrrhic, no? [google "pyrrhic." it's a good word. -Ed.]

Marriage requires nepsis [ibid]. It requires grace and dogma. It calls for kenosis – a self-pouring-out like Christ did when He became like a slave on the Cross.

Marriage requires a tradition of beauty and peace – and for too, too many of our young couples, they have no domestic experience of this. In marriage counseling, we are really calling them to a place they've never been.

And that, friends, is why I don't like marriage counseling. It calls for kenosis. It demands the Cross. It is only understandable in forever. ...

-father jonathan, again.

last thought:
"The current generation of children, the one watching commitments between adults snap like dry twigs and observing parents who simply can't be bothered to marry each other and who hence drift in and out of their children's lives-- that's the generation who will be taking care of us when we are old."
-C. Flanagan, quoted in First Things